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Alternative fuel options

These days every car company seems to be promoting their product as being the most fuel efficient, cost efficient, family- and planet-friendly thing on wheels. But which one is best for you? What can you buy that will go easy on the planet, without ruining your bank account or your morning commute?

If you're considering a greener ride here's a quick snapshot of what your next car needs in its tank and what it's going to cost you.

Electric cars
Guy Dauncey, executive director of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, based in Victoria, B.C., says his money is on electric vehicles for a variety of reasons.

Electric cars are the most fuel efficient, costing under $12 for enough "fuel" to travel 100 miles, or 160 kilometres, on a single charge. "I know a man here [in Victoria] who recently drove 1,300 kilometres in his new Nissan Leaf. It cost him $12.40," says Dauncey.

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In addition to their fuel efficiency, Dauncey points out that electric engines have very few moving parts making them less prone to the kinds of mishaps incurred by internal combustion engines. That means driving a fully electric car, like the Leaf, can save you money on repairs as well as fuel. In the case of Dauncey's Victoria driver, he can expect to save at least $2,000 a year on fuel and maintenance.

However, as of yet, an electric car's battery cannot hold a charge long enough for long-distance driving and there are no consistent provisions for meeting the needs of electric car drivers who need a charge partway into a road trip.

In Israel there are battery replacement stations similar to gas stations; you drive your car into a battery station, attendants replace the battery in about the same time you would need to fill up your tank and you're on your way. The problem in Canada right now is that this service doesn't exist -- not yet, at least.

Another drawback for going electric is the initial cost. On average, an electric car will cost you nearly $20,000 more than a comparable gas-fuelled vehicle. It will probably pay for itself in a decade or so but as Jonathan Wu, sales manager of Volkswagen of Surrey in Surrey, B.C., points out, "Something we haven't seen happen yet is the cost of having to replace that battery. We don't know what that will cost yet."

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-- Posted May 21, 2012
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