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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Autos & Small Consumer Vehicles

2011 Finds Greener Car Models in Conventional, Hybrid and Electric Models

The arrival of the first widely available plug-in vehicles in model year 2011 boasts the most diverse car offerings ever in terms of technologies and fuels.

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The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has 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 measure the face-off among plug-ins, gasoline hybrids, diesels, natural gas vehicles, and ever-improving "conventional" gasoline vehicles.

For the 8th year, the Honda Civic GX wins top honors, notwithstanding changes to Green Book® rating methods that boosted other technologies.

But below the top spot, the "Greenest" vehicle list sees a shake-up:

  • Second: the all-electric Nissan Leaf
  • Third: 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.

Notable this year is the Hyundai Elantra, with a 4 mile-per-gallon jump in fuel economy over the 2010 model.

Rounding out the "Greenest" is the much-touted Chevrolet Volt "extended-range EV," which slips into the 12th spot.

Five new energy-efficient and low emissions models pushed out entries on last year's list.

Conventional Vehicles Show Serious Improvement

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, GMCCanyon, 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" 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.

Subscribers can also build custom lists for comparing vehicles. Monthly and annual subscriptions to ACEEE's Green Book® Online are available at greenercars.org.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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