When you say the words “green car,” what comes to mind? Prius first, I suspect. One of the numerous electric cars popping up these days. And perhaps a hydrogen car. So would you be surprised to hear that the winner of last week’s Green Car of the Year award at the LA Auto Show was…a diesel? Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI.
If you’re from anywhere outside the US, probably not. Particularly in Europe, diesels comprise a large amount of the cars driven, and it’s with good reason: They get great mileage, and have low emissions.
Many in the US likely have an outdated perception of what a diesel car is like: Weak, loud, and a big polluter. Or you see big rig trucks on the road, belching dark exhaust clouds. That’s diesel, for many people.
The truth is, diesel powered cars have steadily improved, becoming agile, powerful, efficient, low emission vehicles, even known to beat hybrid mileage.
All this, without the need for complicated systems to run it that require specialized mechanics to fix it. And without using substances in the batteries of questionable sustainable credentials. Or in the case of lithium, without being a substance of which 50% of the world’s supply is in one country, Bolivia, which is hostile to foreign industry, and whose president, “…is keen to expand state control over its natural resources…”
The VW Jetta TDI bested the BMW 335d (another diesel), Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid, and smart fourtwo. The diminutive smart fourtwo, I was surprised to learn, gets only 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway. It did however score 9 out of 10 on the newly required global warming score. But it got 5 out of 10 for smog.
While time will tell if hydrogen fueled vehicles become a serious, ecologically benevolent player in the world of transportation, diesel vehicles, now able to be sold in all 50 states due to even better emissions than even a year ago, seem to be a great option to consider.
Readers: Which direction do you think we should pursue when it comes to greening cars? A single type, multiple types? Any you think we should avoid? Why?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.