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Shopping for a Green Vehicle (or Just Curious)? How to Figure Out the Different Engine Options

2013 Volkswagen Touareg VR6

Photo of a 2013 Volkswagen Touareg VR6

Sales of eco-friendly cars have increased 50 percent over last year, Autoblog reports. If you’re ready to go green by buying an alt-fuel vehicle but are unfamiliar with the technology they use, you’re going to have a hard time with your search. This is made even more complicated when you look at cars such as the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg, which comes with three different engine options. Learn about the differences among the engine types instead of choosing the first option presented to you at the dealership.

Standard

The standard engine on the Touareg (or any vehicle) is exactly that—a normal, gas-powered combustion engine. In the case of the Touareg, it’s a 3.6-liter, 24-valve engine that gets 280 horsepower. It’s a solid performance engine with 24 MPG at the top end, Fuel Economy.com reports. This engine is used on several Touareg configurations, such as the V6 sport and the V6 Executive.

Hybrid

This is the first time Volkswagen has put a hybrid electric engine into one of their cars. It’s a supercharged engine, so you’re getting 333 horsepower out of the deal. This does come at the expense of fuel economy, as it also only gets 24 MPG, but the hybrid nature of the engine makes it more eco-friendly overall. For hybrid cars that aren’t supercharged, the hybrid engine option typically provides a large MPG increase, such as the Prius at 50 MPG.

Electric

Volkswagen doesn’t make an all-electric Touareg, but you will encounter this engine type in your search for a green vehicle. An electric vehicle (EV) uses a rechargeable electric motor that uses fuel cells powered by a controller. These eco-engines convert the electrical energy into mechanical power, eliminating those harmful fuel emissions and reducing your carbon footprint.

TDI

TDI stands for turbocharged direction injection, which essentially means it’s a diesel engine. The diesel-engine Touareg gets 30 MPG and has lower emissions than gasoline, making it a better choice if you want to stay away from hybrids but still do something good for the environment.

Making Your Choice

No matter which car you get, you’re looking at choosing among a standard, hybrid, electric or TDI engine. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Hybrids and EVs come with tax incentives for purchasing, so the list price is probably not what you’re actually going to end up paying overall.
  • EVs are the best selection for the environment, followed by hybrids.
  • Diesel engines are a good choice if you’re not entirely sold on hybrid engines, although they don’t tend to be as efficient in MPG numbers.
  • A used hybrid is a cost-conscious option. Browse available hybrids and EVs in your area to weigh the price and efficiency comparisons.
  • Standard engines have come a long way from the gas-guzzling, emissions-heavy pieces of equipment they were only 20 years ago. If you do choose to go with a standard engine over a greener option, it’s not nearly as bad as if you were rolling around in a ’60s muscle car—but it’s still the least environmentally friendly choice of the bunch.

It comes down to your budget, personal preferences and overall lifestyle.

Brad Goodwin, the author of this post, has worked on urban renewal projects in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

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