Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Practically" Zero Emissions Vehicles

While Subaru is generally more famous for rally shenanigans than fuel efficiency, by no means are they known for that alone. Subaru is also very friendly to the environment.

In fact, long before SUVs bore the stigma they bear today, Subaru was making what we now know as "crossovers". I'd go as far as saying they invented the genre with the original Outback.

There is very little that an SUV can do that an Outback can't. And anyone with even the slightest environmental conscience can see that. 90% of the "work" an average, soccer-mom driven, SUV does can be accomplished by a moderately sized wagon. Even those who makes an excuse to own an SUV by claiming they need the added traction of 4 wheel drive have no excuse since Subaru has that covered as well. Perhaps that's why Subaru is one of the only brands not posting losses month after moth ever since the gas price spike of last summer. They give you cake, and let you eat it too.

What's this about "zero emissions" though? Subaru's run on gas like any other internal combustion engine powered vehicles on the roads today. They aren't hybrids, and they certainly aren't EVs. In fact, due to the added weight and resistance of the all-wheel drivetrain, a Subaru vehicle will almost always be slightly less fuel efficient than a similarly sized 2 wheel drive counterpart. It's a small price to pay for drivers who live in a climate where the roads are snow and/or ice covered for 4+ months of the year.

That being said, Subarus can be "green". The Legacy model range (including the Outback) is manufactured at Subaru's production facility in Indiana, which is a zero landfill plant. Yes, a factory that produces 200,000 cars a year has 0% waste. 99.8% is recycled, and the last 0.2% is incinerated according to EPA requirements (otherwise I'm sure they'd find a way to recycle that too).

Even more interesting than that is the fact that Subaru produces three models in the Legacy range that are classified as PZEVs, or "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles". (Yes, that's a bit of an oxymoron... it either is, or it isn't zero emissions. I prefer my own definition of "practically" zero emissions.)

What does PZEV mean though?

It means that the cars built to that standard are fanatically clean. Vehicles sold in North America are among the cleanest ever due to the uber-strict emissions laws in the state of California. PZEV vehicles are a further 90% cleaner than even that!

The only cars on the roads cleaner than a PZEV are those that run on no fuel at all, solely on batteries!

The U.S. EPA rates vehicles on a scale of 10 for cleanliness. An electric scores 10. The average new car today scores about 6. A hybrids scores about 8.

A Subaru PZEV scores 9.5!

Emissions from the tailpipe of a PZEV can even be cleaner than the ambient air in urban areas.

And all this environmental friendliness doesn't come with a premium price tag either. The PZEV equipment is standard on the base model of the Legacy sedan and wagon, as well as the lower intermediate model of the Outback.

For a full road test review of the Subaru PZEV you check out this article on Sympatico/MSN.

And then be sure to check out Subaru's official PZEV mini-site at to decide which affordable, eco-friendly vehicle alternative is best for you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tesla Could Set EV Mileage Record

A lot of media people who have tested a Tesla Roadster have criticized the perceived mileage it gets on a single charge. Of course, when you give an automotive journalist a car he's going to thrash the hell out of it. (A few years ago I saw a bunch of Chrysler 300s after a media day at a local track. It wasn't a pretty site.) It's to be expected that a person given the task of writing about a vehicle will do anything and everything he can to the car in question in an effort to get every last ounce of performance out of it.

It makes for interesting reading, and more importantly... great photos to go along with the article.

However, unless you spend more time at a track than in traffic, very little that's been written about the Tesla in mainstream automotive journalism is relevant to the real world.

What is relevant is this article I found on earlier this week.

A Tesla driven in a normal day to day manner could potentially get about 280 miles on a charge. That's just over 450 kilometers. Now we're talking.

And how much does it cost to charge? That depends where you live and how much your electricity costs, but I've seen estimates ranging from $0.06/mile to as low as $0.02/mile.

Worst case scenario.... a "fill up" costs just over $16.

Best case... less than $6.

And electricity prices don't fluctuate on a whim either.