Researching the Best of Green Cars

Will Nixon shares his story of researching the best of green cars to replace his old-faithful Nissan Sentra.

| October/November 2003

A reader shares his story of researching the best of green cars to replace his Nissan Sentra.

At 210,000 miles, my beloved Nissan Sentra was given a death sentence by a mechanic who found the underbody too rusted to pass the next vehicle inspection. I wasn't surprised. For the past year, the car had grown rusty boils and stains, while pieces had chipped off in my hands like tree bark. Plus, the locks now froze in the snow, the speedometer light bulb had been burned out for months and the headlights looked dim as yellow parchment against the Catskills forest at night.

I'd miss this rugged little car. Bought used, it had served me well for five years of living in a log cabin and enjoying the sort of driving experiences on wilderness roads that many Americans only know from sports utility vehicle commercials.

But nothing lasts forever. I was ready for a new car. I wanted a hybrid.

By combining an electric motor with a gasoline engine, hybrid technology enables cars to get much better gas mileage than the norm. Although every environmentalist likes the idea of better fuel economy, hybrids still are something of a novelty.

In my case, a recent trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge had turned mileage into a personal issue. My girlfriend and I backpacked and rafted for 18 days through the refuge. We saw wolves and grizzlies, musk oxen and caribou migrating by the hundreds. To us, it felt like the last edge of the North American continent that our modern civilization hadn't conquered. On the 19th day, we visited the Prudhoe Bay oil complex, a military-like network of drilling pads, pipelines, gravel roads and processing plants spread across an area the size of Rhode island. If allowed to extend eastward into the refuge, the oil complex threatened to destroy the wild beauty of that landscape.

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