Going green? Do you want to go hybrid or all-electric?

It’s a choice made more difficult with the evolving world of green technology


Published: Friday, May 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.

Whether you’re looking for great fuel economy that saves you money or simply want to support the green movement by reducing your reliance on fossil fuels, there is a car out there for you.

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TOP: The Toyota Prius is a hybrid, meaning it uses both a four-cylinder gas engine and electric motor. ABOVE: The Nissan LEAF is exclusively electric. The car can travel about 110 miles on a full charge. (FILE PHOTOS BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

But should you buy an all-electric car or a hybrid?

It’s a challenging question, made more challenging by the rapid evolution of green technology that has flooded the market with many brands of fuel-efficient cars.

Take the Toyota Prius, for example. Now in its third generation, the hybrid gas/electric model is advertised to run 50 miles per gallon using both the four cylinder gas engine and the electric motor. The standard engine for the Prius is a 1.8 liter gas engine, and the car has an 11.9 gallon gas tank.

One of the benefits of the Prius is its relatively modest maintenance requirements. The battery pack is sealed and requires no maintenance.

“The Prius has sealed batteries, and the hybrid system carries an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty,” DeLuca Toyota of Ocala salesman Dan Morris said.

Ron Adams, shop foreman at DeLuca Toyota, said some of the models use advanced lithium-ion batteries, and the overall vehicle maintenance is reduced compared to conventional gas cars.

“The 0-20 weight synthetic gas engine oil needs to be changed about every 10,000 miles” Adams said. “The transmission fluid and the coolant are good for 100,000 miles,” he said.

Both Adams and Morris said they had seen a Prius brought into the shop with about 400,000 miles logged and still on the original batteries.

Toyota representatives say the Prius “retrains” the driver to get maximum mpg using driving techniques that stretch the battery charge and fuel.

“You learn to pay attention to the readouts. On level roads you might find ways to get extra mileage between both the electric and gas engine,” Morris said.

“Drivers often even learn to drive their other conventional gas cars more efficiently,” he said, by avoiding fast starts and keeping travel smooth, steady and safe.

Prius hybrid models range from $24,000 to $32,000, according to Toyota’s website.

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For those who want to wean themselves completely off fossil fuels, an electric car may be the way to go.

The all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is almost maintenance free, according to Peter Sessler, sales manager at Pearson Nissan of Ocala.

According to Nissan’s website, the LEAF starts at $28,800 and can run as much as $38,000 for the well-equipped models.

“There are no fluids to change” or monitor other than brake and windshield washer fluid, Sessler said. “A conventional gas car uses in the range of $150 of gas to travel 1,000 miles. The LEAF requires about $1.75 in electricity to go the same distance.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website explains electric car stickers display an “MPGe” or miles per gallon equivalent rating, which “represents the number of miles the vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline.”

The MPGe numbers listed by Nissan for the LEAF are 130 city and 102 highway.

“The car comes with a Level 1 or home charger, which takes about seven hours to fully charge the batteries. The Level 2 charger, seen at many commercial charging stations, requires about four hours to charge the batteries, and the 480 volt Level 3 quick charger like ours out front will charge the car to about 80 percent full charge in 30 minutes,” Sessler said.

Regenerative brakes help add back to the battery pack’s state of charge. Every time the driver brakes, the battery recharges a bit.

The LEAF uses an additional 12 volt battery to power the lighting system, windows, power steering and the air conditioning and heating system.

The 12 volt battery is normally recharged by a solar trickle charger mounted on the car, but it is also tied into the main battery pack.

The main battery pack, which is located under the seats, is kept at proper temperature by a heating and cooling system.

The main battery pack has an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty.

Driving in the car is eerily quiet and acceleration is strong — comparable to a higher performance conventional gas car.

The advertised speed is up to 90 miles per hour on the LEAF.

Like most all-electric cars, the limitation on the LEAF is its range. The LEAF will travel about 110 miles on a charge.

But Sessler noted that charging stations are becoming more common. “We are seeing charging stations going in at hospitals, utility companies and stores,” he said.

Sessler said his experience has been that most people buy the LEAF as a second car because of the range, which he feels most customers want to see increased to at least 300 miles.

“I expect to see the 300-plus mile range likely in three to five years,” he said.

Customers’ concerns about running out of charge in mid-trip have given rise to the term “range anxiety.”

A 2011 Consumer Electronics Association survey “found 71 percent of respondents feared running out of charge on the road.”

Under the stimulus program, the government was hoping to deploy 6,350 Level 2 chargers in “parking garages and other areas along major highways last year, plus 8,300 residential chargers and 310 fast chargers along interstate highways and major roads.”

As of last month, the Department of Energy reported that Florida has 880 public and private electric charging stations.

Drivers can go the DOE Alternate Fuel Data Center website, plug in a zip code and get a list of charging stations.

One location listed is the fast-charge station at Pearson Nissan, which looks like a gas pump.

“Drivers are welcome to charge up here free,” Sessler said.

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