green cars

What Innovations Are in the Future of the Car Market?

We have all heard the cheers or jeers over electric and fuel cell vehicles that debut at auto shows around the world, but at this year’s Detroit Auto Show we were able to find more cheers than jeers. This year’s show took on more of a “green” exterior and appeased the environmentalist in all of us.

Many debuts for 2015 were cars that took last year’s model or idea to the next level of conservation. Makers ranging from Hyundai to Mercedes featured electric vehicles. Then makers such as Honda showcased a fuel cell vehicle. Trust me I am not one to complain so you will only hear cheers coming from this direction when I cover some of the top cars.

Charging towards the Future

Chevy was one of the first to shock the onlookers with its Chevrolet Bolt. The Bolt will hit a price point of $30,000 and have a range of 200 miles. Chevy is looking to compete with the Nissan Leaf, since both are in the same price range but the Bolt comes with a larger range. This electric car will truly challenge Tesla Motors on becoming the first to make electric vehicles mainstream.[i] Most gas powered cars get 300 miles to a tank, while electric vehicles get around 100 miles before a charge.[ii] The Chevrolet Bolt makes the consumer happy with a range of 200 miles to a charge. Look for the Bolt to hit your nearest dealership in 2017.

Now we move to a luxury EV, the Mercedes Benz- C350 plug-in hybrid. Many might think that this C350 doesn't carry the same firepower that a normal C350 might, but they would be wrong. This EV is a 208-horsepower four cylinder turbocharged machine that can reach up to 130 miles per hour. [iii] Though this machine is fast it can also get 19 miles on an electric charge. One other item to note regarding this hybrid is the battery can be charged in under two hours using a regular 240-volt outlet.[iv]

Where the Hydrogen Meets the Highway

In 2014 we saw Toyota come out with its first fuel cell vehicle. Now we are seeing almost every major car manufacturer joining the FCV game in 2015. Honda was one of those car manufacturers who joined the game this year. The company debuted a five passenger hydrogen powered car that expands upon their first try at an FCV the Honda Clarity. This sedan has a driving range of 300 miles and can refuel in about 5 minutes. Since many might ask why would I buy an FCV when there aren’t any charging stations near me? Well that may be changing within the State of California. Honda has partnered with FirstElement Fuel to build additional hydrogen fueling stations.[v] And believe it or not California has the most hydrogen fueling stations than any other region in the world. [vi]

Hopefully you are as excited as I am when it comes to the new developments in the auto industry that will help to better our environment. I know I would truly appreciate cleaner air after living in the Central Valley for the past 24 years. And if you are from the Central Valley you know what I may be referring to…smog.

[i] “Chevy Could Beat Tesla to Building the First Mainstream Electric Car”, Jan., 14, 2015,
[ii] “ Chevrolet unveils $30k Bolt electric car with a 200-mile range!”, Jan., 14, 2015,
[iii] “Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid promises 20 miles EV range, 5.9 seconds to 60”, Jan. 14, 2015,
[iv] “Mercedes-Benz C 350 Plug-in Hybrid debuts at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show”, Jan., 14, 2015,
[v] Honda FCV fuel-cell concept makes its U.S. debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show”, Jan., 16, 2015,
[vi] Driving for the Future”, Jan., 16, 2015,

Money Monday: Why I Drive a Nissan Leaf Electric Car

It's another Money Monday Guest Blog!  Woo hoo!  Friend to the SJVCEO, Tom Cotter shared this fantastic story that he originally wrote for Green Car Reports.  Learn how Tom is not only doing his part for our environment, but how he's helping out his bank account too--all by making the choice to drive a Leaf!  

Although, I still love my Prius I may consider talking my husband into the Leaf...

Why I Drive a Nissan Leaf Electric Cat: One Owner's Story
Every day I get in my car and drive to work, I'm saving money.

That's because last summer I bought an all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf, and my gas station stops are a thing of the past.

I figure I'm saving about $3,300 in annual gas and oil change bills, compared to the average Ford Expedition driver.

The average electricity cost to power my Leaf is about $870 less than what my Prius-driving friends spend at the pump.

That's hard-earned money I can use to take my wife and three kids out to dinner once in a while.

I'm glad I no longer depend on oil to drive, but I didn't make this decision lightly. As a minister in my previous life, I know that I have a biblical and moral responsibility to take better care of the earth.

It was especially heartbreaking for me to learn that much of the pollution in our air and contamination of other natural resources result in severe consequences that disproportionately affect the poorest among us.

As I learned about the challenges and real opportunities for improvement, I was motivated to begin making some changes, including in my family's energy and transportation choices.

The good news is that we can make the right choices by changing how we use energy. Driving an electric car is one of the most efficient ways to reduce energy use and decrease pollution.

But that doesn't mean sacrificing our lifestyles. Switching to clean transportation like electric cars can be surprisingly fun.

In fact, driving my Leaf is sort of a "Zen" experience, quiet and full of push-you-back-in-your-seat torque. Almost everyone I meet wants to drive it.

Just ask my kids. You give them a choice between my Leaf and my wife's alternative-fuel VW Jetta sedan, and there's not much competition; it's Daddy's car every time.

What's great about electric cars is they are only getting better and more efficient. There are more and more charging stations cropping up in town.

My car's 70- to 110-mile range between charges is plenty for our needs. I can charge at home when I'm sleeping or even at the office.

I'm a firm believer in moving aggressively toward using available and realistic clean energy sources. I've seen it work again and again, both in my job and first-hand at my own solar-powered home in Clovis, California.

For me, driving a clean car is about two different kinds of green: the greening of the planet and of my wallet.

Once I looked at the numbers and benefits of driving electric, not even counting solar, it was a no-brainer. I know more and more Americans will be joining me in this all-electric car revolution.

So when I wake up in the morning, I look out in my driveway and smile. I'm doing my part to help reduce climate-changing greenhouse gases and improve air quality.

Plus, I'm making life better for my family by protecting our bank account.

That's a clean energy future I can support.

Tom Cotter is a renewable energy evangelist, social entrepreneur, activist, trained presenter for the Climate Reality Project, and ordained minister. Professionally, Tom is Regional Sales Manager at Real Goods Solar. He is Chairman and President of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame and serves on the boards of both the Solar Living Institute and Restore Hetch Hetchy. This is his first story for Green Car Reports.

photo credit: Tom Cotter
photo credit: Stephen Rees via photopin cc

photo credit: OregonDOT via photopin cc

US consumers still skeptical of green cars

Consumers in the United Kingdom like cars that get great mileage.

In fact, according to a recent study by, Toyota Prius sales in Great Britain are up 51.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and Nissan's Leaf looks like another big hit.

Meanwhile, across the pond, U.S. consumers are less excited by green automobiles, a category that includes hybrids and electric. Sure, small car sales are up and Chevy's done great business with its revamped automotive lineup that includes the electric/gas Volt.

But automotive consultant JD Power and Associates in its inaugural 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study says, "Automakers will be fighting over the relatively few consumers who are willing to drive green."

It could be the price of fuel. reported an average UK cost to the equivalent of about $8.33 per gallon. That compares with a California average of about $4.12 as of May 23, according to AAA.

Big motivator. Americans are used to towing, hauling and packing in the number of passengers we want. Need help with that horse trailer? How about grabbing a tow bar and dragging that piece of junk Oldsmobile to the nonprofit junk car fundraiser?

Sure, we say. No problem. That's what that 460-cubic-inch monster in the pickup out back is for. Step on the gas pedal and watch the little red needle on the fuel gauge drop. It's a matter of pride with a lot of us.

Westlake Village, Calif.-based JD Power says that cultural phenomenon may stick with us awhile. I certainly haven't seen a decrease in the number of massive SUVs on the road. I find it reassuring to be sandwiched between a couple of them in a parking lot. Backing-out roulette is always an invigorating experience.

The study says consumers cite purchase price as a stumbling block to get into the new line of green cars. Remember, this is for electric and hybrid automobiles.

Other problems mentioned by consumers were driving range, or lack of it (a Leaf, according to a source, gets about 84 miles to a charge), increased maintenance costs and performance. The study says consumers are more likely to "switch into a more fuel-efficient vehicle powered by a traditional internal combustion engine than an alternative powertrain vehicle."

Yet, I've written about how Honda has positioned its hybrid Insight base price very close to that of the Civic. The statistics for performance aren't much different, although, and I've mentioned this before, my wife said there was no way anybody would catch her behind the wheel of "that thing," as she referred to the Insight. She purchased a Civic.

Peggy's issue was more cosmetic. She didn't care for the design, but like other consumers in the JD Power study she also worried about battery replacement costs.

My family tends to keep our cars and drive them a lot. Our daughter sold the 1986 Accord LX at 360,000 miles and it was still going somewhat strong. My 1981 Toyota pickup was cut up for scrap at about 260,000 miles but by that time was so tired and rotted out rust-wise that it had few usable parts.

And I'm still bound and determined to keep my 1974 Super Beetle functioning.

Drivers in the UK are a bit more adventurous, and perhaps a bit more insightful. Chris Green, co-founder and sales director of, said increased demand can be traced to increased reliability and performance.

"In the future, we will see more and more people opting for cars that are cheap to maintain rather than splashing out on models to impress the neighbours," Green said in a statement. He estimated demand will increase in the island nation dramatically over the next 18 months.

And in this country, expectations are that consumers will buy into the alternative concept. Nissan has said it will install 30 solar-assisted charging stations at its Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant in Franklin, Tenn.

And they will have a lot to choose from. JD Power says that by the end of 2016, it expects manufacturers to offer 159 hybrid and electric vehicle models in the U.S. market. In 2009, there were 31.

Photo: Along the Oodnadatta Track, Australia, by mancity.

Green Car Show, Activities Planned At Fresno Earth Day Event

An impressive lineup of green vehicles - including some powered by solar and biofuel - will be among the displays at the 2011 Fresno Earth Day celebration scheduled for April 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2672 E. Alluvial Ave.

The Fresno Earth Day Coalition is sponsoring the free event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church near Alluvial and Chestnut avenues. Display vehicles will include a solar Toyota Prius, a Volkswagen Jetta powered by vegetable oil, and a Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

But that's not all. This year's event, which is the second hosted at the church, will have more than 75 vendors and other participants. Among the star attractions: A group of students at Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) will show off their biodiesel processor - a machine that makes biodiesel out of vegetable oil, waste vegetable oil, and animal fats.

There will be demonstrations on solar cooking, making biofuel, composting, earthworms and bee hives, and vegetarian cooking. A bike tour is planned, along with live music and activities for children. Bicyclists are encouraged to attend - there will be bike tours, helmet checks and even valet parking for bikes.

The 2010 Earth Day event attracted around 400 people; organizers hope for more this year. For more information, visit the Earth Day Web site at

The Fresno Earth Day Coalition is holding the event. Members include Fresno Metro Ministry, Green Fresno, San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust and the La Querencia cohousing community.

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