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6 Of The Greenest Electric Cars of 2016

Electric Car FobVehicle-related air pollutants have decreased by 98 percent since the 1960s in Los Angeles, despite its residents burning three times as much gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study credits greener cars as the catalyst behind improved air quality. This goes to show that going green can absolutely make a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy says that, on average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as it does its gasoline-fueled counterpart.

Fortunately, there are plenty of green vehicle options on the market, ranging from hybrid to full-electric options. Here’s the scoop on some of the greenest cars of 2016 and their environmentally friendly features.

A3 Sportback e-tron

This sporty plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is part of Audi’s energy program. Its features include a carbon offset program, residential solar panel installation availability and a home charger. After running out of electric power, drivers can use auto mode to recapture energy and help recharge it while relying on its hybrid gas function.

Fiat 500e

With a single-speed transmission and 83-kilowatt electric motor, the Fiat 500e gets an impressive 87-mile range and 4-hour recharge time. The downside is that the vehicle is currently only sold in California. However, green enthusiasts can check out a site like DriveTime to find a used vehicle dealership in their area to find the model they’re looking for.

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has made the cut for one of the greenest vehicles since its debut in 2010. It was one of the first modern hybrid vehicles and has helped usher in the mainstream eco-friendly car options. The earliest Volts had a 35-mile electric range with today’s model boasting 50 miles. Consumer Reports tested the latest Volt and found it made a smooth transition from electric to gas mode with an increased battery capacity compared to previous versions.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made an appearance in this year’s Super Bowl lineup of commercials. Like Chevrolet’s Volt, the Toyota Prius was a founder in the modern hybrid vehicle movement. The Prius gets an average of 50 mpg and reports indicate a smooth ride with solid acceleration.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf debuted its 2016 model with a stronger battery that increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh of capacity. This year’s model also comes with NissanConnect, which has Bluetooth phone and text messaging capabilities. For drivers who are going to be away from their cars for a while or are eager to check in on its charging status, the Leaf also comes with a remote monitoring capability to check its charging status.

Hyundai Sonata

This hybrid plug-in comes in at 50 mpg and can run 24 miles on its electric battery before needing a charge and switching over to its fuel engine. Its combined hybrid battery and fuel tank get about 40 mpg on the road. The Hyundai Sonata also has a reputation for its quiet ride and improved fuel efficiency.

Cars are becoming greener and more affordable than ever. Drivers should check the U.S. Department of Energy website to learn more about tax credits of up to $7,500 for all-electric and plug-in hybrid car purchases in or after 2010. Credit amounts vary on the battery capacity required to power the vehicle. Green drivers may also qualify for state or local incentives just for driving eco-friendly vehicles that are sporty, fun to drive and less damaging to the environment.

The Best Smartphone Apps For Electric Vehicle Driving

Despite all their environmental benefits, 87 percent of consumers are still skeptical about electric vehicles, Consumer Reports found. People cite several reasons for their reluctance when it comes to electric vehicles, including price, reported safety concerns and range limitations. If you want to drive an electric vehicle, we’ve got the best apps to enhance your driving experience:

GreenCharge

GreenCharge enables you to check the range of the current battery before a charge is required. In addition, the app offers insightful metrics and battery data. Since this information can be accessed daily, weekly and monthly, you can effectively monitor your driving habits to further bolster your cost-saving efforts.

PlugShare

Like Facebook, PlugShare operates through a social network of electric-vehicle driving individuals. Through this network, drivers exchange information regarding the 18,000 electric charging stations that are stationed around the United States and listed in the PlugShare network.

EV Ping

EV Ping employs QR codes to enable you to contact other drivers while they are recharging their vehicle. By doing so, drivers can access real-time information and conditions regarding a particular charging station. This information can be vital in determining whether you should find another charging port, start charging or continue to wait.

Better Place Oscar

The Better Place Oscar app is a component of a bigger, fully connected platform. The app offers members of Better Place the ability to be in touch with the battery’s charge levels or contact customer service at any time. In lieu of the other services provided by the app, smart navigation, range forecasts and personalized energy management are provided.

DriveTime Chose the SmartWay

While ditching your gas hog for an efficient electric vehicle offers several benefits, everyone doesn’t have the resources to buy a new electric vehicle. Unlike other national dealers, car loans by Drivetime help drivers with poor credit. The loans feature several money-saving and credit-building facets designed to help you re-establish your credit. Check out the free Car Loan Calculator app for insight about amoritzation schedules and interest. When you are considering loans, remember to look for the “leaf,” which represents the government-sponsored fuel-efficiency rating program, SmartWay. The SmartWay sticker ensures car loans will be on vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions, more fuel-efficient choices with the EPA’s air pollution standards.

Entune Entertainment System

Toyota’s Entune system is the first infotainment center to integrate apps into the vehicle’s touch-screen display. Entune offers on-screen apps such as Panadora, Bing, iHeartRadio, Open Table, MovieTickets.com and several other types of information, which is featured in Toyota’s Prius. Entune reduces the need to be concerned with your mobile phone because it is offered on the vehicle’s interface.

Luxury Electric Car Confrontation: BMW i3 Challenges Tesla

Tesla motors has company in the luxury electric vehicle market. BMW recently revealed its first mass-produced electric vehicle, dubbed the BMW i3. According to Business Insider, this futuristic-looking two-door coup will hit the U.S. market in 2014 and retail for $41,000. That’s significantly cheaper than the Tesla Model S electric car, which starts at a base price of $69,900. Electric car shoppers could be eligible for federal tax credits on both vehicles, but the BMW i3’s lower price tag will appeal to a broader range of shoppers.

With a unique design, an impressive engine the features immediate full torque and an available home charger that operates 80 percent faster than normal outlets, the BMW i3 is a welcome addition to the electric car market. With EV sales on the rise, expect to see plenty of i3s on the road come 2014.

The Specs

Most EV shoppers start their investigation of a new vehicle with the same question: How far can it go? Using its electrical engine, the BMW i3 can travel between 80 and 100 miles in between charges. That’s slightly more than most EVs, which typically have a 70 to 80 mile range. Unlike many EVs, which need speed to build torque, full torque is available immediately on the BMW i3. An intelligent heating and cooling system keeps the lithium-ion high-voltage battery at the prime temperature for peak performance. BMW includes an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty for the battery. Shoppers who are on the fence about the range may opt for the optional two-cylinder, 34-horsepower gas engine that doubles the range. It may increase your carbon footprint, but the $4,000 option also makes the car much more convenient. Drivers looking to offset this small gasoline engine may consider eco-friendly TireBuyer Kumho tires, which cut rubber dust emissions by 10 percent.

i3 Vs. Tesla Model S

It’s natural to compare the BMW i3 to Tesla’s Model S, the polarizing EV that earned scathing reviews from the New York Times and the title of Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. But as their price tags indicate, the i3 and Model S aren’t exactly direct competitors. Tesla offers three different batteries in the Model S, all of which outperform the BMW i3’s lithium-ion battery. The Tesla Model S features a classic, sporty design, while the i3 is more likely to turn heads because of its unusual look.

Electric Car Sales Grow

Both BMW and Tesla will be encouraged by 2013’s EV sales numbers. Electric Vehicle sales more than doubled in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of time in 2012, according to Autos.aol.com. Nearly 42,000 EVs have hit the road since January, and 36 percent of all EVs on the right were purchased in the last six months. We may not see 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 like President Obama suggested, but the news is encouraging for an industry that hasn’t been putting its foot on the gas (or electric battery). The BMW i3 is one of the most anticipated vehicles of 2014, and could boost this EV surge even more.

Hoodwinked by Hybrids? A Resale Comparison of Gas and Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are touted by many to save you money at the pump and earn you money on resale, but you may be throwing money away. We compared four of the best-selling hybrid automobiles with their gasoline-powered counterparts and found that the resale value on the hybrids is similar or much lower than the gas models. For the purposes of these comparisons, we used the value calculator for used cars at kbb.com. Each car that we compared for this hypothetical was a fully loaded 2011 model with an automatic transmission and 30,000 miles on the odometer, so the estimates are as comparable as possible. We estimated each car to be in excellent condition, to level the playing field. We also used the private party values, as opposed to the dealer trade-in numbers.

Toyota Prius

First, take the Toyota Prius. The Prius is the best-selling hybrid on the market, and it has held that distinction since it was first released in 2000 to the United States market. The Prius started the hybrid craze, and Toyota keeps improving the vehicle so that it stays at the top of the game. We compared the Prius to its gasoline counterpart, the Toyota Yaris. Toyotas consistently hold their value, so when these two were compared, the Prius came out close to the Yaris in resale value. When purchased brand new, the Prius would cost you around $27,000, while the Yaris could be had for a little less than $15,000. For current value, the Prius came in at just under $25,000, while the Yaris sedan was estimated to be worth $12,000.

2010-2011 Toyota Prius -- 12-21-2011

Photo of 2010-2011 Toyota Prius via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Honda Civic

Next up is the Honda Civic, which could be purchased in hybrid form or a gasoline model. The Civic retailed for about $23,000 for the hybrid, and about $22,000 for the gas model when brand-new. The current Civic hybrid retails for $17,000 and the gas model comes in around $18,000. This is much different from our Toyota comparison. The Honda Civic hybrid depreciated much more than the regular Civic.

2011 Honda Civic coupe -- 09-28-2011

Photo of Honda Civic via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Ford Escape

For the SUV fans in the crowd, Ford makes a great hybrid in the form of the Escape. A brand-new Escape hybrid cost buyers about $33,000 in 2011, while the gasoline counterpart could be had for about $31,000. Current values on the Escape are $25,000 for the hybrid and $23,000 for the gasoline model. This amount of depreciation is very similar, and doesn’t lend credence to the idea that hybrids maintain their value.

2011 Ford Escape Hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Volkswagen Touareg

For the higher-end buyers, Volkswagen has come up with a hybrid Touareg SUV. This is the top of the line model in the VW lineup. The 2011 Touareg hybrid cost buyers a little over $61,000 for the hybrid model, as opposed to just over $56,000 for the gas model. Volkswagen, like Toyota, consistently retains a high resale value. When comparing values on this car today, both Touareg models come in at just over $40,000 for the resale value. This is a much higher depreciation rate on the hybrid.

Volkswagen Touareg hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of Volkswagen Touareg hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

As evidenced by the above figures, hybrids don’t do as well on resale as many claim. The hybrids we compared were similar or lower in resale value than their gasoline counterparts. While these vehicles can save you thousands at the pump, our research and a similar study from the New York Times shows that you will need to own them for many years to recoup what you paid at the dealer. Whether this cost is worth it or not is up to the individual buyer, but the benefits of going green are worth the added cost for some buyers.

Electronic Cars Simply Can’t Be Treated Like Gasoline-Powered Cars

By now New York Times environmental reporter John Broder’s disappointment with his test-drive of the all-electric Tesla Model S is almost legendary. He contended that he was able to drive the car only about half of its promised 265-mile estimated range. As a result, he has stamped uncertainty—many would say unfairly—all over a glamorous, prestigious iteration of a gasoline-free vehicle.

How Reliable Are They?

In the process, however, he has raised some important questions. How reliable is a Tesla Model S sedan, really? And how does it compare to other electric models? Here is what you can actually expect from the most popular gasoline-free gems on the market today.

CNET.com’s editors concluded, “The 2012 Tesla Model S sets a new standard for cars of the 21st century by…incorporating a long-range, powerful, and efficient electric drive train.” And, their editors noted in response to Broder, “You cannot treat an electric car, given current technology, like you would a gasoline-powered car. You need to be much more mindful of range issues, where you can charge, and how long it will take.”

Ford, Nissan Electric Vehicles

Other electric vehicles also rate well with experts. We checked out a Nissan Leaf at a Peoria car dealership and found that the suggested retail is $37,200, compared to the Model S at $57,900. CNET’s bottom line for the Leaf? “The 2012 Nissan Leaf offers a good blend of affordability and all-around performance for city dwellers and suburbanites looking to go zero-emission.” Hybridcars.com calls the Leaf “the top contender for first affordable mainstream all-electric car.” And AutoGuide.com said, “Designed to work within an urban environment, the Leaf certainly succeeds.”

Ford’s 2013 Focus Electric vehicle retails for $39,200. CNET’s conclusion on this car is that “its short driving range and long recharge times limit (its) suitability to some specific lifestyles, but it is a very high-tech car that should delight early adopter types.” Hybridcars.com observed that “the Focus Electric and Leaf have close EPA ratings for both driving range and efficiency. The Leaf is rated at 73 miles of driving range, with a rating of 99 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). The Focus Electric (boasts) 76 miles of range and a 105 MPGe rating.”

Mitsubishi’s Egg

There’s also the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is the value-priced choice among electric vehicles. Starting at $29,125, it features a look straight out of a comic book. The little egg-shaped four-door hatchback can seat four adults and has an EPA estimated driving range of 62 miles with a top speed of 81 mph.

Volvo and Toyota both have developed all-electric models, but have not yet introduced them to the U.S. retail market. Stay tuned. Now that $4-a-gallon gas has returned to many places in the U.S., Volvo’s C30 Electric and Toyota’s FT-EV are sure to be enhanced and made available for sale in America in the next few years.

All-electric cars are still considered novelties by most American drivers. Sometimes, when an unexpected negative review is published, drivers become even more skeptical of the practicality of this class of cars. But by the end of this decade, we’re confident electric vehicles will have become completely mainstream.

It’s Electric (Vehicles): From Practical to Pricey, a Review of Cute Cars and Luxury Options

2012 Fisker Karma

Price, range, efficiency and style all play a part in deciding whether to drive hybrid or electric. Options range from cute and compact to elaborate and expensive. Driving green doesn’t always mean you have to look like it, but it depends on your preference and pocketbook. Here’s a review of five electric and hybrid cars that fall into nearly every category.

Honda Insight (Hybrid)

When it was introduced in 2009, the Honda Insight was hailed as real competition to the Toyota Prius. It boasted a 40-mpg-plus fuel-efficiency, and cost less than $20,000 a price that fell nearly $2,000 below the least expensive Prius, according to Hybridcars.com. Toyota fought back by lowering its Prius price, but Honda didn’t give up. In 2012, the Insight saw updates that included minor changes to exterior and interior styling, and a slight increase in fuel economy. Now this hybrid starts at $18,300 with 41 city/44 highway/42 combined EPA-approved MPG. It touts the shape that’s begun to define hybrid and electric vehicles: a smooth front four-door hatchback with a high, short tail.

2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV (Electric)

The iMiEV came straight from a comic book, or so it seems. Its egg-shaped design is known to turn heads and elicit smiles. This cute car proudly putters around as an affordable, available, all-electric coupe. Before incentives, the iMiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) starts at $29,125. Its rating of 125 city/99 highway/112 combined MPGe surpasses all but two EVs in the combined MPGe category of the EPA’s rankings of most fuel-efficient electric 2013 models. Listed in the Guinness World Records as the first electric car to eclipse 10,000 sales, the iMiEV is a popular and reliable choice.

2012 Nissan Leaf (Electric)

Promoted as “the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car,” the Nissan LEAF has been a media star electric car since it was introduced in 2011, according to Hybridcars.com. Available at sales lots from Boston to Peoria car dealerships, this sensible solution offers a fuel-efficient, distinctly-designed option combined with a pleasant driving experience promise. It is an exclusive model, meaning it is not an electrified version of a gas-powered car like the Ford Focus Electric. Not necessarily categorized as “cute” nor is it luxurious, the LEAF is an affordable option for an average green driver. Starting at $35,200 before incentives, the LEAF has an EPA electric driving range rating of 73 miles per charge. It garners 106 city/92 highway and 99 combined MPGe.

Tesla Model S (Electric)

Pricier than the average electric car, the Tesla Model S is also nicer than most. Its clean design, use of space and gorgeous interior make it a tempting choice, though not for most mainstream buyers. Tagged at $52,400 after a $7,500 federal tax credit, the 60 kWh version has an EPA-approved combined MPGe of 95. According to Hybridcars.com, it has an estimated range of 160 miles per charge. The 85 kWh Model S Performance version, which includes upgraded interior, suspension and wheels, will set you back $87,400 after the tax credit. It gets 89 combined MPGe.

2012 Fisker Karma (Hybrid)

Undeniably one of the most lavish options in the market, the Fisker Karma is the hybrid choice of Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber. Unfortunately for those two celebrities and the other 2,000 Fisker Karma owners, the car was recalled in August because of a small cooling fan fire, according to the LA Times. Don’t worry, though. The car company has plans to replace the cooling fans and possibly launch a less pricey second model soon. The current model starts at $111,000 and gathers 20 city/21 highway/20 combined EPA-approved MPG, 54 MPGe and 22 miles in electric range.