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USA: Green cars slug it out in Portland

Yesterday, members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) gathered in Portland to drive and rate an assortment of “green cars.” What I learned tooling around downtown Portland:

Sustainability is high on the automotive agenda. We drove 17 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels and electric vehicles from a variety of domestic and foreign makers.
In these early stages of the green-car game, efficiency-minded buyers pay a premium for their good intentions.
My mother was right: I have a champagne appetite on a beer budget.

Impressions

EVs

The EV field ranged from the cute-as-a-button, two-passenger Fiat 500e ($33,495) to Ford’s electronics-laden Focus Electric ($39,995). My top picks: the Focus and Nissan’s Leaf ($36,910), whose range, roominess and overall utility are first rank. Honorable mention — based entirely on style points — goes to the Fiat.

Notes: 1) All EVs are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit; 2) Although GM calls the Volt an EV, the EPA calls it a hybrid, which is where NWAPA put it. 2) Honda’s new Fit EV impressed, but I DQed it for being available in only seven states, none of them Washington.

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