19
Jan

Green Cars at the North American International Auto Show 2013

by Tiffany in Green Cars

Cars at NAIAS

I spent the early part of the week in Detroit attending the North American International Auto Show and an event sponsored by Ford Motor Company. This is my second go round at this amazing show and this year was no less exciting. The highlight for me of course is seeing what is on the market for green cars and what is going to be coming up on the horizon. I thought last year had a large green focus but this year was the same so I am hopeful that this means the future is looking bright for sustainable vehicles.

I will point out my favorite Ford vehicles first since they were the largest focus group for me while I was there. I am a huge Ford fan and I went into the event thinking that if 2013 is finally the year that my 14 year old car kicks the bucket and I buy new or new-used, I would like to get either a Focus or a Fiesta. After the show I am of the same mind but now leaning even more towards the Fiesta. I just adore small little cars, which is a big change for me because as a younger woman I was all about the bad ass trucks. Well there plenty of those at the show but they didn’t get much of my attention. I dig small cars with great fuel economy now. I guess I just have a very practical head on my shoulders too because luxury names like Lincoln and Tesla mean less than nothing to me and I don’t want to spend on a car what I could buy a house for here in Ohio.

But I digress…the car that had me salivating was this salmon colored Fiesta. I love the look, I adore the color, it has excellent fuel economy (40 mpg), and the price is rockin (from about 14,000).

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

It is not a hybrid or electric vehicle but the great fuel economy and price puts it tops on my short list. It is an excellent car for those that cannot afford the typical “green car” price but still want a greener ride.

Also on my list is the Focus EV. The price is higher but you save money in the long run when you are able to “fill up” for only $2.00. Like the Fiesta (above) this car will also likely have soy and recycled jeans in the interior and Ford is working with coconuts, soy, corn, wood fibers, wheatgrass, and other natural materials to make plant based plastics for other car components. I did not find any other car company at the show that could boast this and we asked!

Ford Focus Electric

The Ford C-Max is another great green option. It reminds me of the Fiesta but just a tad bigger and with a hybrid and plugin hybrid boost. It gets about 47 mpg. It’s ready to take on the Prius apparently because it was just named the world’s greenest car. It wasn’t my personal fave but I hear nothing but good things.

Ford C-Max 2

It also needs to be said that MANY of the Ford cars that are not green per say can be bought with an Eco Boost engine. It may not be glamorous like a hybrid or an EV but it is a big improvement on efficiency and performance. Other car companies seemed to lack anything similar.

Eco Boost Engine

Also on my radar was the Eco-Chic Fiat 500e. Okay what was I saying about luxury cars having no sway over me??? Well this Fiat is just too cute for words and its all electric. It takes 4 hours to charge and it gets 108 MPGe. I also found one in an orangey/salmon color scheme, which seems to be my car color of choice. Hello gorgeous! You are probably out of my price range and you may only be a 4 seater (not sure) but I do so love you…

2013 Fiat 500e

Fiat Interior

Another interesting green car was the Nissan Leaf electric which was rather sporty looking and had a really nifty looking gear shift that reminded me of a video game console. It gets 106 MPGe and it starts at 27K.

Nissan Leaf Interior

The Chevy Spark  EV was another cute car and I really liked the fact that the battery is supposedly made up of sections that can be replaced individually and at less cost than EVs that require an all new battery after 5-10 years. It is also said to be the fastest charging EV and the price is about 25K.

Spark

Then of course there is the well known Toyota Prius. They are well established and well loved among the green car community. They are gorgeous cars.

Toyota Prius

Also among the Toyota offerings was this car we may see in 2015… a Hydrogen Fuel-cell car that had seats that reminded me of robots. Weird!

Toyota Futeristic

Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell car

Another hot green car that everyone seemed to be dying over was the Tesla EV but I think the price tag makes it too outrageous to even merit a discussion…ahem 50-60K. Yeah, no dice.

I am incredibly excited to see that 2013 was once again a banner year for green cars at the NAIAS.

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

3 Comments

11
Jan

My Top Five Green Cars for 2013

by Tiffany in Green Cars

Eco-friendly car

In just a couple days I will be boarding a plane to Detroit where I will be attending the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) for the second year in a row. Last year was really my intro to the world of greener, more fuel efficient, and more planet friendly car options and choices. I was always keen on the idea but since I was not in the market for a car I never investigated what was out there and I never realized just how many strides have already been taken to give us better options for our transportation.

I learned so much last year. I took two trips to Detroit, attended the big auto show, compared the greener cars on the market, went behind the scenes at testing and design facilities, and test drove several greener cars including the all electric Focus and many other Ford cars with an Eco Boost engine. Later on I got to borrow a few cars for extended test drives, lasting a week roughly and see first hand how they drove and if they lived up to the hype. I now feel reasonably educated on what I want to buy for myself (when the time comes) and what I can feel good recommending to others. So here are my top five picks for greener cars you may want to buy in 2013…

1. The Mitsubish i 

mitsubishi-i-miev

This is an insanely adorable, all electric car and I fell in love with it…HARD. You can read about my full experience here but it was difficult to let this go and difficult not to compare other cars to it. It is whisper quiet and although it looks small it is actually very roomy and luxurious. I loved that it forced me to be a smarter and more mindful driver because you only have so much juice before you need to plug the car in and recharge the battery. You are operating on battery power and therefore can’t just slip into the nearest fueling station to fill up. You have to plan your trips and perhaps drive less overall to make it work. The the average cost to drive it is $3.60 per 100 miles which makes it a big money saver and the cost of the car is also incredibly reasonable.

The starting MSRP is $29,125 making the starting price for this car several thousand less than other comparable electric vehicles available in the market.

 

2. The Ford Focus Electric

focus-electric

Another snazzy car, no? This is an all electric car, completely battery powered and also whisper quiet to drive. It can take a bit to get used to just how quiet they are but you grow to love it. This car, unlike the one above, is also a five passenger vehicle…the first on the market actually. This means big bonus points from this five member family. Ford cars are very sustainable in a variety of ways too. They use soy and recycled jeans in their interiors and they are working with coconuts, soy, corn, wood fibers, wheatgrass, and other natural materials to make plant based plastics for other car components. The interior is beautiful as are the color choices for the exterior. The range on the car is supposed to be about 85-100 miles on the battery and the starting price is $39,900.

 

3. The Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford NAIAS 2012 Ford Fusion close-up

The Fusion was not only the darling of the auto show last year is has been named Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. This is in large part due to its 47 mpg fuel efficiency and the low emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide, in comparison to other cars. 90% of the car is recyclable and they are working on all the plastic components to eventually bring that to 100% according to the chief engineer that worked on the Fusion. The Energi model (plugin hybrid) of this car gets a whopping 100+ MPGe! Wow! I am also in love with the green color you see on the model above.

 

4. The Mazda 3i

mazda3i

There is much to love about this car and it is just a regular car…not a hybrid or an electric. What makes that okay though is the price, $16,700 to $24,350, and the fuel economy. It gets about 40 highway mpg/28 city but I drove this car around in the city for the most part and averaged 35.2 mpg! It may not be the greenest car out there bit for that price and that mileage, it is a keeper for those that cannot afford the price tag often associated with greener cars. I love the navigation and the hands free phone option as well as the heated seats, booyah! Read my entire review here.

 

4. The Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Optima Hybrid

This was the first hybrid I got to drive and it took awhile to get used to but I warmed up quickly to it. It gets bonus points for being very spacious, luxurious, and pretty too. What I loved most about this car was the Start button that you use instead of a key. It meant I never had to search for keys in my purse because as long as they were in fact IN my purse that was close enough and the car would start. It will also turn off if you leave it on and walk away. Nice! As for actual driving…The Optima engine cuts off when stopped or the electrical load is low. This saves fuel and reduces emissions. Also any time the breaks are applied the Regenerative Breaking System charges the battery.

This hybrid gets 34 city MPG and 39 Highway MPG, which isn’t as high as some other hybrids. The price tag is lower though…around $25,700 to $27,150 for intro and mid range models. Read my full review here.

I hope this article helps you if you are going to look for a greener car in 2013. It should at the very least give you some leads! Enjoy!

Friday, January 11th, 2013

7 Comments

12
Dec

My Week With the Kia Optima Hybrid

by Tiffany in Green Cars

Last week I had the pleasure of cruising around Columbus in a Kia Optima Hybrid. It is a bit pricier than most of the other cars I have gotten to test drive of late and it was my first hybrid. My previous experience has mostly been with regular vehicles that have great fuel economy or all electric cars. I was really jazzed to get a behind the wheel of a hybrid. It took a little while to get used to because it is a very different drive.

The Optima gets an A+ for looks that for sure. It is very stylish and fairly large and spacious inside. This model was not the highest end model which has leather seats but I actually liked the look and feel of the cloth seats in this vehicle. I would not go for a light beige interior myself, because I have kids, but I am not a fan of how hot leather is in summer and how cold it is in winter so the mid range model is a perfect fit for me. Though I must add that the top of the line model has heated seats so the winter cold seats issue wouldn’t really be an issue. I do love that option. The base price starts at $25,700. The model I drove was $27,150. It has a 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.

My favorite feature on the Kia Optima is the Push Button Start and Smart Key (below). It actually did not start out being a plus in my mind because I had the habit of tossing the key in the cupholder and then on the first day I forgot it was there and went inside the house leaving the key in the car. I remembered right away but kept thinking this was a car theft situation waiting to happen. Then I had my “Doh!” moment when I realized that I didn’t even have to take the key out of my purse. That realization made this feature quite awesome. All I had to do was grab my purse and toss it on the seat next to me, push the button, and away we went. If I wanted to lock it I could just reach a finger into my purse and activate (or deactivate) the locks. Easy peasy and no more searching for misplaced keys because they never needed to leave my purse!

When you push the start button the car has a lyrical chime and the screen behind the steering wheel welcomes you. It doesn’t sound as though the car is even on because it is in EV mode. When you step on the gas it switches into regular, non electric, mode. It will go back into EV mode when idling at a light, stopping for traffic, etc. It takes awhile to get used to how quiet it is. It also takes some time to get used to the kick between EV mode and regular because it isn’t always smooth. At first I found it very jerky and was not so much a fan but as with any car you begin to get your sea legs and it rides smoother once you are familiar with it. I appreciate the system though. The Kia engine cuts off when stopped or the electrical load is low. This saves fuel and reduces emissions. Any time the breaks are applied the Regenerative Breaking System charges the battery.

Fuel economy according to the Monroney sticker is 34 city MPG and 39 Highway MPG. I mostly drove around in the city and got 31.2 average MPG. That average did start to go up when I drove across town on the highway to take the kids to a movie but it went back down once I was back in the city. No big shocker there. I liked that the display screen has a tree with leaves and blossoms on it and the better you drive, the more flowers you have. It was nice to see that while driving (as an option) and gauge how eco friendly my driving was. Very often I had 7 of the 8 flowers and one time I managed to get all 8!! I was super stoked. ;)

Other nice features include the Bluetooth Wireless technology available. It allows you to talk on the phone hands free, using your steering wheel to answer and end calls and adjust volume. All of this is designed to help you keep your eyes on the road. It has cruise control of course (which is what allowed me to get that coveted 8th flower) and USB port to plug my phone or iPod into. The songs display on the 2nd screen (above the radio) too (love that). That same screen also displays the view from the rear view camera. This allows you to see behind you when backing out. I just adore this feature in cars, it makes backing out at grocery stores so helpful. You obviously have to look around to see if other cars or people are coming up on you but the camera allows you to look for children, who may fall below your window view area, and it tells you in no uncertain terms how close you are to other parked cars.

Also notable are the fantastic safety ratings of this car and the fact that it is manufactured in the US – West Point, GA to be exact. If you want American made cars that support American jobs then this car is a good purchase. That is not to say that all Kia’s are made here in the US, but the Optima is. I really enjoyed getting to take it for a spin!

Disclosure: I borrowed a Kia Optima  for the purposes of this review. Sadly I had to give it back…

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

2 Comments

15
Oct

My Week With the Mazda 3i

by Tiffany in Green Cars

I had the pleasure of rolling out in yet anther green(er) car this week. Unlike the last, which was all electric, the Mazda 3i is a greener choice because it has great fuel economy. This of course makes it a great option for anyone who wants to feel better about their time spent behind the wheel. That would be me…how about you?

As I have mentioned before, I am researching cars so that I know what I will want to get when my 13 year Oldsmobile sedan kicks the bucket. I love the idea of electric but that has its own set of limitations, not to mention the fact that most within our price range are only four passenger. The first big bonus for this fuel efficient car is that it has room for my family of five. We were a bit cozier than we are in our current car but my current car also is lucky to get 22 mpg. It would be a good trade IMO.

So what IS the fuel economy on this car?? Well, it varies a little by model but generally up to 40 highway mpg/28 city. I drove it for a week in the city with one outing that included a fair amount of highway miles. All in all I drove about 450 miles in this baby and my average mpg was 35.2. I found this to be awesome since so much of my driving was/is done in the city with tons of lights and stopping. I personally don’t have much reason to get on the highway on a regular basis. Everywhere I need to drive is relatively close. So 35.2 mpg for city driving rocked. I drove about 440 miles on one tank of gas and refilling only cost be about $60. I am sold!! We spent way more on gas than that right now, way more.

The data on your fuel economy is right on the dash monitor.

The price is also right in my opinion. You can get a Mazda 3i from $16,700 to $24,350. I saw greener cars at the NAIAS marketed as family cars for upwards of $60K so this price is phenomenal in my book. I appreciated the fact that it was an automatic but amazingly enough you can also drive it in manual. I had never seen a feature like this before. Just put it in D for regular drive or M for manual drive.

Other features that I liked included the navigation screen:

It is nice to not have to use my phone. Especially since my 12 year old goes bizerk if he sees me messing with my phone while driving…something about Myth Busters proving that you are more incapacitated being on a phone than if you are drunk. Anyway I loved seeing a map while driving. On more than one occasion I got to thinking surely I passed the street I need to turn on but no, one glance shows me that it is still ahead, cool. My kiddos also liked seeing the bullseye on our house.

I liked that I could plug in my iPod shuffle and listen to my own tunes while driving and the sound system is pretty darn good. It has a 265-watt Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound System with AudioPilot®, AM/FM stereo, in-dash CD/MP3-compatible player and 10 speakers. My son would also appreciate that it has a Bluetooth hands free phone capability as well.

I love the appearance as well. It is a sleek, good looking car. The dash is well designed, the screen display is the perfect size, and the lighting (inside and out) is awesome. I loved driving it at night. ;) And while I would have preferred the rockin Indigo Blue color they have available, I also liked the Dolphin Grey we got.

The power sliding-glass moonroof was awesome as were the side mirrors. There are some pretty big blind spots towards the back of the car that would make changing lanes a challenge but the side mirrors actually detect other cars for you. If another car is too close and you should not merge or change lanes you will see a picture of a red car light up in the mirror and it will also ding if you don’t appear to be heeding this warning.

My fave feature had to to be the heated seats though. It was downright frigid going to the gym in the mornings but the seats heated very fast and kept me toasty warm. My mother was a big fan of this also. I think she is ready to trade in her car for something with heated seats now. ;)

The seat heating dials are right above the gear shift.

So what didn’t I like? Well, I don’t have many drawbacks to write about but there were a couple small issues.

I didn’t like the blind spots, despite the safety mirrors. But then again I didn’t like using the rear view camera on the last car I drove and I was terrified of the automated parallel parking in another car.  I suppose these things grow on you as you get used to them.

I would have preferred a better integration with my iPod than just the use of an auxiliary jack. I like seeing my songs displayed on navigation screen and using the car to change songs, rather than the device…it just awkward to have to grab the device and use it while driving.

I also would have liked the ability to start the car remotely from inside my house so that it could be toasty and warm before getting in. None of these issues/complaints would prevent me from purchasing though. I would in fact still highly recommend the Mazda 3i and it is on a  short list of cars I will choosing from myself when the time comes to buy new.

To find a dealer near you and find the best deal visit below. This automated database will make short work of it:

Disclosure: I borrowed a Mazda 3i  for the purposes of this review. Sadly I had to give it back…

Monday, October 15th, 2012

6 Comments

4
Sep

My Week With the Mitsubishi i Electric Car

by Tiffany in Green Cars

A few months back I did a giveaway/promotion to celebrate the imminent release of a groundbreaking electric car, the Mitsubishi i. After researching the car for that article I was super excited because it looked as though greener cars, and electric in particular, were starting to become more affordable and within the reach of average folks. The starting MSRP is $29,125 and the net MSRP* after a federal tax credit is a very affordable $21,625 for the standard ES model and only $23,625 for the SE upgrade, making the starting price for the all-new Mitsubishi i several thousand less than other comparable electric vehicles available in the market. It is now recognized as the Greenest Vehicle of 2012 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Now I am not yet in the market for a new car because either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my older model sedan (2000) refuses to break down. She keeps on kickin and as long as she does I have no reason to buy another vehicle…even though I feel like I have Wall-e and everyone else has Eva. That said though I am already saving my pennies for the day when I will have to replace my car and I am doing research now so that I will know what I want. So I was over the moon to get the chance to drive the Mistusbish i last week, thanks to Mitsubishi Motors. The picture above was taken the day they dropped it off. I could barely wait to get behind the wheel!

 I just love how small and stylish it is…

My previous experience with electric cars was pretty minimal. I drove a Ford Focus EV a couple months ago in Detroit but only got to get behind the wheel for 5 minutes or so. Still I knew it would be quiet (compared to a regular vehicle) and that I would need to be mindful of battery usage since this car is battery only, not a hybrid that also takes gas. From the get-go you know something is very, very different. When you turn the key in the ignition you do not hear that familiar rumble of the engine starting up, instead you hear a little beep and you see a “ready” light on the dash. You are now ready to drive. So very cool!

I am not sure if it is because electric cars are so unusual here in Central Ohio, the California plates on an EV car in Ohio, or if it the looks of the car but the Mitsubishi i got lots of attention everywhere I drove it. I had people wait for me to park and then approach me to gab about it and often times people walked around it in parking lots or pointed and chatted up their friends about it. It was an attention getter for sure!

A feature that I LOVED was that I had the ability to plug in my iPod and see my entire playlist on the dashboard screen. No need to burn CDs or listen to the radio, just take the iPod from the sound dock in the house and plug it into the car, easy peasy. The entire family has music and other audio files on this iPod so the uses are endless. And yes I know many newer cars have this feature but remember that I currently drive a dinosaur…so I was in love with this feature okay?? Oh and yes again…that IS in fact a first generation iPod. It is a dinosaur too.

Another awesome feature related to that display is that there is a camera on the back of the vehicle which shows you your rear view when backing out. It took me a while to get used to this, trusting the screen instead of physically looking behind me, but once I did get used to it I really liked it. The display also offers turn by turn navigation. Most smart phones can do this too but having the directions on a big screen right near my field of vision is much safer!

What I liked most about driving an electric vehicle though is that it forces me to be a more mindful driver. Because you are operating on battery power and can’t just slip into the gas station and fill up you have to plan your trips and perhaps drive less overall to make it work. I was very mindful of where I needed to go and how much battery it would take to get there. It never presented a problem because we generally stick pretty close to our home but if we wanted to go across town then we would need to find a charging station nearby or we might choose to go to Easton Mall to see a movie rather than Marcus Cinemas since the former has parking spots with EV charging stations. We might decide that the library is now only feasible once a week instead of two. Some may find this restricting but I found it wonderful. Sometimes it is hard to make changes unless you are forced to and anything that forces me to be more mindful and green is fine by me.

I also liked playing around with the different drive modes on the Mitsubishi i. It directly affected the way the car drove and how much battery was used up.

Drive worked just like a regular car. The Eco and B modes create maximum economy and maximum regenerative brake power. I didn’t even notice much of a difference in acceleration capability but both of these modes enable a clever regenerative braking system that automatically reclaims the energy from deceleration and charges the battery. After initially testing out the regular drive mode I stuck with with Eco and more often the B mode exclusively. I loved that as soon as my foot left the gas the car started started slowing to a stop, without my even having to touch the breaks.

Another awesome feature is money savings. Plugging the car in at night instead of filling up at the station was cost effective. I don’t know for sure what the actual cost to my electric bill will be yet but according to the Mitsubishi web site the average cost is $3.60 per 100 miles. At that rate we would be spending $7-12 a week or $40-50 a month for transportation. Right now we easily spend $50 or more a week on gas. According to the savings calculator on the Mitsubishi site, it would save us about $2500 a year. That is a significant cost savings!

Other stuff to like included all the room in this car. It looks kinda tiny from the outside but it was very, very roomy on the inside. It seats four people and all have lots of wiggle room. The trunk area is kind of small but the hatchback design helps with that and for our lifestyle the size would not be a hindrance at all. We don’t do crazy bulk shopping at Costco and we don’t need a car that can transport furniture. We do have five members in our family though so that could present an issue but if we kept a second car as backup, which most people do, we could easily make this car work for us. Especially since this would not be the car we would do any travelling in.

The key remote is also pretty cool. You can pre-heat (important in Ohio) or pre-cool the car remotely without ever having to go outside. Not only is that super convenient it also helps conserve battery if you are to do this first thing in the morning, before unplugging your car. No battery will be used to heat or cool the car that way.

This is a shot of the truck area with plenty of room. The bag there has the charging cord and the seats can be folded down for even more room. Since I generally don’t buy in bulk and I like to do my shopping without kids this car would be perfect for our needs.

Now on to the drawbacks…there are only a few. The car seemed to drift a bit more than I am used to on the highway, in high winds. This is no doubt due to the car being so small and relatively light. The car doors also seemed very light and when my kids shut them they didn’t seem to have the weight behind them to ensure a tight seal. Maybe my kids are just used to heavy doors but at any rate I often found upon starting the car that a child had left the door slightly ajar during our last trip and I had to get out and shut it before I could proceed. That is a small annoyance though and something that might remedy itself over time, as they got used to the car.

Overall I was greatly impressed by this EV. Even though it is a 4 passenger and we are a family of 5 I would still buy it. I love how it made me a more mindful driver and I love how much money it would save us if this were to become our regular car. The price also makes it very affordable. I just cannot fathom paying some of the current prices for EVs, hybrids, and plugin hybrids. In fact I can hardly fathom paying a new car price for any vehicle but this car has me singing a different tune because the price is low compared to other electric vehicles on the market and all the ways we would ultimately be putting money back into our pockets with cost savings benefits. The i-Miev puts the oh so cool electric car within the reach of the average Joe or Jane.

Disclosure: I borrowed a Mitsubishi i from Mitsubishi Motors and their representative for the purposes of this review. Sadly I had to give it back…

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

5 Comments