The ‘Greenest’ Cars For 2014 – Forbes
You don’t necessarily need to be a card-carrying member of Greenpeace to reap the benefits of an eco-friendly car. Though only 29 percent of car shoppers cited environmental friendliness as their primary reason for choosing a particular make and model in a recent survey on powertrains conducted by Morpace, Inc. in Farmington Hills, Mich., a resounding 62 percent of those queried said choosing the most fuel-efficient model was their top shopping consideration.
Fortunately for car buyers of either persuasion, the two criteria are intertwined – a more fuel-efficient ride generally pollutes less and gas guzzlers are among the least environmentally friendly ides on the road. That said, a given vehicle’s overall impact on the ecosystem isn’t limited solely to the volume of its tailpipe emissions. For example, while an all-electric car itself generates zero emissions, its overall environmental impact depends on the effect to which the local power source used to generate the electricity adversely affects the air, ground and/or water.
To help car shoppers choose a “greener” ride, whether in a nod to Mother Nature or to help minimize ongoing fuel costs, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington, D.C. just released its annual survey of what it determines are the most- and least environmentally friendly new vehicles for sale in the U.S. Once again electric and hybrid-powered vehicles dominate the greenest vehicles list for 2014, with the tiny two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive leading the pack with a “Green Score” of 59, which is the highest rating for a passenger car ever recorded by the ACEEE. The only other all-electric model to make the top 12 was the Nissan Leaf, coming in third place with a Green Score of 55.
We’re featuring the ACEEE’s complete list of Greenest Cars, along with their estimated fuel economy ratings and Green Scores in the accompanying slide show.
Three of the top-rated cars for 2014 come from Toyota’s Prius family of hybrids, with the Prius c hybrid subcompact hatchback coming in at #2, the Prius midsize hatchback at #4 and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid at #7 on the list. Other hybrids among the top dozen include the Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h, Honda Insight and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. The limited-availability Honda Civic Natural Gas compact sedan resides in the ninth slot, while the only gasoline-fueled models to break into the group include the new-for-2014 Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact at #8 and the conventionally powered Smart ForTwo at #11. Seven out of the 12 greenest cars on the ACEEE’s 2014 list come from either Honda or Toyota.
“We’ve had such an influx of hybrid and electric vehicles in recent years that the race to earn a spot on the ‘Greenest’ list is more competitive than ever, particularly for conventional vehicles,” says ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan. “It’s encouraging to see automakers investing heavily in eco-savvy vehicles on the whole.”
Meanwhile, the ACEEE’s list of “meanest” vehicles for the 2014 model year is once again populated by the biggest trucks and fastest sports cars that tend to pack the most fuel-swilling engines. Unlike the greenest list, where Japanese brands placed 10 out the 12 cars cited, the aggregate of worst offenders is dominated by domestic and European automakers’ wares. The top (or bottom, if you prefer) vehicle in that regard for 2014 is the Ram 2500 heavy-duty pickup, followed by the pavement-burning Bugatti Veyron uber-exotic sports car and the passenger version of the full-size Ford E-150 van. Click here to see our post and slideshow on the ACEEE’s prime polluters for 2014, which include some of the most desirable rides on Earth.
The fine print: The ACEEE determines its Green Score rankings according to combination of factors that primarily takes into account a vehicle’s fuel economy and its tailpipe emissions. The latter include health-damaging and smog-forming airborne pollutants like hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, as well as greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and other compounds. The Green Scores also consider such factors as emissions estimates for a vehicle’s manufacturing process, disposal impact and (where applicable) natural gas extraction practices and the sources of energy used to generate power for electric cars.
In addition to the greenest vehicle recommendations, the ACEEE also identifies widely available, and in many cases, more practical and affordable, greener choices among all conventionally powered model categories on its greenercars.org website. Winners in individual vehicle classes for 2014 include the Buick Encore compact luxury sedan, Nissan Rogue and Juke crossover SUVs, Chevrolet Spark subcompact hatchback, Honda Odyssey minivan and the Ram 1500 HFE and Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks.
What’s more, car shoppers can research ratings from among over 1,000 separate model-year 2014 vehicle configurations by subscribing to the organization’s Green Book online database at $8.95 for 30 days or $19.95 for 12 months. Information on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions ratings for all new (and previous model-year) cars and trucks can also be found at no cost on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, fueleconomy.gov.