I am sorry, but the Toyota Prius just doesn’t do it for us. It’s a car your boring Uncle could drive on his way to the marketing convention. And the selection of celebs that have been queuing up to own one are certainly on the naff end of the A-list spectrum. Donny Osmond and (Seinfeld co-creator) Larry David??? Puh-lease!!
Plus Prius had to recall every single car they had ever produced in order to correct a safety fault in the onboard computer.
If auto transport is a must-have, there is a huge line-up of Green Cars on the starting grid, and sales are beginning to take off. Top of our must-have list is the Venturi Fetish, the world’s first electric sports car, about to go into series production (www.venturi.fr). It has a top speed of over 100mph, goes from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds and is as quiet as a hold door opening in Star Trek.
Make bio-diesel from used kitchen grease. : An article from: Countryside & Small Stock Journal – buy it from Amazon
True, it is the 3rd most expensive road going production car you can buy (at around 450,000 EUROS), topped only by the Spyker C8 (E470, 000) and the Mercedes McLaren (E440, 000), but that says something important about the people who are buying green cars. Some of them are seriously wealthy. Who would have thought that some son of a Greek shipping tycoon or pervy dotcom billionaire would want to look Green as well as stylish??
The Fetish is an exception, however, and with gas (petrol) approaching 5 per gallon in the UK and $5 in the US, some of the world’s major car manufacturers are waking up to electric and biofuel cars. It’s doing particularly well with Russian billionaires like the one in the photo, which is strange because they don’t give a fig about the ecology in Russia.
Until recently an electric car meant something like the Indian built G-Wiz, a two-seater costing over 7000. True it does not need road tax and a normal car would have to reach a fuel consumption of 600 miles per gallon to match it, but that does not compensate for the G-Wiz’s feeble top speed of 40 miles per hour, or the need to charge the battery once every 40 miles.
Small, slow and uncomfortable are just never going to become selling points. So what do you do if you want speed, space, comfort, and eco-validation? Surprisingly, the answer is that enemy of the greens and Ken Livingstone, a luxury SUV. I am glad about this because I drive an SUV myself, a vintage Range Rover. I bought it second hand, so it is recycled, and I adapted it to bio-fuel, so it’s Green. But unless I put a sticker on the bumper nobody is going to know that as I career round London.
The newly launched 35,000 Lexus RX400h is the ultimate green status symbol. It combines a 6-cylinder petrol engine with powerful electric motors and is the first true luxury car to be available with hybrid technology. At lower speed the RX400 is propelled purely by the electric motors which draw their power from the pair of linked batteries in a unit beneath the rear seat. Every application of the brakes charges the batteries with the principal recharging taking place through a generator which kicks in at higher speed, via the petrol engine. Push the pedal all the way to the metal, and you get both engines at once, giving the Lexus a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds. And it is 33% more economical with fuel than its gas-only version. The extensive list of equipment as standard includes voice activated sat-nav, electric seats and state of the art hi-fi. Yet is it is basically silent in operations below 30mph and with full 4-wheel drive capability, still manages to be class-leading quiet at over 30.
Ford builds a less classy hybrid SUV — the Escape — but only for the American market.
There are a number of Diesel options to consider including the VW Phaeton, with its 600 mile fuel range, and these days Diesel is considered semi-green because it pollutes less than it once did, and has a more efficient engine than gas cars.
The Swedish manufacturer Saab has been the first to go into volume production of bio-ethanol cars, launching its first BioPower model onto the home market in June this year. IT has now taken 2,500 orders. Burning E85 bio-ethanol – 15% ordinary gas, results in reduction of emissions of 50-85% in real terms. And the engineers have actually managed to get 30% more power from the engine using the eco-fuel. The E28,000 car produces 150 horsepower on ordinary gas and 180 horsepower on bio-ethanol, with much lower emissions.
THE TEN BEST LOW-IMPACT CARS
The truth is, the only purely-green option is to abandon powered personal transportation altogether. The most environmentally friendly way to get around is to walk, cycle, occasionally use public transport for longer journeys, and never, ever, fly. However, such a lifestyle is within reach for very few of us. There are, thankfully, lots of options to limit the amount of damage you do to Mother Earth. One of them can begin the moment you fire up your vehicle improving your driving technique. Gentler acceleration, softer braking and generally anticipating road conditions better can make a surprising difference to fuel economy. You might also ensure your car’s engine is well tuned, the tyres are correctly inflated and there isn’t unnecessary junk in the boot.
You could convert your car to run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as well as its existing petrol system. Given that LPG is roughly half the price of petrol or diesel and yields only slightly worse mpg figures, it is definitely an option worth taking up. LPG burns more cleanly than more conventional fuels and has lower emissions, but very little difference is felt in performance. Some manufacturers such as Vauxhall offer new or used dual fuel models, while the LPG-converted Smart is probably the most remarkable conversion on the market today. There are around 1,000 LPG filling stations in the UK, with a concentration in the bigger cities and if you find yourself too far away from one you can still run on petrol, remember.
Similar in concept to LPG is Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Volvo, for example, offers most of their models with a factory-fitted bi-fuel conversion. CNG is even cleaner than LPG, but there are only about 25 filling stations in the UK, usually catering for refuse trucks. Another alternative fuel, biodiesel, is used widely in parts of Europe and has found favour with some local authorities here. Somerset County Council will soon be running wheat-powered Ford Focuses. Some filling stations will sell you a 5 per cent biodiesel blend (see www.biodieselfillingstations.co.uk ). Alternatively, you can go electric. True, the energy still has to be generated somewhere, but power stations are more efficient than the internal combustion engine and pollution is taken away from congested cities. These cars usually have quite a small range, however. Most practical for now are probably the few hybrid cars on the market. These cleverly combine small conventional petrol engines with an electric motor. The engine charges the batteries when it is on, but it is not needed, for example, when going downhill or during heavy braking and it automatically switches off at traffic lights. We have the Toyota Prius, the Lexus 400h SUV and the Honda Civic IMA to choose from here, with a new, funkier, version of the Honda promised next year. Hybrids tend to have a high purchase price, so make sure the economics work for you as well as the ethics.
In a decade, though, we’ll all be talking about hydrogen fuel cell cars, which emit only water.
They will still need energy to produce their source fuel hydrogen but many think they are the wave of the future. Honda is pioneering their use in the US, and buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells are running in London, but that’s about the nearest most of us will get to that technology for some time.
The most disappointing aspect of trying to drive green is the official attitude. Fine words pour from the mouths of UK ministers and EU officials, but a wrangle between them means the power shift scheme, which offered grants for about 1,000 to 1,500 to people buying or converting to green cars, has been suspended since March. Even without such grants, though, green motoring can make good ethical, environmental and financial sense.
1. LPG Smart
The Smart is quite green anyway, but this
conversion is cleaner and cheaper to run.
6,810 + 1,996; MPG 50+; Top speed 84mph; Range
between refuelling 250 miles; CO2/km 90g
2. Toyota Prius (hybrid)
a thoroughly reliable proposition.
17,545; MPG 65.7; Top speed 102mph; Range 104
miles; CO2/km 104g
3. G-Wiz (electric)
Two seater billed as “the greenest car
available” and carbon neutral.
6,999 (special offer); MPG n/a; Top speed
40mph; Range 40 miles CO2/km: nil
4. Aixam Mega (electric)
Very odd-looking vans and pick-ups.
9,590 (pick-up version); MPG n/a; Top speed
30mph; Range 62 miles; Co2/km: nil
5. Volvo V70 Bi-fuel (petrol/CNG)
Often sold to local authorities.
25,708; MPG 30.1; Top speed 127mph; Range 400
miles; CO2/km 169g/km
6. Vauxhall Corsa Dual Fuel 1.2 (petrol/LPG)
Manufacturer”s own conversion.
12,015; MPG 38.2; Top speed 109mph; Range 644
miles; CO2/km: 119g
7. Morris Minor (petrol)
Greener than it looks and ready to go on and on
400 to 5,000+; MPG about 40; Top speed 75mph;
Range 260 miles; CO2/km not measured
8. Lexus RX400h (hybrid)
Proof that 4x4s don”t have to be gas guzzlers.
Technically similar to Prius.
35,485; MPG: 34.9; Top speed 124mph; Range 490
miles; CO2/km: 192g
9. Honda Civic IMA (hybrid)
Alternative to Toyota Prius.
15,230; MPG 57.6; Top speed 108mph; Range 640
miles; CO2/km 116g
10. Citroen C2 1.4 Diesel
Standard but with low emissions.
9,095; MPG 68.9; Top speed 103mph; Range 640
miles; C02/km: 107g
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
Leave a Reply