Hybrids Dominate 2010 List of Greenest Vehicles

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy today released its 13th annual environmental ratings. As expected, hybrids and small cars dominate the 2010 list of greenest vehicles. The overall “greenest vehicle” title was once again given to the natural-gas-powered Honda Civic GX—although the CNG car continues to be a niche vehicle with limited availability. The 2010 Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid claimed spots two and three.

The small 1.0-liter Smart ForTwo—the top-ranked car powered by a gasoline internal combustion engine—ranked number four, followed by the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2010 Honda Insight. ACEEE assigns vehicles a single “green” score based on tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and a cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis. Summary “Green Scores” of the 1,000+ configurations of all model year 2010 vehicles are made available to subscribers of ACEEE’s Green Book Online interactive database.

Diesels Fall Short

Clean diesels, including the Volkswagen Jetta and Jetta Sportwagen, barely missed ACEEE’s top-12 “Greenest” list. Clean diesels did not overtake hybrids in popularity, as some forecasters had thought. “While clean diesels once again perform well on our annual ranking, high prices both for the vehicles and for diesel fuel have kept them from really catching on thus far,” said ACEEE vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan. “They’re not having the impact in the US that they have had in Europe, and as a result, manufacturers are scaling back production and promotion of diesels.” Meanwhile, hybrids are expected to remain the fastest growing segment in the auto market.

The Last Year Until Plug-ins Arrive?

For much of the past decade, conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius have offered consumers the most compelling combination of environmental benefit, practicality, and drivability. The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was last week named the Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show. Yet, the list of greenest cars could get shaken up next year as plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars come to market. Perhaps even the Honda Civic GX’s top ranking could be displaced by a plug-in car.

“With the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf both scheduled to make appearances in the latter half of 2010, manufacturer interest in advanced technologies is even more intense, with a particular emphasis on electric vehicles,” said Vaidyanathan. But at least for this year, “the eco-stars are once again hybrids and smaller, conventional vehicles.”

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  • Charles

    Why such a high score for the Honda Civic GX? It has good emissions, but the CO2 score is 146% of the Prius and 115% of the hybrid Fusion/Milan (EPA numbers).

  • Anonymous

    Charles, I’m curious as well. I’d like to see what the footnotes say, but they are not published.

  • Christopher


    Those who are interested in sustainable mobility may visit http://www.sustainable.mobility.org. You will find case studies, news as well as a “worldwide initiatives” section in terms of transport…

  • Old Man Crowder

    Here’s the link to the ACEEE site for those of you interested in footnotes and explanations…


  • Job001

    I estimate the EPA wisely uses about a 15% penalty for the electrical compression work to get the compressed natural gas up to a density of about 5.6 lb/gal vs the 6.3 lb/gal for gasoline. Natural gas has an advantage of about 22% lower CO2 emission than gasoline 15.4 vs 19.8 lb CO2 per gallon depending upon the density used for the calculation. Density varies with temperature somewhat like gasoline.
    Natural gas is generally a lot cheaper than gasoline at about $1. to $1.5 per gallon vs $2.5/gal for gasoline for most states. In Utah where a lot of Honda Civic GX cars are used Natural gas costs as low as $0.5/gal sometimes and natural gas filling stations are commonly available.
    Natural gas also doesn’t have an extra terror/monopoly premium of maybe $5/gallon (think current account and budget account deficit) since natural gas is domestically sourced.

  • Max Reid

    Insight is smaller than Civic-Hybrid and was also designed as a dedicated hybrid. How come, it has lower mileage than Civic. Thats surprising. Honda can do something about this.

    This way, they can also claim more sales if they reduce the price by $1,000.

  • Anonymous

    It’s because they use natural gas.