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Americans Are Still Buying Gas-Guzzlers, But Here Are 7 Signs That the Market for Green Transport Is Exploding

More and more Americans are finding other ways to get around in greener fashion, from Smart Cars to Vespas.

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There are also some 100 percent-electric cars coming back to the U.S., but so far there aren't too many on the road.

BMW is field testing a few of its Mini E's, an all-electric, zero-emissions version of their popular Minin, and there are limited number of the high-end Tesla Roadsters, which will can run about 241 miles on a charge (and go zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds), but will cost you about $100,000. Pretty soon, we may also be seeing the electric version of the Smart car, the Smart ED cruising the streets.

And plug-in technology isn't just limited to cars. A whole range of electric vehicles have been developed, many of which are especially good for urban areas.

LEVs, or light electric vehicles include electric scooters, electric bikes, one-person commute cars,electric pedicabs, and neighborhood electric vehicles.

These are particularly prudent because over half of all urban car trips last less than 10 minutes, and 80 percent are within 10 miles or fewer. If you're not going far, why use a heavy, greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicle if you don't have to?

Better yet, why drive at all? Electric bikes are becoming a popular option for people who are looking to add a little power to their pedaling, don't want to show up to work sweaty and value a greener, cheaper way to get to where they're going. Oh, and of course not having to worry about parking is a bonus. Electric bikes start around $350.

The e-bikes' popularity may be growing in the U.S. and worldwide.

"This year's hottest trend on two wheels: electric bikes, or e-bikes," Business Week reported. "Last year, 23 million were sold worldwide, and the number is expected to double by 2012, says Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, a biennial publication tracking the industry. Interest in the designs, which contain an electric motor to give a cyclist a helping push, is growing globally, with markets flourishing in China, India, Europe and the U.S."

Best Buy, the country's largest consumer-electronics store is now selling electric-powered scooters. And the New York Times reports:

Propelled by a perfect tailwind of technology, high oil prices and the vogue for all things green, global sales of bikes driven by battery-powered electric motors have climbed nearly 20 percent since 2005.

In the United States, consumers are also migrating in greater numbers to e-bikes, drawn in part by lighter and more powerful batteries and practical aids, like bike lanes and lockers. E-bike sales are forecast to double by 2009 to 200,000 from 100,000 in 2005.

Of course, to get the most green for your buck, plugging into a power grid that is coming from renewable energy sources is best -- the last thing we need is a burst of business for coal-burning power plants.

3. The Best Things Come in Small Packages

If you are going to go the traditional, automobile route and don't want a hybrid (or want to spend about half as much money -- they start around $12,000), there is the Smart Fortwo, ranked as the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car in the U.S., with 33 mpg in the city and 41 on highway. And if there was a "best car to park" award, it would likely go to the Smart car.

The car is a joint venture between Swatch (yes, the watches) and Mercedes-Benz, now a Daimler AG company. Over 1 million of the tiny gems have been sold worldwide in 40 countries. They finally made it to the U.S. market in 2008 and sold about 25,000 the first year. If you live in an urban area, their popularity seems to be growing, with new models (including an adorable convertible) that are both cute and classy.

 
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