Car running costs are going through the roof. This is mainly due to rising fuel prices, with 65% of those questioned as part of a MoneySupermarket survey admitting that they will consider purchasing a more fuel efficient and hence environmentally friendly vehicle the next time they are on the look out for a new car.
Not only will this help motorists combat rising fuel prices; but it will also be good to the environment.
We therefore review four of the most fuel efficient vehicles which are currently either in production or development:
Launched in 1996, the Prius was the first hybrid vehicle to be made available to the public. It is still one of the most famous and popular environmental vehicles on the road almost sixteen years after its initial launch, with an average fuel consumption figure of 65.7 miles per gallon (MPG).
However, this figure has been vastly superseded by many of Toyota’s competitors since the launch and it would not be unfair to brand Toyota’s subsequent efforts lazy. It appears that Toyota has been relying on the Prius’s brand image for fuel efficiency to sell vehicles rather than ploughing money into continued innovation. There is nothing wrong with this in a business sense, but it does make one wonder what the company could have achieved if it had given sufficient support to its R&D department.
Despite this, it has still remained an expensive vehicle to purchase from new, with the basic model costing £21,055. This is over £7,000 more than a brand new Focus; a difference that would take over ten years to recover in fuel costs alone for the average motorist.
Nevertheless, you get what you pay for as the old saying goes; and there is no doubt that the transition between the hybrid and petrol engine on the Prius is absolutely seamless. The Prius is therefore well worth the extra money if the environment is your main concern.
The Nissan Leaf is the first all electric vehicle which has been made available to the general public. With a top speed of 92 mph and a range of 100 miles between charges; this smart looking hatch-back has very much overcome the electric car stereotype of being slow and ugly. This impressive achievement warranted the Leaf winning the European car of the year competition in 2010.
However, there is one electric vehicle stereotype which it has yet to overcome. The 100 mile range between charges means that commuting to work every day by car is a very real possibility for the average motorist; but anything more than this is simply impractical. This problem has been exacerbated by a lack of recharging stations around the country which is currently holding back the electric car movement; a problem which renders Nissan’s quick recharge innovation (the Leaf recoups 80% of its total battery power in 30 minutes) largely void.
The government has pledged funds to ensure the establishment of a respectable recharging station infrastructure around the country by 2015 to help address this issue and make electric vehicles a real possibility for all motorists. However, by this time it is expected that Nissan will have launched the mark two version of the Leaf, with rumours circulating that the company is aiming to achieve a remarkable 200 miles between charges.
Although the Leaf may not be practical at the moment; it could well be the way forward and everyone should take their hats off to Nissan for taking a risk on such
an impressive innovation. This may well mark a major turning point in the motoring world.
Honda FCX Clarity
Honda is acting under the assumption that the electric vehicle market is fundamentally flawed as it believes that the time it takes for batteries to be charged means that they will never be willingly adopted by motorists. The Japanese manufacturer is therefore coming up with an alternative by experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The FCX Clarity is the first model to be built by the company using this technology. It works by using hydrogen to generate the electricity which powers the motor. Rather than relying on the charging of electric batteries, the engine utilises electricity which is generated by the gaseous hydrogen in the fuel tank. This of course has practicality implications, as you will not have to wait for the electricity to be transferred from a mains supply to the batteries; with the FCX clarity then being used like any petrol or diesel vehicle.
The FCX Clarity is already available for lease in Japan and California to both government officials and celebrities. However, Honda admits that it will take a number of years before the country has a big enough hydrogen filling station infrastructure in order to justify putting the vehicle into production, with only 10 filling stations in the UK supplying hydrogen to customers at the moment. There are also question marks surrounding the price of hydrogen, with it currently being expensive to extract.
Nevertheless, the FCX Clarity has just as much chance of becoming widespread in the future as Nissan’s Leaf model.
Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion
The Bluemotion model of Volkswagen Polo range is not an electric vehicle, hydrogen fuelled or a hybrid. Yet somehow Volkswagen has managed to make it the most fuel efficient vehicle in their fleet, with an incredible fuel consumption figure of 74.3 mpg.
In typical Volkswagen fashion, the company has achieved this by optimising everything. The chassis has been made incredibly light, the diesel engine uses as little fuel as possible and produces less C02 than any other VW vehicle and the bodywork has been designed using advanced aerodynamic techniques employed in motor racing in order to ensure the minimum levels of drag possible. This is basically the best fuel efficiency that our current technology capability will allow us to achieve from a fossil fuel dependant vehicle.
Volkswagen has managed to achieve this without impacting on price. In fact, the company has achieved the impossible task of creating a cheap fuel efficient car; with the basic version of the Polo Bluemotion costing just £12,120 from new. This is a remarkable achievement when you consider that the Prius will cost over £9,000 more.
The only criticism that could be levied at the Polo Bluemotion is that it is not an innovation but merely an optimisation. However, at a time when there are no other affordable green vehicles, Volkswagen has timed the launch of the Polo Bluemotion exactly right.