Mr. Green Car: The top five green cars of 2013

By Allen Penticoff
Free-lance Writer

Before I get into the Top 5 for 2013, I had a couple of green car experiences during the holidays that I’d like to share.

First, while shopping with my wife, Ruth, I spotted a Chevy Volt in the parking lot as we arrived. When we started to depart a bit later, the owner of the Volt came out and got in his car. I lowered my window and called out to him. He stopped, and we began a conversation. I asked if he, like most Volt owners, was getting 900 miles on a tank of gas. His response was, “I don’t know. I’ve never bought gas for it.” He went on to tell us that he had bought the car in August, that it came with a full 9-gallon tank, and that it still has 8 of those gallons in it!

This Volt owner is exactly what the manufacturers have identified as good candidates for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. He has a very short commute to work and short trips for shopping. He said he chose the Volt over the Nissan Leaf just because he liked the idea that he never had to worry about “range anxiety,” but in fact he’s done without using gas at all so far within the Volt’s 30- to 40-mile EV range. His Volt will soon begin to run the engine on its own, as they are designed to run occasionally to keep the engine from getting rusty and the fuel from getting stale.

My second green car encounter was far briefer. Jan. 1, Ruth and I were heading to Sugar River Forest Preserve for our traditional New Year’s Day hike (we hike at different parks, despite the cold). On U.S. 20 approaching the Meridian Road exit, I saw a car in my side-view mirror that looked like it had a Tesla badge on the grill. I turned and looked — the “T” in the badge was quite obvious, but it is so rare to see it I wasn’t sure. And this car was a sleek sedan — could it be — a Tesla S — the new sedan I’m absolutely in love with? As the road salt-covered burgundy sedan slid by, the “S” on the trunk lid confirmed my sighting. Now, I tried to catch up to give the driver the thumbs up, but he’d already sped up to 75 mph, and my exit was upon us, so I gave him a “two-thumbs up” from behind. I need to buy some lottery tickets so I can buy one of those awesome electric cars ($52,400 to $87,400). I hereby resolve to find a Tesla dealer who will let me do a review test drive for you. They are on our streets, and you need to know about them.

A quarterly magazine to which I subscribe is Green Car Journal. It is the source of many inspirations for Mr. Green Car columns, as you might imagine. Because of its focus on green car technology, I don’t have to subscribe to multiple car magazines or search on the Internet for hours looking for news. In their latest issue, Green Car Journal listed its Top Five Green Cars for 2013 (MPGs are city/highway): 1. Dodge Dart Aero, 28/41 mpg; 2. Ford C-Max, 47/47 mpg; 3. Ford Fusion Ecoboost & Hybrid/Energi, 25/37 mpg Ecoboost and 47/47 mpg Hybrid/Energi; 4. Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv, 26/35 mpg; and 5. Toyota Prius-C, 53/46 mpg.

Mr. Green Car has tested all these, except the Mazda, in the last year. The Fusion was sort of covered by the test of the Lincoln MKZ, although it was not exactly the same powertrain as this Fusion — so I may do a specific review of the Fusion Hybrid-Energi. Note their confusing mileage numbers are for the non-hybrid Ecoboost version and the Hybrid-Energi version. I’ll soon test the Mazda CX-5 and report on Mazda’s Skyactiv technology that shuns the use of hybrid complexity.

The same issue of Green Car Journal has a review of the Toyota RAV4-EV. This may become a very popular electric vehicle, as this small SUV has already been a solid sales model for Toyota. Toyota had previously made 1,484 (500 still on the road) EV versions of the RAV4 during 1997-2003 model years, but because of technical problems, had abandoned the electric car version like General Motors did with their EV-1 (as seen in the video Who Killed the Electric Car on YouTube). But now it is back as a second-generation EV, with the aid of Tesla Motors, that will be in limited production. I hope to test one of these soon (may need to go to California to find one) as well and report on both generations.

Other cars mentioned: The new Chevy Spark, a 2014 Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in, Kia Optima hybrid and Honda Civic CNG. There is also a strong push for more CNG and a story about by-the-hour green car rental in Hawaii that offers use of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. So, you see, there will be no lack of material for Mr. Green Car in 2013. Stay tuned to The Rock River Times for your green car news.

From the Jan. 9-15, 2013, issue

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