9
Apr

My Week With the Kia Soul

by Tiffany in Green Cars

001

Last week I got to borrow this nifty car for a whole week. This was really my first experience with Kia. Beyond seeing them around the road I only knew them as the company that makes the cute commercials with the dancing hamsters. When the Soul arrived at my house I loved it from the get-go. The color (called Alien) is right up my alley. I pretty much only like cars that are green, yellow, or a vibrant blue. I had a magenta car once but no companies are making cars in that color anymore. :)

This one is touted as being a bit greener (as in eco friendly) but I am going to be brutally honest about that. I don’t find this car to be green at all. My gas mileage during the week I had it ranged from 24 to 28 mpg. The technicians who drove it to me from Detroit claimed they got 35 mpg but the majority of those miles were highway. I don’t get on the highway very much. All of my driving, which isn’t much, is done in the city with lots of stop and go. I drove with the eco feature turned on the entire time as well. Don’t get me wrong the mpg I got while driving it is probably better than that of any of my current vehicles. Yet I am not going to consider a car green unless I am getting 45mpg or higher or unless it is electric. Neither qualifier applies here.

That said I love this car anyway…for budget reasons. I have test driven many different cars in the past two years. ALL OF THEM were very nice, luxurious, green cars that I could not begin to afford. They had all these amazing features and upgrades that equated to many thousands of dollars on top of an already very pricey base model. The Kia Soul I drove was the top of the line model with every feature I loved in the luxury cars and some new ones the fancy schmancy cars didn’t even have.

It has heated and cooled (cooled?!?) seats, front AND back. It has a heated steering wheel and a backup camera. It has an amazing display with a kick but navigation system. It has remote keyless entry, roomy leather seats, a push button start, mood lighting in groovy colors (blue, green, red, etc), and a sun roof that extends across the entire roof, not just the driver seat area. It just has too many features to name and the price is only $26,000 with a 100,000 mile warranty. Wow! After driving cars that averaged 35 to 40k and weren’t nearly as nice as the Kia Soul I am sold. I fell in love with it as did my husband, kids, and parents. Whenever the time comes to look for another car we might actually decide not to go used like we usually do, not if we can get all that luxury for a fraction of what it typically costs.

004

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

5 Comments

25
Jul

Environmentally friendly cars: the pros and cons

by Guest in Green Cars

Cars at NAIAS

Over the last couple of years there has been one area of the struggling automotive industry which has been growing apace: the hybrid car industry. The strong sales of hybrid motors can only be a positive thing and perhaps we are beginning to see a genuine change in the buying considerations of automotive consumers. In the US sales of hybrid cars increased by 34% between 2010 and 2012; in Australia the increase in the popularity of the hybrid is even more rapid, with sales increasing by an astonishing 160% during 2012. When you bear in mind that that Australia and America are the spiritual home of gas guzzling muscle cars, this is surely reason to be cheerful.

Despite their increasing popularity, many people are still uncertain about the relative merits of hybrid cars. For anyone considering purchasing one for their next vehicle- and it is certainly something that everyone should consider- here is a breakdown of their pros and cons to help inform your decision.

The Cons

Let’s get the disadvantages out of the way! There is no beating around the bush, hybrid cars are not as ‘exciting’ to drive as their petrol counterparts. Although the performance of hybrid cars has improved hugely in a relatively short space of time, for petrolheads they are still a long way away from the real thing. However, for the vast majority of drivers this lack of ‘ooomphh’ should be of little concern. When trying to espouse the virtues of environmentally friendly technology it is easy to be branded a killjoy. Perhaps we do have to accept that there is a place for the excitement which is presented by fuel thirsty vehicles, and maybe it isn’t in the mainstream?

The most likely concern which will put people off buying a hybrid is the cost. Due largely to the technology involved, hybrid cars are more expensive than their standard alternatives, often to the tune of several thousand. As we shall see, hybrid cars can engender big savings in the long-term, but in this economic climate it is not surprising that people are scared off by a hefty initial outlay. Nonetheless there is reason to be optimistic. With sales of hybrids increasing their price is only going to go one way, and that is down.

The Pros

Although not a perfect solution, hybrid cars offer huge environmental benefits over traditional motors. Hybrid cars are not only far more fuel efficient, but they are also much lighter in terms of carbon emissions. There can be little debate that we need to take action to protect our planet, and whilst some may call for more drastic measures, attempting to take that action within a framework which allows the normality of everyday life to continue is perhaps the best course. In days gone past hybrids were often seen as vastly inferior to their petrol and diesel alternatives, however things have quickly changed. Use any motoring car comparison tool and you will see that they are now right up there with the best of them. And their evolution is likely to continue. Read the Mitsubishi Lancer review by Motoring and you’ll understand what a serious piece of performance kit the Lancer Evolution is- a real petrolheads dream. It’s therefore particularly interesting to note that in the last couple of days it has been rumored that its latest incarnation may well be a hybrid. Hybrid cars may not offer the thrill of a V8 just yet- but perhaps the day when they do isn’t that far off. Until then they are surely a most welcome compromise.

Whilst the initial outlay may be greater, increasingly consumers are choosing hybrids because of the long term economic benefits which they provide. Not only are they going to save you money at the gas pumps but there are more and more government lead incentives to purchase one. Depending upon where you live various tax rebates are available, often amounting to considerable savings. Insurers also take a favorable view of hybrid drivers, helping to propagate the view that hybrid drivers. For the savvy consumer the most appealing economic advantage of hybrids is their resale value. With so few in the marketplace compared to standard cars they hold their value remarkably well, and this doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.

This is a guest post by Hannah Tharp

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

4 Comments

13
Jun

Test Driving the Chevy Volt Electric Car

by Tiffany in Green Cars

chevy volt-sm

Last week I had the pleasure of cruising around in a Chevy Volt. It was a pretty new experience for me since I am used to driving regular cars with greater than average fuel economy, all electric cars, or hybrids. I had yet to try a plugin hybrid and was excited to test drive the Volt because I thought that is what it was…a plugin hybrid. I was pleasantly surprised though to find it is not. The Volt is actually an electric car that also happens to run on gas if you need it to. Pretty nifty actually and a really, really nice car.

When I drove an all electric car last year I was greatly impressed. I fell in love truth be told. The biggest drawback for me though was that it would have to be a second car. In general I don’t do a lot of driving and an all electric would mostly fit our needs but there are those trips to grandma’s house a couple times a month or those days when we have shopping/errands and drive more than usual. The 75ish miles MPGe that I had on the last electric car I drove might not be quite enough for us. Most days it would be fine but some days it would be impractical and you have to take that into consideration. That said though I loved that driving an electric car made me more conscious of how much I drove…making me drive smarter and less.

The Volt is a perfect solution for this conundrum though.

volt logo sm

When I have a test car in my possession I tend to drive more than usual so I can actually test it. So just about every day that I had it I exceeded the battery mileage and used some gas but in general this car would be pretty perfect for our needs. On a full charge the battery would get me about 42 miles each day. Most days (for me at least – not my husband) that would me more than sufficient for my needs and I would never need to use any gas. If my husband were to drive it he might have to fill up with gas once every two weeks. With a full charge and a full gas tank the mileage is about 380 miles. Yep, pretty sweet.

I ended up driving about 420 miles in total during the week I had the Volt and had a 1/3 of a tank of gas left over at the end. In the photo below you see I was getting 94.6 mpg. Also in this picture you can see that at the time it was taken I was driving on electric power and had 2 miles left. There was enough gas in the tank to get me 169 more miles after that. It’s all there for you see quite easily when driving. This same screen even tells you when you plug the car in, how long you need to leave it for a full charge.

volt dash

After your battery mileage is spent it automatically kicks over to the gas tank. The transition is so smooth you don’t even noticed it happened unless you are looking at the console screen behind the wheel. My biggest complaint with hybrids is that they are jerky and you physically feel the transition from battery to gas and back again. I didn’t enjoy that aspect at all and with the Volt there is none of that. It is kind of amazing actually. Also worthy of note is the fact that while the car starts in electric mode (if there is a charge) you can also choose to use gas only if you want.

Other features that I loved include the push button start (no key required). I actually prefer this because I can just leave my keys in my purse 24/7. As long as the keys are in the car, it will start just by pushing a button. You can also start it remotely, which is so important to have in the winter time in Ohio. Connectivity features include Chevrolet MyLink™ with 7-inch diagonal color touch-screen that lets you easily navigate through an amazing array of information and entertainment options, Bluetooth® wireless technology for select phones, OnStar® with RemoteLink mobile app and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. I fell in love with the 80s music channel on XM!!

The charger for the car is located in a panel in the trunk, which is also a nice feature of the car. It is big and roomy and accessible to the back passengers. My son adored being able to climb into the trunk from the back of the car, LOL. It’s those little things I guess.

chevy volt charger

 

chevy volt trunk

The interior was also incredibly nice. It has suede-like bucket seats for everyone (4 passenger) and a really spiffy looking dash with lots of great features.

chevy volt interior sm

chevy volt interior 2 sm

This is by far one of the nicest cars I have driven. I would be incredibly jazzed to own one except it has that all too common electric car problem..it only seats 4. But it does overcome the battery range issue by running on gas so that is a huge improvement. You can charge the car for about $1.60 per day and can charge it with a standard 120V outlet in about 10-16 hours. If you install a 240V outlet though you can reduce that by 4+ hours. Other than the passenger issue it would perfectly meet our needs and my biggest issue wold remembering to switch to gas occasionally so I don’t have old gas sitting in it for too long. That is not a bad problem to have though. The Volt is practical and very economical in the long run. The sticker price is comparable to a hybrid but IMO the value is much better. This car definitely makes my list of green cars to buy for 2013.

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

2 Comments

4
Jun

Parking Your Car – What Is the Environmental Impact?

by Tiffany in Green Cars

The Environmental Impact of Parking Lots

When we think about cars on the road and their environmental and economic impact we typically think of certain hot button topics. We might think of fuel economy or alternative methods of powering our vehicles. We might think of the impact of factories and cars globally and locally. We might think about pollution from manufacturing and from consumption (driving). We might think about the life cycle of the vehicles we purchase or whether to buy new or used. There are numerous issues we can chat about surrounding cars as a dominant form of transportation but one we rarely talk about, at least in my opinion, is parking. We live in a car obsessed culture and we need somewhere to park our beloved cars. What is the impact though?

All over the country you will see businesses surrounded by huge parking lots, many of the spaces sitting empty unless it is during peak shopping hours. I have always thought it seemed like an incredible waste of land but what are retailers to do? They want to make sure every potential customer has a place to park to encourage shopping. If they don’t do this then they lose sales right? Consumerism drives our economy so we do have to be concerned with the economics of parking.

We also need to be concerned with the environmental impact of parking. There IS an environmental impact. Remember the Joni Mitchell song… “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. It is not just an issue of aesthetics. We lose land to build these huge, wasteful structures and they are not eco friendly in the least. Think about the unsustainable building materials being used and all the land being used inefficiently. According to a new report, there are an estimated 3 to 8 parking spaces available for every car on the road. That is a lot of unused space!

Of course some municipalities are going vertical and creating parking structures and garages. This report though shows that between 80-90% of parking demand is still served by surface lots (outward expansion, waste of land/space). Building and maintaining these lots and structures needs to be added to the cumulative planetary impact of driving cars as they bring more soot, carbon dioxide, and sulfur emissions into the mix. These expansive lots are also for the most part impermeable. The runoff from rainwater is directed to sewers or into local rivers and streams instead of being allowed to be absorbed into the soil as it would under normal circumstances and this creates its own set of problems and issues for the ecosystem and for local water management systems. One of those problems is that it introduces oil, metals, and other nasty chemicals from the surface into our water supply.

We also need to think about the effect on climate change. These huge lots paved with dark asphalt and concrete are creating urban heat islands that can almost certainly ratchet up the temperature. Scientists are actually taking a harder look at this very thing and some think that parking lots may be worse for climate change than the CO2 from cars. Something to think about…

To help change this landscape and reduce the need for so much parking, businesses and city planners are getting savvier where they can. A new trend has evolved as highlighted by the infographic below. It was made in conjunction with the aforementioned report by a company that sells parking signs. The trends they see in what signs are selling is actually very telling. More businesses are buying signs that are aimed to increase customer turnover. When customers are only allowed to park for 20 minutes or less then the business should be able to accommodate more people with fewer spaces. Structured, organized, and tight parking control can serve as a viable alternative to sprawling lots and I am happy to see the emergence of this trend. What do you think?

infographic-free-parking-fallacies-620

FREE PARKING FALLACIES – a MyParkingSign report

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

6 Comments

21
May

Does Buying a Hybrid Car Make Cents?

by Tiffany in Green Cars

The hybrid versus the non hybrid. It is something I think about often because we all know that a hybrid makes better sense environmentally but it become unclear when you consider the economics. For years I have wrestled with justifying a hybrid purchase and not been able to do so. It all comes down to how much money you are willing to put behind your green ideals and theoretically we might all like to think we could put our money where our mouth is but some of us just don’t have the money to do so. Sadly hybrids are out of reach for a great many people. Thus they have to choose the best car they can with the resources they have and that is unlikely to be a hybrid, as shown by this infographic below.

What do you think? When you have a limited budget can you justify the purchase of a hybrid over a regular sedan with great fuel economy?

Does Buying a Hybrid Car Make Sense?

Created by Auto Pawn.

Related: My Top Five Green Cars for 2013

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

No Comments