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What are green cars? The term green cars is used to describe vehicles that have a small carbon footprint, or a low impact on the environment. Currently, this means either a compact car or a hybrid car. The automotive industry has started to shift in producing more green cars due to pressures from consumers and the government. But the industry is just starting.

Over the coming decades, you will see an evolution of vehicles that will eventually become electric cars. There are going to be several stepping stones in getting there though.

  1. Hybrid Cars - hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius have demonstrated how much more fuel efficient our cars can be. Hybrids use an electric motor as well as a traditional engine to power the vehicle. Some hybrid cars are mild hybrid cars where the electric motor assists the gas engine. Full hybrid cars can operate on electricity only - though only for a certain amount of time. These green cars have proven their value in city driving where an electric motor is much more efficient at low speeds. Some of them also have regenerative breaking, where the energy from the braking process is captured to generate electricity and used to recharge the batteries.
  2. Plug-in Hybrid Cars - the next generation of green cars is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). These will be similar to hybrids described above, but with the added ability to recharge the batteries by plugging it in. This provides the driver with more distance in electric-only mode, therefore saving on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Electric Cars - The final step in the evolution of green cars will be 100% electric cars. While some people think this is impossible, Tesla Motors is producing electric cars that travel hundreds of kilometres on a single charge - and travel at highway speeds too.

It will take time for the automotive industry to find new innovative ways to make vehicles that have significantly less impact on the environment. But the future of green cars has now clearly turned into a race that all auto makers are striving to win.

If you are currently looking for a new vehicle, refer to a list of the most fuel efficient cars at www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca.

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