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VOL. 35 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 11, 2011

Fuel efficient options available, but you might have to wait

By Hollie Deese

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The Vespa Buddy, which gets 90 miles per gallon and has a top speed of 65 mph.

Want to save money on gas without resorting to public transportation?

You might want to try a hybrid or electric car, especially now with more on the market and lower sticker prices.

And don’t forget about government incentives. Buyers of plug-in hybrids and electric cars get a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500, according to hybridcars.com.

The hard part is finding one.

“We are sold out of hybrids right now,” says Tim Cochran, new car sales manager at Lexus of Nashville. Lexus entered the hybrid market in 2006 and has a number of offerings, including a new model introduced just this week, the CT200H, marketed as the most fuel-efficient luxury hybrid sedan on the market.

“This one is going to run on regular gas and achieve 42 miles to the gallon on average,” Cochran says, and the 20-cent savings over the premium fuel Lexus owners are used to buying is “fantastic, especially with the price of fuel right now.”

Starting at $29,900, the CT200H’s price rises to $35,000 with a navigation system, heated and cooled seats, USB capability and more.

Pre-orders for the Nissan Leaf, which is moving production to Smyrna in 2012, began in August for Tennessee and four other states. There have been 100 deliveries of the Leaf ($25,280-$26,220 after tax savings) in Tennessee so far. Order one today and you should get it in four to seven months.

Chevrolet’s Volt ($41,000), the North American Car of the Year, won’t be available here until October or November, according to a representative of Carl Black Chevrolet.

Price is important, since many consumers can’t afford the higher sticker price. Many in that category will opt for a non-hybrid model with good gas mileage.

Virginia Roberson is one such consumer, buying last year after doing much research and cost comparison between hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles.

“We just felt like the savings were not enough for the exorbitant price at the time,” Roberson says. “We just looked at miles per gallon and thought this wasn’t going to save us enough money to afford the price tag.”

Of course, as fuel prices creep higher and higher, she is certainly might be more open to considering a hybrid the next time around.

“With gas process rising and the fact that within this economy the cars are more affordable and there are a lot more cars now,” she says. “Maybe you could get an SUV hybrid and not get a gas guzzler.”

Want to take a bigger step without having to peddle?

James Duer, owner of East Side Scooters, says he is definitely seeing an increase in interest, but so far has not seen a bump in sales.

“This time of year it is just a hair cool,” he says. “Usually people start pulling the trigger around mid-April.”

Their best selling scooter, the “Buddy,” gets 90 MPG and tops out at a speed of 65 miles per hour. In late April, however, he is getting in the most fuel-efficient scooter on the market. The “Stella” will get a jaw-dropping 140 MPG and get to 62 miles per hour with an MSRP price of $3,599.

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