Chevy and Clean Diesels Hit Greenest Car List

The Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas, was named last week as the greenest car of the year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid claimed spots two and three in ACEEE’s annual environmental rankings—the Green Book Online—followed by the Smart ForTwo, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Altima Hybrid.

Honda GX
Honda GX Fuel Cap

Top: Honda Civic GX
Bottom: Drivers of the Civic GX fuel up with compressed natural gas rather than gasoline.

This is the twelfth year that ACEEE produced the Green Book Online, which assigns vehicles a single “green” score based on tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and a cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis. The most dramatic trend this year was the emergence of two Chevy cars on the top ten list—and the introduction of clean diesel vehicles.

We spoke with Shruti Vaidynanathan, primary analyst for Green Book Online, about these trends.

HybridCars.com: The Honda Civic GX was once again named greenest car of the year. Yet, the vehicle sells in very low quantities and most consumers don’t have access to CNG. Do sales numbers matter in the overall green car equation?

Shruti Vaidynanathan: To a certain extent, they do. We try to rank as many vehicles as we possibly can. The GX has seen as recent explosion of interest in California and Utah. Because it’s so popular in certain pockets of the United States, we think it’s worth ranking. It’s important to get that information out there, especially if people are looking at compressed natural gas technology to reduce emissions from vehicles.

Do you see CNG as rising above its niche status at some point?

Hopefully. One thing that the green list this year has told us is that there’s so much technology making it to the market. You never can tell. I think people are interested in CNG as an option, but if some other technology becomes more valid and cheaper, then that might take over. CNG is one of the front-runners for now.

A couple of Chevy cars made it to the top 10 list this year.

I know. The domestics did pretty well this year.

Is this the beginning of a trend of domestic cars becoming greener, and maybe catching up with Asian manufacturers?

I think so. I think domestic manufacturers have realized the need to go greener in order to compete effectively. With fluctuating gasoline prices and oil prices, and an unstable economy, domestic manufacturers are realizing they have to up their game and provide consumers with what they want. And in this case, it’s a smaller more fuel-efficient vehicle. Hence, the Chevy Aveo and Pontiac G5 making it to the list.

When you’re looking across the whole spectrum of several hundred vehicles, do you see a shift between domestic and import car companies, with domestics making gains?

“Manufacturers are obviously sitting up and taking notice that people want greener vehicles.”

Shruti Vaidynanathan
primary analyst for Green Book Online

I can’t say I’ve seen a definitive pattern, but I have noticed that the [greener domestic] offerings have gradually increased in the past couple of years. GM and Ford have introduced a variety of extra fuel efficiency vehicles to their model lines. So, they are making an effort. I suspect that it will take them a little more time to actually catch up to the foreign vehicle makers.

Fifty-state clean diesels finally arrived in 2008, and it looks like more are coming.

Seems like it. We only ranked the Volkswagen Jetta and Jetta Sportwagen, and some of the Mercedes and BMW vehicles out there, but I’m anticipating that a lot more are going to start flooding the market.

Are the BMW clean diesels the cleanest vehicles among all that BMW offers?

They ranked higher than almost all of the other BMWs, except for some of the smaller BMWs that rank better because of lower weight.

There seems to be an overall trend toward greening. The greener cars are greener than ever, and the dirtiest vehicles are not as dirty. How is this happening?

For a large part, the fact that the meanest vehicles aren’t as dirty this year is because a lot of the big diesel vehicles that were on the list last year were not produced this year. For example, last year the vehicle that topped our meanest list was the diesel Volkswagen Touareg. It’s not being made this year. There’s been a shift away from the dirtier heavier diesels toward the cleaner Bin 5 diesels. That’s positive.

Besides dropping the dirtiest vehicles from production, is the total greenness of the fleet greener than it was last year?

It’s negligible. But I think we’re inching in the right direction. There’s a minute change from last year and this year, but if you look over the course of four or five years, we’ve come a fair ways. The fact that manufacturers are making so many tweaks to their engines and to the body of the vehicles, trying to lightweight and make them more streamlined and efficient, is a good thing. They are obviously sitting up and taking notice that people want greener vehicles.

Does the economic downturn and low gas prices threaten progress toward greener vehicles?

I don’t think so. Don’t forget that while we have lower gas prices now, I think we’re still in for long-term fluctuations. At the end of the day, it would make more sense to the average customer buy a car that doesn’t guzzle as much as gas. So, I don’t think [the economy] will put a standstill on the development of green car technology.


  • RKRB

    -Cleaner, more efficient cars have been making steady progress over the past few years. Hang in there.

  • Samie

    “The Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas, was named last week as the greenest car of the year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).”

    How? Is there more Tesla cars or Civic GX’s?
    Not sure I get the bases of their thinking on this
    Small production and buying the car is unlikely this merely is an attempt to promote something that is almost non existent. Just focus on whats out there in real production!

    “I think people are interested in CNG as an option, but if some other technology becomes more valid and cheaper, then that might take over. CNG is one of the front-runners for now.”

    What is he saying? Does he mean EV’s? CNG of course is what many energy typhoons love just like current extraction of hydrogen. Let’s stay dependent on a fuel sounds good right? Russia in 20-30 yrs will become the next country to give us serous problems along with some current Middle East countries as it is proven that at least in Russia they are positioning themselves as one of the major exporter of CNG in a few years. Foreign oil becomes foreign CNG dependence then we ask ourselves why did we do that? Those who love to complain about major oil companies ha ha these guys are drumming up this idea too. While some see this as a reduction in CO2, they don’t see the other aspects of what at first seems nice n shinny…………

  • qqRockyBeans

    Why don’t they make the Civic GX
    dual-fuel?

    That is, have two fuel tanks: one for CNG and one for gasoline!

    Ford (Contour) and GM (Cavalier) both had dual-fuel Petrol/CNG about 10 years ago!

    Honda needs to do the same thing!

    And they also need to offer a sunroof!
    and even a 6-speed manual transmission

    If they could only combine all of these in a Petrol Flex-fuel E85/CNG hybrid-electric with 6-speed and sunroof. YES YOU CAN!!!

  • Bryce

    This is interesting. How much does weight factor into their total equation, cuz the XFE Cobalt actually has better fuel economy than the aveo, so it must be enough for it to make the list while the Aveo did.

  • Boom Boom

    I hope that the “This-site-is-a-Toyota-ad” folks read this article. Chevy has two cars on the list. Honda: Three. Toyota: Three. And yet the authors saw fit to put Chevy’s name in the headline. I’m not criticizing the authors, I’m just putting this out as a case in point of fair reporting.

    What is the current availability of the Civic GX? I’m not sure it is fair to stick a car on the list that isn’t really available to most. (Same with Tesla, etc.). And this is coming from a guy who owns a Civic Hybrid, so I am a fan of Honda.

  • qqRockyBeans

    GM needs to make:
    Two-Mode Malibu
    Two-Mode Cobalt
    Two-Mode HHR
    Two-Mode Aveo5

    I would like a Two-Mode Cobalt with all the SS mechanical bits except the engine which would be replaced by a 2.0 nonturbo engine and the Two-Mode hybrid system

    I would also like the no-lift-shift manual transmission and a sunroof
    I want mine in blue or yellow

  • skeller

    I agree that CNG would rise above its niche status. Unless something better comes along that is.

  • DLink

    We are members of the general public and have owned a Honda Civic GX in California since December 1998. We have driven over 80,000 clean miles since then and know that the GX is available in much greater numbers than the Tesla.

    The GX is the vehicle of choice for fleets when clean technology is a requirement. There are several thousand in operation in California alone and it costs more than $80,000 less than the Tesla!

    Honda did NOT choose to go bi-fuel, because that would reduce the efficiency of both the CNG system and the gasoline system. Please remember the GM disaster with their bi-fuel Cavaliers!

    Honda’s dedicated CNG is extremely clean as noted by the ACEEE #1 endorsement for the past six years! It was #2 before that with the pure electric EV-1 besting it a couple years and the Toyota RAV4-EV another couple years. No hybrid has been rated higher than the Honda Civic GX.

    Many question the reliance on a fossil fuel, however methane is available through decaying materials in sewage, silage, and waste, as well as garbage dumps. Sweden is manufacturing biomethane at a very high rate, more cheaply than purchasing CNG or LNG on the open market. Though Picken’s plan was not among our favorites, using biomethane in vehicles can be a zero carbon producer.

    While the Civic GX is the only CNG automobile available currently in the US, multiple companies are selling CNG vehicles around the world. Toyota has even tested a CNG/electric hybrid! Other companies are testing turbocharged CNG cars and a CNG powered Mitsubishi has been tearing up the rally circuit.

    Before condemning CNG cars as vaporware or hopelessly unavailable to the general public, drive one! Our local stations are 24-hours and CNG has almost always been cheaper than gasoline, it is safer, it is non-toxic, it can be pumped at home, and it can be created from renewable sources.

  • Ron Wagner

    We have a great abundance of natural gas in the USA. We should use it for autos as soon as possible. It burns very cleanly, so the vehicle will last much longer. Making it even more economical. It will greatly reduce our dependence on OPEC and Russian oil.

  • Adam

    I think Honda Civic GX is the best one not for this year but this has the best Greenest American car from last two year after Having have successful journey of more than 6 year this vehicle has inspires many other company too to make step in to the green car. this has also effect Used Cars for sale business as many car user turn them selves to purchase new Honda Civic GX. i Hope we can get same features from Chevrolet cars too.

    Adam

  • Adam

    I think Honda Civic GX is the best one not for this year but this has the best Greenest American car from last two year after Having have successful journey of more than 6 year this vehicle has inspires many other company too to make step in to the green car. this has also effect Used Cars for sale business as many car user turn them selves to purchase new Honda Civic GX. i Hope we can get same features from Chevrolet cars too.

    Adam

  • aaliyah

    .Cars and automotives are considered a requirement rather than a luxury nowadays. If you add the cost of commuting between your office and home, or the money you spend whenever you need to go somewhere, you will realize that getting your own car can help you save a lot of money in the long run. In addition, having a car is a great convenience especially when emergency arises. With the economic recession, many people delay their plans of purchasing a brand new car. But the good news is that you can get a car at a fraction of the cost of new car by opting for a used vehicle instead of purchasing your dream car that may shake your budget

  • janzen

    cars with compressed natural gas are one of the right moves that made by big companies to fight back environmental issues that this planet have.