GOOD

Don't Kill Your Car

by Jacob Gordon illustrations by KEITH Scharwath We're sure you want to, but try one of these instead. What's best for the planet? What's best for you? The ultimate guide to alternative-fuel cars in 2009 and beyond. These are weird times in the car world. Electric cars are decidedly undead, the great..

We're sure you want to, but try one of these instead. What's best for the planet? What's best for you? The ultimate guide to alternative-fuel cars in 2009 and beyond.

These are weird times in the car world. Electric cars are decidedly undead, the great hydrogen hope seems to have come to an end (for now), and Indians are running their cars on air. Meanwhile, low-carbon technologies are growing like mushrooms after a rain, and hybrids-which have had years-long waiting lists-are ready to go mass-market. Of course, even as it grows, the industry is in ruins. And so is the planet, thanks in part to that industry.Oh, and us. Thanks to us, too. Cars don't drive themselves, and with transportation the fastest-growing producer of carbon emissions in the United States-already accounting for 30 percent of greenhouse gases-this is obviously not a problem we can buy our way out of. A new breed of cleaner vehicles is inspiring and very necessary, as are new models of car sharing, urban bike fleets, better driving habits, and mass transit. But these may be dwarfed by the sheer number of new drivers who get behind the wheel each year. China is already on the verge of passing the United States as the world's largest car market.The challenges are many, but we have a unique opportunity to chart a new path in the way we get around. The electric car is promising, but much more meaningful is an electric car that is just one component of a low-carbon economy and way of living. Then the automobile can become a tool to help us in the very necessary reinvention of the way our whole society works.So as we start that reinvention, here's a look at the ideas, technologies, and innovators paving the blacktop to the future.

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In other car related news, the Aptera, a 200-mpg electric car scheduled for release sometime in the next few years, is running into some bureaucratic problems. It seems the unfortunately shaped (just one man's opinion), ultra-efficient auto is being hoisted on its own petard: in thinking so unconventionally about the design of the vehicle, the designers have accidentally disqualified the car from any part of the $25 billion Department of Energy package designed to encourage the development of... ultra-efficient cars.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K66Aq1M7rOYYes, you heard that right: because it has three wheels, it is a motorcycle in the eyes of the government. Clearly, the problem is not with the outside the box thinking of the Aptera developers, but rather with the inside the box thinking of the legislators responsible for authoring the DOE loan program and related regulations. Which is why representatives from Aptera motors went to Washington last week to help lobby for a bill that would updates the outdated regulations. In the meantime, GM, a manufacturer with a fleet of cars that average about 30 mpg, is requesting $8 billion from the DOE fund. Let's hope Aptera and Washington can work it out.Via. Photo by Flickr user Jay Tomboli.

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