Thanks to some, I’m sure, backbreaking research done by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy [ACEEE], we can get a better idea if the vehicle we’re looking to buy is truly environmentally responsible. True, we could follow the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] Fuel Economy Guide, but fuel efficiency is really only part of the story. Environmental responsibility also includes vehicle manufacturers’ recycling programs, energy-saving methods, use of renewable energy, and other factors, all of which are counted by the ACEEE’s and combined into a Green Score.
True, fuel economy factors heavily into the ratings, but we’re hardly going to find a 9mpg cargo van sitting next to a 121 MPGe mini-car in the ACEEE Green Book. The top “greenest” vehicles per class, according to the latest ACEEE press release, offer great fuel economy and peace of mind. Fortunately, there’s something for everyone, from two-seaters to hybrid full-size sedans. Here are the ACEEE Greenest for each vehicle class. Keep in mind, the vehicles here are not strictly “green” because they are fuel efficient, but for their overall environmental responsibility.
- Two Seater – Smart fortwo – You can choose the coupe or convertible in this little 1.0?-powered coupe, get to work or play, safely and economically. Yes, it’s a city car, but I regularly see commuters on I-87 heading into New York City in their Smart fortwo with 38 mpg.
- Subcompact – Chevy Spark – Almost the smallest vehicle you can get with four doors and starting under $16,500. Powered by a 1.2? engine and paired with a four-speed manual transmission, the Spark has enough pep to get four party-goers around the city without costing a fortune in fuel.
- Compact – Toyota Prius c – Also greenest car overall for 2013, the Toyota Prius c is the newest and smallest member of the expanding Prius Family. At 50 mpg, the Prius c still has room for four passengers and is competitively priced under $19,000.
- Midsize – Toyota Prius Plug-In – If the Prius c is the smallest member, then the Toyota Prius Plug-In is the most advanced. Featuring an electric-only range of 11 miles and an overall range of 540 miles, the Prius Plug-In is rated at 95 MPGe and 50 mpg overall.
- Small Wagon – Honda Fit EV – The most environmentally friendly small wagon is also one of the few electric vehicles to make it to the top of the Green Book, which, surprisingly, didn’t include Tesla Model S. The Honda Fit EV is pure electric drive and is rated at 118 MPGe and has a range of just over 80 miles, which is not bad for a five-passenger EV.
- Midsize Wagon – Toyota Prius v – Surprisingly enough, this is the last Prius on this list, and also the largest member of the Prius Family at 42 mpg overall. While it features the same tried-and-true Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive, it makes up for its slightly reduced fuel economy with extra cargo space 34.3 ft3 compared to 21.6 ft3 in the standard Prius.
- Large – Ford C-Max – Ford may be a latecomer to the hybrid market, but certainly not looking to be last. C-Max is the first in Ford’s all-new all-hybrid lineup, and at 47 mpg, already outclasses many other hybrids on the market, even the reigning king, Toyota Prius.
Clearly, with the increasing price of fuel and stricter fuel economy standards, automakers haven’t failed to deliver, and across the whole spectrum of vehicles. Another thing to take into consideration, how our vehicles are being made, is also being addressed by automakers, such as General Motors, already top solar user in automotive manufacturing, pledging to install 125 MW of solar power by 2020. According to Ford, by changing some materials that go into their vehicles, they are 85% recyclable, meaning that at the end of its lifespan, less of a Ford will end up in a landfill.
Of course, the biggest factor, fuel economy, is being attacked from all sides by all manufacturers. Currently, the most fuel efficient gasoline-powered vehicle is the Scion iQ at 37 mpg, the most efficient hybrid is the Toyota Prius c at 50 mpg, and the most efficient electric vehicle is the Scion iQ EV, rated at 121 MPGe.
B. Jerew covers automotive topics from a sustainable angle. His work has been widely published across the web, including articles on everything from hybrid supercars to the dangers of EV vehicles for first responders. image source