Consumers looking for a car that meets all their needs and saves on gas and is more eco-friendly have a number of green technology choices available today to help them make an informed purchase or lease.

According to the AAA, what and how you drive makes a big difference in how large or small your carbon footprint is. Check out some of the many ways of driving eco-friendly vehicles available now.

Electric

There’s no question that electric vehicles, which use no gasoline or oil, emit no pollutants on the road. They’re also less expensive to maintain, from the standpoint of no need for oil changes, maintenance of the ignition system, fuel system service, or exhaust pipe and muffler replacements. The standout choice in the electric vehicle category is the Nissan Leaf.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric

Another smart choice is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, of which there are a growing number from various automakers eager to get in this market to satisfy customer demand. These green vehicles use a rechargeable battery pack that allows the vehicle to go about 35 miles on pure electric power before the gasoline engine starts. Some plug-in hybrids have an engine that powers a generator providing power to the motor while also recharging the batteries. Examples here include the Toyota Prius PHEV and the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi.

Gasoline-Electric Hybrids

The more common variant of green technology, around for the longest, beginning with the original Toyota Prius, is the gasoline-electric hybrid. New green technology choices in the market in 2012 include the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid and the 2012 Nissan Altima Hybrid, the 2012 Buick LaCrosse and Regal with eAssist. For 2013, there’s the 2013 Buick Verano and the Chevrolet Malibu Eco with eAsisst.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Diesel

Significantly reduced tailpipe emissions are a primary benefit of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). While there are a number of conversion vehicles that are powered by CNG, only the Honda Civic GX comes straight from the factory with this green technology. Green Car Journal named the Civic GX the “2012 Green Car of the Year,” and Kelley Blue Book hailed it as one of the “10 Best Green Cars of 2012.”

Clean diesel power is gaining popularity, with a number of automakers getting into this fuel-efficient arena. Benefits here are markedly reduced output of carbon dioxide and fewer tailpipe emissions that meet standards in all 50 states. Among the standout choices in this category, according to the AAA, is the Audi A3. There’s also the more affordable 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI and Jetta TDI.

Fuel-Efficient Gasoline

Automakers have been improving the fuel efficiency of their gasoline-powered vehicles as well. Notable are the cars getting 40 mpg highway fuel economy, among which are the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, the 2013 Dodge Dart, several models from Hyundai (2012 Accent, Elantra and Veloster), the 2012 Kia Rio, the 2012 Ford Focus SFE and Fiesta SFE.

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