Picking a car that pollutes less can also minimize the cost of a fill-up.
One doesn’t necessarily have to be an avid environmentalist to seek out a “greener” car or truck. That’s because the most ecologically minded models on the road also happen to be among the most fuel-efficient rides on the road, with zero-emissions electric cars typically performing best in both regards.
Of course those with an ecological bent already know that choosing one of the most environmentally benign models on the market means looking a bit farther beyond its city and highway mpg ratings. For example, while an all-electric car generates zero emissions, its overall environmental impact depends greatly on the effect to which the local power source used to generate the electricity adversely affects the air, ground and/or water.
To that end, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in Washington, D.C., recently released its annual survey of what it considers to the “greenest” and “meanest” new vehicles for the 2014 model year, which we’re listing in the accompanying box. Rankings are based primarily on a car’s tailpipe emissions, which include hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, as well as greenhouse gases that are said to affect climate change. The Green Scores also consider the impact of a vehicle’s manufacturing process and disposal, and (where applicable) natural gas extraction practices and the sources of energy used to generate power for electric cars.
Electric and hybrid-powered vehicles dominate the greenest vehicles list for 2014, with the tiny two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive at the top with a “green score” of 59, which is the highest rating for a passenger car ever recorded by the ACEEE. The only conventionally powered models on the cleanest-car list are the Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact and the standard Smart ForTwo.
“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 2014 vehicles is populated by a dozen of the industry’s biggest gas-guzzlers, primarily big trucks and fast sports cars. The worst violator this year is the heavy-duty Ram 2500 pickup, followed by the pavement-burning Bugatti Veyron exotic sports car at over $1 million.
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. Such models 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. Information on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions ratings for all new (and previous model-year) cars and trucks can also be found at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, fueleconomy.gov.
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