What to Know Before Buying a Green Car

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Toyota’s 8.5 million vehicle recall, including more than 300,000 of its best selling Prius hybrid, couldn’t have come at a better time for Nissan.

The Japan based company, which sold 770,000 units in the U.S. last year, compared to Toyota’s 1.7 million, is launching its own potentially revolutionary green car this spring, the plug-in electric Nissan Leaf.

“We believe that people settled for hybrids because that was the best technology available,” says Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning. “Right now, you are paying a premium for that advanced technology. We hope to bring a car out where your monthly operating costs are actually less expensive than driving gasoline.”

Nissan has received 71,000 preliminary commitments to get first dibs when reservations open in April, for the four door hatchback and is on track to start test drives this fall, with deliveries in December.

These days, it seems like no two electric vehicles are alike. Some, like the ZENN and Miles neighbourhood electric vehicles, which have been available for years, use small pure electric motors, but aren’t suitable for highway driving. Others like the Tango and Fisker Karma are niche supercars and are not expected to reach a wide audience, nor are there plans to build them at mass market volumes.

The main thing to evaluate before switching to a green car, however, is lifestyle. Automakers often point out that the majority of Americans drive 40 miles or less per day, and that 95 percent of them drive less than 100 miles a day. The key is whether those daily driving routes are predicable and unwavering. High-speed driving shortens the range electric vehicles can go on each charge, and most workplaces don’t offer charging stations.


  • Mark Spowart

    A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.

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