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April 12, 2012
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These models are safe, affordable and environmentally efficient.


By Jim Gorzelany



One of the many benefits of a “greener” car – that is, one that emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and other factors – is that they’re usually among the most fuel efficient rides on the road. And with gas prices predicted to hit well over $4/gallon in the coming months, a growing number of motorists will likely become environmentalists when it comes to saving money at the pump. To make it easier for consumers to choose a more eco-friendly vehicle, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy recently

released its “Green Scores” for each new car and truck. These are primarily based on a vehicle’s fuel economy and its tailpipe emissions, including health-damaging and smog-forming airborne pollutants, as well as greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Other factors include emissions estimates for a vehicle’s manufacturing process,

disposal impact and (where applicable) natural gas extraction practices and the generation of electricity used to power electric cars. Sitting atop the ACEEE’s “Greenest Vehicles” list this year is the subcompact electric-powered Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which receives a

Green Score of 58 (the average rating among all models is 35 and the worst gas-guzzlers scored around 17). Next on the list is the Honda Civic Natural Gas and the electric Nissan Leaf, both with a 55 score. Most of the other top-rated models were gas/electric hybrids, including the Toyota Prius (with a Green Score of 54), Honda Insight (53), Honda Civic hybrid (52), Lexus CT 200h (51), Toyota Camry Hybrid (51) and the Honda CR-Z (50).

Unfortunately, hybrids and pure electric cars exact a cost penalty of several thousand dollars that can be difficult to recover in fuel savings – the top rated i-MiEV costs nearly

$30,000, for example, which is around twice the price of a high mileage, conventionally powered small car. A recent study by the research company Vincentric determined that, of 27 hybrid vehicles evaluated, only three current models (the Toyota Camry Hybrid,

Honda Insight and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid) have a total cost of ownership over a five-year period that’s predicted to be lower than their all gasoline counterparts. To help both environmentally active and budget-minded motorists get the most bang for the buck, we

cross-rated the ACEEE’s "Green Scores" for the top-performing vehicles across multiple classes against their base sticker prices to determine which cars afford the greatest environmental benefits – and highest fuel economy – for the money. The least expensive cars on the accompanying list – the Smart ForTwo and Hyundai Accent – start at under $13,000 yet boast Green Scores that are among the best inthe ACEEE’s survey. “Beyond a certain fuel price point, the higher the fuel prices the lower the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles,” says Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif. “At some point, diminishing returns set in regarding the premium   charged/paid for an alternative fuel vehicle, especially when several manufacturers are

producing vehicles with 36-40 mpg at significantly lower prices than alternative fuel vehicles.” For those keeping score, the “meanest” 2012 vehicles that can be expected to be the most harmful to the environment, according to the ACEEE, include the Bugatti Veyron, Maybach 57, Mercedes-Benz G500 and Bentley Mulsanne ultra-luxury vehicles, as well as the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs, the Ford F-150 Raptor sport pickup and assorted heavy-duty full-size vans and trucks. Consult the ACEEE’s website at to check the top-rated models in each vehicle

class, as well as detailed ratings (on a subscription basis) from among over 1,000 separate model-year 2012 vehicle configurations.

© CTW Features


Most Afordable green cars of 2012

Make/Model Green Score Base MSRP

1. Smart ForTwo 53 $12,490

2. Hyundai Accent 50 $12,545

3. Ford Fiesta 49 $13,200

4. Chevrolet Sonic 49 $13,865

5. Kia Soul 47 $13,900

6. Toyota Yaris 50 $14,115

7. Mazda2 49 $14,530

8. Honda Fit 47 $15,175

9. Scion IQ 52 $15,265

10. Hyundai Elantra 49 $15,345

11. Scion xD 46 $15,345

12. Ford Focus 49 $15,365

13. Fiat 500 49 $15,500

14. Chevrolet Cruze 46 $16,800

Source: ACE

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