10 Fun Facts About Electric Cars

Tesla electric car
CC Flickr photo of Tesla electric car courtesy of faceme.

Electric cars are getting a lot of attention lately. With a growing concern about the impacts that driving has on our environment, consumers and automakers are moving towards more sustainable models. Electric cars are just like regular cars, but they have electric motors that run on electricity from a battery, instead of (or sometimes in addition to) an internal combustion energy that burns gasoline. This means reduced or no greenhouse-gas emissions. While some electric vehicle models feature a small gas engine to compliment the electric drivetrain, some models run on battery power alone.

Here’s a list of 10 fun facts about electric cars: Continue reading “10 Fun Facts About Electric Cars”

Top 10 Worst Environmental Disasters in the United States

Worst Environmental Disasters in the United States
TVA Coal Ash Spill courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. is a relatively young country, in terms of world history, but its rapid rise as an industrial superpower has not come without consequences. Sheer ignorance, coupled with poor government oversight and pure-old greed, is often a recipe for disaster. Here are some of worst instances of man-made, large-scale pollution in American history. While it’s hard to qualify “the worst,” the ones with the most far-reaching effects on the environment and human health were prioritized. Not included were intense climate events such as Hurricanes Andrew or Katrina, although there is a growing scientific consensus about climate change amplifying storms.

10. Lead Contamination (Picher, Oklahoma) – Picher was a successful lead and zinc mining town in the 1920’s with a population of over 14,000 people. Now it sits abandoned at the base of giant hills of excavated mining waste. The citizens suffered from lead poisoning from the lead dust that covered the land and town’s groundwater was contaminated with acidic water from the mines. The town is now nearly deserted and is part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site. A documentary film called Tar Creek tells more of the story. Continue reading “Top 10 Worst Environmental Disasters in the United States”

Top Green TV Shows: Environmental Issues on Television

It wasn’t that long ago that environmental programming was a rarity on television. Aside from the occasional conservation program or nature documentary, the majority of TV was composed of cop dramas, sports, sitcoms and game shows.

Actually, that’s still the case today, but the large number of channels means there is also room for more diverse shows. Programming executives have noticed the increased desire to see environmental issues hit the airwaves. Whole cable networks have been based on environmental programming and already-existing channels have increased their attention to the environment. Children’s programming, in that regard, has come a long way. Take a look at our picks of the best green TV shows out there.

Top Green TV Shows for Adults & Teens 

Top Green TV Shows
Wild Chronicles on PBS

Wild Chronicles (PBS) – This National Geographic-produced show features host Boyd Matson, as he travels the world reporting on nature, environmental concerns and science. Continue reading “Top Green TV Shows: Environmental Issues on Television”

Best diesel cars of 2011, served up

Remixed CC Flickr photo courtesy of culinaryfool.

Wondering about the best diesel cars in the US?

In America, diesel powered cars have always been like…eating a boiled egg & plain toast for breakfast. You get everything that you need, but there’s no exciting bacon, or soul-warming sausage gravy.

But now, car makers are really starting to expand their, uh…menus.

Now, you can have a Mercedes E350 BlueTEC with a big serving of German-luxury strudel. Or you could get a plate of VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI, with a side-order of practicality.

The choices really are amazing. But, what are the best dishes on the menu? What do the critics really order, when they’re paying for the meal?

Let’s find out…

 

Best Luxury Diesel Car of 2011

So today’s most expensive diesel luxury vehicle is the Mercedes GL350 BlueTEC, but does that mean it’s also the best? It does have a trick 4WD system, and all of the leather, wood and toys that you would expect in a Mercedes Benz. (And what ever happened to the promised Mercedes S350 4MATIC BlueTEC diesel car, anyway?)  Think of it as a Denny’s skillet special: heaps of potato, sausage, mushrooms, onions, Canadian bacon, and cheese. Lots of cheese.

While that would be a great way to start the day, you’re going to need a nap by 10:30.

No, to find the best oil-burning luxury car of 2011, you’re going to have to look at the back of the menu: down at the bottom, next to the a-la-cart list, you’ll find the Audi A3 TDI:

Audi A3 clean diesel TDI 2011

This hip little wagon features a perfect blend of luxury and sport. Its torquey little TDI provides just enough oomph for those occasionally spirited drives. And the interior is typical Audi – which is to say; it’s niiiice.

Plus, it’s a wagon, so you can carry stuff. And with a starting price of $30,250, it’s a luxury bargain.

MPG: 30 city / 42 highway.

The 2011 Audi A3 TDI breakfast comparison: a Monte Cristo

 

Best Fuel Efficient Diesel Car of 2011

This year, the economy trophy goes to the Volkswagen Group and their 2.0 liter Turbo Diesel powerplant, the TDI, which can achieve 30 MPG in the city, and 42 on the highway…no matter what car it’s propelling. And by the way, that’s the crappy EPA estimate of their gas mileage. Check out the eye-popping real life mileage people are getting.

You’ll find this thrifty little gem under the hood of four cars, ranging from compact to wagon:

2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI ($23,225),

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI ($22,995),

2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI ($24,995)

…and the just mentioned 2011 Audi A3 TDI ($30,250).

We covered the Volkswagen diesel models together in depth here.

Sorry, I can’t think of a breakfast comparison for this one.

Wait!

The Golf is like a Rootie Tootie Fresh & Fruity combo; the Jetta is like a sausage, egg & cheese croissant; the Jetta Wagon is like maple and brown sugar oatmeal, with some warm Vermont maple syrup on top. And of course, the A3 TDI is our Monte Cristo.

Hungry yet?

 

Best Looking Diesel Car of 2011

2011 clean diesel Jetta TDI car

There’s actually several 2011 diesel cars that look nice. But the winner is the redesigned 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel TDI.

VW’s aggressive new front end blends well with the Jetta’s clean body lines, making it look (slightly) aggressive, yet civilized. It’s the kind of car that mom can drive everyday, but when she parks behind dad, he might actually want to take her car.

Like our choices? Disagree? Are you driving one of these? Leave a comment!

Hand Dryers versus Paper Towels

hand dryer
CC Flickr photo courtesy of sabotrax.

Hand dryers versus paper towels. What’s more environmentally friendly?

It’s a question that you have probably asked yourself in a public restroom of some sort.

I was curious too, so I decided to do a little research and see what the pros and cons of each option are. Here’s what I found.

Slate.com covered the issue in detail, back in 2008.

Their conclusion is that hand dryers win in almost every scenario:

The bottom line is that hand dryers will be the greener choice in about 95 percent of circumstances. If the choice is between using a tiny corner of recycled towel versus a 2,400-watt dryer, then the Lantern can see how the towel will win. But dryers get the nod in most other scenarios, particularly if the dryer is rated at less than 1,600 watts.

Treehugger.com looks at some of the same original data, and comes to a similar conclusion.

This also provides more evidence that one of the biggest keys to more sustainable products is greener and cleaner electricity sources. Additionally, the study notes that the use of paper towels has double the global warming burden of the hand dryer. I will probably keep drip drying my hands or wiping them on my pants, but in the event that I have to choose between paper towels or a hand dryer (based on this report at least) I’ll pick the blowier, greener choice of the hand dryer.

But there’s also the hygiene, cleanliness and health angle of paper towels versus hand dryers. And in this contest, it appears that paper towels come out ahead, at least compared to the Dyson Air Blade.

Paper towels were found to reduce the number of all types of bacteria on the fingerpads by up to 76% and on the palms by up to 77%. By comparison, the Dyson Airblade increased the numbers of most types of bacteria on the fingerpads by 42% and on the palms by 15%. However, after washing and drying hands under the warm air dryer, the total number of bacteria increased by 194% on the fingerpads and on the palms by 254%.

But that’s not an accurate assessment, according to the About.com Infectious Diseases curator.

After coming home, I looked up medical research papers on the use of hand dryers vs. paper towels and found that the vast majority of research has shown that there is no difference between using paper towels and warm air dryers in terms of removing bacteria!

A Mayo Clinic study supports the About.com guy, saying that hand dryers are clean. Although to be fair, that other study was only talking about the Dyson Airblade and not commercial hand dryers in general.

The difference was determined between the amounts of bacteria on hands artificially contaminated with the bacterium Micrococcus luteus before washing with a nonantibacterial soap and after drying by 4 different methods (cloth towels accessed by a rotary dispenser, paper towels from a stack on the hand-washing sink, warm forced air from a mechanical hand-activated dryer, and spontaneous room air evaporation). The results were analyzed using a nonparametric analysis (the Friedman test). By this method, changes in bacterial colony-forming unit values for each drying method were ranked for each subject.

RESULTS: The results for 99 subjects were evaluable. No statistically significant differences were noted in the numbers of colony-forming units for each drying method (P = .72).

So whether it is energy savings and eco friendliness, keeping trash out of the landfill, keeping bathroom trash cans emptier and keeping your hands clean, it appears that hand dryers are the clear winner. Hand dryers are green.

Coffee and the Environment

coffee plantation

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular commodities. It is traded more than all other commodities, except for crude oil. With such a high demand and so much production going on throughout the world, the coffee industry has the potential to significantly impact our environment. Indeed, in the last several decades, the effects of the coffee industry have been substantial.

Pollution and deforestation have been problems, and recent evidence suggests that deforestation of tropical regions — the primary coffee growing centers — causes more climate change than all of our automobiles combined. This realization is leading to dramatic changes in the way coffee is grown.

A Move to Sustainable Coffee Growing Practices

Not long ago, the demand for coffee was so great that it fueled a frenzy of non-sustainable coffee production. Instead of growing coffee under the forest canopy as it was traditionally grown, coffee plantations began to clear-cut the forests to make way for full sun coffee plantations. Although these full sun plantations required large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides, they could produce more coffee than shade grown operations.

Unfortunately, these plantations, which are still the most common type of plantation, led to chemical pollution of delicate ecosystems and the destruction of habitat for countless species. Worse still, the coffee they produced was tainted with residual chemicals, the work conditions were often unethical, and the contribution to global warming unthinkable.

Environmentally conscious farmers began to move toward the proven shade grown coffee plantations, which integrated coffee plants into forests. Clear cut land was reforested to create shade grown operations, and organic, chemical-free coffees became more common. Although these farmers are still in the minority, they are leading the coffee industry in a positive direction.

Carbon Offsets and Coffee Production

The growing climate crisis has made the practice of deforestation in the name of profit an unthinkable thing to do. Yet, without proper incentive, coffee plantations are slow to move to more sustainable systems. Fortunately, carbon offsets provide a much needed motivation.

Organizations like Conservation International have been working with farmers over the last decade to encourage environmentally conscious practices though the sale of carbon offsets. By giving farmers a potential monetary incentive to cultivate forests alongside coffee farms, farmers can still make a profit while helping to combat our climate crisis.

Over the last several years, even Starbucks has joined the cause and begun to promote forest conservation. It is now possible to purchase coffee from major retailers that contributes to reforestation instead of deforestation. This is good news for consumers and for the environment. As consumers, we can help fight deforestation by purchasing sustainable coffees, which encourages shade grown coffee plantations.

For more information on Starbucks conservation program check this link out.

Benefits of Buying Fair Trade Coffee

CC Flickr photo courtesy of nagillum. La Pita coffee plantation in Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Ever wonder about fair trade coffee and why it might matter?

Second only to crude oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on earth. Like other booming industries of trade, the potential for abuse is great, and over the years, we have seen a number of unfortunate side effects of the coffee trade. These include a number of environmental effects, human rights violations, risks to consumers, and negative impacts to communities around the world. But we can make a difference by buying fair trade coffee.

What is Fair Trade Coffee?

Fair trade certification promotes healthy work conditions by giving growers an economic incentive for using good practices. For certifications, coffee growers must join a coop, which determines the minimum amount paid to growers and how any excess profits will be spent. These premiums often go back to growers or are spent on education or community development to improve conditions in coffee growing countries.

Fair Trade Benefits Human Rights

When you buy fair trade coffee, you know that you aren’t contributing to human rights violations. Many coffee plantations, which are not fair trade, provide work conditions that aren’t healthy or fair for works. Child labor has been a common problem with coffee plantations. But fair trade agreements allow workers to be paid wages that are appropriate while ensuring that work conditions are reasonable.

Environmental Impact of Fair Trade Coffee

Fair trade agreements foster informed growing practices, which lead to more responsible coffee plantations. Often fair trade coffee is grown on full shade plantations, which have a positive impact on the environment, especially compared to the more common full sun plantations, which lead to deforestation. And deforestation of our tropical regions is a major factor in global warming.

Fair trade coffee is often organic, which reduces environmental issues with the potential misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This theoretically can result in a healthier coffee for consumers, because it hasn’t been sprayed with anything.

Coffee that is grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, has a more positive effect on the surrounding community and on the plantations workers. (And on the pests and weeds too, ha ha.)  In countries where pesticide and fertilizer usage is hardly regulated, heavy chemical use can potentially lead to chemical poisoning of workers and potential negative health consequences of those living in the surrounding area.

Fair Trade Coffee: More Expensive?

If you pay attention to prices when you shop, then you’ve probably noticed that fair trade coffee seems to cost a little more than “regular” coffee. But the fact is, regular coffee comes with hidden costs to farmers and to whole communities around the world.

What’s your favorite fair trade coffee? Leave a comment!

Organic Coffee Facts

CC Flickr photo courtesy of blindedbythebite.

Why drink organic coffee? Consider these facts.
If you’re like most people, then coffee probably plays a prominent role in your life.  Indeed, we collectively consume 2.5 billion cups of coffee each day!  But not all that coffee is good for us or for the environment.
Non organic coffee is grown with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and its production can wreck havoc on sensitive ecosystems when grown incorrectly.  Although organic coffee is now an alternative available to consumers, most people still don’t drink it.  Here are a few facts on coffee production and how it impacts our environment:
  • Coffee evolved under the rainforest canopy.  Although coffee started out as a shade-loving shrub, the high demand for coffee led to full-sun plantations, which required large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Full-sun coffee plantations lead to deforestation.  37 of the 50 countries with the highest rates of deforestation are coffee producers.  The top 25 coffee exporters lost an average of 27 thousand square miles of forest annually during the end of the twentieth century.
  • Non-organic coffee often leads to habitat loss.   Coffee grown under full sun does not supply adequate habitat for native species.  Indeed, full sun coffee plantations provide habitat  for 90% fewer species than do shade-grown coffee plantations.
  • Organic shade grown coffee combats global warming.  Shade grown coffee plantations include a diverse array of tree species that provide a shade-giving canopy over coffee plants.  These coffee plantations add oxygen to the environment while removing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
  • A study conducted in the late eighties found that coffee plantations in Central America polluted more than 29 million gallons of water daily.  This is the equivalent of a city with 4 million citizens dumping their sewage into the local rivers day after day.  Today’s eco-friendly organic farms use less water and make an effort to dispose of it properly.
  • Despite the effects of non-organic coffee production, the vast majority of coffee is non-organic.  Indeed, in 2006 not even one percent of the total coffee consumed was organic.
  • In Colombia, a coffee supplier which has mostly full sun coffee plantations, more than 440,000 tons of chemical fertilizers are applied to coffee crops.
  • Consumers who buy organic do make a difference.  Although few plantations are organic, shade grown, or fair trade, the higher market value of these coffees  encourages more farmers to revert to environmentally friendly farming.  Even Starbucks has begun to support forest conservation.
The next time you grab a cup of coffee, consider whether it is organic or not.  The  environmental impact of improperly cultivated coffee is simply too great to ignore.  It is likely that most people don’t buy organic coffee because they don’t realize the impact of non-organic coffee.  By educating ourselves we can begin to shift coffee production toward a more positive direction.
For more information on organic coffee and the environmental impact of coffee cultivation, check out these resources:

Organic Trade Association

Best Gas Mileage 2011 Diesel Pickups and SUVs

Looking for a list of the most fuel efficient diesel pickup and SUV models in the US market that get the best gas mileage? You’ve come to the right place.

Americans love their SUVs.

They’re tall, so mom has a commanding view of the road, and they’re big enough to haul a team of soccer players, complete with their gear. (If you’re single, they’re big enough for your dogs/mountain bikes/entire Star Wars collection). Plus, some of them can even go off road (handy if the soccer field gets wet).

Pickup trucks are equally popular with Americans, but usually for more practical reasons. They can go from the jobsite to the football field and still look good. You can go through all sorts of terrain, while carrying massive amounts of…whatever. In fact, those Super-Duper Duty ones can even tow trains and jumbo jets.

But the one thing that neither of these kinds of vehicles are good at is getting good fuel mileage – just look at some scary MPG stats from dedicated truck owners. Until now, that is.

More and more consumers are demanding an alternative to expensive, gas burning engines, which is one reason that hybrids have become so popular. However, some schools of thought suggest that mining for the raw materials used in a hybrid battery can cause even more environmental damage than the emissions from a diesel.

With an eye on US environmental regulations, many European car makers are designing diesel engines that will comply with our strict emission rules.

American automakers are getting on the diesel bandwagon too, by offering more powerful and efficient diesel engines in their most popular trucks.

But sadly, there isn’t much of a selection yet.

For diesel powered SUVs, there’s the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, the 2011 BMW X5 xDrive35d, the 2011 Audi Q7 TDI and the Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC.

Although these are expensive, they are luxury SUVs. Don’t forget, “what you see on today’s luxury car, will be standard on tomorrow’s base model”. So, think of these as a sign of things to come.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport

Base price: $47,950

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 225-hp – 406 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 19/28

Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 7.66 (tons)

Highlights: Standard navigation, leather, xeon headlights, rear-view camera, Bluetooth/iPod, 18-inch wheels.

2011 Mercedes Benz ML350 BlueTEC

Base price: $50,490

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 210-hp – 400 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 18/25

Fuel Tank Capacity: 25.1 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 8.02 (tons)

Highlights: The Mercedes doesn’t offer much in the way of standard equipment. So, if you want one that has leather and navigation, you’re going to have to order the Leather Package for $1,780, & the Premium 1 package for $4,000. Otherwise, you’re going to get vinyl seats and a steering wheel…for Fifty-Grand.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI Premium

Base price: $51,450

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 225-hp – 406 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 17/25

Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 8.42 (tons)

Highlights: Standard leather, LED tail lights, parking sensors, heated seats, power tailgate, Bluetooth/iPod, 19-inch wheels & 7-passenger seating.

2011 BMW X5 xDrive35d

Base price: $51,800

Engine: 3.0 liter inline-6 TDI – 265-hp – 425 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 19/26

Fuel Tank Capacity: 22.5 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 7.66 (tons)

Highlights: Standard navigation, leather, rear-seat TV system, satellite radio, head-up display, parking sensors.

 

Diesel trucks

Diesel powered pickups are limited to the Ford SuperDuty, the Chevrolet HD, and the Dodge 2500/3500. However, these are ¾ ton – 1 ton trucks.

None of the popular ½ ton models are available with a diesel engine. And, none of the ¾ ton (and up) trucks are required to have their fuel mileage certified by the EPA.

This is because they’re considered to be commercial vehicles. Plus, there’s a mind-boggling array of mechanical options (like axle ratios, transmissions, etc.) which can effect the fuel mileage.

Since there are no official MPG numbers for these trucks, the fuel mileages listed below are based on owner accounts, and can vary based on the model, and chosen equipment.

The base prices listed are for a ¾ ton, regular cab, 2WD with an automatic transmission, diesel engine, and standard equipment. Once you start adding on the options, these diesel pickups can eclipse $40,000 real quick.

2011 Ram 2500/3500

Base price: $27,450

Engine: 6.7 liter inline-6 TDI – 350-hp – 650 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 13-15 mpg (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 34 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: The Cummins diesel in these Ram trucks uses special chambers to collect polluting gasses, then the system heats up, burning off the pollutants. Here, some tips for drivers tailored to the Dodge owner.

2011 Ford F250 / F350 / F450 / F550 SuperDuty

Base price: $36,340

Engine: 6.7 liter V8 TDI – 400-hp – 800 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 15/22 (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 37.5 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: Ford’s Power Stroke diesel uses an injector to spray urea into the exhaust. The heat from the exhaust turns the urea to ammonia, which then turns the NOx gasses into nitrogen gas, and water inside of a specially designed catalytic convertor. Drivers are already reporting first-hand on higher MPG here and here.

 

2011 Chevrolet 2500HD / 3500HD

Base price: $37,355

Engine: 6.6 liter V8 TDI – 397-hp – 765 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 13/19 (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 36 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: Chevrolet’s Duramax diesel uses a similar urea injection system as Ford’s Power Stroke diesel.

But regardless of how you look at the high initial cost, you still wind up with a vehicle that gets good fuel mileage for its class, and that’s a real boon with predicted gas hikes what they are. Plus, the long-term reliability of diesel engines is better established and proven than the more complicated hybrid.

Teddy Field got his start in the auto industry at the age of 17. He is a recognized car dealer sales & management consultant, an automotive journalist, and a regular contributor to http://www.bestcardealsnewyork.com.

Types of Organic Coffee, An Overview

CC Flickr photo courtesy of grimmnitz.

If you’re worried about pesticides, there are plenty of organic options for the foods we eat. Organic coffee is no exception.  Organic coffee is grown in a healthy manner that is beneficial to consumers and to our precious ecosystem.  Keep reading to learn about the various coffee certifications and what each one means.

Organic Coffee

Organic coffee is coffee that is grown according to modern organic farming standards.  In order to gain organic certification, farmers must ensure that the land they are using has been free of synthetic pesticides and other prohibited chemicals for at least three years.  This ensures that their organic crops will not contain potentially harmful chemicals from past crops, which may have used pesticides.

In addition to being chemical free, growers must have a plan in place for crop rotation.  Crop rotation provides a way to keep the soil from degrading.  It is also a sufficient means for combating pests without the use of synthetic pesticides.

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair trade coffee is a type of coffee that is purchased directly from growers.  Fair trade certification ensures that growers are protected and it gives consumers a way of knowing that they are supporting healthy business relationships.  Coffee that isn’t fair trade could potentially be produced in unethical circumstances, but isn’t necessarily.

For instance, some coffee plantations have used child labor.  Other plantations have paid workers unfair wages or didn’t respect human rights.  Buying coffee that is certified fair trade is a way to ensure that you are supporting positive community development and not encouraging unethical practices.

Shade Grown Coffee

Most of the negative environmental effects of coffee plantations are due to the practice of growing full sun coffee.  In contrast, shade grown coffee can have a positive impact on the environment. Shade grown farms consist of coffee and an assortment of other trees.  These other trees provide a canopy above the coffee plantation.

Shade grown plantations resemble a natural forest, and they may contain as many as 40 species of trees.  The diverse ecosystem of a shade grown plantation helps to maintain soil quality and reduce pest problems.  Shade grown coffee plantations also provide habitat for native species, especially birds, and they increase the production of oxygen and uptake of carbon dioxide, which is especially important given the current state of climate change.

Making a Difference When You Choose Coffee Beans

Over the last several decades, modern farming practices used without regard for the environment or health of consumers has led to disastrous consequences.  Fortunately, as consumers we can make a difference by purchasing products which are produced in an ethical and healthy manner.

Organic, fair trade, and shade grown coffees might cost a little more, but by purchasing them you can help to make a difference and ensure that coffee cultivation is here to stay — and that’s good news for those of us who can’t go without our daily coffee.

I’ll admit that I don’t always stick to organic or shade grown or fair trade coffees. I’ve been using the Aeropress coffee maker at my house lately, and it makes totally amazing coffee. It only makes one cup at a time, but it’s worth it.

What’s your favorite coffee type? Leave a comment!

Subaru Diesel Cars: Why You Can’t Buy One in the USA

Subaru diesel wagon. You can look, but you can't buy! At least not in the USA.

The reason that you don’t see more diesels on US roads has to do with economics. Money makes the world go ’round, and as you’d expect, it’s the main reason for our “diesel deficiency”. In the United States, the federal government taxes every gallon of fuel sold. And historically, there’s always been a higher demand for gasoline here. So, our tax system is biased toward gasoline, making it cheaper to buy than diesel.

It’s the exact opposite in Europe. Diesel is cheaper to buy than “petrol”. However, cheaper means $6-7 per gallon, vs. $7-8 for a gallon of gas, so you can see why there’s more diesels over there.

European automakers simply responded to market demands, and came up with a wide range of diesel vehicles, allowing them to produce diesel engines at a lower cost. (For those who want to see what they’re missing right now, or plan a rental for their next European vacation, there are plenty of detailed reviews of current European models.)

In this country, gas is still (relatively) cheap. So a popular choice for an efficient vehicle is the hybrid. You may have noticed just how many hybrid models are available today. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the sporty Honda CR-Z to the massive Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.

Diesel vehicles, however, still don’t make good business sense, like the hybrid. You’re asking the customer to pay an additional $5-7k for a diesel vehicle, then you’re asking them to fuel it with the most expensive fuel.

From an environmental standpoint, modern diesel engines emit a very low amount of NOx and CO2, and recent advances have made them much more efficient. and they top hybrids in the fact that certain materials used to produce various components on a hybrid have to be mined. When considering a green car, can you imagine the relative environmental impact of that nickel mine needed for the hybrid? Let alone the fact that all those hybrid battery packs may one day wind up in a landfill.

But back to the economics of diesels.

German automakers seem dead-set on exporting their “clean diesels” to the United States. However, to sell a diesel engine in this country, it must be equipped with an exhaust after-treatment system, and a special fuel injection system in order to meet our strict air quality rules.

European emissions rules allow a diesel to emit up to 0.29 grams of nitrous oxide (NOx) per mile — which is about what the typical diesel school bus or trash truck emitted 5 years ago.

US regulations on the other hand, only allow a diesel to emit 0.07 grams of NOx per mile, making compliance a costly effort.

Smaller firms like Honda or Subaru would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a compliant engine, for a historically small US market. So it’s tough for many of them to justify such a big investment.

The Germans however, seem willing to take this risk. And if history is any indication, they’re the ones that can garner mass public acceptance for a new technology.

Airbags, ABS — the Mercedes S-Class was the first car in this country to have them as standard equipment. As the old saying goes “if you want to see what tomorrows car will look like, just look at what Mercedes is doing today”.

The Germans were also involved in bringing us those annoying in-car command/infotainment systems. So, let’s hope they can work their magic again, and convince Americans to buy more diesels — with a big marketing campaign to sell the car to a potentially unreceptive public.

Want to make yourself feel sad and see what you’re missing? Check out this site with the 2011 European Subaru diesel models that we can’t buy here in the USA: http://www.boxerdiesel.com/

What’s your prediction? When will the first Japanese clean diesel make it over to the US market?

Teddy Field got his start in the auto industry at the age of 17. He is a recognized car dealer sales & management consultant, an automotive journalist, and a regular contributor to bestcardealsnewyork.com.

Earthships 101, an introduction: Eco from the ground up

CC image courtesy of dominicspics on Flickr.

Looking for the ultimate in eco-friendly home design and construction? While buzzwords like net-zero energy construction and sustainable building practices may be new words to our culture, net-zero sustainable homes called Earthships have been around for over 40 years.

An “Earthship” may sound like a science fiction term, but the phrase Earthship Biotecture was coined in 1972 by a young radical architect named Mike Reynolds as he described his recently completed (and first) recycled materials home—The Thumb House. Starting from scratch where no architect had worked before, he perfected some of the early techniques for using recycled building materials including the 1973 patented aluminum can building block.

Today, Reynolds’s Earthship Biotecture has grown into a world wide phenomenon; and it’s easy to see why. Not only is an Earthship eco-friendly, they can be built anywhere, in any climate and are completely free from utility bills of any kind. Reynolds’s Earthship Biotecture design uses these six basic elements, grabbing the golden ring of eco-friendly and sustainable building—zero environmental impact.

The first of these design elements is the use of natural/recycled/local building materials. Some Earthship Biotecture uses a combination of waste materials like old tires and rammed earth from the building site to create a no-new materials substructure for the building.

PEW Center on Climate Change studies show that Americans use over ¼ of their electricity on lighting the home. The use of solar and wind energy to power the Earthship helps to create a zero-energy home. Lighting, electronics and other general appliances are powered using this second design element of Earthship Biotecture.

Heating and cooling our homes contributes to even more energy use—up to 55 percent of our electric bill. By orientating the Earthship in a southern-facing direction for solar gain and digging down into the earth for geothermal gain, the Earthship maintains a constant temperature around 68-70 degrees year-round.

Where Earthship Biotecture excels beyond basic green building techniques are through on-site food and water production and recycling waste water naturally. These three Earthship Biotecture design methods all provide the ultimate in net-zero energy and resource consumption, limiting your homes planetary impact forever.

Earthships can be designed to not only fit seamlessly into any environment, but also to suit any homeowners basic needs. From the simplest and cheapest of DIY constructed homes like Oscar and Lisa’s Earthship hut, to the ultimate million dollar Reynolds’s designed Earthship mansion like actor Dennis Weaver’s Earthship “Sunridge”, Earthships can be built to suit any homeowner’s level of comforts, styles and tastes—and budget. Whether you build a small hut or a huge mansion, one thing is for certain with an Earthship; it’s the ultimate in environmentally sustainable building.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. Earthship Biotecture sounds practical in theory, but what are the true costs? In monetary terms, material costs exceed conventional building by roughly 15 percent, as stated in Mike Reynolds’s 2008 interview with Forecast Earth. The initial expense is easily recouped in a few years time since all utility bills are eliminated. With the addition of water reclamation and on-site food production, an Earthship quickly pays for itself in savings.

But the real benefit of building an Earthship is how it helps reduce our consumption of resources and creates a consumption-neutral environment for us to live in. According to The Pew Center for Global Climate Change, Americans spend $15 billion each year on air-conditioning alone, accounting for 5 percent of our annual electric bill. That equates to 140 million tons of extra carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere annually—and that’s just for our air conditioners. With numbers like that, it’s easy to understand why Earthship Biotecture has become recognized as a legitimate, viable and necessary alternative building method to the wasteful practices of the conventionally built home.

Eric Brennan is a second generation master carpenter with over 20 years of construction industry experience. Since 2005, Eric has also been a hard at work honing his skills as a home improvement writer. In 2009, he was given the Associated Content award for best home improvement writer. Eric is currently a featured green and home improvement writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and editor of Construct101. He has produced thousands of articles on everything construction, remodeling, interior decorating, green building, and many other home improvement related fields for countless websites and blogs including the DIY network, P&G Tide, DeWalt.com, AT&T, Huffington Post, and Yahoo! News.

Coffee and the environment, and what you can do

guy in coffee cup suit

Love drinking coffee but concerned about the environment? Coffee has earned a reputation as a crop which is not particularly eco-friendly. Concerns about soil degradation, deforestation, pesticide use, and water quality have become commonplace. Yet westerners continue to drink one cup of coffee for every two cups of water consumed– and that’s a lot of coffee! Fortunately, we coffee consumers do have environmentally friendly options.

Coffee and the Environment

Coffee wasn’t always harmful to the environment. Once upon a time, coffee was sensitive to the sun and grown under the shade of forest canopies where it required fewer pesticides, less water, and it added to the habitat. However, increased demand for coffee led to more efficient growing methods, which didn’t treat the environment so kindly.

The use of fertilizers increases the yield of coffee, but only when grown in full sun. Soon coffee was adapted to full sun growing, and the natural canopies that once provided shade were altogether removed. This led to the rapid deforestation of coffee growing nations. Unfortunately, much of the world’s coffee is grown in the rainforest regions of the world. Full-sun plantations have a devastating impact on the local ecosystem. Indeed, these plantations support 90% fewer species of birds than shade-grown coffee plantations.

In addition to deforestation, coffee production leads to soil degradation and environmental damages from pesticides and fertilizers. Full sun coffee plantations require enormous amounts of chemicals compared to shade-grown plantations. For instance, Colombia, where most coffee is full-sun, uses roughly 400,000 tons of chemical fertilizers annually. These chemicals can have a negative impact on the farmers that use them too.

One of the least environmentally friendly approaches to coffee cultivation involves razing the landscape of all plants (sometimes using toxic herbicides) and then planting coffee. After the soil is completely degraded, the operation is abandoned and moved to a new location. This process of migratory coffee plantations leaves behind a wake of degraded land, which is unsuitable for wildlife or other crops.

What You Can Do

The negative effect coffee production has on the environment is a result of coffee’s high demand coupled with careless consumer choices. But don’t worry, you don’t need to give up on coffee yet. As coffee consumers, the choices we make when purchasing coffee have an impact on the production methods employed and how coffee cultivation affects the earth.

Not all coffee is bad for the environment. There are organic coffee options, which are free of chemicals. Shade grown coffees are a better alternative to the more common full sun variety. And fair trade coffees guarantee farmers aren’t being taken advantage of. These coffees cost a little more, but that’s because it’s cheaper to destroy forests, plant coffee in the sun, and douse it with chemicals.

We’ll be covering the topic of coffee and the environment more thoroughly in future posts. So stay tuned so you can learn more about coffee production techniques– the good and the bad– and how you can support positive coffee growing practices while still enjoying that fresh-brewed cup of joe.

What is your coffee situation? Do you drink it? And if so, what kind? Fair trade? Organic? Regular? Let us know in the comments!

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Most Efficient Small Refrigerators (16 to 19 cubic feet) – Top 3 Picks

A refrigerator is something that’s constantly plugged in, so it’s a great item in your house to try and save on energy costs – as appliances account for 17% of a typical home’s energy usage. We’ve looked at many different energy star rated refrigerators. This list gives you the top 3 efficient small refrigerators (all of these are in the 16 to 19 cubic feet range).

Efficiency was measured by which of these refrigerators uses the least amount of kilowatt hours per year – thus significantly using less energy per refrigerator.

If you would like to see more refrigerators beyond the top 3 that we’ve chosen, simply head over to the Energy Star Refrigerator Search, and select your search parameters. From there, you can sort your results from a variety of fashions, including kilowatt usage, % energy savings, and overall volume.

Here’s the list:


The Sunfrost R-19 is a refrigerator-only model. Instead of one large door, it features two equal sized refrigerator sections. As far as efficiency is concerned, this refrigerator is super efficient. It showcases a kwh/year usage of 204 and uses 53% less energy than the federal standard!

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a freezer or an ice machine, you won’t find it on this refrigerator. However, a real cool feature of this fridge is that it will not need defrosting and the design incorporates a passive cooling system (it does not use any fans). Overall, it’s a solid refrigerator for your home.


The Gaggenau RC472700 is a sleek looking refrigerator that is very energy efficient. It boats a kwh/year usage of 319 and will use 29% less energy than the federal standard. It has a volume of 17.5 cubic feet and is 30 inches wide.

There are numerous features on this refrigerator, including a motorized glass shelf, multi-flow air system, temperature control, and doors that open up to a 115 degree angle!


The GE GTH17BBT is an energy star rated refrigerator/freezer combo. This one features the freezer on the top and the refrigerator on the bottom. Where efficiency matters, this refrigerator has a kwh/year usage of 324, using 30% less energy. It has a volume of 16.6 cubic feet.

Overall, this refrigerator is pretty standard. An optional ice maker is available, and it has all of the typical shelves, crispers, temperature controls, and is available in multiple colors (black, white, and bisque). It can usually be purchased for under $900, so it’s an efficient machine that is cost effective as well…you can’t beat that.

So as we’ve mentioned, a refrigerator is an excellent way to cut back on energy usage in the home. While these refrigerators here might not be the largest of the group, they will definitely help save you money and energy. Try one in your home today.

Do you feel we’ve missed one, or is there a refrigerator that falls in this range that you’re just absolutely crazy about? Leave us a comment and let us know!

2011 Hybrid cars: here’s the lineup

When the first hybrid cars started to roll out several years ago, it pretty much took the world by surprise, but these days, you can drive down the highway or even side street without seeing some sort of energy efficient car. Manufacturers across the board are becoming more conscious to the needs and wants of their consumers for fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars, trucks and SUVs.

In 2011, we’ll see more hybrid cars on the market than ever. You may recognize come industry regulars, but keep an eye out for some new models from manufacturers who are just getting started on the hybrid front.

Here we go with the 2011 hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs.

Acura – Acura does not offer a hybrid model.

Audi – According to Edmunds.com, this is finally the year for Audi to launch its long-awaited Q5 Hybrid model for 2011. Because the rumors have been circulating about their debut hybrid model 2008, we’re not holding our breath.

BMW – In last year’s 2010 hybrid lineup BMW had two completely different hybrid models. Now it seems BMW is adding to their family of hybrid cars and SUVs. The newest model in their fleet is the 4-wheel drive, ActiveHybrid X5 projected to launch in fall of this year. They’ve kept the Active Hybrid X6 model and made the ActiveHybrid 7 into two similar models: the ActiveHybrid 750Li and the ActiveHybrid 750i.


Image for the ActiveHybrid 750Li from BMW.

Image for the ActiveHybrid 750i from BMW.

Except for about a $4,000 MSRP difference for a few, minor creature comforts in the Li model (i.e., self-leveling air suspension, rear vanity mirrors, etc.), the two seem almost identical in features. Both have a 4.4 liter V-8 engine with TwinPower Turbo technology, and both use a 120-volt, lithiom-ion battery with Brake Energy Regeneration. With a 440 horsepower engine, these BMWs boast to be “The Fastest Hybrid[s] in the World.”

Buick – No Buick Hybrids for 2011.

Cadillac – No Cadillac Hybrids found for 2011.

Cheverolet – Well, it’s finally (almost) here. The Chevy Volt promises to be a game changer in the hybrid world.

Image for the Volt from Chevy.

Using the power of “more than 200 lithiom-ion battery cells,” the Volt is able to travel up to 40 miles on a single charge without using the gas-generator to create electricity to take it extra distances. Chevy claims its first-ever plug-in gas/electric hybrid car will arrive by the end of 2010.

Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep – While hybrid cars are still more popular than hybrid trucks and SUVs, that’s not stopping Dodge from trying the hybrid market (again) in 2011 with the Dodge Ram Pickup 1500 Hybrid scheduled to launch at the end of summer 2010.

Ford – With its fifth year in production, Ford is set to roll out the 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid soon.


Image for the Escape Hybrid from Edmunds.

The new Escape Hybrid will get the same fuel efficiency as the previous model of 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, which is still impressive in the compact crossover SUV category.


Image for the Fusion Hybrid from Edmunds.

Ford is also set to launch the 2011 model Fusion Hybrid. In its second year of production, the Fusion Hybrid is proving to be a contender in the hybrid market.

GMC – No GMC Hybrids found for 2011.

Honda – Honda describes their newest hybrid model as, “fun to drive,” and it looks it. The 2011 Honda CR-Z is sleek, sporty and dare I say a little sexy, too.


Image for the CR-Z from Honda.

This two-seater hybrid gets about the same EPA-Estimated mpg as a Smart Car but offers more storage (and more leg room?), the Honda reputation and a competitive price range.

Hyundai – Hyundai has a new Sontata Hybrid rumored to be released this year. With the non-hybrid model already launched, it may be likely that the Sonata Hybrid won’t make the list this year.

Infiniti – Whether it’s a 2011 or a 2012 model, Inifiniti is set to launch it’s first hybrid model soon along with the 2011 M class luxury line. As confusing as the release date is, it is clear that this is the auto manufacturer’s first hybrid model, and will be a welcomed change in the luxury car world.

Kia – According to a Kia press release, along with a new body style, the Kia Optima will also be available as “…the brand’s first-ever hybrid in the U.S. (available in 2011) – which deliver[s] class-leading power and fuel economy while the latest technology features and luxury amenities are available at the touch of a button or a simple voice command.”


Image for the Optima hybrid from Kia.

The body style of the new Optima is also wider, longer and lower to the ground than the previous style. With all new features and a new hybrid option, looks like Kia is getting a major upgrade.

Lexus – Apparently, some hybrids are not just about getting the best fuel efficiency possible and saving the planet. Enter the 2011 Lexus CT 200h that, while it is a hybrid, can turn on a sport mode to transform this eco-friendly wagon into a speed racer with all the normal handling Lexus is famous for.


Image for the Lexus CT 200h from Lexus.

With four different driving modes (EV, ECO, Normal and Sport), this is clearly not your average family sedan. Lexus doesn’t list the MPG on their list of Specs, but their press release does mention that it will come with a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery. Who needs to worry about MPG when you’ve at least got the hybrid battery?

Lincoln – Ok, I was starting to get skeptical when I read the first few lines on the Lincoln website about their hybrid, stating the new MKZ Hybrid is “projected to be the most fuel-efficient luxury car in America.” It seems nearly all the hybrid cars are toting similar tag lines and simply swapping out the words that allows them to legally make these claims. Anyway, I had to keep reading to get more info, and I’m glad I did.


Image for the MKZ Hybrid from Lincoln.

Not only does the MKZ Hybrid boast a 41 city mpg (36 hwy), but Lincoln also took extra steps to make this luxury car more eco-friendly. “Hand-crafted eco-conscious Bridge of Weir leather [and] olive ash wood trim from sustainably sourced forests” help this car push the standards on eco-conscious design and not to mention the fact that it’s all packaged in Lincoln luxury.

Mercedez-Benz – No Mercedez-Benz Hybrids found for 2011.

Mercury – According to Edmunds.com, there will be two new Mercury Hybrid models for the 2011 year, but it looks like Mercury is saying otherwise with the end of the Mercury brand scheduled for the end of this year.

Mitsubishi – No Mitsubishi Hybrids found for 2011.

Nissan – There are currently, no Nissan Hybrids for 2011, but the Nissan Leaf should be a huge hit.

Pontiac – No Pontiac Hybrids found for 2011.

Porsche – While Porsche is widely associated with the early history of cars, it is also associated  with the early history of hybrid cars, so it should be no surprise that finally Porsche is launching a hybrid option. It will be a hybrid model of their Cayenne S.

Image for the Cayenne S Hybrid from Porsche.

While Porsche hasn’t officially (as of this post) released this 300 horsepower hybrid crossover’s estimated fuel consumption, it will run with a V6 engine and maintain the all-wheel drive of the previous non-hybrid Cayenne models.

Saab – No Saab Hybrids found for 2011.

Saturn – No Saturn Hybrids found for 2011.

Subaru – No Subaru Hybrids found for 2011.

Toyota – Starting at a cool $19,595 (MSRP), the 2011 Camry Hybrid may be the most affordable mid-sized sedan Hybrid.


Image for the Camry Hybrid from Toyota.

Not much seems to have changed from the previous model, but hey, if “nothing’s broke, don’t fix it,” right?

Volkswagen – A noticeably lower-to-the-ground version of the previous Touaregs, the first hybrid from VW looks good.

Image for the European model Touareg Hybrid from VW.

VW is boasting more cargo space, lighter body, the largest panoramic sunroof of all SUVs and obviously, reduced fuel consumption. Add the hybrid to their expanding list of clean diesel cars, and it’s easy to see where VW is heading for the future.

Volvo – No Volvo Hybrids for 2011.

Most Efficient Large Refrigerators (greater than 24 cubic feet) Top 3 Picks

In the constant quest to save energy, you should never forget about your refrigerator. They run 24 hours per day. Appliances account for about 17 percent of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators, clothes washers, and clothes dryers at the top of the list, according to the Department of Energy.

We’ve taken a look at the Energy Star ratings of large refrigerators – the ones here are greater than 24 cubic feet. Based on the lowest use of KWH/year – these are the top three most efficient large refrigerator picks.

If you want to see the rest of the list, you certainly can! Just go over to the Energy Star Refrigerator Search Page and look for the refrigerator that matches your specifications! From there, you can sort them by different options (including total size, kwh/year usage, or even total % of energy saved).


The LG LFC25776 is a french door style refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom. It has a volume of 25 cubic feet, uses 30% less energy, and uses 416 kilowatt hours per year. It’s available in white, black, and stainless steel – so there’s certainly one to match your kitchen.

If you’re a fan of ice makers, there’s not one on this refrigerator – that is a downfall. Other positives though include all LED-lighting, a 4-compartment crisper with deli storage center, and a bottom loading freezer.


The Samsung RF266AEBP is a 26 cubic foot refrigerator that is Energy Star rated. This refrigerator uses 23% less energy, and has a kwh/year usage of 462. It’s a bottom loading refrigerator, and much like the LG refrigerator – does not have an ice machine.

There are lots of great features on this refrigerator – from the cooling systems to the doors. It’s definitely a good one to check out.

This next refrigerator actually falls into a category with many other refrigerators. There are quite a few refrigerators that use 20% less energy at a rate of 476 kw/hr a year. Read below to see why we chose the one we did.


The Whirlpool GX5FHTXVY is a bottom freezer refrigerator that uses 20 percent less energy at a rate of 476 kwh/year. This particular fridge has a bunch of great features such as an interior water dispenser complete with PuR® 6-Month Water Filtration – which helps set it apart from some of the other refrigerators we have spoken of.

Freezer baskets, ice makers, can holder – all the bells and whistles are there. On top of it, it’s an energy star rated refrigerator. At a capacity of 24.8 Cubic Feet it’s still pretty big, and can chill and freeze a lot of your food. There’s nothing but positives to this refrigerator.

So if you’re looking for the most efficient large refrigerator, these are some great options.

Own one of these and like it or hate it? Feel that we should have covered a different model as the most efficient large refrigerator?

Let us know in the comments!

2011 Electric Cars in the USA: Here’s the Lineup

Recently, there have been great strides in not only diesel and hybrid cars, but also in electric cars. A few electric cars that we’ve seen manufactured have really put a heavy emphasis on performance, which is a nice change of pace from older cars we’ve seen that were known as “low speed.” You know, the ones you aren’t even allowed to drive on roads with a speed limit higher than 35 mph!

Here’s a list of the most promising electric cars that we should see available in the USA in 2011.


Nissan Leaf – The Nissan Leaf electric car is a 100 percent electric vehicle that requires no gasoline. It can seat up to 5 passengers, has 5 doors, and a range of 100 miles per charge. It runs on a 24 kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, and has a variety of different features, ranging from push button ignition, to navigation, and so on.

With a 100 mile per charge range, a car as such is going to be great for suburban commutes or short back and forth trips daily. It’s made in America, and will go for just under $26,000 (after all applicable tax credits are applied). More information can be found on the Nissan Leaf Website.

This one looks like it could be a Prius killer for urban drivers. I’ve heard that Lance Armstrong has one reserved already.

Chevrolet Volt – Now, technically the Chevy Volt is actually a hybrid, as it features a gas engine that recharges the battery. However, the powertrain is only powered by an electric motor, so we decided to include it to our list. The Chevy Volt will charge overnight, and when you’re ready to go will run on a charge for 40 miles, free of gas and emissions.

After that, the Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a tank of gas. There’s more information to be found about the Chevrolet Volt electric car on their official website.


Coda – The Coda electric car can seat up to 4 passengers, and is powered by a 728 cell lithium-iron phosphate battery. This car has a range of 90-120 miles, with a top speed of 80 mph. As far as warranty is concerned, the Coda features a 3-year/36,000 mile limited vehicle warranty. In addition, the battery covered for 8 years/100,000 miles.

More information about the Coda Electric Car can be found on the official Coda website.


Fisker Karma – Much like the Chevrolet Volt, the Fisker Karma electric car is also somewhat of a hybrid that features a gas engine to recharge the battery, yet only uses an electric motor for the powertrain.

Designed by Henrik Fisker (who is known for his work on the BMW Z8, the Aston Martin DB9 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage), the Karma boasts a 300 mile range and can go from 0-60 in less than 6 seconds, featuring a top speed 125 mph (200 km/h).

The car also features two Driving Modes: stealth drive (a quiet economy mode) and sport drive (which accesses the full power of the vehicle).

Here’s how the car works: it uses what is known as “Q-DRIVE plug-in hybrid technology.” A fully-charged Karma burns no fuel for the first 50 miles. After 50 miles, the gasoline engine turns a generator to charge the lithium ion battery. From there, the car operates as a normal hybrid vehicle.

A balance of gas and electricity as such can help the driver achieve an average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year.

For more information on the Fisker Karma, check out the Official Fisker Karma website.

Ford Focus eV – You may have recently seen the Ford Focus electric automobiles on Jay Leno’s ‘Green Car Challenge’ where he and guests on the show go head to head in an obstacle course with one of the Focus eV Electric Cars.

Hopefully in 2011 this battery-powered version Focus should be available in a limited fashion (with at best – a possible 5,000 manufactured for the first couple of years). The drivetrain of the Focus has been engineered by Magna International, a Canadian company. The Focus will have a 100-mile range and will rely on lithium-ion batteries.


Tesla Roadster – The Tesla Roadster is a pretty hot sports car. You may have seen some of our posts here on The Practical Environmentalist that look into an ongoing back and forth exchange between Tesla and Fisker. The Roadster is a high performance machine – going from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds! In addition, it can go up to 245 miles on a single charge!

So what we’ve essentially got here is high power performance in an eco-friendly fashion. The Tesla Roadster literally redefines everything that you may have thought to be true of an electric car.

Now, the price tag is pretty hefty – as the Tesla electric car rivals any high powered sports car price tag (leasing one, for example will cost you just under $1700 per month). However, for the car enthusiast and the eco-friendly connoisseur, this is the ultimate in electric powered vehicles.

Want to learn more about the Tesla? Surely your interest must be piqued! Check out the Official Tesla Motors Website for more great information on the Roadster. Tesla is evidently also working on a four door electric car that will cost in the $60K range, after tax breaks. Not sure when that one will hit the market.


Think City – The Think City electric car is slated to be available in the US for 2011. This electric car has a range of around 75-100 miles per single charge. It runs on the Zebra sodium battery and Lithium-Ion battery from EnerDel, and can be charged through a conventional socket.

The features on this car are just like you would want on any other automobile – airbags, mp3 player, bluetooth enabled, ABS – and is a two door, multiple passenger car that should perform well for city traffic, and for the daily commute. Not to mention – you’re also helping the environment.

More information about the Think City can be found on the Think Website.

Update: Toyota contracts with Tesla to bring electric RAV4 back in 2012

We’ve read reports that apparently the Toyota Corporation has contracted with Tesla to help bring back the electric Rav4. They plan to use a Tesla powertrain and battery pack with the RAV4 body.

Toyota has set a goal to release a car in the US by 2012, so it won’t be in the US in 2011. But hopefullly by 2012 we’ll see an electric car by Toyota back on the market. The electric Rav4 was made from 1997 to 2003 and had a range of 100 miles.

What about other electric cars?

There are a handful of other electric cars that have been proposed, but many of these are still “in production” phases, or are “low speed” vehicles, that are great for suburban and neighborhood travel, but aren’t ideal or ready yet for highway travel. Then there are others that look much like golf carts, which you certainly can’t take to work with you day in and day out.

Still, these are some great options, and some promising new developments in the world of electric vehicles!

Did we miss anything on the list? Let us know in the comments!

2011 diesel cars in the USA: here’s the lineup

Have you seen our new 2012 diesel car lineup post?

There have been a few exciting new developments in diesel automobiles available in the United States since we published our 2010 list, but for the most part the diesel vehicles available in the US remain the same.

A wide variety of car manufacturers have diesel available in Europe, but the stricter emissions standards in the States have prevented them from bringing those models over here. It’s evidently quite expensive to upgrade a standard diesel engine so that it meets US “clean diesel” standards. Therefore, while there are some diesel powered cars available in the United States, it’s currently a minority market.

Without further hesitation, here’s our list of diesel powered cars for 2011 in the US:

Acura – There has been speculation of an Acura diesel model in the US for 2011, but recent updates show that the manufacturer is currently shying away from one being offered in the US. Currently, there is no diesel model available.

Audi – Audi will continue to offer its TDI diesel line. Complete information can be found on the Audi TDI site. The two cars offered are the Audi A3 TDI and the Audi Q7 TDI.


In 2010, the A3 was listed as the Green Car Journal’s ‘Green Car of The Year.’ It gets 30 mpg hwy and 42 mpg city. You may also remember it from the Green Police Ad featured during the last Superbowl.


The Q7 TDI is Audi’s diesel powered SUV. This SUV gets 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Coincidentally, it’s also the same diesel engine that the Porsche Diesel engine is based off of (however, Porsche currently only has a diesel model available in Europe). More information about the Q7 can be found here.

BMW – Many will argue that Bavarian Motor Works make some of the finest cars out there. Not to be outdone, BMW also offers two different diesel models: The 335d and the X5 xDrive 35d.


The 335d sedan features a 3.0L 6cyl Turbodiesel 6A engine, and gets 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway (for a combined total of 27).


The 2011 BMW X5 xDrive 35d features is a 265 horsepower, 3.0-liter, inline 6-cylinder engine with TwinPower Turbo technology that gets 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

Buick – There are no Buick diesel models available in the US for 2011.

Cadillac – Cadillac does not currently offer any of their models in Diesel.

Chevrolet – There are no Chevy cars that feature diesel, but the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Pickup Truck comes with a Duramax 6.6L Turbo-Diesel V8 that has an output of 397 max horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque.

This truck is supposed to have a 11% increase in fuel saving technology over the 2010 model.

Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge – Chrysler and Jeep do not offer any cars with diesel capabilities for 2011. Dodge, however does. The 2011 Ram Chassis is available in diesel (if you plan to do a lot of heavy loading from now and then, or are really just a hoss).

In addition, the 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 models are also slated to be diesel trucks, with the 2500 typically getting 15 mpg city and 20 hwy.

Ford – Cars, not so much. Trucks, Yes. The Ford Super Duty models (F-250, F-350, and F-450) are all available with a 6.7L Power Stroke(R) V8 Turbo Diesel Engine.

These trucks are workhorses, but can also be the maximum in comfort. The King Ranch edition, for example comes fully loaded so you can utilize your truck in style as well as in an alternative fuel manner.

GMC – Much like Chevy, GMC will feature the Sierra 2500 HD and 3500 HD models with a diesel engine.

Honda – While there has been plenty of speculation and hope of Honda releasing a 2011 diesel model in the US, it doesn’t appear as if that will be happening.

Hyundai – The folks over at Hyundai currently have no diesel models slated for the US in 2011.

Kia – Kia currently does not have a diesel powered car in the US market.

Lexus – While there are plenty of fuel efficient hybrids that Lexus has to offer, they currently do not have a diesel model available in the United States.

Lincoln – There are no Lincoln diesel models listed for the 2011 year.

Mazda – No diesel models are listed for 2011.

Mercedes-Benz – Mercedes features three models with their diesel Bluetec system. These models are the ML350, the GL350, and the R350. The R350 model is a crossover, while the G and M models are sport utility vehicles.

As far as gas mileage is concerned the M class will get 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, the G class will get 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, and the R class will get 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. These models were also available in 2010.

Mercury – There are no Mercury diesel models listed for 2011.

Mitsubishi –2011 does not have any diesel models listed for Mercury.

Nissan – There are no diesel cars slated to come out for Nissan in 2011, despite some speculation.

Pontiac – There are no new Pontiacs for 2011, or ever for that matter. Hence, there will be no Pontiac models available as diesel powered cars either.

Porsche – While there is a Porsche Cayenne diesel powered SUV available in Europe, there is not currently one available in the USA.

However, a unique fact is that the engine technology used for the Porsche Cayenne Diesel features the same look and basic engine design of the Volkswagon Toureg TDI and the Audi Q7 TDI, both of which are available in the United States of America.

Saab – There are currently no Saab diesel models slated for 2011 in America.

Saturn – There are currently no Saturn diesel models available. Much like Pontiac, there will be no more Saturns made ever. So hope you weren’t holding out hope for a Saturn diesel model, because quite simply put: it’s not going to happen.

Subaru – Subaru unfortunately doesn’t have any diesel models available in the US, although they are available in Europe.

Toyota – There has also been some buzz and speculation of Toyota potentially releasing a diesel model in the US in 2011, but this will not be the case either.

Volkswagen – Ah yes, the “V-dub.” There are actually four Volkswagen diesel models available in the United States. They are the Touareg TDI (a sport utility vehicle), the Jetta TDI, The Jetta SportWagen TDI, and the Volkswagen Golf.

Gas Milage for the Touareg is 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. For the Jetta, it’s a whopping 30 mpg and 42 mpg highway. As far as the golf is concerned, you’re going to be looking at a very similar number: 30 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.

Volvo – There have been Volvo diesels before, and there are Volvo diesel cars overseas, but 2011 will not see any Volvo diesel cars in the United States.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

2010 diesel cars in the USA: here’s the lineup

Wait! Have you seen our guide to 2011 diesel cars yet?

There really hasn’t been any significant increase in the number of diesel cars available on the US market since our 2009 diesel car post from last year.  While common in Europe, stricter emissions requirements in some states and the recent temporary bout of high priced diesel fuel here has most car manufacturers hesitant to invest the money for what has only shown to be a small segment of the market so far in the United States.

Here is this year’s list of which 2010 diesel cars that automobile manufacturers will be offering:

ACURA:

Acura does not offer a diesel model.

AUDI:

Q7TDIandA3TDI__mid
AUDI Q7 and A3 TDI, courtesy Audi

A3 2.0 TDI clean diesel is available, details here, a small hatchback that gets 30 mpg hwy, 42 city.

Audi Q7 TDI will be Audi’s diesel engined SUV, getting 17 mpg city, 25 mpg hwy.  Details available here.

These vehicle will take a maximum of B5 biodiesel.

BMW:

From BMW USA:

335d“We offer two diesels, the BMW Advanced Diesel 335d and the X5xDrive35d.  They have been on sale since January of this year.”x5_xDrive_35d

.

BUICK:

No Buick diesels for 2010

CADILLAC:

No Cadillac Diesels

CHEVROLET:

No diesel engine cars for Chevy  this year.

CHRYSLER, JEEP, and DODGE:

No diesel cars this year for Chrysler brands.

FORD:

No diesel cars for Ford this year.

HONDA:

From Honda: “There are no current plans to bring a diesel-powered vehicle to the US in 2010.“

HYUNDAI:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

KIA:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

LEXUS:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

LINCOLN:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

MAZDA:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

MERCEDES-BENZ:

Mercedes ML-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz
Mercedes ML-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz

This year Mercedes offers the ML350 sport utility, 18 mpg city 26 hwy, R350 crossover, 18 mpg city 24 hwy, and the GL350 sport utility, 17 mpg ciy 23 hwy.  According to a representitive in addition to the above  Mercedes USA  will be adding the E350 to the famous Blutec Diesel line later in the year.

Mercedes RL-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz
Mercedes RL-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz

Mercedes GL-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz
Mercedes GL-350 courtesy Mercedes Benz

MERCURY:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

MITSUBISHI:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

NISSAN:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

PONTIAC:

The Pontiac brand has been discontinued.  Although the EPA lists a few Pontiacs for 2010, GM does not.

SAAB:

Saab, a division of GM,  formerly sold a diesel model. But it does not have one this year in the US, or in other countries.

SATURN:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

SUBARU:

In other countries, Subura offers the Legacy, Impreza, Outback, and Forrester all equipped with their impressive diesel boxer motor.  Sadly, none of those are available here so equipped.

TOYOTA:

No diesels listed for the 2010 model year.

VOLKSWAGEN:

Volkswagon Jetta courtesy Volkswagon
Volkswagen Jetta courtesy Volkswagen

golf2
Volkswagen Golf TDI courtesy Volkswagen

Volkswagen will have the Jetta, 30 city 42 hwy , The Golf, 30 city 42 hwy, and the  Touareg SUV 18 city, 26 hwy.  These vehicle will take a maximum of B5 biodiesel.  To learn more, visit Volkswagen’s Clean Diesel Site

Volkswagon Touareg courtesy Volkswagon
Volkswagen Touareg courtesy Volkswagen

VOLVO:

Although there was talk of a 2010 diesel SUV from Volvo, it has failed to materialize.

2010 Hybrid Cars: Here’s the Lineup.

The number of hybrid cars keeps increasing, and while it is definitely a step in the right direction for emission reduction and fuel economy, the real importance of the hybrid car is in the evolution of transportation in general.

Technology, when it first comes out, isn’t always immediately cheaper than existing alternatives.  The Chevy Malibu Hybrid, for example, cost more to make than it sold for.  But putting these cars in the hands of real world people has helped manufacturers improve technology to the point where they are becoming financially beneficial, both to the manufacturer and the consumer.   Several companies have actual plug-in electrics just around the corner — possibly hitting the streets this year.

So, here is this year’s list of the major automobile manufacturer offerings for hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs.

ACURA:

Acura does not offer a hybrid model.

AUDI:

Although rumors of a Q5 hybrid have been circulating since 2008, it doesn’t appear that it will make it to the 2010 roster.

BMW:

From BMW USA:

“We will introduce two hybrids in Frankfurt, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 and BMW ActiveHybrid X6.  They are the production version of our two first gas-electric passenger vehicles.

The ActiveHybrid X6 will be the most powerful hybrid in the world and the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is projected to be the fastest hybrid in the world and each

BMW Active Hybrid X6 Courtesy BMW
BMW Active Hybrid X6 Courtesy BMW

will feature between 15-20% increase in fuel efficiency.  The ActiveHybrid X6 is a “two mode” hybrid featuring full-electric operation up to 37mph for 1.6 miles and it goes on sale in December 2009.

BMW Active Hybrid 7 Courtesy BMW
BMW Active Hybrid 7 Courtesy BMW

The ActiveHybrid 7 is a “mild hybrid” and uses electric motors to boost the operation of a gasoline engine and recaptures energy in a lithium-ion battery and it goes on sale in Spring 2010.”

BUICK:

No Buick Hybrids for 2010

CADILLAC:

2010 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid courtesy General Motors
2010 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid courtesy General Motors

Cadillac will be selling the Escalade 2-Mode Hybrid SUV again this year, 21mpg city/22 hwy.  This is essentially a luxury version of the GMC  Yukon full size SUV, and as such the mileage is pretty respectable given the size.

CHEVROLET:

2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid Courtesy General Motors
2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid Courtesy General Motors

In all of GM the only hybrid car they list for 2010 is the Malibu Hybrid, running their Ecotec 2.4L 4 cyl.  Don’t look for it on the showroom however, because it’s been dropped from the lineup due to lack of sales of the 2009 models.  However The Silverado 2-Mode Hybrid pickup, and the Tahoe 2-Mode hybrid SUV are still

2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Courtesy General Motors
2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Courtesy General Motors

being produced, and we’re hopeful the Volt (GM’s new electric ) may make its debut  in 2010. The trucks feature a 6.0L V-8 engine now compatible with E85.

The Silverado and the Tahoe get 21mpg city/22 hwy.  Not terrible for a full size pickup or SUV by any means.

CHRYSLER, JEEP, and DODGE:

No hybrids this year for Chrysler brands.

FORD:

2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Courtesy Ford Motor Company
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Courtesy Ford Motor Company

Ford offers the Escape hybrid, a compact crossover SUV,  Getting an impressive 31 mpg hwy, and 34 mpg city.  They also offer the Fusion hybrid, a midsize with an estimated 41 mpg city 36 hwy.

fsn10_pg_010_ext_med

GMC:

2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid
2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid Courtesy General Motors

The truck division of General Motors is producing  the Sierra pickup and the Yukon SUV in 2 mode hybrid form.  They both get 21mpg city/22 hwy.  Not terrible for a full size pickup or SUV by any means.  The trucks feature a 6.0L V-8

2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid Courtesy General Motors
2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid Courtesy General Motors

engine now compatible with E85. GMC also offers a full size hybrid city bus.

HONDA:

From Honda:

“For the 2010 model year, Honda already has two hybrid vehicles on sale in the US, the Civic Hybrid and the all-new Insight.  Additionally, Honda has announced that an all-new sporty hybrid called the CR-Z will come to the US sometime in the calendar year 2010.  Details about that vehicle are limited at this time, but it will be based on the CR-Z concept vehicle that has been shown at several international auto shows in the past couple of years.“

The Civic hybrid gets an estimated 40 mpg city, and 53 mpg hwy and retails for $23,650.

The Honda Insight hybrid gets 40mpg city and 43 hwy, and starts at $19,800.

HYUNDAI:

No Hybrids listed for the 2010 model year.

KIA:

No Hybrids listed for the 2010 model year.

LEXUS:

Lexus 250h Courtesy Lexus
Lexus 250h Courtesy Lexus

Lexus, a division of Toyota, offers the RX450h Luxury utility vehicle with an estimated 32 mpg  city 28 mpg hwy, the LS 600h L luxury sedan , the  GS450h “Luxury Sport Sedan, and the HS250h at 34 city and

Lexus 450h Courtesy Lexus
Lexus 450h Courtesy Lexus

35 hwy and will be the first hybrid only luxury car.

LINCOLN:

No Hybrids listed for the 2010 model year.

MAZDA:

Mazda offers the

Mazda Triubute Courtesy Mazda
Mazda Triubute Courtesy Mazda

Tribute Hybrid crossover SUV for 2010, getting an estimated 34 city and 31 hwy.

MERCEDES-BENZ:

Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid Courtesy Mercedes Benz
Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid Courtesy Mercedes Benz

Mercedes offers the S400 hybrid, a large luxury car getting 19 city and 26 hwy.  Not great compared to some of the other cars here, but pretty respectable for a large luxury car.

MERCURY:

2010 Mercury Mariner Hybrid courtesy Ford Motor Company
2010 Mercury Mariner Hybrid courtesy Ford Motor Company

Mercury has the Mariner hybrid SUV getting 34 city 31 hwy, and the Milan Hybrid midsize getting 41 city and 36 hwy.

MITSUBISHI:

No Hybrids listed for the 2010 model year.

NISSAN:

Nissan Leaf Electric Courtesy Nissan
Nissan Leaf Electric Courtesy Nissan

Nissan has the Altima Hybrid, at 21 mpg city 26 mpg hwy.  But the really exciting news from Nissan is the full electric Nissan Leaf.  Although it wont be available to the general public until around 2012 the Leaf will be sold to government agencies and corporate customers this year.  The leaf will have a range of around 100 miles on a single charge, and should be priced comparably with other family sedans.

PONTIAC:

The Pontiac brand has been discontinued.  Although the EPA lists a few Pontiacs for 2010, GM does not.

SUBARU:

SATURN:

Due to the tentative sale of Saturn no reliable information on what, if any, cars will bear the Saturn name.  Of the three cars that GM will produce under contract after the sale two were previously available as Hybrids, the Vue and the Aura.  The EPA lists specs for a Saturn Vue hybrid, at 25 city 32 hwy but it also lists other cars that have been canceled.

TOYOTA:

Toyota Prius Courtesy of Toyota
Toyota Prius Courtesy of Toyota

For Toyota, we have the Prius, of course, with an estimated 51 mpg city and 48 mpg hwy.  Also offered in hybrid is the larger Camry at 33 city, 34 hwy, and the Highlander midsized SUV.

VOLKSWAGEN:

Despite a lot of hype a year ago about a hybrid to be released in 2010, there is no word from Volkswagen on when it will come about.  Maybe 2011.

VOLVO:

Rumors and reports of a plug in Hybrid V70 wagon to be released by Volvo in 2010 have been circulating, but according to Volvo we are looking at 2012 before it’s a reality.

Toyota Camry Hybrid Courtesy of Toyota
Toyota Camry Hybrid Courtesy of Toyota

Still wonder what hybrid is for you? Car and driver did this showdown of 2010 famly hybrids.  They include the now-defunct Chevy.

If you would like more information about hybrids, Check out the following links:

http://www.howstuffworks.com/hybrid-car.htm

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybridtech.shtml

http://www.motortrend.com/new_cars/27/hybrid_cars/index.html

http://www.edmunds.com/green-cars/index.html