It took a while, but the concept of the "hybrid car" is now firmly ensconced in the American consciousness. People may be a bit fuzzy on the details (some people think they need to be plugged in, for instance), but they're no longer scratching their heads about the concept.
What if I told you that there are now more than half a million environmental cars on the road that are not hybrids, but still claim emissions that in some cases are actually cleaner than the ambient air? It's true, they're called Partial-Zero Emission Vehicles (PZEVs). There are more than 40 PZEV models out there, visually identical versions of such popular cars as the Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy and Chevy Cobalt. A few vehicles, including the popular Toyota Prius and Ford Focus, are PZEVs sold in all 50 states.
"Think of a PZEV certification like antibacterial soap for the exhaust system, says Jim Kliesch of the Washington-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. "Excluding electric vehicles, you're not going to do any better in terms of tailpipe emissions. PZEVs are certified to emit between about half and a twelfth the exhaust of a typical vehicle, depending on the pollutant."
Bear with me a bit here. States have the option of either embracing the stringent California emission regulations or sticking with the more lenient federal standards. So far, four statesâNew York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maineâhave adopted the California regs, and they're pending in Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington State. To avoid even tougher regulation, automakers agreed to sell PZEVs in these states.
Although their fuel consumption (and therefore greenhouse gas performance) is no better than standard cars, the smog benefits are big enough that PZEVs are worth considering if you can't afford a hybrid. For the most part, carmakers add no significant premium to the list price of PZEVs. But throw that PZEV acronym at even the most environmentally aware audiences and all you'll get is a blank stare.
Over the last several years, carmakers have been delivering PZEVs to dealer lots, but staying very quiet about it. If you haven't seen any celebrity-laden ad campaigns, that's because there haven't been any. So, if you're lucky enough to live in one of the enlightened "California states, remember to ask for PZEVs by name. You'll breathe easier.
Like the Chevy Cobalt? Well, then see if you can get it as a PZEV.
Through the good graces of ACEEE and its survey of clean cars, here are the 45 2007 cars available as PZEVs in California states:
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Focus Wagon
Honda Civic Gx
Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda Accord Hybrid
Mazda 3 Mazda 6
Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Nissan Altima Hybrid
Pontiac Grand Prix
Pontiac G5 Saturn Ion
Subaru Forester 2.5 X / Sports 2.5 X (Incl. Prem)
Subaru Forester 2.5 X L.L.Bean
Subaru Legacy 2.5i / 2.5i Se
Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited Sedan
Subaru Legacy 2.5i / 2.5i Se Wagon
Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited Wagon
Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited / 2.5i
Limited L.L.Bean Wagon
Subaru Outback 2.5i Wagon (And Basic/L.L.Bean)
Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited Sedan
Toyota Camry Toyota Camry Hybrid
Volkswagen New Beetle
Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible
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