Green Car of The Year 2009 - Audi A3 TDI Diesel

The green car of the year is an Audi A3 TDI Diesel, but I'm not so sure this is the best car, really.

Audi A3 TDI Diesel

According to this Wired article:

The A3 diesel is powered by a 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine that puts down 140 horsepower. It delivers 30 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway. It starts at $29,950 and is available in all 50 states.

That's not bad at all, and it's exciting to see lots of new cars getting better and better gas mileage. But I think we have to consider the alternative opportunities when we consider a "Green" car.

Compare the Audi A3 to a Scion XB

So, it's about twice the cost of the first generation Scion XB when they were new and about triple the cost of that car on the used market. That means, if instead of buying a brand new Audi A3 you simply purchased a first generation Scion XB then you would have between $20,000 and $15,000 left over. The Scion gets about 30 miles per gallon, so in a typical year (12,000 miles) you would be burning 400 gallons of gasoline in the Scion and 280 gallons in the Audi. At a conservative price of around $3 per gallon, that puts the Audi at $360 per year less to run. If we figure a useful life of either of these cars is 20 years (also pretty generous) then the Audi costs $7,200 in fuel less over its lifetime (and that is not a discounted cash flow number...and it assumes equal maintenance costs, which I think the Scion will be cheaper to maintain).

Making car and environment decisions in light of alternatives

So, the Green Audi would leave you with between $7,800 and $12,800 less in your pocket today. What could you do with an extra $7,800? Well, for many of us in Colorado that is enough money to install enough solar panels on our roof to be 100% solar powered (when including state and federal subsidies). It is enough to purchase fluorescent light bulbs for all of your neighbors. It's enough to make a giant donation to a tree planting charity and get a few acres of trees planted (or a carbon offset company, if you're into those).