Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Alternative fuels have made their way into the mainstream vehicle market, allowing you to shop for cars that are less reliant on fossil fuels. Whether you’re considering an ethanol, electric, diesel or plug-in hybrid car, here are the pros and cons of some of today’s hottest vehicles that don’t necessarily need gasoline.
Examples: Chevrolet Equinox, Chrysler 300, Nissan Titan
The Good: If you want a car that’s easy on the environment, you don’t necessarily need to pay extra for a diesel or hybrid car. A number of automakers make flex-fuel vehicles that can run on either gasoline or ethanol (E85). Running E85 in these cars, SUVs and trucks produces less pollution at the tailpipe. In the United States, a major ingredient of E85 is corn grain, which means that it’s also a renewable energy source that can be produced in local farming areas.
The Bad: Ethanol does not have as much energy as gasoline. As a result, running your car on E85 means that your fuel economy will suffer in comparison with a car that runs on regular gasoline, and you could end up spending more on fuel. Gas stations that sell E85 can also be difficult to locate.
The Verdict: Flex-fuel vehicles offer the ability to run on a cleaner, renewable energy source. E85 can be less expensive than regular gasoline, but its lower efficiency and spotty availability limit its mainstream appeal and practicality.
Clean Diesel Vehicles
Examples: Volkswagen Golf TDI, Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec, BMW X5 xDrive35d
The Good: Diesels have come a long way since the noisy, underpowered wagons that you may remember. Modern diesels, such as the Volkswagen Golf TDI, generally get better fuel economy than their gas-powered siblings. Additionally, diesels generally offer lots of torque (the twisting force that turns your car’s wheels) as well as better emissions systems, which keep harmful pollutants in check.
The Bad: Since diesel engines are usually optional, buying an oil burner will cost you more at the dealership. There’s also an added maintenance cost. Clean diesel cars, SUVs and trucks use a diesel exhaust fluid, such as AdBlue, to help keep vehicle emissions low. As a result, this fluid needs to be refilled during regularly scheduled maintenance and can be pricey. While diesel fuel is widely available, it tends to be more expensive than regular gasoline, and some gas stations don’t carry it.
The Verdict: If you’re looking for a long-range highway cruiser and don’t mind forking over some extra cash up front, a diesel car should serve you well. However, if you’re an urban commuter who’s in frequent stop-and-go traffic, hybrids typically get better city fuel economy.
Examples: Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric
The Good: If you’re ready to say goodbye to filling up forever, an electric car may be exactly what you’re looking for. Charging an electric car will save you a significant amount of money compared with fuel costs of gas vehicles. Since cars like the Nissan Leaf are all-electric, they don’t produce any tailpipe emissions.
The Bad: Although electric cars may be eligible for a federal government tax credit, they’re still pricey compared with gas cars with similar features. And because they’re battery-powered, electric cars can only travel so far on a charge. The Focus Electric has a range of 76 miles, but once you’re out of juice, it may take several hours until you’ve got a fully-charged battery again. If you’re far from home and your battery runs out, it could also be hard to find a place to recharge because some areas have few public charging stations.