CNET editors' green car buying guide:
Find the green car that is just right
Looking to reduce your carbon footprint? Your car is an obvious place to start. While standard, gas-fueled cars dominate the roads, there are a few current alternatives and some promising future technologies.
Of the various green car choices, electric cars are the greenest. They produce no emissions, neither smog producing gases nor greenhouse gases, and qualify as Zero Emissions Vehicles. However, unless the electricity used to charge up the car's batteries comes from a clean source, such as water, wind, or solar, a power plant somewhere created emissions associated with running the car. However, it's easier to monitor and control one power plant's emissions than those of thousands of gas-powered cars on the road.
The major drawback of current electric cars is that they don't offer the performance of gas-powered cars, most notably in range. Current production and research electric cars can travel from 40 miles to 100 miles. Proponents argue that the average commute is less than 20 miles each way, making electric cars work well as everyday vehicles.
No major automaker currently sells a production electric car, although Subaru and Mitsubishi have announced research projects into small, urban-oriented cars. Some notable small manufacturers, such as Tesla, Phoenix, and ZENN offer electric vehicles.
Neighborhood electric vehicles fill one electric car niche left by the major automakers. NEVs are basically golf carts approved for use on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph. GEM produces a large number of these types of vehicles.
More green car resources from CNET
Senior editor Wayne Cunningham covers the automotive beat for CNET. He covers cars, portable navigation units, and car entertainment systems.