All-electric and plug-in hybrids once again score highest on GreenerCars’ annual ratings, with models from eight automakers sweeping 10 of the top 12 spots and offering consumers eco-friendly options. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric retakes the top spot, which it held in 2018 and 2019, on the 24th GreenerCars ratings, released today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Among the greenest cars, the Mini Cooper SE Hardtop Electric took second place, followed by the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Rounding out the top five are the BMW i3s and the Nissan Leaf. Tesla, which has seen its market value skyrocket, is the only U.S.-based automaker with a vehicle—the all-electric Model 3—on the ratings’ Greenest List.
Last year brought considerable turmoil to the U.S. economy and the automotive market as new vehicles sales dropped significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While 2020 was the first year pick-up trucks outsold sedans, continuing a trend toward larger, generally less-efficient vehicles, it also saw automakers expanding their lineup of electric vehicles (EVs) and promising more such models in the coming years.
“Today’s results provide a glimpse into a promising future with more efficient and greener vehicle options, driven primarily by electric models,” says Peter Huether, senior research analyst for transportation at ACEEE. “Consumers will benefit from the increasing number and variety of electric models, some of which offer affordable alternatives to gasoline cars.”
The 2021 Greenest List features the most environmentally friendly cars now available. Each car receives a Green Score based on an environmental damage index (EDX), which reflects the cost to human health from air pollution associated with vehicle manufacturing and disposal, the production and distribution of fuel or electricity, and vehicle tailpipes. ACEEE evaluated more than 1,000 models, including vehicles fueled entirely by gasoline or diesel, plug-in hybrids that run on both batteries and gasoline, and all-electrics vehicles powered solely by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.
|Greenest||Power Train||EDX||Green Score|
|1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric||EV||0.60||70|
|2. Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2 Door||EV||0.61||70|
|3. Toyota Prius Prime||Plug-In Hybrid||0.64||68|
|4. BMW i3s||EV||0.65||68|
|5. Nissan Leaf||EV||0.66||68|
|6. Honda Clarity||Plug-in Hybrid||0.70||66|
|7. Hyundai Kona Electric||EV||0.71||66|
|8. Kia Soul Electric||EV||0.72||65|
|9. Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus||EV||0.75||64|
|10. Toyota Rav4 Prime AWD||Plug-In Hybrid||0.76||64|
|11. Toyota Corolla Hybrid||Gasoline Hybrid||0.76||64|
|12. Honda Insight||Gasoline Hybrid||0.77||63|
No pure internal combustion engine vehicles made the Greenest List, although the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and Honda Insight (also a hybrid) gave a number of EVs a run for their money. This is a good indication that even a small degree of electrification can greatly improve fuel economy.
The resurgence of EVs on the Greenest List results from an update to the scoring methodology for estimating the emissions from charging them. This year, ACEEE rated EVs using electric grid assumptions that more accurately represent where plug-in vehicles are actually sold. California dominates the EV market and has a grid with an above-average share of power generated from renewable energy. This update reduces the estimated emissions from charging electric vehicles and bumps up their Green Scores. For potential EV buyers, the Electric Vehicle Emissions Calculator shows the impact in each state.
Not in the market for an EV? GreenerCars.org offers a Greener Choices list, identifying practical options in each vehicle class for widely available automatic transmission gasoline-powered models. This list includes conventional vehicles and traditional hybrids that are available in all 50 U.S. states, but excludes plug-in hybrids and pure battery EVs given the limited availability of charging stations.
|Greener Choices||Power Train||Vehicle Class||EDX||Score|
|1. Toyota Camry Hybrid LE||Gasoline Hybrid||Midsize Car||0.80||63|
|2. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue||Gasoline Hybrid||Large Car||0.80||62|
|3. Honda Insight Touring||Gasoline Hybrid||Compact Car||0.85||61|
|4. Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD||Gasoline Hybrid||Midsize SUV||0.96||57|
|5. Chevrolet Spark||Gasoline||Subcompact Car||1.03||55|
|6. Kia Sorento Hybrid||Gasoline Hybrid||Compact SUV||1.04||55|
|7. Kia Soul Eco Dynamics||Gasoline||Small Wagon||1.09||53|
|8. Toyota Sienna||Gasoline Hybrid||Minivan||1.11||53|
|9. Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD||Gasoline Hybrid||Large SUV||1.11||53|
|10. Mazda MX-5||Gasoline||Two-Seater||1.16||51|
|11. Mercedes-Benz GLA 251||Gasoline||Large Van||1.24||49|
|12. Volvo V90 FWD||Gasoline||Midsize Wagon||1.27||48|
While there are a few familiar faces on this year’s Greener Choices list, most models are new entrants. The 2021 list includes twice as many hybrids as the 2020 version, evidence of their superior performance and their presence in multiple vehicle size categories.
GreenerCars.org also provides a Meanest List, as usual made up of gasoline-powered large SUVs, pickup trucks, and European luxury cars that are the least friendly to the environment. The new RAM 1500 TRX 4x4 takes the first (”meanest”) position, with the rest of the list mostly populated by regulars from prior years.
|1. RAM 1500 TRX 4x4||2.80||22|
|2. Lexus LX 570||2.41||27|
|3. Mercedes-Benz AM G 63||2.39||27|
|4. Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon 4WD||2.32||28|
|5. Toyota Sequoia 4WD||2.32||28|
|6. Toyota Tundra 4WD||2.28||29|
|7. Dodge Durango SRT||2.23||29|
|8. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 4x4||2.23||29|
|9. Land Rover Range Rover LWB SVA||2.23||29|
|10. BMW X5 M||2.23||29|
|11. BMW X6 M||2.20||30|
|12. Dodge Charger SRT Widebody||2.18||30|
Green Scores of the model year 2021 vehicles are available in the GreenerCars.org interactive database, along with each configuration’s fuel economy, health-related pollution impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions. Visitors can also turn to GreenerCars scores to determine eligibility for parking benefits at participating LEED-certified buildings.
In addition to ACEEE’s 2021 Market Trends analysis, also released today, GreenerCars.org features shopping advice and a consumer primer on vehicles and the environment. To learn about the efforts of U.S. states to increase EV adoption, check out ACEEE’s State Transportation Electrification Scorecard, released earlier this month.