2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012
It's autumn, which means that new 2013 cars are now showing up in dealerships all across the country.
With gas prices high and new fuel-economy standards in effect, automakers are rolling out new green cars of every type.
Here's our selective list of the important new green models you'll be able to buy over the next year.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of them are hybrids, including a few from makers you may not know offer them--Acura, BMW, and Volkswagen, for instance--and a few more from hybrid powerhouse Toyota.
There aren't too many new diesels this year; the 2014 model year will change that, with two significant new entries coming.
And there are a few new electric cars coming too, though two of the three are low-volume "compliance cars" that won't be sold nationwide.
Finally, it's important to keep in mind that gas mileage is going up on all classes of vehicles, prompted by new fuel-efficiency standards adopted by the EPA and NHTSA in 2009.
So before you conclude that a hybrid is your only option for high gas mileage, check out the conventional gasoline models.
While they won't match the mileage of hybrids for the same size of car, you may be pleasantly surprised that the 25-mpg compact sedan of several years ago is now a 33-mpg car.
NEW HYBRIDS and PLUG-IN HYBRIDS
A number of new hybrid models are being launched for 2013, including the first direct competitor to the iconic Toyota Prius.
Four of the new models come from Ford, which sold the first U.S.-built hybrid way back in 2004. All four use the latest generation of its hybrid drive system, and two of the four plug in as well.
The 2013 Acura ILX is a new entry and the smallest model from Honda's luxury sports brand.
The four-door sedan is essentially a Honda Civic underneath, and all three versions are assembled in the U.S.--including the ILX Hybrid, which has the least powerful of the three engines offered in the ILX sport sedan.
2013 Acura ILX Hybrid, New York City, July 2012
The ILX Hybrid uses the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and integrated 15-kilowatt (23-hp) electric motor as the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid. The motor is powered by a small lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk; the powertrain's combined output is 111 hp and 127 pound-feet of torque.
Our reviewer noted that, at times, the 2,900-pound ILX Hybrid "feels very, very sluggish, particularly with the ECON mode enabled, which widens the idle-stop window, retards the throttle response, and minimizes climate control loads."
The Acura ILX Hybrid is the brand's first hybrid to be built in the U.S. It follows last year's Honda Civic Hybrid, which was the first hybrid Honda has ever built in the States.
Those two cars are likely not to be the last hybrid offerings sold in the largest global market for Honda hybrids, however.
2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3, 5, and 7
2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3
Over 18 months, BMW is updating its 2013 ActiveHybrid 7 full-size luxury sedan with a new powertrain.
All three sedans use a 300-hp turbocharged straight-six, with a 40-kW (55-hp) electric motor sandwiched between the engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission modified to work even if the engine is off.
Total power output is 335 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque.
While they're more economical than engines of similar output without the hybrid system, BMW isn't using its single-motor hybrid system to produce the highest fuel efficiency.
(That role falls to its diesel models, including a 3-Series diesel that may be launched during 2013 to join its diesel X5 crossover utility.)
But the hybrids will be offered globally, and they promise more electric running up to 45 mph--BMW claims up to 2.5 miles solely on electric power--than the old ActiveHybrid 7, whose mild-hybrid system just assisted its twin-turbo V-8 engine and couldn't move the car on its own.
Top speed of the hybrid models is limited to 155 mph, and the ActiveHybrid 3 is quoted with a 0-to-62-mph acceleration time of just over 5 seconds.
BMW's main green-car focus isn't hybrids, but its upcoming range of plug-in cars, to be known as the BMW i series.
The first of that line, the all-electric BMW i3 subcompact hatchback, will be launched next fall for the 2014 model year.