Green Cars 2013: 7 Eco Vehicles that Earn This Hippy Housewife’s Seal of Approval

kid on motorcycle

C’mon Dad, give me the car tonight

-Violent Femmes

Jacob is 14, which means that in two years he will be driving, and what he will be driving is the minivan that I have been shamefacedly chauffeuring children in since 2004. It is a truth universally accepted that the worst part about finding out that you are pregnant with a 3rd child is that you will have to become a Minivan Mom.

More importantly, that means in two years Mom gets a new set of wheels. Look, I might be a hippie housewife but I know a hot car when I see one. Odds are, I won’t be able to afford any of the ‘green’ cars I’m about to show you, but that’s not going to stop me from window shopping. It’s good to have goals.

Here are the ‘green’ cars, hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel-efficient models that I’d love to tool around town in. Let me know your favorite :)

(And yes, that’s Jake up there, on my friend Kristin’s motorcycle. Photo credit is all hers.)


fisker Karma surf

Fisker Karma Surf

I’m going to pledge loyalty to the Karma first, not just because that’s my puppy’s name, but because these will be produced here in Wilmington DE. Karmas are luxury vehicles, make no mistake. That low-slung growly-yet-elegant aspect (reminiscent of Jaguar) comes with a hefty price tag in the area of $100K.  It boasts a top speed of 125mph, going from 0-16 in 5.9. It has a range of 300 miles, 50 pure electric and another 250 on the range extender. The Surf has a BMW engine and is being marketed as “sports car meets station wagon,” but that phrase undermines just how damn sexy this car is.


tesla roadster

Tesla Model X Electric Crossover

The car pictured is actually the Tesla Roadster. I’ve made no secret of my love for the Roadster and its more ‘affordable’ version, the Model S. But since that’s not new I won’t bore you with it again.

The Tesla Model X Electric SUV Crossover is going to be unveiled on February 9, so I’ll have to come back and update at that time. However, some lucky ducks did get a sneak peak and this is what I’m seeing reported across the interwebz:

  • all-electric AWD 7-seater SUV
  • faster than a Porsche 911 and roomier than an Audi Q7
  • rumored to be available in late 2013, probably for the cost of a Porsche 911 & Audi Q7 put together.


honda accord coupe concept 2013

2013 Honda Accord coupe concept

The Honda coupe comes in three different powertrains:

  • an efficient, 2.4-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder
  • powerful 3.5-liter V-6
  • and a plug-in hybrid, all of which are expected to achieve class-leading fuel efficiency

It offers Lane Departure Warning (leaving your lane without a blinker on), Forward Collision Warning and the Honda-exclusive LaneWatch™ blind spot display: a camera system mounted on the mirror on the passenger side that allows you to view your blong spot. The new Accord will also have a rear view back-up camera.

It’s a fairly nice-looking car, I guess, but I suspect its strength will lie in the market of people already loyal to Hondas (I briefly drove a little Honda, until someone made a lefthand turn right in front of me while I was doing 50 on a rain-slicked road, an accident that 2-year-old Maverick and I walked away from unharmed). This is basically a car that people are comfortable with, only in eco-form; no sacrifices to style. Plus, there’s an abundance of Honda Accord parts out there, so presumably the basic costs of repair should be kept reasonable. If I do wind up buying something in this post, the Honda Accord hybrid is probably the best blend of eco-friendly car, wallet-friendly sticker price, and husband-approved profile.


electric pickup truck

E-REV Extended-Range Electric Truck from VIA Motors

It’s an electric vehicle for the tough truck-driving set, with “Better gas fuel economy than a Prius™ with the payload of a pickup.” Can be charged with a standard outlet, or faster with a 240 volt outlet or charging station. The vehicle only uses gas once you’ve drained the batteries: 40 miles on battery power and then up to another 300 miles. It also generates its own electricity, meaning you could use it for power when camping (or when the power goes out), or on a job site. Starting at $57,000.


2013 toyota prius


Toyota Prius c

OK, I don’t love the looks of a Prius, I admit it. I think the meh styling of the Prius is part of why hybrids didn’t take off right at the start. BUT the Prius c hatchback (c is for city) has advantages you can’t argue with:

  • 53 MPG city-driving, the highest city fuel economy of any car “without a plug”
  • the trusted Toyota name; the name Prius has pretty much proven itself, too.
  • starting MSRP under $19,000.


ford fusion 2013


2013 Ford Fusion

This is a pretty good-looking car, with design overtones of Audi. It will be available in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid, which engine options including:

  • Standard 2.5L Duratec® I-4 engine
  • Available new 1.6L and 2.0L EcoBoost® engines (with Start-Stop system that turns the engine off when vehicle stops and restarts when you take your foot off the brake)
  • Available hybrid 2.0L I-4 Atkinson-cycle powertrain
  • Available plug-in hybrid electric 2.0L I-4 Atkinson-cycle hybrid powertrain

Features include:

  • 47 MPG to the lithium-ion hybrid and 100+ MPGe to the Plug-In Fusion Energi
  • lane-keeping system alerts you and actively applies steering torque if drifting is detected
  • parallel-parking assistance, which I’m hoping will become standard in cars by 2014 so I won’t feel dumb using it (6 years in the sticks has rendered me incapable of parallel parking.)
  • regenerative braking captures braking energy & stores it to help power the car
  • the seats are made from foam derived from plants, like soybeans, and covered in cloth that’s 100% post-industrial & post-consumer.


2013 dodge dart


Honorable mention: Dodge Dart

NOT the greenest of the bunch, I admit. But 40 mpg isn’t too shabby, and I have such fond memories of a Dodge Dart that was converted into a Batmobile that I can’t help but be thrilled they brought it back. Plus, it’s just a damn fine-looking car.


Other recent noteworthy news in eco cars:

Look, ma, no plug!: Electric cars recharged wirelessly: convenience is always a top priority.

Secretary Chu Predicts Steep Decline in EV Battery Prices: this could go a long way towards driving that initial investment cost down.

One-third of car fuel consumption due to friction loss: in the engine, transmission, tires, and brakes. Electric cars experience only half of that energy loss.

BUT remember:

Used Car Expert Says Buying Used Is “Greener”- the greenest choice is almost always what you already have! No matter what, new production means an energy cost and a certain level of pollution. Be good to the car you already have so it will last.


Growing up in a household with no car meant my brother and I grew up with a healthy obsession with wheels: he went on to become a mechanic for a while (and owned more cars than I can remember). I’ve always been more fascinated with the evocative nature of well-designed cars (my favorites being the lean, mean Corvettes and Jaguars and stately Bentleys). That eco-conscious cars have evolved to the point that they can be both beautiful and earth-friendly is genuinely exciting for me— now I’m waiting for the prices to come down to the point that they’re practical for the everyday commuter or soccer mom.

Hey, if you liked this eco-vehicle eye candy you might want to follow my “green cars are sexy” board on Pinterest. Just sayin’.

Which of these is your favorite?

If money were no object, what would you be driving right now?


Green Driving: Kia Optima Hybrid

2011 hybrids

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty.
The activist is the man who cleans up the river.

-Ross Perot

Although I love to tout all the little things we can do to make our planet a little cleaner, a little better, a little safer, there comes a point where we need to start considering the big ways that we can cumulatively make a difference.

Now, with cars I’m going on record as saying it’s best to stay with what you have for as long as you can (unless you’re driving a seriously polluting gas-guzzler from the late 70s or something). BUT, when it comes time for a new ride, a hybrid or electric is the smart, responsible, and eco-friendly way to go.

As much as I would love to go electric and sexy with the Tesla Roadster or Fisker Karma, I don’t have the $90K or so to make that feasible, and I’m guessing that’s true of most of my readers too.  So, hybrids are a more sensible choice and that’s what I’m going to concentrate on here.

My husband, helpfully playing devil’s advocate, points out that the mpg on a hybrid isn’t always mind-blowing compared to an efficient vehicle of the same size, and that’s true enough. What you have to consider is the conservation of x gallons a week and multiply that by the life of the car. That’s how you need to consider the savings to your bank account.

But then multiply THAT by the number of cars on the road.

Approximately 250 million registered vehicles in the U.S. and as of 2007, 136 million of those were cars.

See what I mean? This is where a major difference can be made.

And the cold hard fact is, if we want more hybrid cars available at a lower cost point in the future, we need to start shifting our money to that technology NOW. Like any other corporation, the car companies are paying attention to where the money goes.

Kia’s taking affordable eco-crusading one step closer to reality, by entering into the hybrid field with a solid contender at a price that’s much more accessible to the average frugal-minded conscious consumer. Practical but still pretty sexy, the Kia Optima Hybrid hits showrooms in June with up to 35 miles per gallon in city driving, 40 miles per gallon on the highway, and a starting price of $26,500.

The 2011 Optima Hybrid uses a full parallel hybrid system and can be driven in zero emission, full-electric drive mode at speeds up to 62 miles per hour or in blended gas-electric mode at any speed. When the car comes to a stop and the electrical load is low, the engine shuts off to completely eliminate idle fuel consumption and emissions.

Features include:

  • eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat
  • dual zone automatic temperature control with rear vents
  • push-button start with smart key
  • Supervision meter cluster with LCD display
  • fixed rear seats with ski pass-through
  • Virtual Engine Sound System (standard on the Optima Hybrid) plays a pre-recorded engine sound during electric-only operation to help notify people outside the vehicle that it’s a-comin’
  • UVO, an easy-to-use hands-free solution that allows drivers and passengers to answer and place phone calls, receive and respond to SMS text messages, access music from a variety of media sources and create custom music experiences.


Want to learn more?

Even if you’re not in the market for a new car right now this is pretty interesting stuff to know.

Your thoughts? Is a hybrid in your future?


This promotional sponsored post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. I was compensated for my time investment and work on this campaign. Thoughts are my own.


Seven for Saturday: News You Can Use 5/7

pink flowers

There was actually a whole lot out there this week, once you waded through all the Royal Wedding & Bin Laden headlines. I’ve held some in reserve to flesh out into full posts because I had stuff to say about them, but here are 7 of my favorite links from the past 7 days:

1. Food Politics: At last FTC releases principles of food marketing to kids.

Proposed principles on what is allowed to be marketed to your kids are open to comment until May 24, but not scheduled to go into effect until 2016. Principle A states that child-targeted marketing must be applied to foods that contribute to a healthy diet, and contain at least one of specified food groups. On the flip side, Principle B states that the food can not contain more than specified amount of unhealthy elements (trans fats, sugars, etc).

The problem is this: “The proposed voluntary principles are designed to encourage stronger and more meaningful self-regulation by the food industry and to support parents’ efforts to get their kids to eat healthier foods.”

Voluntary, self-regulated, and the blame still quietly rests entirely on parents’ shoulders. When are we really going to hold companies accountable for messing with our kids’ heads?

2. Do video games make kids eat more?

A (very small) study found that boys consumed more calories over the course of the day (163 on average) when they played video games for an hour rather than just laying around for an hour. Since there was no reported increase in hunger, the theory is that video games may cause a “mental-stress effect” and the food acts to self-soothe.

163 doesn’t seem like a lot, until you take into account that most kids spend more than an hour interacting with a screen, often snacking at the same time.

3. How Do We Prepare Kids for Jobs We Can’t Imagine Yet? Teach Imagination

This is my big thing about traditional schooling: it doesn’t teach you to love learning, or how to learn on your own. Those who went on to think out of the box and become wildly creative & successful, did so in spite of their education, not because of it.

“When you were a kid, could you, your teachers, or your parents imagine your current job? Plenty of us go to work every day in careers that didn’t exist when we were in grade school. How can schools set the next generation up for success when we don’t have a clear picture of what the jobs of the future will be? The growing consensus is that we need to shift schools toward to fostering creativity and conceptual thinking abilities…

The question is, how?

Related topic: a few weeks back I highlighted The Creativity Crisis, which mentioned that NASA and Boeing now look for ideal candidates who have education or experience in “hands-on” fields such music, sculpture, or auto mechanics. The problem, they say, is that “recent graduates can technically render in two dimensions but can no longer think in three.”

4. Botox: Paralyzing More than Just Your Face

I’ve seen this discussed before, and I think it’s fascinating. Your brain knows you are happy when you smile broadly, and smiling/happiness is something that is universally recognized across cultures. We also reflexively mirror other people’s smiles when we see them. When you’ve paralyzed your face muscles with toxins, your face can’t perform these actions and therefore your brain neither recognizes other people’s happiness nor registers your own.

Are happiness and empathy something worth giving up just to erase a few years from your face (only to have them, depressingly, return after it wears off)? I hope I don’t know anyone who answers that question yes.

5. Your Heart Can Sync With a Loved One’s

All those love songs are on to something: two hearts can beat as one. Watching a relative or friend walk over hot coals at a fire walking ritual, spectator’s hearts followed similar patterns as the firewalker. This phenomenon did not occur with audience members who were strangers.

“Anthropologists have long appreciated that ritual binds people together, but it is unclear how this bonding is achieved,” said Sosis, an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut…The discovery that people’s hearts can harmonize solely on visual or auditory information reinforces a law of nature.

This strikes me as so beautiful for reasons I cannot quite articulate.

6. Jaguar to Build C-X75 Hybrid Supercar

  • jaguar electric carMixes internal combustion power with electric motors to achieve supercar performance and less than 99g/km CO2 emissions
  • 0-60mph in less than 3 seconds
  • 0-100mph in less than 6 seconds
  • Top speed in excess of 200mph
  • All-electric running range in excess of 50km
  • only 250 will be built
  • will cost between 700,000- 900,00 British pounds, which is a kind way of saying over a million American dollars
  • undeniably, toe-curlingly sexy. Makes my old object of vehicular lust— the Fiskar Karma— seem like sloppy seconds and surprisingly affordable at a mere 80K.

jaguar electric hybrid

7. Bill Murray As FDR: Star Signs On For ‘Hyde Park On The Hudson’

I love Bill Murray. I love FDR. That is all.



Thinking about seeing the movie Thor? Better watch this first:


Your turn! What good stuff did you read this week?