Comparing Green Car Technology Options

These days, there are several energy-efficient powertrains, but which automotive technology is most likely to replace the gas engine? Which will become your new ride? 


By Todd Kaho 

Gasoline Engines 

Efficient Gasoline Engines

Pros: Newer automotive technologies such as direct fuel injection and turbocharging increase power and gas mileage

Cons: Some of these advanced features can add cost and complexity; still dependent on foreign oil

Infrastructure: Gasoline easiest to find of any motor fuel


Electric Vehicles


Electric Vehicles

Pros: Cheaper to operate than most other fuels; zero tailpipe emissions; convenient home charging; potential to get cleaner over time as more renewable energy (such as wind, solar) is added to our energy mix

Cons: Range anxiety, can’t realistically go cross-country; batteries are expensive

Infrastructure: About 6,000 public charging stations nationwide; growing steadily


Compressed Natural Gas


Compressed Natural Gas

Pros: Domestically sourced fuel in abundant supply; cleanest emissions for an internal combustion engine; potential for home fueling and dual-fuel flexibility

Cons: High-pressure fuel tanks; dual-fuel vehicles require two separate fueling systems and limits passenger/cargo space

Infrastructure: About 1,000 fueling stations in the United States


Gasoline Electric Hybrid


Gasoline-Electric Hybrid

Pros: Now a well-refined green car technology; adaptable to many types of vehicles; great drivability and gas mileage; no need to plug in

Cons: Advanced batteries are still expensive and heavy; battery materials come from foreign countries; can’t plug in

Infrastructure: Gasoline available everywhere


Clean Diesel


Clean Diesel

Pros: 30 to 35 percent better fuel economy than gas; great performance thanks to generous torque; renewable biofuel potential; superb engine longevity

Cons: Petrodiesel dependent on foreign oil; more expensive to produce than gasoline engines; more complex emissions controls; debatable energy return on biofuels options

Infrastructure: Diesel fuel readily available





Pros: Good choice for fleet use; less expensive than gasoline; clean-burning; possible to convert gas vehicles to propane; domestically produced fuel

Cons: Misunderstood fuel; lower energy content than gasoline and lower mpg equivalency rating

Infrastructure: 2,500 fueling stations in the United States


Plug-In Hybrid Electric


Plug-In Hybrid Electric

Pros: Impressive fuel economy; ability to operate greater distances with zero tailpipe emissions; home charging adds convenience, greater all-electric range

Cons: Requires even larger and more expensive batteries; added weight

Infrastructure: About 6,000 public charging stations nationwide; growing steadily


Flex Fuel


Flex Fuel E85 Ethanol

Pros: Partially a domestically sourced fuel; low-cost upgrade on most vehicles

Cons: Up to 30 percent lower fuel economy than gasoline; misunderstood fuel that can damage vehicles not designed for its use

Infrastructure: 2,500 stations nationwide; best coverage in the Midwest


Hydrogen Fuel Cell


Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Pros: Electric drive provides good power; tailpipe emissions are water vapor and heat; hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth

Cons: Hydrogen is currently expensive and power-intensive to produce; fueling stations concentrated in the Southwest

Infrastructure: Fewer than 100 public fueling stations in the United States


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