2009 a Big Year For Eco-Cars

Many of us currently own cars considered economical back in the days of 2-dollar-a-gallon gas, that are now certified gas guzzlers. In order to avoid bankruptcy, the urge to rid oneself of the burden is tremendous. Filling its place with a leased Toyota Prius, or Honda Civic Hybrid is highly tempting. Please minimize your mileage and wait until the 2009 cars are released, because eco-car (as in economy, not ecology) options are about to multiply.

The 2009 model year will feature a plethora of hybrid options, as well as the much-anticipated 50-state legal compact diesels. Existing hybrid models will improve, and new models will emerge. Essentially, now is the worst time to buy an economy car.

If your heart’s set on a Toyota Prius, just wait, because patience will pay off. The 2009 model is rumored to be bigger (Americans rejoice!), more powerful (goes 115 mph!), and more fuel-efficient than previous versions. Usually power and efficiency aren’t mutually inclusive—leave it to the geniuses at Toyota to figure that one out. Expect the yuppie owners of the current models to turn green with envy and ditch their outdated 2008 or older models for the new versions to stay current, so the used-Prius market will be rich with supply. It’s basically a win-win situation for Prius shoppers in 2009.

Honda will diversify the Hybrid market with 3 entirely new models in 2009 or 2010. One will be a Hybrid-powered version of the second generation Honda Fit. Another will be a sleek 2 seat coupe (still shrouded in secrecy), and the third will be Honda’s direct answer to the Prius—a 5 door hatchback with—get this—better fuel economy than the Prius!!! Honda wants to reestablish itself as the economy car leader. They did, after all, bring us the first Hybrid ever, the now-defunct Insight. Honda plans to trump all other car manufacturers and make all of their cars Hybrid-powered by 2020.

For years now, small diesel vehicles have been banned from California because of their particulate emissions. Those in-the-know and diesel purists have argued that any pollution from burned diesel fuel is offset by the oily fuel’s comparably low carbon dioxide emissions, and incredible efficiency—small diesels can beat Priuses in the mpg department without batteries. California’s Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.) staunchly held on to their dated smog regulations and forced the car manufacturers to comply. Finally, there will be small diesels available, but they will carry a price premium for they’re high tech exhaust filtering equipment for 50-state compliance.

Honda will unveil a Honda Accord in 2009 with a diesel powerplant. It will replace the discontinued Honda Accord Hybrid, bettering that vehicle’s fuel economy substantially (rumored 40 mpg), and filling the market niche for buyers seeking eco-cars that don’t look eco. Volkswagon is supposedly releasing (the debut has been postponed repeatedly) their long-awaited Jetta TDI (diesel) next year. Already a cult car in other states, crafty folks in California have figured out how to sneak older 49-state models into this state, much to the chagrin of C.A.R.B and Prius owners—the Jetta TDI is said to get 50 mpg. Both the Honda and VW will be able to run on sweet smelling bio-diesel (the processed stuff—not veggie oil).

Although diesel fuel can be significantly more expensive than gasoline, small diesel-powered vehicles are worth waiting for because they have significant advantages over their hybrid counterparts. For one, small diesels will not be burdened with the 7-year-lifespan batteries of hybrids. More importantly and not widely known, the diesel engine is the most reliable engine design in existence (lasts twice as long as the gasoline equivalent—or even three times as long), and offers substantially more power per measure of fuel burned than gasoline burners, including Hybrids. That means, the new small 50 state diesels will leave most hybrids in the dust and have less overall maintenance cost.

2009 is the year to buy an economy car, no matter how you look at it. The year will be a breath of fresh air—both literally and figuratively. It’s hard to imagine just 5 years ago, auto manufacturers were competing with one another, trying to make the largest, most powerful SUV. Now, thanks to Honda and Toyota, car manufacturers are trying to capture the buck of eco-minded customers, which is the main reason General Motors is in such dire straits right now, trying to sell the Hummer brand to the highest bidder.

Props to the forward-thinking Honda Motor Corporation for spending R&D money on hybrid technology back in the 90’s when everyone was blowing tech-stock money on fine cigars and gas-guzzlers.

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