Green Machines, Part 5: A Nose For Picking Green

Welcome to the final installation of a 5-part series about environmentally-friendly cars, entitled Green Machines. To read the previous installation, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

A Nose For Picking Green

With all my research on green vehicles, you might say I now have a nose for picking green.

Hybrid History

For one thing, I’ve learned that Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) have come a long way since the very first HEV. That first HEV was produced in the year 1900 by Ferdinand Porsche. Yes, that Porsche. The same Porsche who later developed fast cars. The same Porsche who as a Nazi, used forced labor in his factories to build tanks for the German war effort. And the same Porsche who served time in prison after World War II, charged with war crimes.

Porsche’s early HEV was called the Lohner-Porsche, and was produced from 1900-1905. It was a Series Hybrid horseless carriage, powered by electric motors, with batteries that were recharged by a gasoline generator. And like a typical Porsche, it was a fast car (by the standards of the day), once setting a land speed record of 37 mph.

A Lohner-Porsche in 1902.

Porsche only sold about 300 of these hybrids, because they were so damned expensive. But the Lohner-Porsche influenced HEV designs for years to come. In fact it was so ingenuous that during the space race, Boeing and NASA studied it while developing the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Electric cars were the most popular type of motorized vehicle prior to Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T, in 1908. But after that they lost favor to the internal combustion engine, and the kind of range, speed, and affordability that electric vehicles couldn’t match.

It took nearly a century, but in the 1990s battery technology finally improved to the point where hybrid vehicles were able to compete against traditional gas-powered vehicles. In 1997, Toyota introduced its Prius in Japan, then marketed it worldwide, in 2000. “Prius,” by the way, is Latin for “first.” Sales began picking up, so a few years later other car manufactures got in on the action. And now most auto brands offer some form of electric/gas hybrid.

Winnowing the Chaff

Hybrid electric vehicle technology and availability has continued to improve, to the point where I now feel comfortable buying an HEV. Now it’s just a matter of winnowing out the chaff and choosing the best vehicle to suit my needs.

I quickly knocked the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson from my list after I discovered they don’t have a spare tire. That’s a deal-breaker for me. I want reliability, to prevent being stranded, and the tire repair kits that come with those cars won’t help me if I get a blowout in the middle of nowhere.

I also want an SUV that’s large enough to hold all my wife’s and my luggage and the kitchen sink when we go on road trips, so that has narrowed down my choices quite a bit. And I want a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). With few PHEVs on the market, I’ve found my list shrinking to a midget stature.

Then I took Driver Assist features into consideration. I like lots of these because I’m lazy. I especially like Adaptive Cruise Control, Highway Driving Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Warning, Blind-Spot Warning, Park Assist, Surround-View Camera, Automatic High-Beams, Road Sign Recognition, and Intelligent Speed Limiter.

One day I hope to find a car that will do everything for me. This dream machine will wheel me out to the driveway and lift and place me into the driver’s seat. Then it will automatically start right up for me, back safely out onto the street, and zip me off to my destination. Meanwhile, I’ll be able to lay my seat back and take a snooze, only to be awakened by the tapping of a robotic stewardess, asking what kind of soda I want with my chips.

Maybe, just maybe, one day before I die, they will sell cars like that.

Picking Green

But in the meantime, I have to settle for what’s available. Based upon all my picky, finicky preferences, I’ve managed to thin my list of green picks down to three potential vehicles to purchase. These are the Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid, the Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE, and the Kia Sorento Hybrid EX.

They have a base cost of somewhere around $40-$50K. They all plug-in. Their total range is above 500 miles. Their electric-only range is 30 miles, except 42 miles for the Toyota RAV4 Prime. That’s because their lithium-ion polymer batteries get about 2.2 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh), and they’re rated at 13.8-kWh, except the RAV4, which has an 18.1-kWh battery.

They have All-Wheel Drive, which I love. Horsepower is decent, at a little above 225 hp, except that the RAV4 Prime thunders at 302 hp. And they all have sufficient cargo space. Or at least I hope, or I’ll catch hell when I can’t stuff my wife’s suitcases into the car.

I’m going to hold off buying one, though. I think it’s a good idea to let my passions cool, keep my money in my wallet and my options upon until at least the Fall of next year. Hopefully by that time the technology will have improved even more, and the 2023 models will come even closer to approaching my ideal in a vehicle.

Thanks for reading this series on Green Machines. I hope it’s helped you learn a few things about electric and hybrid vehicles. And I also hope that it’s helped you develop a good nose for picking green.

Some of my sources:


Stolen Quote: Foreign

Since every effort in our educational life seems to be directed toward making of the child a being foreign to itself, it must of necessity produce individuals foreign to one another, and in everlasting antagonism with each other.

Emma Goldman, Anarchist

And here I thought children were mass-produced from classroom assembly lines.

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