Between growing environmental awareness and the soaring price of gasoline, green vehicles are on the rise. These cars not only save you on fuel costs, but some are even zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) so they help reduce greenhouse gases as well.
To find the right green vehicle for your needs, it helps to understand the different types of green vehicles available. Below, we outline the various green vehicles and their respective pros and cons.
There’s a wide range of green vehicles to pick from. Some use no fuel and produce no emissions, while others supplement fuel use with electricity. Let’s review the various green vehicles and their pros and cons.
HEVs are among the least expensive green vehicles, combining a traditional internal-combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor and small battery pack. This combination helps save gasoline by supplementing the ICE’s output with electricity.
One thing that’s nice about HEVs is that there’s no need to charge their batteries. Instead, they are automatically charged by the internal-combustion engine and, in many cases, the regenerative braking system. However, HEVs tend not to have an all-electric range (AER), meaning they can’t drive on electricity alone for anything faster than 8 km/h — and even then, only for very short distances.
Generally, these vehicles offer fuel consumption ratings of 4 to 6 L/100km combined, depending on the size of the vehicle.
Some examples of HEVs include the Toyota Prius, Honda Accord Hybrid, and Kia Optima Hybrid.
The next step up in the green vehicle class is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). These vehicles are very similar to HEVs, but they generally have a larger battery and a more powerful electric motor that gives them a longer all-electric driving range. Once the battery depletes, the ICE turns on to convert it into a hybrid.
Typically, you can expect these vehicles to travel 40 to 80 km on a full charge before the ICE kicks in. However, the BMW i3 is an outlier in the PHEV segment, traveling upward of 203 km on a charge. Because PHEVs have a smaller battery than full EVs, you can usually get a full charge overnight on a standard household plug, so there’s no need for special charging equipment.
While running on battery, PHEVs typically deliver 2 to 4 Le (litre equivalents) per 100km combined. Once they kick into hybrid mode, the fuel efficiency averages about 4.5 to 7 L/100km combined.
Some popular PHEV models include the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevy Volt, and Hyundai Ionic PHEV. While PHEVs are generally about as engaging to drive as a typical HEV, there are some more engaging models, such as the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and Porsche 918 Spyder. Keep in mind, these higher-performing PHEVs get far worse fuel economy in hybrid mode — 10 to 12 L/100km.
Battery electric vehicles are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since 1890 and accounted for about one-third of all vehicles on the road in 1900! But they fell out of favor and mostly disappeared by 1935.
Today, with advancements in battery and charging technology and rising gasoline prices, BEVs are becoming popular again. These vehicles require no gasoline, as they have high-capacity lithium-ion battery packs that give them ranges upward of 400, 500 or even 600 km on a single charge. Fuel-efficiency equivalents depend on the size of the vehicle and the power of its electric motors, but they are still far more efficient than the average ICE. Expect fuel consumption equivalent ratings of 1.7 to 3.6 Le/100 km combined.
While these electric cars can recharge on a standard household plug, it can take days to charge a depleted battery to 100%. In most cases, BEV owners must install a 220-volt outlet or a Level 2 charging system in their garage. This can cost upward of $1,000.
When you’re on the go, there are public chargers available throughout Canada. Some are similar to the Level 2 charger you can install in your home, while others are DC Fast Charging stations that can charge most electric car batteries from 10% to 80% in less than 20 minutes. Some chargers are free, but most will charge you per kilowatt or by the minute.
While electric cars are thought of mostly for their efficiency, the instant torque an electric motor delivers also gives them a nice jump in speed when driving from a complete stop. Some BEVs are outright fast, such as the Tesla Model S, which can sprint to 100 km/h in 2.1 seconds.
Nearly every automaker has at least one battery-powered electric car in its lineup today, but some of the more popular ones include the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Hyundai IONIQ Electric, and Ford Mustang Mach-E. Generally, electric cars are a good bit more expensive than HEVs and PHEVs, but they often qualify for the largest national and federal electric car incentives and have minimal maintenance requirements to offset the cost.
Hydrogen FCEVs are an interesting lot, as people often mistakenly believe they run on hydrogen. They don’t. Instead, they use the electricity created when bonding hydrogen and oxygen to charge a battery, which fuels an electric motor. They also emit no greenhouse gases, as the bonding of hydrogen and oxygen emits only water.
Aside from their hydrogen tanks and fuel cell assembly, an FCEV runs and drives just like a BEV. Arguably the biggest benefit of FCEVs is that you can refill their hydrogen tanks in just a few minutes. However, hydrogen refuelling stations remain quite scarce in Canada.
FCEVs themselves are also quite limited, as Hyundai released only 25 NEXO FCEVs in Canada in 2018. While FCEVs may seem like the perfect compromise between ICE vehicles and BEVs, they are still in their infancy in Canada.
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