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'Green Is in the Eye of the Beholder'

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By Sakina Rangwala
washingtonpost.com
Friday, February 6, 2009; 9:18 PM

Central to the 2009 Washington Auto Show is the Green Car Pavilion, which focuses on emerging green technologies in the auto industry and features more than 30 models on display. Cars with solar panels, "plugged-in" cars, and starter companies displaying small innovations take center stage. We caught up with Ron Cogan, of Green Car Journal and GreenCar.com, for a quick Q&A on what consumers should know:

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Q. What exactly is green car technology?

A. "Green Is in the Eye of the Beholder." In recent times "green" has been translated more to mean higher fuel efficiency -- which literally means using less gas, which in turn creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions when you have higher fuel economy.

"Green" to some people means hybrids but that's not the case. The hybrid achieves the goal by virtue of the technology, but you can also get 35 miles per gallon in a Ford Focus which is a normal gasoline car and costs about $15,000.

Q. What kinds of green fuels are available on the market? And which cars use them?

A. It is hard to say what green fuel is here to stay, but here is what you can consider:

Propane

Propane had fallen off the map for cars and was used mainly by fleet. But because of high gasoline and diesel prices, propane is now starting to show up as a fuel of interest. There are some companies like Ford and Roush that are starting a Ford F150 propane pick-up and a heavier duty pick-up called the Ford F250.

Diesel

Diesel was always popular because it gives 30 percent better fuel economy as compared to gasoline. But unfortunately diesel wasn't necessarily clean. But it suddenly has become an accepted clean fuel because the federal government mandated an ultra low sulfur diesel fuel across the country. Automakers have now reengineered their diesel systems to make use of that fuel and we are seeing the first of the clean diesel models being introduced now. The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is one example.

Natural Gas

There is only one manufacturer who makes natural gas vehicles and that is Honda, with its Honda Civic GX. Those are sold in most states now but are sold in limited numbers. Not everybody can find one if they want one, because they tend to sell- out.


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