Pros and cons of sustainable cars
Your house is resplendent in solar panels and power-saving devices. You pride yourself on being an ethical, environmentally aware consumer. But what about your car? We all know they all burnt fossil fuels but the responsible automotive landscape is changing – fast. Here’s how.
These cars use an electric motor (or motors) to ‘assist’ a traditional internal-combustion engine. The latter, working as a generator, is also used to top up the batteries.
Pros: Because the petrol engine contributes less to propelling the vehicle, fuel use and emissions are reduced.
Cons: Hybrid versions of cars are typically costlier than traditional equivalents. They are heavier, more complex and can suffer from practical compromises such as reduced boot space. And because their battery packs aren’t big enough to allow them to run just on electric power for a meaningful distance, you can’t cut out fuel use altogether and ‘pay off’ the price premium sooner.
One to buy – Toyota Corolla Hybrid: This Toyota rivals its more storied Prius stablemate for thrift (just 4.1L/100km) and has a much smaller price tag. From $27,990.
A hybrid where the electric motor takes a greater share of the work, to the point where it can be used as the sole power source for a certain distance. The batteries can also be charged via a plug-in socket.
Pros: Many now deliver sufficient all-electric driving range to cover the average daily commute. Being able to charge the batteries via a wall socket is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than using an engine, so you can speed up the break-even process and reduce emissions even more.
Cons: Just like any hybrid, they are costlier than traditional equivalents and prone to the same issues of weight, complexity and packaging constraints.
One to buy – Mercedes-Benz C350e: This Mercedes isn’t a whole lot more expensive than an equivalent petrol C-Class but returns an official fuel-economy rating of just 2.4L/100km. From $75,900.
These cars use nothing but electric power for their motivation. Some have a petrol engine that acts as a generator to charge the batteries but – unlike a plug-in hybrid – it doesn’t power the car.
Pros: Petrol is a dirtier, more expensive form of propulsion than electricity, and you’re ditching it. Electric cars can have some smart packaging (an electric motor is much smaller than an internal combustion engine) and they’re getting cheaper all the time.
Cons: They’re still expensive, often double that a comparable regular car. Driving range and recharging infrastructure are other limiting factors but improvements in both fields – plus the presence of models with petrol ‘range extenders’ – mean it’s more an issue for road-trippers than urban commuters.
One to buy – BMW i3: This futuristic BMW can get you an all-electric driving range of up to 200km, or 330km with its optional range extender. From $63,900.
As with everything in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. So make sure you do your fair share of research if you’re going to ditch your old petrol burner. And if you do, there’s every chance you’ll be saving money as well as the planet.
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