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Going Green

Gas prices are constantly changing, and the state of the environment isn’t exactly improving either. It has been estimated that gas prices will continue to significantly rise in the near future, with the days of $1 a gallon gas ancient history.

Global emissions levels are at all time highs and continue to rise. One of the first responsibilities that was given to man at creation was take care of the earth, and unfortunately it seems that we have kind of botched the job. But there is some good news, it has been estimated that if every car sold in the Los Angeles Basin was a SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) that in 15 years L.A.’s signature smog would be almost completely gone. Green vehicles make a significant difference to the amount we harm the environment, and these days, they look pretty cool too.

Here are a few more options for fuel-efficient rides.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Hybrid version of America’s most popular car is everything a Camry is and so much more. The Camry Hybrid averages an impressive 40-MPG and qualifies as a SULEV car. The newly redesigned car looks good, is surprisingly quick and offers the reliability you would expect from a Toyota. For 25,000 bucks you get in on the hybrid trend, and this hybrid doesn’t even sacrifice much trunk space, part of the rear seat can still fold down and hold extra-long items, say a flag pole or pieces of your new windmill (for emission free energy). This car is extremely safe, extremely affordable and extremely average in most areas. That’s why Camrys are so popular. They have mild styling, mid-range performance, nice space and very nice sticker price. The Hybrid sticks to that model and adds extra nice gas mileage and super low emissions to lure even more into the Camry fold.

Plug-In Hybrids

The newest, probably most important, trend in hybrid cars is the plug-in hybrid. Southern California-based EDrive Systems installs a plug-in system on Toyota Priuses that can actually increase the cars efficiency to over 200-MPG. You basically just plug the car in overnight and in the morning—at a cost of about 1$—you have a fully charged hybrid electric car that is capable of traveling completely on battery at less than 34 miles per hour and does not have limited range because of its ability to also run off of the internal combustion engine.

Hymotion, a Canadian company, offers plug-in kits for the Prius and both the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids. The downside is that at this point, EDrive only operates in SoCal and Hymotion is based in Vancouver; it’s not something you can have done at your local dealership or mechanic. Another problem is that at this point the plug-in conversion costs about $12,000 on top of the cost of the car. Both firms are hoping to have the price down to the $6000 range in the near future. This new wave of hybrid cars may be the first step towards seriously downgrading our reliance on gasoline as an energy source.

Fuel Efficient Non-Hybrids

Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is not only exceedingly hip, exceedingly well advertised and exceedingly well designed; it also has exceedingly good gas mileage and is exceedingly friendly to the environment. The Yaris has ULEV-2 emissions, on the high-end of good. It is stinking cheap (starting at $11,050), and it looks much better than its predecessor, the bizarre Toyota Echo. The lift-back model has 15 glove compartments, both models have iPod inputs and the car is surprisingly roomy inside. Perhaps a Yaris would be an exceedingly good choice for your next car.

See Also

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is the Yaris’ main competitor. Also very stylish, well designed and very competently advertised, the Fit was basically created to RELEVANT’s target audience. It’s tech-friendly, environmentally sound and good looking … in a non-conformist way. Priced a little higher than the Yaris ($13,850), the Fit also has only LEV-2 emissions rating, which is on the high side of fair. The Fit is also iPod jacked and advertised as having untold seating configurations, including our favorite: the full lounger which incorporates both front and back seats.

Mini Cooper

The Mini is the king of small car cool. The Mini Cooper is a retro pocket rocket that is actually the smallest car on the road. What is surprising is that large amounts of large drivers find the Mini to be large enough for them. The Mini though isn’t priced on size, it is much more expensive than most of the other cars reviewed at $18,000. But something you should ask yourself about those cars is would they look appropriate with a union jack painted on the top? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

You can see our feature on hybrid cars in the latest print issue of RELEVANT magazine on newsstands now.

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