written by:
September 9, 2013
Originally published in City Living
as
The Green Light
Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal, dispenses buying advice for the latest fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly models.
Green car illustration by Michael Jeter

Illustration by: Michael Jeter

Green car illustration by Michael Jeter

Illustration by: Michael Jeter

What do you think are the biggest innovations for urban cars?

The number one trend is downsizing: Urban cars are lighter and have higher fuel efficiency, and a smaller footprint means it’s easier to park. Number two is a smaller engine. With a lighter vehicle, you can have a smaller engine (and higher fuel efficiency). In the past, smaller vehicles tended to be spare by nature. Today they are very different: higher quality, more stylish, and packed with electronics.

Can you name a few examples of cars that typify the future of urban driving?

If you’re just going around town, there are lots of vehicles that fill that need, vehicles like the Honda Fit—models that are smaller, with very high fuel efficiency and a lot of functionality. And just because you live in an urban area doesn’t mean that you don’t need a crossover vehicle that seats five and carries a lot of gear for your kids. Instead of a large sport utility vehicle [SUV], people will own a midsize or compact SUV, like the Mazda CX-5.

If I’m a city dweller shopping for a car, what should I ask myself to guide the buying process?

First, what is my need? If your needs are 20 miles of driving per day in a city, mostly for commuting, a battery-electric vehicle might be perfect. If you have a long commute, then an electric vehicle is not for you—consider a plug-in hybrid or a range-extended hybrid, like the Chevy Volt. For highway commuting, diesel vehicles do very well in fuel efficiency. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI gets 42 miles per gallon [MPG]—now that’s hybrid territory. If most of your driving is city driving, clean diesels are still efficient, but that’s where hybrids shine.

Price range is second. How much can I afford? Do I want to buy or lease a vehicle? Then you want to start shopping actual models, different brands, and different types. See what appeals to you. Make sure it has the fuel efficiency that you need or want.

In the green car field, what are the most overlooked technologies?

Not enough credit is given to the vast improvements in conventional vehicles. There is a growing number of 40-MPG-plus standard vehicles that run on gasoline or clean diesel. Because the media focus on electrification so much—battery electrics, plug-ins, and hybrids—focus is taken away from conventional vehicles that are significantly more efficient than older models. As people think green and want to make a difference, it isn’t just about alternative fuels; it isn’t just electric. Mainstream vehicles are much better than before.

Can you recommend brands or models that people should look into?

Our 2013 Green Car of the Year was the Ford Fusion. It’s offered in multiple power trains, all very efficient. I recommend the Mazda vehicles that use SKYACTIV technology, so the CX-5, Mazda6, and Mazda3.

Fore more information, visit Cogan's website, carsofchange.com, or pick up a copy of his quarterly publication, Green Car Journal. Visit fueleconomy.gov for fuel efficiency comparisons.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016
in the swim off the grid campsite healdsburg california swimming pool solar heat lap pool ipe deck loll designs lounge chairs
An off-the-grid house that is little more than a decked campsite—albeit with a roof—includes a swimming pool for a family that loves to enjoy the elements.
May 21, 2016
A print by Kristina Krogh
From flat to physical, Kristina Krogh masters every dimension.
May 21, 2016
scifi
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 21, 2016
beverly hills living room piano view
Architect Noah Walker, principal of Los Angeles–based studio Walker Workshop, shares completed and work-in-progress residential designs on his Instagram page (@noah_walker). Take a peek at some of the striking modern houses here, and tour the Venice House on the Dwell Home Tours on June 26.
May 20, 2016
ripple effect san fancisco small space yard outdoor monica viarengo pebble mosiac artificial turf slide
A San Francisco landscape designer finds a small-space solution that’s anything but narrow-minded.
May 20, 2016
Oslo living room with light wood floors and wood slab table
A pair of designers in Oslo, armed with tricks for introducing color and daylight, remake their compact late-19th-century apartment.
May 20, 2016
family affair backyard addition portrait
In coastal Massachusetts, a resourceful couple and their equally enterprising children use reclaimed materials to create a versatile 168-square-foot backyard building.
May 20, 2016
speed machine australian beachside prefab archiblox facade colorbond ultra steel cladding queensland blue gum wood
With little time to waste, an Australian firm erects an efficient prefab overlooking the ocean.
May 20, 2016
Christian Benimana at Design Indaba
When he was younger, there wasn't a single architecture school in his country. Now, as part of MASS Design Group, Christian Benimana shares how architecture can heal and inspire Africa.
May 19, 2016
01 1
This Italian villa is serenity incarnate.
May 19, 2016