September 10th, 2010

My Quest for a Green Car

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I am not feeling so groovy or green right now.

I was in a little, itty, bitty car accident a few weeks ago.  Everyone was fine, but my minivan took a beating. Today my van went into the shop for an overhaul-compliments of the sweet- 17 year old-newbie-driver’s insurance company.

My HUGE rental car

Needing a temporary replacement- I was able to “choose” from a slim selection of rental cars. Having 3 children, car seats, a dog, lots of sports gear and needing extra space for extra kids, I was looking for a car that could hold more than 5.  There was only one option-a HUGE, 8 passenger SUV, looking lonely and waiting for little ol’ me to take it home.

My everyday ride is a minivan-filled to the brim with all the conveniences any car driver could ask for.  Before entering parenthood I took a vow that many of us took-I would never, ever drive a minivan.  If I caved I knew it would symbolize my surrender to domestic, suburban tedium-relinquishing every last shred of hip and coolness that was o-so-evident in my pre-parenting years. When child number 3 was on his way the vow fell by the wayside and I got myself my very own van.

As I pulled out of the rental lot in this enormous SUV I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass window.  A thought immediately went through my head: I am in this colossal rental SUV, I own and drive a minivan and both are not very green!

Minivans and SUVs-Not So Green

Our automotive choices have a massive impact on the environment. Both SUVs and minivans guzzle petroleum, get relatively poor gas mileage and rely solely on gasoline for power.  Gasoline fumes are toxic and carcinogenic, causing smog and pollution.

All gas fueled vehicles create large amounts of  greenhouse gases which are the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect – the warming of the Earth’s climate due to the major buildup of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and other gases in the atmosphere.

What’s a suburbanite with a green conscience to do?

Is it possible to find a car that is cool, hip and ecologically friendly?

My van is logging in somewhere close to the 100,000 mile marker.  Still in great shape,  I am beginning to contemplate what ride is next in line.

Greener Car Options

Alternative fueled vehicles are powered by fuels that are derived from resources other than petroleum. Some of these fuels are produced domestically, reducing our dependence on imported oil, and some are derived from renewable resources.  Often, these fuels produce less pollution than gasoline or diesel.

Here are a few examples of alternative vehicles:

  • Hybrids are much more ecologically friendly than their petroleum guzzling counterparts, and in general the emissions of Hybrid cars are  at or below the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Hybrids use  electric motor and battery storage to maximize the fuel economy from standard gasoline-burning engines.
  • Diesel cars and trucks deliver great fuel economy, 20 to 30 percent better than comparable vehicles with gasoline engines. You’ll use less fuel as you drive and fill up your tank less often. They produce 20-30 percent less carbon dioxide, the major automotive emission classified as a greenhouse gas. Long gone are the diesel cars that were smelly and noisy-they are now quiet and clean.
  • Plug-in electric cars let you drive gas-free and without tailpipe emissions. These cars have to be plugged in to charge and the distance they will travel depends upon how much charge there is. No gas is required, making these cars one of the greenest options.
  • Flexible fuel vehicles can  run on a fuel mixture up to 85 percent ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline.

With all these great green options there are still not many choices for my family of 5- plus dog.  Most of the cars available are too small.

Come on car companies-get it together and show us a green hip, cool car that can hold larger families. The demand is there but there is not much available to meet the consumer’s needs.

For now I am staying put in my not-so-groovy green, but convenient, gas guzzling minivan until I find something that will provide better gas mileage and lower emissions.

Do you have a car that fits the bill-hip, cool and ecologically friendly? Must be ready, willing and able to hold three children, a dog and lots of other stuff.


A Student’s Guide to Alternative Fueled Vehicles

What is a Hybrid Vehicle

Green Car Buying Guide

6 Responses to “My Quest for a Green Car”

  1. I agree! With my business I need some space in my car and it’s like fingernails on a chalk board when I have to use our truck to cart around yarn… but the one thing you can do is make sure you have all the right maintenance, well, maintained on your vehicle. The air filters, tire pressure, tuneups… those all can decrease the efficiency of you vehicle thereby increasing pollution and your gas bill!

  2. so true Nicole-making sure your car is well maintained-meeting all the required emissions tests- is so important. We are required in Massachusetts to have our cars tested every year. It is a way for the state to make a lot of cash-but hopefully the testing is lowering the amount of pollution in some way. Great advice!

  3. I went through the same experience as you and also have 3 children age 12 and under! I found the Mercedes Diesel to be the best choice. I was able to shed my Town & Country mini van with two broken power doors and get into a luxury vehicle that was not only green but was large enough to cart around my family (and a really nice ride to boot!). I got the SUV diesel which is a 5 passenger. I commute 250 miles per week so I wanted good gas mileage also (this is great for mileage – over 23mpg) It has a large cargo area, is just fabulous all around. I would recommend this diesel – green without driving an electric car, no fumes, etc. The model I got is the ML320cdi. I’m hoping it will still be running when the 12 yr. old is behind the wheel also! Good luck!

  4. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I hope they come out with more diesel options in the next few years. Glad yours is so fuel efficient.

  6. […] of interesting issues. As a driver and an environmentalist I tend to give a lot of thought to the environmental impact of driving a car, but I’ve never really given much thought to […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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