Whether your reason for wanting an electric car is ecological or economical, electric cars will be above the price range of many car buyers when they arrive. In an ironic twist of fate, the motorists who need electric cars the most in order to save money on gas are the ones who simply can’t afford them.
So what are the alternatives? How can you save money and still save the planet?
Putting aside the prospect of walking or riding a bike (let’s not kid ourselves – we humans can be a lazy bunch), and assuming you’re not in the market to convert your own car to electric, what cars can you buy today that rival the economy of the electric car?
Well, technically none, because electric cars are ridiculously efficient. But there are some gas-powered cars that aren’t too bad:
1: Volkswagen Lupo 3L Diesel.
It earned the name 3L because it was the world’s first production car to average less than 3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (78.4 mpg) in real world conditions. Now, I always suspected the exterior designers of most econo-box cars were middle aged and still lived with their parents with Thunderbirds posters on their walls – but the VW Lupo proves an econo-box car can look good. The Lupo has since ceased production, but second hand ones offer great buying and hold their value well. This is definitely the winner for those on a budget.
2: Smart Car Diesel.
Laugh if you want, but the diesel version of this nimble beast achieves 69 mpg / 3.4 L/100 km. The car is a collaboration between Daimler-Benz and the watch maker SWATCH (can you tell?) and is currently selling for $12,500 US. Although not as clean as a pure electric car, it emits only 88 g/km (4.9 oz/mile) of CO2. This means you can breath easy when you drive – as long as you don’t mind being seen in it of course.
3: Toyota Prius Hybrid.
It was inevitable: you can’t have a list of economical cars without a Prius making an appearance.
Admittedly it’s an expensive way to save fuel, with current models costing around $23,000 US, but with it’s impressive combined economy of 50 mpg (4.7 L/100 km) you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. It’s disappointing that the 2010 Prius still doesn’t come with a 110/220 volt recharging plug and a larger battery pack to boost your economy. Maybe on the next model? We live in hope.
4: Honda Insight Hybrid.
Another hybrid appears in the list, this time it’s a mid-sized four-seater from Honda. With bland Prius-like styling on the outside, combined with a fresh & funky layout on the inside, the Insight appears to have been designed by two separate groups who weren’t allowed to talk to each other.
Regardless, the Insight achieves a great combined economy rating of 41 mpg (5.7 L/100 km) and will hit your wallet at around $20,000 US.
5: Volkswagen Jetta Diesel
Car makers have always struggled with combining style and economy – yet Volkswagen do it like it’s a walk in the park. This freshest and latest diesel version of the Jetta achieves an impressive 40 mpg (5.8 L/100 km) and at around $20,000 it’s the same price as the Honda Insight, but in my opinion the Jetta is streets ahead in the looks department. Reports from individual test drivers all agree on one thing too: you won’t notice it runs on diesel. Finally, a diesel car that doesn’t sound like one.