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These Are the Greenest – and Meanest – Vehicles You Can Buy

by | March 15, 2024

Looking for an environmentally friendly vehicle? You have more options than ever before. That includes a flood of new battery-electric vehicles, as you might expect, but if you’re still reluctant to go with an EV you still have plenty to choose from. In fact, the top-ranked model in the 2024 GreenerCars list is a plug-in hybrid, and even some products running solely on gasoline do well in the annual study. Better yet, there are plenty of affordable options. But there also are some surprises, as Headlight.News reports.

2023 Toyota Prius - side w sunset

The plug-in version of Toyota’s latest hybrid, the Prius Prime, topped the latest GreenerCars charts.

This winter has delivered some strange weather, wherever you might live, and that has convinced more American motorists it’s time to trade in for a more environmentally friendly vehicle. Indeed, EV, hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales set all-time records in 2023, collectively accounting for about 17% of the total U.S. new vehicle market.

Not surprisingly, electrified vehicles rank high when you’re looking for a green machine, but even some products relying solely on internal combustion engines are surprisingly clean, as the annual GreenerCars study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Better yet, fully half of the vehicles on the “Greenest” list can be considered affordable, with starting prices under $35,000.

The 2024 study does deliver a few surprises, however. For one thing, the latest-generation Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid, tops the charts – though there are seven all-electric models among the 12 on the Greenest list.

2024 GMC Hummer SUV EV Omega Edition

The GMC Hummer SUV EV was the only all-electric model in the “Meanest” list.

How the study works

While some studies focus on tailpipe emissions – or the lack of them – the GreenerCars report looks at everything — from the production of a vehicle through its use and, eventually, its disposal.

“In addition to assessing the emissions from fuel burned in a vehicle’s engine, we assess the upstream emissions generated by electricity used by a vehicle, emissions produced when mining and processing minerals for batteries, and emissions from manufacturing vehicles and vehicle components,” ACEEE explains. It even looks at emissions created at the end of the lifecycle, when a vehicle is scrapped and possibly recycled.

The Greenest List

ACEEE Greenest Vehicles ListThis year’s GreenerCars list delivers a surprise right from the start, with the Toyota Prius Prime landing the top spot and beating out fully seven all-electric models. There are a variety of reasons why the plug-in hybrid scored so well – with a “Green Score” of 71 — starting from the initial production process. But Prius Prime does especially well when it comes to day-to-day use.

Compared to the prior generation, the PHEV increased its all-electric range by 76%. At an EPA-estimated 44 miles, that’s enough for roughly two-thirds of American motorists to be able to drive most days without burning a single drop of gasoline. And when the Prime model’s internal combustion engine does fire up, it get 52 mpg Combined fuel economy, with the EPA giving it a 127 MPGe rating. Annual fuel costs are an estimated $529.

Second on the list is the Lexus RZ 300e, the first all-electric model from Toyota’s luxury brand, with a Green Score of 67. Effectively tied, though rated third, is the Mini Cooper SE, another EV. All told, there are seven battery-powered models among the 12 vehicles to make it into the ACEEE’s Greenest List. It also includes two PHEVs and three conventional hybrids.

You don’t have to be rich to have one of the greenest cars on the U.S. market. Six of the 12 products start at less than $35,000. That starts with the Toyota Corolla Hybrid which has a base price of $23,500. The most expensive offering here is that Lexus RX which carries a base MSRP of $55,150.

Toyota – including the Lexus brand – captured fully half of the products on the Greenest List. Hyundai and its Korean sibling Kia nabbed four spots. Mini and Nissan landed the last two slots.

More Green Car News

The Greener Cars List

ACEEE Greener Cars ListA first glance at this also-ran category might deliver an initial surprise: no battery-electric vehicles. The ACEEE explains why:

“The 2024 Greener Choices list includes model year 2024 cars that are available nationwide with among the lowest environmental impacts in each vehicle class but that didn’t make the Greenest List. The Greener Choices list does not include EVs (including PHEVs) because some drivers do not have adequate access to EV charging.”

Even without any EVs, there are plenty of good options here, all the more so if your primary motivation is saving money. The 14th-ranked model on the list, the Ford Ranger, is predicted to have $1,907 in energy costs annually if you’re the typical driver logging 15,000 miles a year. At the low end, the Kia Niro is expected to have just $885 in fuel costs each year.

While the Greener Cars list doesn’t include any plug-in model – EVs or PHEVs – conventional hybrids dominate, capturing nine of the 14 spots. But that means five vehicles relying on ICE power also scored well. The Honda Accord Hybrid was the top-ranked model, followed by the hybrid version of the Kia Niro. The gas-only Mitsubishi Mirage came in third.

This list has something for everybody, it should be noted. The vehicles here range from the pint-sized Mini Cooper Convertible to the midsize Ford Ranger pickup. There are even two vans. And while Toyota again has the highest number of entries, at four, the Greener List includes a broad array of brands.

The Meanest List

ACEEE Meanest Cars ListAt the other end of the spectrum, ACEEE calls out the least environmentally friendly vehicles you’ll find at showrooms today. These are vehicles not only spewing noxious emission but also running up your fuel costs. Number one on the list, the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG with a Green Score of just 20 and annual fuel costs of $4,242. Of course, with a base sticker price of $184,000, that may not matter to the folks buying this big luxury SUV.

Not surprisingly, the Meanest list includes plenty of high-performance and luxury models – the most expensive being the $234,300 Mercedes-Maybach S680 sedan. SUVs flesh out the list, Jeep having two entries: the Wrangler 4-door 4×4 and the Grand Wagoneer 4×4. There are pickup entries from each of Detroit’s Big Three: the Ford F-150 Raptor R, the Ram 1500 TRX and the GMC Sierra.

But while 11 of the 12 models on the Meanest List rely on – typically big – internal combustion engines, there’s a battery-electric vehicle on the list, as well. The GMC Hummer EV marks the first time that’s happened.

Notes the ACEEE, GM markets the SUV version of the Hummer as a ’supertruck’ as ‘extreme’ and ‘loaded with extras.’ Though EVs have lower emissions than similarly sized gasoline models, the Hummer demonstrates that size and efficiency, not just fuel source, are important factors in a car’s environmental impact.


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