Jan. 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
The Toyota Prius C, the newest member of Toyota Prius “family,” has been named the nation’s “greenest” vehicle by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. At the other end of the spectrum, the ACEEE tarred the Ford F-350 as the “meanest,” or dirtiest vehicle on the road.
The organization, which describes itself as a “catalyst to advance energy efficiency,” hailed the growing number of hybrids, plug-ins, pure battery-electric vehicles and other environmental friendly vehicles now coming to market and noted that new products dominated the dozen models on its “Greenest” vehicle list.
“The vehicles at the top of this year’s rankings are proof that automakers are really ramping up their offerings,” said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan. “There are more hybrid and electric options on the market this year than ever before and the race for a spot on the Greenest list is increasingly competitive. Automakers have revamped their offerings to meet the growing demand for efficient vehicles and new fuel economy standards.”
While a select group of conventionally powered vehicles continues to do well in the study, they’ve largely been displaced by newer offerings using some form of battery power, whether light hybrids or full electric propulsion. The Honda Civic Natural Gas model that dominated as the number greenest model for eight years didn’t even make ACEEE’s Top 12 this time. Only the Smart fortwo and Scion iQ microcars made the list using gasoline-powered engines.
All of the new Prius family members took “Greenest” honors, the original Prius hatchback taking third place, the big Prius V in 11th, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid landing in fourth.
While the Honda natural gas model was knocked off the list for the survey’s 25th year, the Japanese maker’s Fit Electric earned the number two spot, while its new Civic Hybrid landed in fifth.
Three Ford Motor Co. models also earned “Greenest” honors, including the Focus EV and the Fusion C-Max Hybrids. The dozen honored nameplates also included two Europeans, the VW Jetta Hybrid in seventh, and the Smart fortwo in eighth.
Along with the “Greenest” list, the ACEEE gave kudos to a dozen “Greener Choice” models that were the cleanest in their individual product segments. Detroit models claimed half of those winners, including the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Equinox.
However Ford was hammered as having three of the “Meanest” models, a list that not only included the F-350 but also the slightly smaller F-250 pickup.
The ACEEE study has traditionally considered a range of factors to determine its “Greenest” and “Meanest” lists including “unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emissions of gases that contribute to climate change.” It has updated the methodology this year, however, to also include issues like emissions from the manufacturing process and the forecasted mix of fuels used to generate power for electric vehicles.
That last factor is significant as some skeptics argue that plug-based vehicles don’t so much eliminate pollution but simply move the source. Even proponents concede their benefits can vary depending upon whether they’re tapping, say, a wind farm or a coal generator.