Environmentally friendly cars, so-called “Eco Cars”, are big sellers these days, and are capturing the imagination and budgets of new car shoppers, particularly in trend-setting markets such as California. With gas prices so high now, and set to go even higher, people are looking for a way to save money and feel good about the future of the environment as well. The granddaddy of hybrid (petrol plus electric) eco cars is the Toyota Prius. Toyota sets the “gold standard” that other manufacturers must beat in order to compete, either with better performance (e.g. Tesla’s sports car, the Roadster), with lower initial price tag, or lower operating costs.
Prius Plus+ (140 Gramm’s of CO2 per Mile)
Toyota has just introduced it’s newest eco car, the Prius+, an enlarged, 7-seater version of it’s now famous Prius, which was introduced in Japan in 1997. Since that day, Toyota has gone from strength to strength, advancing their expertise over the
14 years, improving their products, and stimulating other manufacturers and even governments to act in favour of the environment, and recently shipping their 2 millionth Prius.
The Prius+ includes some excellent improvements, such as the HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) system. This new system uses Lithium Ion batteries for the first time, reducing weight and improving performance, with no “memory effect” as found in metal hydride batteries. In fact, the batteries in the new seven-seater fit comfortable under the middle row of seating, behind the driver and front-passenger. The already comfortably roomy Prius is now more so with the Prius+, and handling is improved too due to lower weight. The new car has three new and smarter computer-controlled modes of operation now: Power mode for fast acceleration and performance, Eco mode which greatly reduced fuel consumption and EV mode which is electric only, very quiet and pollution free at the vehicle itself.
The new Prius+ will be familiar to current Prius owners, many of whom will be trading up soon, we estimate. Handling should be improved, entry and exit easier and faster, and with more head and legroom, the comfort levels should go way up. With the Prius+, Toyota again shows it leads the way in the burgeoning Eco Car market a new Prius + will set you back a starting price of $26k (compared to a used Toyota for sale, the original Prius 2011 model around $15k.)
Smart Fortwo cdi (140 Gramm’s of CO2 per Mile)
The “ForTwo” by Smart GmbH of Germany is currently the most economical new car on sale in Britain. This little two-seater diesel car averages an incredible 85.6mpg, but the noisy engine is not the most spritely or most polished on sale. The economy of operation, low-emissions, initial price, and easy-parking make this a top contender for eco-conscious city drivers.
Smart also plans to introduce a fully-electric version of this little two-seater, the Smart Fortwo ED (electric drive), by the summer of 2012. A production version of this car is schedule to be shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion (140 Gramm’s of CO2 per Mile)
Volkswagen’s new Eco-mini-Golf Polo, the first of its “BlueMotion technology”, hit the streets a little over a year ago. Its 80.7mpg is very impressive, and 86g/km CO2 is among the most eco-friendly on sale today (summer 2011 UK). This new BlueMotion mini-Golf is the first Volkswagen to get the eco-treatment, and precedes BlueMotion versions of the Jetta and the Passat.
When you first enter this little car, the cabin seems to be the normal small VW interior. However, when you take a closer look, you will note that this is a significantly stripped down version of the mini-Polo: central electric door locking has been discarded, as have the electrically-operated door mirrors and the air-conditioning system. To achieve great mileage and low emissions, it’s important to reduce weight as much as possible, while still holding onto your target markets. In the case of this little VW, time will tell.
Performance-wise, the 78bhp 1.4L diesel engine is a modification of the standard Polo engine. The addition of a variable-geometry turbocharger, enhanced exhaust and catalytic converter make it a very clean burning engine indeed. Combined with a 5-speed manual transmission, and this car becomes very economical to operate in city and highway.
The road performance of the little Polo’s 3-cylinder engine is good, but noisy when pressed to accelerate hard. However when you reach motorway speeds, you will note a lack of wind noise and a very smooth ride, but the handling is mushy – not a good sign. VW is clearly a manufacturer of note, but with this little Polo, there is a long way to go.
So as you can see the world of the Eco car is rapidly becoming much bigger with great driving and performance available to you but with extremely low CO2 emissions this is great news. Hope to see you on the road in one of these super green autos soon.