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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
Going green
Environmental concerns are bringing major changes -- right down to the cars we drive.
Going green
Alternative fuels: Is help on the way?

It would be hard to find someone who wouldn't support the idea of cutting back U.S. dependence on imported oil.

Vehicles that run on alternative fuels, such as E85, the mix of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, are currently generating a lot of discussion.

But is it a matter of "cents" versus nonsense?

Buyers of alternative-fuel vehicles can feel good about helping the environment, encouraging technological development or even feeding their need to own something that's cutting edge.

But, dollar for dollar, none of the alternatives to a gasoline-powered car or truck make economic or practical good sense at this point.

Pros and cons
Whether talking about hybrid gas-electric vehicles, all-electric vehicles, or cars and trucks that run on such fuels as diesel, biodiesel, E85, methanol, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and even hydrogen, the real-world economics rarely trump gasoline.
Comparing alternative fuels
1. Gas-electric hybrids
2. Electric-only vehicles
3. Diesel
4. Biodiesel fuel
5. E85 ethanol fuel
6. M85 methanol fuel
7. Compressed natural gas, or CNG
8. Liquified natural gas, or LNG
9. Hydrogen

To see how they stack up, here's a look at the pros and cons of alternative fuels:

Gas-electric hybrids
These vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines running on either gasoline or diesel fuel and by electric motors powered by batteries.

They get better fuel mileage than conventional gas-only vehicles and in some cases have fewer tailpipe emissions.
Depending on what model you buy, there are tax incentives available, as well as carpool-lane privileges.
The increase in fuel mileage often isn't as great as advertised, and it can take as much as 120,000 miles of driving before the fuel-cost savings overcome the added cost of a hybrid over a similar gas-only model.
The costs to replace the battery packs in a high-mileage hybrid could be very expensive.

Electric-only vehicles
These vehicles run on battery power only -- up to about 100 miles per charge traveling at highway speeds.

A big one: Zero tailpipe emissions.
They can be recharged at home.
The distance they can travel before needing to be recharged is extremely limited.
After a few such cars were made years ago, major manufacturers abandoned them as not practical.
The life of the battery packs remains uncertain.
-- Posted: Aug. 1, 2007
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