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June 20, 2016

Alternative Fuel Vehicles Buying Guide

Alt_fuel_vehiclesWith tougher emissions and fuel economy regulations on the horizon in 2025, automakers are working hard to build more hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles in all shapes and sizes.

Here's our guide to understanding some of the most popular alternative fuel technologies, and some of the popular vehicles worth considering.

Hybrids: A hybrid vehicle contains at least one battery that assists the gasoline engine and increases fuel economy. There is usually a read-out on the dashboard that tells you when the battery kicks in and how much juice is available. The battery charges when you apply the brakes.

Available hybrids include the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus RX450h, and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV): As their name suggests, these vehicles need to be plugged into a 120-volt or 240-volt power outlet for recharging. Plug-ins run in hybrid-mode most of the time, but also offer the unique option of running in electric-only mode, allowing you to drive short distances emissions-free.

Available vehicles include the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in, Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi, and the Porsche 918 Spyder.

Electric Vehicles (EV): Battery electric vehicles run 100% on electricity, and must also be charged at a 120-volt or 240-volt power outlet. Best of all, driving range is going up while prices are coming down. Depending on the car you choose, you can expect anywhere from 80 miles to over 200.

Available and upcoming electric vehicles include the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf, Kia Soul Electric, Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X and the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt.

Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV): These vehicles are powered by fuel cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity. The hydrogen takes just a few minutes to refill, and the only emissions are water. No batteries or gasoline needed.

Toyota has begun selling the Mirai HEV in California. Honda is launching the Clarity HEV in Fall of 2016. Hyundai sells a Tucson HEV in California as well. The hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure in California is small, but growing. Other states are building their own hydrogen networks.

Available and upcoming vehicles include the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity Fuel Cell and Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell.

Federal tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 (depending on battery size) are available. If you lease, the leasing company takes the tax credit and passes the savings on to you by lowering your monthly lease payment. Some states also offer additional rebates.

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