Eco-Cars Struggle to Meet Expectations

Is there such thing as a car that's good for the environment? No, but we can at least try to make them a little less eco-unfriendly.

On Saturday, the Green Drive Expo highlighted the latest in slightly-cleaner hybrid and electric cars. Though they run on varying amounts of electricity, the cars still require large environment-choking pavement and neighborhood-killing parking lots.

The star of the show was the new Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car that hits the market around Christmas. It's expected to retail for about $33,000, for which price you could buy several dozen full-featured bicycles.

Some exhibitors showed off the plant-derived components of their vehicles. In some vehicles, seats and plastics are partially made from materials derived from soy and wheat.

A few car-owners showed off their own jury-rigged vehicles, with electric assemblies inserted into older models such as a Mazda Miata.

The electric car industry has been rocked by controversy lately, with new reports that the Chevy Volt is hardly as green as GM initially claimed. The claimed 230 MPG fuel economy has turned out to be more like 40 MPG, and the all-electric engine has been accused of using more fossil fuel than was initially claimed.

Fittingly, the car expo took place in the suburbs of Richmond, which has long shunned convenient public transportation. To make the 20-mile trip from downtown San Francisco to the Craneway Pavilion by public transit takes over an hour.

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