AMERICA’S GREENEST CARS FOR 2011
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Published on Sat, Feb 19, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
FROM WIRE REPORTS Latest technologies place but don’t win in this year’s greenest vehicles list Washington, D.C.—With the arrival of the first widely available plug-in vehicles, model year 2011 boasts the most diverse car offerings ever in terms of technologies and fuels. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released its 14th annual environmental ratings for the model year showing how they all stack up. The result? Some newcomers—including an electric vehicle and a plug-in electric hybrid—did well, while several of the regulars held their ground. This year’s ratings reveal a face-off among plug-ins, gasoline hybrids, diesels, natural gas vehicles, and ever-improving “conventional” gasoline vehicles. For the 8th year, the compressed natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX wins top honors, notwithstanding changes to Green Book® rating methods that boosted other technologies. But below the top spot, the “Greenest” list sees a shake-up: the all-electric Nissan Leaf places second, followed by the gasoline-powered Smart Fortwo. Hybrids take the next three spots, followed closely by Ford’s new Fiesta SFE (Super Fuel Economy) and the Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Also notable on this year’s list is the Hyundai Elantra, with a 4 mile-per-gallon jump in fuel economy over the 2010 model. Rounding out the “Greenest” are the Mazda 2 and the much-touted Chevrolet Volt “extended-range EV,” which slip into the 12th and 13th spots. All told, six new models pushed out entries on last year’s list.
The strong showing of conventional vehicles in the top twelve is a testament to how serious manufacturers have gotten about recasting these vehicles as fuel-sippers with transmission refinements, weight savings, and sophisticated internal combustion engines. “We’re seeing an increasing number of highly efficient gasoline options from both foreign and domestic automakers along with the first electric vehicles. Ford introduced the Fiesta this year and Chevrolet debuted the Cruze, both of which do exceedingly well in our ratings,” said ACEEE vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan. Regarding plug-in vehicles, ACEEE Transportation Director Therese Langer noted: “Vehicles running on electricity emit nothing from the tailpipe, but their ‘upstream’ emissions can be substantial, depending on where they’re charged. As U.S. power generation becomes cleaner, these vehicles’ scores will rise.” The Green Book® methodology update also incorporates emissions associated with battery manufacture and disposal in a manner that reflects material content, drawing from Argonne National Lab’s GREET model. Hybrids lose a couple of points on their Green Scores as a result and this year capture only three of the top 12 spots. Once again diesels fall just short of the Greenest list. Widely regarded as the pre-eminent buyer’s guide to environment-friendly passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs, greenercars.org provides the facts necessary to examine the eco-performance of any 2011 model. Vehicles are analyzed on the basis of a “Green Score,” a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emissions of gases that cause global warming. The greenercars.org Web site also identifies a selection of top, widely-available models in each vehicle class. This “Greener Choices” list includes trucks and SUVs such as the Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Canyon, and the Ford F-150 (FFV). Cars such as the Honda CR-Z and Hyundai Sonata top their respective classes. As the list demonstrates, consumers can make “greener choices” whatever their vehicle needs may be.
THE MEANEST CARS The “Meanest” list this year is populated largely by heavy trucks and SUVs, a marked change from the numerous European sports cars that dominated last year’s list. Nevertheless, the Bugatti Veyron tops the list this year with a Green Score of 19. In addition to highlighting the year’s “Greenest,” “Meanest,” “Greener Choices,” and best-in-class lists, the greenercars.org Web site features informational write-ups on model year 2011 highlights, a consumer primer on vehicles and the environment, and advice on how to buy green when shopping for a new car or truck. Summary “Green Scores” of the 1,000+ configurations of all model year 2011 vehicles are made available to subscribers of ACEEE’s Green Book® Online interactive database along with each configuration’s fuel economy, health-related pollution impacts, global warming emissions, and estimated fuel expenses. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit research group dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security and environmental protection. For more information, go to aceee.org.