Please don't misinterpret this challenge to mean that I want you to run out tomorrow and buy a more efficient vehicle. It's almost always greener to stick with what you have for as long as you can before upgrading to a new model, and it definitely makes more financial sense to make do with the vehicle you have.
But when the time is right, I hope you'll make your next vehicle choice a green one. Here are some options to choose from, both now and down the road from now:
- Pick a small car. Maybe you're not sold yet on a hybrid: you're waiting for more improvements in the technology, you don't think a Prius has been around long enough to prove its reliability, or you just can't stomach the price difference. Fine. But do you really need that SUV? Could your family get by without a minivan? How often are you really going to haul things in that truck? In general, the smaller the car, the better the gas mileage.
- Try a Smart Car. Since we're talking small cars, you might want to consider the ultimate small car. At 36 mpg, it's the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid on the market and will only cost you about $12,000, making it a great choice for commuters, singletons, and DINKs.
- Go for a hybrid like the Prius (50 mpg), Honda Civic Hybrid (42 mpg), or Honda Insight (41 mpg). If you're ready to upgrade to a greener vehicle right now, a hybrid is probably your best bet.
- Try a full electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf (available at the end of this year) or the Tesla Model S (my dream car - available in 2012). One of the main disadvantages of a full electric vehicle is that you can't drive very far before your battery needs to be recharged, but they could be fantastic cars for commuters.
- Or try a plug-in hybrid electric, which has the advantages of a hybrid, a full electric vehicle, and a traditional combustion engine all rolled into one. Examples include the Chevy Volt (available next year) and the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (available 2012).
My family is stuck with our minivan for at least several more years, but I'm keeping my eye on green car technology and dreaming about what we'll buy next. Oh beautiful beautiful Tesla, couldn't you drop in price about, oh, $30,000?
Do you drive an energy efficient car? What kind did you pick and why?