Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

If Clarkson hates it, the Prius is for me
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The Independent Online

Well, any car that Clarkson hates is definitely for me so I immediately booked a test drive. Although I've sold my car I'm keen to get the gen on electric cars so I can persuade my pals from their gas guzzlers.

The Prius was a dream to drive. I was particularly impressed by the SUV-style high seat, which gave me the chance to peer down at other motorists from a superior height. There are many misconceptions about green cars, perhaps because of the communication problem between the brilliant boffins who develop them and the average technophobe consumer who can't understand what they're saying. Many people assume that eco-friendly cars are like flying saucers, or that they must be dismantled and plugged into the wall at night. While this is true of the excellent G-Whiz electric city car, which must be plugged in after 40 miles - thus is still dependent on power stations (unless you are signed up to a clean energy subscriber), the Prius recharges itself while it is coasting and decelerating. If you drove it carefully at under 40mph you would barely use any petrol, avoid the congestion charge, and save on insurance and road tax. With these kind of savings it beats me why every cost-conscious driver (whether they are green-minded or not) doesn't buy one.

Another green option is biofuel, a fuel made from a wide variety of natural and waste substances - for example soy, rapeseed or even old cooking oil from fast food restaurants as well as straw, wood, vegetables and rice. Biodiesel has been around for years. Henry Ford's cars originally ran on peanut oil, and back in 1896 Rudolf Diesel's engines ran on cooking oil. It's much cleaner than fossil-fuel diesel. It can be used in any diesel engine with no need for modifications - in fact diesel engines run better and last longer with biodiesel.

I had the chance to find out more about green fuels at the Green Fleet awards, where the country's top car engineers gather annually to discuss the latest developments in green motoring.

The good news is that within a few years more and more cars will be able to take biofuels. It's a shame the Government is providing no incentives to develop these exiting alternatives.

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

www.greenfleetawards.co.uk

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