The cleanest of the clean
We’ve come a long way since the first Prius came on the scene as a weirdly-shaped box of metal in 2000. Green car options now include a variety of electrified drivetrains in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and pure EVs, and internal combustion engines have made remarkable strides towards efficiency.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released its 21st annual GreenerCars ratings, ranking vehicles out of 100 for the greenest options to help you pick the cleanest ride out there. The ranking is based on an environmental damage index (EDX), which is calculated around the damage to human health by air pollution caused by vehicle tailpipes, producing and distributing fuel, and manufacturing vehicles.
The Greenest List is made up entirely of vehicles with electrified drivetrains for the third consecutive year. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric nabbed the top spot for the second year in a row with a record high score of 70. Evidencing just how far we’ve come since Prius was the last word in green, the Toyota Prius Eco came in eighth on the list, bested by luxury models from BMW (i3 BEV) and Tesla (Model 3 Long Range) as well as Kia, Chevy, and the Mercedes Smart Fortwo.
Both the Tesla Model 3 (ranked fourth) and the Chevrolet Bolt (ranked sixth) stand out as pure EVs with a driving range of over 200 miles with price tags under $40,000. If an electric-only engine doesn’t suit your needs, you’ll also find multiple hybrids on the list, including the Kia Niro plug-in and Chevrolet Bolt plug-in (plus the aforementioned Hyundai Ioniq variants and Toyota Prius Eco).
Of course, vehicles requiring a charger for maximum efficiency aren’t viable options for every household. GreenerCars also ranks more practical, and widely available, options in a Greener Choices list, which includes both conventional vehicles and traditional hybrids.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid LE takes top honors in this category, coming in at a score of 62. If space is also a priority, one large SUV made the cut at number nine: the Lexus RX 450h (though its score falls considerably to 46). A couple other roomier options are also highlighted, including the Honda CR-V for a more compact SUV, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and two trucks: the rear-wheel-drive 2.7-liter Ford-150 and Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon Diesel.
If a luxury midsize car is more your speed, the Mercedes GLA250 falls at number eight with a score of 48. Besides the Camry, Toyota appears on the list again for the Yaris iA, earning a score of 55.
GreenerCars doesn’t let the not-so-efficient vehicles off the hook in their rankings, either: the worst offenders are compiled in a Meanest List in contrast to the Greenest List. This naughty list is made up mostly of large SUVs, well-equipped pickup trucks, heavier medium-duty vehicles, and European luxury cars with the worst environmental footprints. Mercedes-Benz claims four of these spots, with Toyota bringing three inefficient vehicles to the list.
But there’s more good news than bad: green cars are making significant progress each year, and it’s safe to say there’s now a (relatively) efficient option for just about any need, whether that’s luxury, space, or price point.