eco living - green motoring
By Lianne Earles, Organic Baby
Buying a car is never an easy task but add environmental
considerations into the equation and you have a lot to points to
Us eco-friendly, less-materialistic types are notoriously bad at
buying cars and then driving them until they quite literally
fall apart. Earlier, this year, I finally bit the bullet, and
traded in my old (but fuel-efficient) Toyota for something more
My first task was to refamiliarise myself with the dos and
don’ts of buying a car. I found the
AA web site quite helpful.
Then I needed to decide on some criteria to narrow down the
options. Which brand/model I might be interested in? What was
important to me? Fuel economy and environmental impact ranked
high on my list and certainly hybrid cars were an option. I also
preferred low kms, a hatchback and needed a vehicle body with
good signwriting space.
A quick search on Trade Me revealed that the low end of my budget
would cover a first generation Toyota hybrid (launched in 1997).
Further research revealed that due to battery sizes and problems
with these (early) hybrids, I probably wouldn’t want one.
I went on to test drive the Toyota Prius generations II and
III, which are both great cars to drive and rate well for fuel
efficiency and green ratings.
The most noticeable difference between driving a hybrid and a
conventional car is that the auto column shift is on the
dashboard and they have a digital display which gives instant
readouts on energy-efficiency. Very space-age, making the car
feel ahead of its time.
Hybrids combine a petrol-powered engine with an electric motor
to provide improved fuel economy and help lower emissions. The
Toyota Prius feels and drives like a normal automatic car with
the exception that when idling and driving at low speeds, the
petrol engine cuts out, in favour of the electric motor. (http://www.cleangreencar.co.nz/page/faq-prius#Q1
The Toyota Prius version II is a sedan and the version III is a
larger hatch with more space and whizzy features. The Honda
Civic Hybrid is a cheaper option but a smaller engine size of
The battery size problems of the first models has been overcome. The
version II and III have much smaller batteries and come with an
8 year (or 160,000km warranty).
I could have stretched my budget to a lower km Toyota Prius II,
but the version III was really the one that met my criteria.
After reviewing my budget and other non-hybrid car options. I
decided to buy a conventional Honda Fit (or Jazz) and that a
hybrid would be my next car (and I vowed not drive the Jazz
until it falls apart!)
My new Honda Fit (or Jazz) has better fuel consumption 6.1L/100 km
compared to my old Toyota Corolla at 7.4L/100km.
Its greenhouse and air pollution ratings compare very favourably
against other petrol-driven cars. Higher ratings are achieved by
the Honda Civic hybrid, which are again topped by the Toyota
Some web sites to compare different models and fuel efficiency and green
ratings impact are:
The Toyota Prius comes up trumps at 4.4L/100 km.
Overall ratings: If you have the budget, go for the Toyota Prius
III. It rates well on from every environmental angle. After all,
it won 2004 European car of the year!
Finding hybrid vehicles to test drive, outside the main centres in
NZ can be difficult.
The Clean Green Car Company in Auckland has the widest
choice in the country and you can buy one over the phone from
anywhere in the country, subject to vehicle testing. Also check
Any car can go wrong. For your own protection, be sure to purchase a three
year warranty, The Honda Fit (Jazz) I purchased had transmission
problems (not picked up in an AA test). Repairs on the vehicle cost
$1200 which was covered by the three year warranty.
From April 2008, oil companies in NZ are required to blend biofuels with the
petrol and diesel they sell under government moves to reduce carbon emissions. (http://enviro.org.au/enews-description.asp?id=790)