Sustainable Cars: Discover 2016’s Cleanest Coolest Drives for Any Lifestyle

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Sustainable Cars: Discover 2016’s Cleanest Coolest Drives for Any Lifestyle

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Today consumers have several practical choices when it comes to driving sustainable cars including those that are fully electric (EVs), plug-in hybrids, or hybrids. There are many advantages to driving a green, sustainable car, not only the most obvious ones, getting better fuel economy and helping the environment, but in some states being allowed to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes for single drivers.

There is a range of financial incentives for buying sustainable cars from Federal, state and local governments. The biggest benefit to you, when asking “what’s in it for me:” The federal tax credit can save buyers as much as $7,500 for vehicles with 16 KWh batteries like the Chevrolet Volt. Some of these perks have quotas, so be sure you still qualify. As one example, California’s Air Resources Board announced in December 2015 that the 85,000 cap for solo access carpool lane stickers for plug-in hybrids had been reached.

Several insurance companies like Farmers, offer discounts for electric vehicles. Some utilities offer discount rates for off-peak electric vehicle charging. Marvin Moon, Director of Power Systems Engineering Division of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, told me that electric cars were a good fit for LADWP because most vehicles charge overnight. “The power can be stored in the vehicle’s batteries for use when the vehicle is needed and any excess electricity can then be fed back to the electric power grid for use during periods of high energy demand.”

Let’s look at a driver’s options for going green with a sustainable car and highlight the standouts in each category.

Fully electric cars draw upon batteries to power them. For years, critics dismissed these vehicles as coal-cars, because most of the electricity in the United States has been generated by this dirtiest of fossil fuels. That’s slowly changing, as more alternative energy sources are coming on line.

There are workarounds like the one employed by actor / environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. He charges his electric car with his solar power system, for the ultimate in green propulsion. The downfall of purely electric vehicles is their range, typically 80 miles on a full charge, enough to handle most daily tasks, but not enough to venture cross country. Tesla’s Model S is the exception. It has a range of more than 270 miles on a charge, zips from 0-60 mph in as little as 2.8 seconds, has the highest safety rating in America, and has a 4 year, 50,000 mile limited warranty. Showroom demos can be had for as low as $70,000.

The prototype for the new Tesla Model 3 was revealed April 1, 2016 (no fooling). In late 2017, it will go into production and is expected to cost around $35,000 before tax breaks. Finding adequate charging stations can be an issue with fully electric vehicles. Marina Del Rey resident Margaret Maurer recently took her Tesla cross country. She barely dipped into Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, due to a paucity of EV charging infrastructure.

Hybrids cost more than conventional cars. Still, starting at $25,000, the Toyota Prius is substantially more affordable than any Tesla. It gets 58 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway, a reversal of the typical mileage figures because the cars recapture energy during braking in stop-and-go traffic to power the electric motor.

Plug-in hybrids run on electricity until their batteries are exhausted and then switch to gas power which recharges the batteries, making plug in hybrids a great choice for those interested in sustainable cars. “The changeover was flawless when it happened to me once on the freeway,” Dean Adams Curtis co-founder of told me about a Chevrolet Volt he was driving. Starting at $33,995, its all electric range is 53 miles, making the Volt a truly cool drive.

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