Much of what you think you know about "clean cars" is wrong, misinformation spread by word of mouth and unreliable blogs (not including this one). Here are some of the prime misconceptions, with corrections applied:
The Lexus RX400h is a hybrid, but that doesn't necessarily make it the greenest choice.
All hybrids are "green." Wrong! The simple fact that a car or truck has some form of electric drive does not confer sainthood on it. For instance, the all-wheel-drive version of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid gets combined EPA gas mileage of just 20 mpg. In a year it would consume more than 17 barrels of oil. It would also emit 9.2 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a middle-of-the-pack score any non-hybrid small car would easily beat.
The Lexus RX 400h hybrid, another huge SUV, manages only 25 mpg combined. It swallows 13.7 barrels of oil and emits 7.3 tons of CO2 in a year, only slightly better than the Tahoe. OK, let's compare these two hybrids with a standard Honda Civic, which gets 29 mpg combined, uses up only 11.8 barrels of oil and emits 6.3 tons of CO2 annually. Better than the hybrids by every green measure!
Electric vehicles (EVs) are no cleaner than gasoline cars because they get their juice from the dirty grid. Wrong! Slate did the math. A 2006 Toyota Corolla getting 31 mpg with a manual transmission would suck up 3.23 gallons of gas in 100 miles, producing 63.11 pounds of CO2.
Let's compare that economy car to the hotshot all-electric Tesla roadster, which will soon be tearing up American roads going zero to 60 in four seconds. In 100 miles, it will use 31 kilowatt hours of electricity, generating 48.05 pounds of CO2. Clear advantage, Tesla. And, of course, that's based on the average power plant. If we stopped burning so much coal and switched to cleaner sources that average would improve considerably.
The humble Honda Civic beats the Lexus and Chevy Tahoe hybrids by important environmental measures.
The new two-seater Smart car is the greenest option. Wrong again! The rather more versatile Toyota Prius hybrid beats it by almost every measure, including versatility. The 2008 Smart fourtwo to be imported into the U.S. gets 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway.
The Prius achieves 48/45 mpg for 2008 and has a roomy back seat with quite a bit more storage space. The Prius, being an advanced technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) trumps the Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) Smart there, too. Yes, I hear you, the Smart, starting at $11,590, definitely has the edge on price.
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for clean cars. I just want to make sure we're driving down the right road.
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