The Information Superhighway Can Show You the Way

In todays market there are as many cars, trucks and SUVs available as Oprah Winfrey has shoes. How can a person decide on which ones to test drive, let alone purchase? Furthermore, consumer resources to help narrow down the options have become almost as varied and complex as the vehicles theyre covering.

Of course auto manufacturers have their own creative ways of capturing our individual attention and luring us down to their local dealers. Its called marketing. There are print, radio, TV and web ads boasting the fastest, fanciest, funkiest, and most fandangled new cars, trucks and SUVs on the planet, and even a few that promote earth friendliness. As the sustainable and alternative energy guru on this publications writing staff, these are the vehicles that catch my attention. My focus is always targeted on what car leaves the least environmental footprint, while still offering as many of the attributes we, as consumers, have grown to appreciate over the years.

I often finger walk through the information superhighway and chat with other green auto industry champions, and by so doing have come up with a few favorite resources that most anyone from an average driver to a car enthusiast should find valuable. After all, now everyone seems to agree that environmental factors have become important issues when it comes time to buy a car.

Auto manufacturers often get marketing mileage out of awards. While some, like the various Car of the Year awards or 10 Best picks focus on styling, performance and overall value, others such as the Sierra Clubs Excellence in Environmental Engineering, the AFV Hero Awards from the U.S. Department of Energy, or the EPAs Climate Protection Award, support the green movement. But these awards arent automotive specific, and rarely will help environmentally focused buyers choose the car thats best for them.

The Ames Award, short for Automotive Market Environmental Sensitivity, was established in 1999. It was the first, and is currently the only company to develop an environmental performance rating system and award program to evaluate car and light-truck brand/models within the automotive industry. The fact that the results are presented in a consumer-friendly format on their web site at www.amesaward.com is a bonus.

The founders at AMES Award believe that when given easily digested info on how to contribute to sustaining the environment, consumers will act. This award provides an objective evaluation of the environmental quality of brand/models from all manufacturers of U.S. made vehicles. “Complete objectivity is a critical part of our rating process,” said William Mattick, AMES co-founder. “What could be more timely, than to provide consumers with a credible means to participate in improving our environment.”

Speaking of efficiency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts out a fuel consumption guide every year, highlighting the most fuel-efficient vehicles in their respective classes – find it at www.fueleconomy.gov. It lists miles per gallon, typical annual fuel costs and annual fuel use of a given vehicle. The great thing about both the site is they post past model years too, helpful since more people buy used vehicles than new.

The Clean Car Coalition has developed a terrific site too (www.cleancarcampaign.org), with links to a variety of auto industry green web sites. Of note are two resources that are invaluable: ACEEEs Green Book and Tailpipe Tally.