ACEEE Lists The Greenest and "Meanest" Vehicles Sold in the US

By Chris Haak


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a Washington-based nonprofit group financed by foundations, electric utilities, and some federal agencies has released its list of the 12 greenest vehicles sold in the US in 2008 as well as the 12 “meanest” (meaning least environmentally friendly) vehicles.

The organization’s methodology (available here) claims to consider fuel economy, pollution emissions, CO2 (which is really a proxy for fuel consumption, since consuming fuel releases CO2, no matter how sophisticated emission controls are), vehicle weight, and even its cradle-to-grave environmental impact. On that last point, I found it the #2 green choice on the list below to be surprising, since the widely-criticized CNW Marketing Research report accused the Prius of having a larger overall environmental footprint than some Hummer models.

The list of the top 12 greenest vehicles sold in the US are:

1. Honda Civic GX (pictured above)
2. Toyota Prius
3. Honda Civic Hybrid
4. Smart ForTwo Convertible/Coupe
5. Toyota Yaris
6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
7. Toyota Corolla
8. Mini Cooper/Clubman
9. Ford Focus
10. Toyota Camry Hybrid
11. Honda Civic
12. Honda Fit

The Honda Civic GX is powered by CNG (compressed natural gas), so the Prius is rated as the greenest gasoline-powered vehicle. Every vehicle on the greenest list is built by an Asian manufacturer except for #4 (Smart ForTwo), #8 (Mini Cooper/Clubman), and #9 (Ford Focus).

You’d probably guess that their “hall of shame” of the most pollutting/environmentally impacting vehicles would include a lot of domestic brands, then. However, the worst are actually mostly European diesels and expensive, high performance vehicles. Although diesel-powered vehicles have 20-30% lower fuel consumption than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, they also emit much more NOX and other pollutants than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Clean diesel technology such as BlueTec and Honda’s solution are coming in the next year or two, so perhaps many of these diesels will fall off the list, but right now, ACEEE does not consider diesel engines to be clean enough for consideration among the greenest vehicles.

The 12 “meanest” vehicles for 2008 are:

1. Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI (pictured above)
2. Bugatti Veyron V16
3. Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI
4. Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
5. Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI
6. Lamborghini Murcielago/Murcielago Roadster V12
7. Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
8. Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG
9. Hummer H2
10. GMC Yukon 2500 6.0L
11. Bentley Azure V8
12. Bentley Arnage V8

The Mercedes-Benz diesels (which power #s 3, 4, 5, and 7 on the list) really took a beating. The only two domestic vehicles on the list were the Hummer H2 (a favorite target of environmentalists) and the large three quarter ton GMC Yukon 2500.

Cleaning diesel emissions to the levels of gasoline engines will be expensive and the additional cost may mitigate some of the fuel saving advantages inherent in diesel powertrains. For example, would consumers be willing to spend $5,000 extra to save some fuel (and drive a vehicle with its fuel available at fewer service stations)? Also the small cars that make up most of the greenest list probably do not work for everyone’s needs (and certainly not their preferences). But for consumers concerned about their environmental footprint, these lists might be a factor in their decision. I know that I’ll be crossing the Veyron off my shopping list after seeing it here.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Our local radios and tv stations around Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada air lots of Honda advertising claiming then they are the more greener. I begin to remember about the South Park episode “Smug alert”…. and I think then if only I had enough money, I convert a old Impala to use biodiesel although not to the extreme like the folks of the tv show “Pimp my ride” on MTV did.

    Then I don’t know if we have to take this article seriously
    about the afterlife of the Prius who could be more harmful then the Hummer.

    Also, with the additions of more airbags, I hope then the components of the bags could be recycled, with the addition of more electronics stuffs like navigation center and rear camera, that’s a point to consider.

    Then I spotted this old article from 2006 on the French site Le BlogAuto who mentionned then Japan didn’t respected the Kyoto protocol. I hope they’ll menage to rectify the situation or I fell a sentiment then they preach the old mantra “do as I said, not as I do”.

  2. Yeah, I was thinking about getting a Veyron too, but guess I’ll buy a Prius instead.

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