Green Rolling on Today's Interstate by Dean Adams Curtis

These are still the early days of hybrid evolution, yet most automakers have already fielded a hybrid that you're likely to see rolling along next to you on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. These green vehicles have been safety-tested and are rated okay to roll on the interstates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This site also advocates creation of a green interstate system for vehicles the NHTSA has not rated safe for use on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. The green interstate will be developed by adding functionality and support for innovative vehicles to specially designated existing roads.

Before going into the pioneering realm of tomorrow's alternative "Green Interstate," we'll first take a quick look at all the exciting highway rated hybrid options available today.

The lavish '09 Lexus LS hybrid is a sleek luxury sedan featuring lots of leather.

Toyota has bred its incredibly successful hybrid technology into the Lexus GS 450h (20-22 mpg / $55,665), a small and sporty sedan that has the look and feel of a higher-priced luxury import.

Nissan’s lone wolf, the four-cylinder Altima Hybrid (36-42 mpg / $24,400), has the ability to operate in electric-only mode at low speeds, but is only available in a handful of states so far.

General Motors has come out with a series of sedans featuring “mild hybrid” technology that focuses on a
power boost rather than great fuel economy to the vehicle. An example is the Saturn Aura Green Line (24-32 mpg / $22,790), which uses the electric motor to improve thrust while adding a couple of extra miles per gallon over the gas-only model.

FULL-SIZE SEDANS

The lavish Lexus LS 600h hybrid (20-22 mpg / $104,765) is here to help satisfy those easy-to-clean leather cravings while also conserving some fuel. The flagship of the Toyota/Lexus lineup features a powerful V-8 engine that is mated with an electric motor to improve performance and fuel efficiency. Best of all, you and your family will ride on a cloud-like cushion of comfort as only a Lexus can deliver. 0pt; TEXT-INDENT: 0in">Mercedes gets into the hybrid family later this year when it will roll out the S-Class Hybrid, but it’s too soon to know price and mileage.

Compact SUVs

Families love sport utility vehicles (SUVs) for their ability to handle many friends and large loads while traversing off-road terrain. In 2004, the Ford Escape (30-34 mpg / $26,505) became the nation’s first hybrid SUV to hit the market, offering families the increased space and durability of a utility vehicle with the fuel efficiency of a small sedan. Honored as the North American Truck of the Year in 2005, the Escape quietly saves gas and is light on the environment without howling “I am a hybrid” to the neighborhood.

A year later, the Lexus RX400h (27-33 mpg / $41,180) arrived on the scene as the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV. The RX400h is defined as a "full hybrid," which means that it is capable of operating in electric-only, or gas engine-only mode in addition to combining the power of the gas engine and electric motor.

Like its Aura hybrid sibling, the Saturn Vue Green Line (25-32 / $24,795) features a hybrid system that puts more emphasis on power enhancement than fuel economy.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid (25-27 mpg / $32,490) has been redesigned in 2008 and is the only fuel-sipper to offer families three-rows of seats that fold flat to accommodate the extra cargo that typically accompanies fun-loving families. And we can't forget that the Highlander comes from Toyota, a company which (like Honda) has a well-established hybrid development program. You may want to watch our video about the Highlander.

Mazda's Tribute Hybrid (28-32 mpg / $28,630) is basically a Ford Escape Hybrid
in Mazda clothing and has the ability to move in electric-only mode at low speeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gallery of the Greener: Hybrid 9-up


Lexus GS 450h (20-22 mpg / $55,665)

The four-cylinder Altima Hybrid (36-42 mpg / $24,400)

Green Car of the Year for '08, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (21-22 mpg / $49,590)




The '07 Mercury Mariner Hybrid (30-34 mpg/$25,765).


2008's Ford Escape Hybrid features bold, dramatic angles.



Last year's 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid


Saturn Aura Greenline (25-32 / $24,795)
 



The Toyota Highlander Hybrid (25-27 mpg / $32,490)




Lexus RX400h (27-33 mpg / $41,180)

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