- For the first time, all but two of the top dozen green cars use electric drive systems.
- Honda's natural gas Civic, a perennial "greenest" winner, falls to 14th place and the only domestics on the list, two Ford hybrids, tie for 12th.
- The ACEEE ranks more than 1,000 cars, trucks, SUVs and van models and styles each year.
WASHNGTON — It still spills pollutants from its tailpipe, but Toyota's compact Prius C is the cleanest mass-production passenger vehicle on the road this year according to the annual "green" ranking released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The ratings for the first time are top-heavy with hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric cars, a sign that a shift is occurring as automakers move toward vehicles that emphasize fuel efficiency and clean emissions, said ACEEE Vehicle Analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.
There are two conventionally powered cars in the top 12 — the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder, manually shifted Smart Fortwo and the 1.3-liter, four-cylinder Scion iQ with automatic transmission, and there are numerous gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles that received good green scores although not high enough to break into the top 12, said Vaidyanathan.
There also are several very green vehicles that aren't on the list.
One reason was sales. The cutoff was 1,000 retail sales and neither the Mitsubishi i EV nor the Tesla Model S made it this year. Another was timing. Nissan didn't get the 2013 Leaf EV through EPA fuel-efficiency testing in time to get the data to ACEEE, so the Leaf (which has been in the top 12 since it was launched in 2010) is absent from the 2013 rankings.
The Green Book, now in its 16th year, bases its ratings on a weighted score derived from federal and state emissions and federal fuel-efficiency ratings as well as formulas used by government and industry to calculate emissions at the factory, the environmental impact of disposing of and recycling vehicle components at the end of their useful lives, the impact of producing the fuels they use ( and in the case of battery-electrics and plug-ins, the production of battery materials) and the public health impacts and costs of vehicles' emissions.
All four members of the Prius family are in the top 12, but the 50 mpg (combined) Prius C, while faulted by some critics for poor-quality interior materials and excessive road noise, scored well enough in ACEEE's categories to climb past its big brothers with a total of 58 points out of a theoretical 100.
Honda's Fit EV placed 2nd with a green score of 57, followed by the standard Prius, Prius Plug-in and Honda Civic Hybrid, each with 55 points, the Honda Insight at 54 points, and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ each with 53 points (vehicles with the same point total don't necessarily tie because ACEEE gives extra weight to scores for environmental impact).
Ford's Focus EV was 10th with 52 points, followed by the Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, also with 52 points, and the Ford Fusion and C-Max hybrids, tied at 12th.
At the bottom of the pile, the "meanest" vehicles for the 2013 model year, are the usual suspects — heavy-duty pickups and vans and a smattering of exotics with gas-gulping engines.
Worst of the pack was the flex-fuel (gasoline and E85) Ford F-350 with a 6.2-liter V8, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. It scored 17 out of that theoretically perfect 100. Ford, in fact, had six of meanest vehicles, followed by General Motors with four.
Also on the meanest list were the 8.0-liter Bugatti Veyron and the 6.8-liter Bentley Mulsanne.ACEEE's full ratings, along with its choices for the greenest cars and trucks in various size segments, can be found online at Greenercars.org. The Washington-based environmental lobbying and information group charges a fee for full access to the listing.
Edmunds says: Vehicles with electric motors might be the greenest, but they account for a very small part of total annual new car sales, but the number of models with some sort of electric assist is expected to grow significantly in coming years as automakers strive to meet ever-stricter federal fuel-efficiency goals