We all like hooning around in our 600-horsepower Mustangs, 320 kph Mercedes, and 23 L/100 km Hummer H2s. Eventually, however, we will have to agree that even though resources may not be immediately short, they will probably soon be immediately expensive. It’s simple supply and demand – more people want more, adding up to less for cheap.
Does that mean we have to drive boring eco-weenie-mobiles that scream our planet-saving intentions like the Toyota Prius or Camry Hybrid? Will we be relegated to the shallow end of the automotive pool, perhaps saving the planet but undoubtedly bored?
Certainly not. We humbly submit three eco-friendly Green-mobiles that won’t suck the life out of you. Cars that are rewarding to drive and easy enough on the eyes. Modern conveyances that are efficient without screaming, “I’m a tree-hugging loony. Would you like a splash of patchouli on your tofu-dog?”
The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was named the current calendar’s “Green Car Of The Year.” Those with more than a passing interest in nomenclature will note TDI does not stand for Hybrid, Electric Vehicle, or Hydrogen Fuel Cell. Rather, it denotes a blinding evolution of Rudolf Diesel’s compression-ignition wonder, first documented in 1893.
Yes, the “Green Car Of The Year” burns fossil fuels, but it burns them in a very frugal way. Indeed, Natural Resources Canada claims 6.8 L/100 km city and 4.8 L/100 km highway. VW thought this was a little light, and an independent study returned 6.2 L/100 km city and 5.3 L/100 km highway. Real-world hyper-milers will undoubtedly achieve even more.
VW’s newest oil-burner uses piezoelectric fuel injectors to precisely squirt fuel. On the outbound end, there is a storage compartment for nitrogen oxides and a soot filter, both of which clean themselves when the engine control software deems necessary. The car actually cleans up after itself, like a puppy with a plastic bag and opposable thumbs! So clean is this $27,000 CDN wonder that it can actually be sold in the fascist nation-state of California.
The best part is that it drives like a Volkswagen, which is to say it goes, stops and turns like a proper German car and not some flabby Prius.
Ford’s 2010 Fusion Hybrid is aimed directly at the Toyota Camry, as you would expect. What you may not expect is not only does the Fusion squeeze more miles per liter of gasoline but it also feels and drives with a refinement that belies its blue-oval roots. You might say it out-Camrys the Camry.
The $27,995 CDN Fusion uses Ford’s second-generation hybrid system employing a 1.3-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride battery that is 30% smaller but has 20% more oomph. Engine shut-offs happen more frequently due to aggressive software tuning; the Fusion can run up to 75 kph for 3 km on electricity alone. The braking system can return up to 94% of the energy retrieved to the battery.
The rest of the time you’ll be returning 5.7 L/100 km city, 6.5 L/100 km highway and, driven conservatively, be pushing 1100 km between gas stops. Bladder beware!
Let’s say you have some green to spend on your Green. You only play the green fairways at Pebble Beach. Your green shirts have the little horsy logo on them. Therefore, your metallic jade green Mercedes-Benz S-class should have a BlueHybrid badge on its tush because, apparently, in Mercedes’ world, Blue means Green.
The European manufacturers have taken their sweet time embracing hybrids, preferring instead ever more efficient diesel engines. Mercedes, though masters of the diesel engine, employ an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-litre gas-burner and incorporate a 20-horsepower disk-shaped electric motor plugged into a lithium-ion battery pack, an industry first. Since Li-Ion cells can store roughly twice as much energy as their nickel-metal hydride cousins, the BlueHybrid’s king-size camera battery is sized to fit where the standard car’s 12-volt lead-acid lump lives. (There is a lead-acid battery in the trunk for accessories and such.)
According to the wizards in Stuttgart, the BlueHybrid bits improve economy over the standard S350, adding up to a combined 7.9 L/100 km on the European circuit. Cost when it gets to North America in September 2009 should be slightly less than the $112,000 CDN commanded by the faster, way-thirstier S550.
There you have it. Three rides that are good for the soul and the planet, leaving you no excuse to not get out there and drive.