ACEEE Rates Model Year 2004's ‘Greenest’ and ‘Meanest’

ACEEE Rates Model Year 2004's ‘Greenest’ and ‘Meanest’

Amid continued public interest in fuel efficiency and growing concern about gas-guzzling SUVs, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has announced this year's "Greenest" and "Meanest" vehicles, along with environmental scorings of all model year 2004 cars and passenger trucks. The vehicle scores are part of ACEEE's Green Book Online, the seventh annual edition of ACEEE's environmental guide to cars and trucks, available online at GreenerCars.com.

Claiming the prize for the greenest vehicle of model year 2004 is Honda's natural gas-powered Civic GX, followed by Honda's hybrid-electric two-seater Insight and Toyota's Prius, a hybrid-electric midsize sedan. The Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Echo round out the top five. Others in the top 12 are conventional gasoline vehicles from automakers Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, and Scion.

Widely recognized as the preeminent buyer's guide to environmentally friendly passenger vehicles, ACEEE's Green Book Online helps consumers compare vehicles on the basis of a "Green Score," a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and the emissions of gases that cause global warming.

Using its "Green Score" ranking system, ACEEE's Green Book Online reveals the year's "Greenest" and "Meanest" models: the 12 least polluting, most efficient vehicles; and the 12 worst. The Web site also identifies greener choices in a wide range of vehicle types. The best-in-class list includes some larger vehicles, such as the more efficient versions of the Dodge Caravan minivan, Toyota Tundra pickup, and Nissan Murano SUV. Passenger cars such as the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Focus Wagon also score well in their respective classes.

"The information at GreenerCars.com takes the guesswork out of identifying environmentally friendly models," said principal vehicle analyst James Kliesch, a research associate at ACEEE. The organization acknowledges consumers' desire for vehicles of all types, and hence includes listings of the best pickups, minivans, and SUVs as well. "For consumers who care about the environment, choosing from among the greenest models in each vehicle class is a no-brainer," stated Kliesch. This year, a vehicle's environmental impact varies as much as four-fold within a given class, and five-fold across all model year 2004 vehicles.

The 2004 "Meanest" vehicles list, once again dominated by large SUVs, is topped this year by the diesel-powered version of Volkswagen's Touareg sport utility vehicle. Although they offer fuel economy benefits over gasoline models, diesel-powered vehicles still emit higher levels of harmful tailpipe pollutants. "For the most part, it is the combination of poor fuel economy and mediocre tailpipe emissions that lands a vehicle on this list," noted Therese Langer, ACEEE's transportation program director. "The list is troubling, because it contains a number of very popular nameplates, both domestic and foreign."

"The absence of the Big Three from this year's Greenest Vehicles list is disappointing," said Langer. "But the fact is that the greenest vehicles today excel in both fuel economy and tailpipe emissions, and Detroit has yet to do that." New emissions regulations have encouraged numerous automakers -- including the Big Three -- to reduce smog-forming tailpipe emissions in select models, but foreign manufacturers are still taking the lead on fuel economy.

"It's the choices we make in buying cars and trucks that determine how clean the air is, and how dependent we are on Middle East oil," noted Bill Prindle, ACEEE's policy director. "If new car and light truck buyers chose the most efficient vehicles in each size class, we would slash the 2004 fleet's gasoline use by 18 percent, reducing gasoline purchases by $3.2 billion and saving the average buyer $195 a year. And, of course, we would also cut greenhouse gas emissions."

The GreenerCars.com Web site contains the year's "Greenest," "Meanest," and best-in-class lists, as well as write-ups on model year 2004 highlights, consumer information on vehicles and the environment, and advice on how to buy green when shopping for a new car or truck. Along with its summary "Green Scores," ACEEE's Green Book Online details each model's fuel economy, health-related pollution impacts, global warming emissions, and estimated fuel expenses.