"Green" Cars – Are We There Yet?

Note from Michael – the following was contributed by Mark Martin of Moneysupermarket.com.

For many years, scientists have been warning of the dangers to the environment from car usage but very little seems to have been done about it. While more eco-friendly cars have been produced but these have either been very unpractical or hideously expensive.
However, research by Moneysupermarket.com has revealed that all of this is about to change. 
In light of stringent new European Union regulations, all car manufacturers with an interest in Europe are being forced to reduce the average CO2 emissions from  their global model range. Even Aston Martin has been forced to offer an rebadged Toyota IQ to their customer base to adapt to the regulations. 
Many manufacturers are taking this very seriously and don’t see the point in investing in research to develop environmental models unless they will sell and make them money. This is leading to an influx of more environmental friendly models of the coming years which could revolutionise road travel. 
Electric or fuel
Manufacturers have come up with a variety of solutions in their quest to find a viable form of a more environmentally-friendly car. Honda and BMW believe that hydrogen is the future, but the majority believe that electric cars are the best way forward. 
Nissan has recently introduced the Nissan Leaf, which is a huge step forward for the electric car industry. It not only looks like any other family car, but has a range of over 100 miles on one recharge and a top speed of 90 mph, making it far more practical than its predecessors.
The fact that it is almost as practical as a normal road car makes the fuel cost savings far more attractive. 
The average driver covering 12,000 miles annually could save over $1,500 a year through owning the Leaf in fuel costs alone. The total saving is only likely to increase as fuel prices increase on the back of reducing crude oil supplies, with scientists predicting that the decline will begin in 2011. 

The only problem remaining is the availability of recharging outlets, which would limit you to 50 mile journeys to ensure you had the power to get home. 
However, the US government has injected $400 million into the electric car industry to help develop the infrastructure to support it, which includes the placing of recharging outlets across the US. 

Coulomb Technologies have recently been given $15 million of this to help fund their programme of placing 4,600 recharging stations across nine states. This is a fraction of the total budget allocated for the programme, and with more environmental cars available there are likely to be more on the road in a couple of years time which will increase the governments responsibility to make recharging stations more widely available in a greater number of areas.

Initial buying cost

Along with practicality, another thing which has put people off buying environmental cars in the past has been the price. However, the Nissan Leaf has taken the first step towards rectifying this by pricing their new model aggressively at $32,780. This may sound a lot when you consider that a new Ford Focus Sedan costs $16,540 (almost half the price), but government tax breaks mean that the price of the Leaf will drop to $25,280 when you purchase it. 
On top of this, your employer may be prepared to offer to contribute towards to purchase of your new car if it is environmentally friendly. For instance, Google would be prepared to given one of their employees $5,000 towards the purchase of a Nissan Leaf which would reduce the price to $20,280. 
When you consider that further tax breaks, such as those introduced by George Pataki, which will save drivers of “green” cars in New York $2,000 per year on top of the annual $1,500 fuel saving, the price of the Nissan Lead suddenly starts to look very reasonable and affordable.
Should I go out and get one?

Although it has been shown that the Nissan Leaf is actually very reasonable in terms of costs due to Nissan’s aggressive costing, the practicality still isn’t quite there. The 100 mile range really is a bit of a worry when you consider the present infrastructure of recharging stations is very limited and if you drive long distances. 

Depending on the circumstances, even when the recharging infrastructure improves the 100 mile range, it still isn’t practical if you have to stop every 100 miles and wait 30 minutes to recharge the batteries to 80% of their capacity to get a further 80 miles out of it. 

But if fuel prices do continue to increase and get completely out of control in 2012 as many are predicting, or you don’t need to drive long distances, this small inconvenience may actually seem much less of a problem when you consider how much money you will be saving. 

Electric cars are improving all the time and the range will likely get ever larger as manufacturers to compete to win over customers. The electric car revolution may therefore be much closer than people think.