Photo: igloowhite/Creative Commons
A bike or local public transportation may be the greenest way to get around, but sometimes even the biggest cargo bike can't do everything.
Whether you want to see the countryside, have a ton of luggage, or are trying to get your new flat-packed bookshelf or ornamental dwarf trees home from your local hardware store, rent one of these five energy-efficient, electric, or hybrid cars (by the day or by the hour) next time you are at the car rental agency.
1. The Chevy Volt
In January, Enterprise announced that it would join the green car rental business by adding Chevy Volts to its fleet in Ontario, Canada.
The Volt, which was named the 2011 Car of the Year by Motor Trend, is available alongside other hybrid and electric cars in Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington as well as other cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
2. The SmartForTwo
Car rental company Avis offers a lineup of energy-efficient cars that includes the Toyota Prius and the pint-sized Smart Fortwo, which is small enough to squeeze into parking spots in whatever unfamiliar city your job landed you in this week.
It also has an estimated MPG of 42 miles on the highway (33 in the city) so you won't spend your whole per diem on gas costs.
3. The Nissan Leaf
Though a quick search of the Hertz site didn't show any Nissan Leafs (or is it Leaves?) available in our area, the company has said they would start adding them to their fleet this year (Hertz already offers the Prius and the hybrid Camry in many locations).
Hertz also started a new program, HertzEV, which allows customers to sign up and test-drive a variety of electric vehicles, including the Coda sedan, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the Tesla Roadster.
4. The Nissan Altima
According to the Nissan website, the Altima gets 33 MPG on the highway and in the city -- but it's only available in a few states, so renting one might be best chance for trying it out.
5. The Toyota Prius
You can find the Toyota Prius at most car rental services, but it's also the newest addition to the ZipCar fleet in Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. -- among many others.
And while you (or your company) need a ZipCar membership to borrow one, signing up for the service in a city where you spend a lot of time -- where your in-laws live, where your son is going to college, where your company just opened a satellite office -- can save a lot of wear and tear on your primary car while helping you go a little easier on the environment.