Your demand for more eco-friendly cars is inspiring Ford Motor Company to manufacture vehicles that get better gas mileage, use more recycled materials, tap alternative (and less polluting) fuels, and maybe even help you save energy when you're not driving (think: washing your clothes).
I recently spent two days at the Go Further With Ford Trends Conference at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, where I had a chance to see first-hand what the company is doing to reduce its environmental impact. Full disclosure: Ford paid all expenses for the trip, though did not pay me a fee, is not paying for this post, and in fact required no post at all. I saw the visit as an opportunity to see "up close and personal" what the company is doing to make good on its sustainability claims. Here's what I found out.
What kind of car do you need? Coupe? Sedan? Sports car? Mini van? Something you can zip the kids to school in before you head to work? A small truck to help you cart around your merchandise when you make a sales call or delivery? Whatever your needs, you can probably find what you're looking for not just in style, but in gas-sipping substance, too.
That's the good news at the North American International Auto Show, currently under way in Detroit and soon to be visiting a city perhaps near you. Almost every car manufacturer seems to have gotten energy-saving religion. Big or small, snazzy or sedate, if you're buying a new car, you will have lots of gas-sippers to choose from.
I went to the show as a guest of the Ford Motor Company, but I spent as much time looking at everyone else's cars as I did at Ford's. Overall, I came away encouraged. If people are going to drive (and they are, an average of 14,000 miles per year), they may as well get as many miles to a gallon of gasoline as they can. I've written here, here and here about the impact burning gas has on the environment and human health. The less fuel we use to get where we're going, the better.
Plus, increasing your miles-per-gallon average can save you a ton of money. In the ten years I've owned my Prius, a car that on a bad day averages 37 or 38 mpg and more frequently gets in the mid to high 40s, I calculated recently that I've saved over $6,000 on gasoline. Even after replacing the car's tires and batteries, I came out several thousand dollars ahead.
Here are a few gas-sippers I saw at NAIAS that I particularly liked:
Ford C-MAX Hybrids - There are actually three models of the new C-Max to choose from. The standard C-MAX Hybrid, pictured above, is projected to operate electrically up to 62 mph, with the gasoline engine kicking in when extra power is needed. At maximum fuel efficiency, the car could attain an average of 47 mpg in the city or the highway, or over 570 miles per tank. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in
hybrid, or what Ford calls a "hybrid plus." The plug-in capability allows drivers to charge fully in less than three hours using a 240-volt charging station, or overnight using a standard 120-volt oulet. The driver can choose to drive electric only, gasoline only, or a combination of gas and electric. Both the Hybrid and the Energi come with a "Smart Gauge with EcoGuide" (pictured at right) to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency. Third C-MAX, the SE, is also for sale. You can compare features of all three here. Note that prices range from $25,200 for the SE to $32,950 for the Energi, though that doesn't include the $7,500 federal tax credit available when you purchase a hybrid or any related state tax credits.
Prius Hatchback -The Prius Hatchback, left, is a roomy hybrid option that is comparably priced to the Fusion or C-MAX. Like the Ford hybrid models it seats five; the hatchback gives it some nice storage space that could accommodate a family vacation, camping trip, or even the dog. Toyota claims the car will get as much as 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined average fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg. Toyota also offers a Prius Plug-in with an estimated 95 miles on a charge, plus hybrids in its other popular models, including Camrys, Avalons, the RAV4, and the Highlander SUV.
Tesla Electric Vehicle - I have to say, I suffered a bit of car envy over the beautiful Tesla S (right), an all electric vehicle that is this year's MotorTrend Car of the Year. The car can travel anywhere from 160 miles to 300 miles on electricity only, depending on the size of the battery that's been installed in the car.
I loved the big, clear computer screen sitting right next to the steering wheel on the front dashboard, which would be great for looking at a map. And it seems particularly clean, given that the battery pack is under the floor and there's absolutely no engine front or back.
At $50k+, the car is waaaayyy out of my price range. But a girl can dream, right?
BOTTOM LINE: Almost any type of vehicle you'd need is now available in a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric option. Have fun the next time you go car shopping!
If you're in the market for a new family car that gets good gas mileage, easily carries 5 passengers, and has room in the trunk for your junk, several of the new models that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week could be exactly what you're looking for. For now, let's take a look at the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid created some of the biggest buzz at the show, and for good reason. It's a roomy, family-size car but with snazzy style and a regenerative braking system and electric battery that help it get 36 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway. (Full disclosure: I was a guest of the Ford Motor Company at the auto show, though under no obligation to favorably review any of its vehicles.) In case you're wondering, here's how Ford explains what "regenerative braking system" means:
When you apply the brakes in a conventional vehicle, kinetic energy is lost to heat due to friction. During braking in the Fusion Hybrid, however, the regenerative braking system recovers over 90 percent of this energy that is normally lost and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use. Not only is regenerative braking efficient, but it also helps minimize wear on the brake pads, lowering the cost of maintenance.
It doesn't matter if a car CAN get good fuel efficiency if the driver drives so it doesn't. One of the features I like the most on the Fusion is its "Dual LCD SmartGauge Cluster with Eco Guide." The SmartGauge uses liquid crystal displays on either side of the center-mounted speedometer. A tutorial built into the display lets you choose one of four data screens for the level of information you want — Inform, Enlighten, Engage or Empower — and explains your options within each. Steering wheel-mounted controls make it all easy. All levels can indicate instant fuel economy and trip data including time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty. The display grows leaves when you drive efficiently. The leaves fade when you don’t. More leaves = more mpg.
Another plus? The Fusion Hybrid's eco-friendly cloth seating is made from 85 percent post-industrial materials - polyester fibers that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.
The car also includes "adaptive cruise control" to automatically slow the Fusion when it detects slower traffic ahead, and an "active park assist" system to make it easier for the driver to parallel park. Sensors in the Fusion's rear quarter-panels detect traffic in a driver’s blindspot, providing both audible and visual warnings if traffic – unseen by the driver – is approaching.
While the Fusion Hybrid is available in show rooms now, stay tuned for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which Ford claims will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the world. Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi could deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. Ford says this is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model.
Nissan had set up a big pavilion in the parking lot of the local mall to explain how the car works and then let people take it for a test drive. I was ready to be skeptical, since I drive a Prius (the original model, which I purchased in 2002), and love it. Instead, I fell in love with the Leaf. Here's why.
Here we go again: gasoline prices are soaring close to $4.00 a gallon, and several of the countries that export oil to the U.S. are in such political turmoil, we can't be sure our supplies will continue. When, oh when, will we say, "Enough, Already!" and get serious about reducing our dependence on petroleum?
The problem isn't just "foreign" oil. Using any kind of fossil fuel to meet our transportation needs is a losing proposition. Drilling for oil wrecks the planet, or have we already forgotten the Gulf Oil disaster? And burning oil generates climate-changing carbon dioxide and nasty particles that create asthma-inducing smog.
But most of us can't just go out and buy a new set of wheels (unless they're on a bicycle). These ten tips offer the fastest, easiest ways you can save gas and money, no matter what kind of car you drive.
1. Drive smart - Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control on the highway, and don't idle.
2. Drive the speed limit - Remember - every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.
3. Drive less - This should be a no-brainer. Walk, bicycle, use a scooter or moped, combine trips, and telecommute to work.
Investigators are still trying to understand how this potentially lethal bacterium was able to infect so many eggs in such a short period of time. One possible cause is getting a lot of attention: the way the laying hens were raised. Conventional poultry operations raise millions of chickens at a time, often in confined spaces and under filthy and inhumane conditions that reduce the ability of the animals to fight off germs. When disease hits, it spreads like wildfire. But with a fire you can see the flames coming. With salmonella, you don't know it's got you until you're doubled over in pain or on your way to the emergency room.
For now, eggs in 14 states in the midwest have been recalled. The good news is that this amounts to less than 1 percent of all eggs produced in the U.S. Still, disease outbreaks like these remind all of us to be vigilant about the food we eat. The following precautions will help you stay healthy:
The Chevy Volt is electrifying the car market - especially in the wake of the oil disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and now, Lake Michigan. Every one of us needs to stop using oil so the Volt, which can drive 40 miles on a battery powered by electricity rather than an engine fueled by oil, has a lot of appeal. General Motors, which is taking orders on the car for delivery this fall, claims the vehicle is "designed to move 75% of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas. That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles per day (which is most Americans), Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions." After 40 miles, a smaller, 4-cylinder internal combusion engine uses premium-grade gasoline to produce more electricity, extending the car's range an additional 300 miles.
I drove over to nearby University of Maryland, where test drives were being conducted. I waited around for a few minutes until it was my turn to get behind the wheel. I slid into the driver's seat, and turned the car on. Like the Prius, the car is very quiet - if you don't know it's coming, you won't hear it, that's for sure.
Buying energy-efficient home energy systems, appliances, and cars can save you loads of money by reducing your energy consumption. But the upfront cost of investing in efficient technologies can make ditching your old energy guzzlers for new energy sippers seem prohibitive. Federal and state tax credits help defray your purchase costs (image source). Here's how:
Federal Energy Efficiency Tax Credits
Home Renovations: You can earn up to 30% in federal tax credits on the first $1,500 you spend on improving the energy efficiency of your home. These credits apply only to existing home renovations and not to new construction. Remember: a tax credit is better than a deduction because it actually reduces the amount of money you pay tax on at the end of the year.
Qualifying products include energy-efficient:
windows and doors
central air conditioners, furnaces, and boilers
biomass stoves (like those that burn wood, wood pellets, dried corn, etc.)
This credit expires at the end of 2010, so act sometime in the next eleven months to take advantage of this benefit.
Alternative Energy Substitutions: If you've been thinking of transitioning to a renewable home energy system, you have until the end of 2016 to use tax credits to help defray the expense. These credits are also being offered at 30% of cost, but with no upper limit (in other words, if you spend $20,000 putting solar panels on your roof, the credits could generate as much as a $6,000 tax credit). Qualifying systems include:
Walk, bicycle. Well, these are more "non" driving tips, aren't they? But they do help you guzzle less gas; and manufacturing a bike or a pair of walking shoes uses far less resources than producing a car!