Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards, the annual awards program honoring the year’s most standout new ‘green’ models, was presented at the Virtual Greenbuild Conference + Expo in November this year. The 2021 virtual awards program was an innovation during an unusual year, amid the postponement and cancellation of international auto shows where the Green Car Awards typically take place.
Over the years, these high-profile awards have grown along with the expanding field of ‘green’ cars on the road. They now recognize not only the magazine’s signature Green Car of the Year, but also exceptional models that speak to families, city dwellers, luxury buyers, pickup enthusiasts, and those requiring the functionality of an SUV. All provide the traditional touchstones of safety, quality, value, style, and performance, plus that fun-to-drive quality important to most drivers. What they add are greater efficiency, lower carbon and tailpipe emissions, petroleum reduction or displacement, or operation on battery electric power.
GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
This year’s candidates for 2021 Green Car of the Year reflect the auto industry’s transition toward electrification, even as it continues to make internal combustion ever-more efficient. Three of this year’s finalists, the Mustang Mach-E, MINI Cooper SE, and Volkswagen ID.4, drive exclusively on zero-emission battery power. The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid that drives up to 23 miles on battery power and hundreds more as a hybrid. The Hyundai Elantra is offered with either an efficient gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid achieving up to 50 miles per gallon.
Rising to the top of the field is Green Car Journal’s 2021 Green Car of the Year, Ford’s all-new Mustang Mach-E, a model that boasts an instantly-recognizable name and heritage, while breaking new ground as an all-electric crossover featuring up to 300 miles of range. Performance is part of the package, as is unmistakable style and all the latest advanced electronics.
The 2021 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a highly-respected jury comprised of energy and environmental leaders including Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Clay Nesler, interim president of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors. Rounding out the Green Car of the Year jury is celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors .
LUXURY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
At a more premium price point, 2021 Luxury Green Car of the Year finalists also illustrate the momentum achieved by electric drive in the new car vehicle field. Four of these premium vehicles are all-electric models – the Audi e-tron Sportback, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The fifth, the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring, is the plug-in hybrid variant of Lincoln’s Corsair compact crossover that combines gas-electric hybrid and all-electric driving.
Honored as this year’s Luxury Green Car of the Year is the Polestar 2, a groundbreaking model from Polestar on many levels. This all-new premium vehicle is only the second of this new auto brand’s model offerings, and the first to be all-electric. This zero-emission, two-door fastback looks to the future even as it foregoes futuristic styling, instead choosing to offer an understated yet elegant and sophisticated design, tasteful appointments, and a nearly 300 mile range on battery power.
URBAN GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
Urban environments pose their own unique challenges – tight spaces, often crowded streets, and hard-to-find parking. Here, smaller vehicles with a compact physical footprint and easy maneuverability are always top choices. The 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year award recognizes vehicles especially well-suited for life in the city. Top choices for this year’s award are the Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Kia Soul, MINI Cooper SE, and Nissan Versa. Four are conventionally-powered – three of them crossover SUVs and one a compact sedan – with the fourth, the MINI Cooper SE, an all-electric crossover.
Taking top honors for 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year is the all-electric MINI Cooper SE. Standing out as an ideal vehicle for the city, the Cooper SE is compact in stature and big on features. Its represents what this brand all about: An iconic look, great maneuverability, and driving fun wrapped in a small package. Plus, electric power means zero localized emissions and no trips venturing out to the gas station in a crowded urban environment.
FAMILY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
While any model can serve family duty, those offering extra versatility and thoughtful family-friendly features are high on many shopping lists. Today, driving ‘green’ has also become a priority. Minivans have always been a solid choice, but these days three-row crossover SUVs can also do the job as family hauler. Finalists for 2021 Family Green Car of the Year are the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorrento Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota Sienna. The Kia Sorrento Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossovers drive on efficient hybrid power. Honda’s Odyssey minivan features an efficient V-6 with variable cylinder management. The Toyota Sierra is exclusively a hybrid-powered minivan, while the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan also offers plug-in hybrid power.
Standing out as Family Green Car of the Year is the Toyota Sienna, a minivan that seeks to set the standard for modern family haulers. The stylish and fuel-efficient Sienna offers premium sedan-like style, admirable hybrid fuel efficiency, and a thoughtful blend of family-desired features along with driver-centric characteristics not always associated with minivans. It shows Toyota’s keen grasp of how to make a modern minivan that not only serves up family functionality, but also premium car style and appeal.
GREEN SUV OF THE YEAR
The hottest segment in the automotive field today is the SUV, either full-size or compact, traditional or crossover, two-row or three, conventional, hybrid, or plug-in. There are no shortage of choices, which makes narrowing the field to five outstanding finalists no small challenge. The top five finalists emerging this year for Green SUV of the Year are the Audi Q5 55 TFSI e, BMW X3 xDrive 30e, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Toyota Venza. Four of these –from Audi, BMW, Jeep, and Toyota – are plug-in hybrids with an all-electric driving range from 18 to 42 miles, and additional hundreds of miles on hybrid power. Toyota’s Venza is an all-wheel drive, tech-rich hybrid with exceptional fuel efficiency.
Taking top honors for the 2021 Green SUV of the Year title is the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, an SUV that’s different in many ways from others in its class. To some, it’s an SUV in the traditional sense with high functionality and loads of versatility that’s perfect for the diversity of everyday life. But to others, it’s that, plus a means of escape, heading toward the city one day and then driving the path less taken on another, a path often rough, unpaved, and pointed towards adventure.
GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR
This year’s Green Truck of the Year finalists embody all the workhorse capabilities expected of a modern pickup while offering passenger car-like comfort, advanced on-board electronics, and levels of fuel efficiency unheard of in pickups of just a decade ago. Pickups honored as finalists for Green Truck of the Year are the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel, and RAM 1500. All offer diverse powertrain choices, from gasoline and diesel internal combustion to variations of mild- and full-hybrid power.
Powering its way to well-deserved recognition as 2021 Green Truck of the Year is the Ford F-150, a pickup long distinguished as the best-selling model in the nation and a champion of innovation. Beyond its wide array of configurations, powertrain choices, payload capacities, and towing capabilities, it now adds such innovations as an efficient PowerBoost hybrid powerplant, fold-flat ‘sleeper’ seats, and an available Pro Power Onboard output system with outlets that allow the truck to function as a mobile generator at worksites or campsites.
The Green Car Awards™ program, presented annually since 2005, is an important part of Green Car Journal's mission to showcase environmental progress in the automotive field.
Green Car Journal has revealed the finalists for its Green Truck of the Year™ and Commercial Green Car of the Year™ awards, part of the Green Car Awards™ program hosted annually by the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show.
Finalists for 2019 Green Truck of the Year™ include the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford Ranger, and RAM 1500. Making the cut as finalists for 2019 Commercial Green Car of the Year™ are the Ford Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan, Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, RAM ProMaster City, and RAM 1500.
Green Car Awards™ winners will be announced on Thursday, November 15 at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, which takes place November 15-18 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
2019 GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Chevrolet’s Colorado pickup offers a handsome design, an array of advanced on-board electronics, and desired creature comforts. Choices include two-door extended cab and four-door crew cab variants in Work Truck (WT), LT, Z71, and ZR2 models. This mid-sized pickup offers notable fuel economy and enhanced maneuverability including a short turning radius of 41.3 feet. Three engines are available – a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 3.6-liter V-6, and a high efficiency turbodiesel. The Colorado’s 2.8-liter Duramax Turbodiesel four-cylinder engine connects to a 6-speed automatic transmission and delivers impressive fuel efficiency of 30 highway mpg.
The all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup is lighter, more tech-laden, and more aggressively styled. It comes in eight trim levels with regular, double, and crew cabs plus short and long beds. An all-new Durabed cargo box is seven inches wider with greater hauling capacity. Plenty of powertrain choices are available including a new 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a new 2.7-liter turbo, and a 4.3-liter V-6. A 3.0-liter Duramax diesel paired with a 10-speed automatic and a stop-start system is coming in early 2019. The model’s 5.3-liter V-8 and 6.2-liter V-8 feature Dynamic Fuel Management that enables only those cylinders needed to deliver required power to come into play.
The 2019 Ford F-150 continues to use the automaker’s revolutionary aluminum body that contributes to higher fuel efficiency without sacrificing all-around functionality. Military-grade aluminum alloy and a high-strength steel frame allowed Ford to decrease the body weight by up to 770 pounds compared to the previous generation. The 2019 F-150 comes in eight trim levels and Regular, SuperCab, and SuperCrew choices. They are available with 5.5, 6.5, and 8-foot bed lengths, depending on cab style and trim level. Rear- and four-wheel drive are available. Powering the F-150 are five gasoline engines and a new 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-6. All now come with auto start/stop technology.
Ford’s Ranger is back after a seven-year absence from the North American market, available as a SuperCab or SuperCrew built on a common 126.8-inch wheelbase. The SuperCab comes with a 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew gets a 5-foot bed. A turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission is the sole powertrain choice. Rear- and part-time four-wheel-drive are available. The new Ranger offers FordPass Connect Wi-Fi with 4G LTE connectivity plus an array of driver assist systems, including standard forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and an available blind spot warning system.
The all-new, completely restyled RAM 1500 is lighter, more fuel efficient, and higher tech than ever. This versatile pickup is offered in four-door quad cab and crew-cab body styles, with 67.4- and 76.3-inch beds featuring more hauling and towing capacity than the generation before it. Capabilities include the ability to tow up to 12,750 pounds and carry a payload of up to 2,320 pounds. Efficiency is enhanced by shedding up to 225 pounds through the use of high-strength steel, aluminum, and composites. Importantly, the new RAM pickup features 3.6-liter V-6 eTorque and 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 eTorque mild hybrid powertrains. It is equipped with the latest driver assist and connectivity technology.
2019 COMMERCIAL GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
The restyled, new-generation Ford Transit Connect van and wagon are available in short- and long-wheelbase versions. The cargo variant offers a volume of up to 146 cubic feet and payload capability up to 1570 pounds, with the ability to tow 2000 pounds. Twin sliding side doors are convenient for making sidewalk deliveries. The rear can be equipped with a traditional liftgate or split cargo doors. Available powerplants include a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder flex-fuel engine offering 24 city/27 highway mpg and a new 1.5-liter EcoBlue turbodiesel expected to net up to 30 highway mpg. Auto stop/start is standard on both new engines. A 2.5-liter Duratec engine is carried over from last year.
Ford’s Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan is ideal for detectives, police chiefs, and other government personnel. Based on the Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid, it uses a 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that delivers up to 21 miles on a charge, plus the ability to drive up to 85 mph exclusively on electric power. Given the typical use of a detective or police chief vehicle, this plug-in sedan offers the potential for working a full shift without using any gasoline. Overall range on battery and internal combustion power is over 500 miles. While parked, the battery pack allows the engine to shut off and keep the car’s electronics running for an extended period to save fuel and decrease emissions.
Mercedes-Benz Metris is this automaker’s offering for commercial vehicle buyers who like the Sprinter van, but desire something a bit smaller. They get it in this mid-size van and wagon that fits in a standard garage. Cargo and wagon versions are offered in regular and entry-level Worker versions. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine rated at 21 city and 24 highway mpg, connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Metris features sliding doors on both sides, wide-opening rear doors, a cargo capacity of 2,500 pounds, and a 5,000-pound tow rating. New for 2019 is an optional rear liftgate and standard stop/start operation to enhance efficiency.
The RAM ProMaster City compact commercial van and wagon feature an updated front facia that mirrors the front-end design of the new 2019 RAM 1500. Ideally-sized for city use where maneuverability and versatility are key, the van features a payload capacity of 1,883 pounds and is capable of towing 2,000 pounds, while offering 21 city and 28 highway mpg. New telematics allow fleet managers to monitor van usage and driver behavior. Power is delivered by a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Two sliding side doors and rear 60/40 split doors that swing open to 180 degrees facilitate access to its 131.7 cubic foot cargo area.
RAM 1500 emerges as an all-new, fifth-generation pickup in 2019. It’s offered in four-door quad cab and crew-cab body styles, with 67.4- and 76.3-inch beds. This versatile pickup features more hauling and towing capacity than the generation that came before it, with the ability to tow up to 12,750 pounds and carry a payload of up to 2,320 pounds. RAM 1500 is also lighter, with efficiency enhanced by shedding up to 225 pounds through the use of high-strength steel, aluminum, and composites. It features eTorque mild hybrid technology in both the 3.6-liter and 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 powertrains. As would be expected, RAM also offers the latest driver assist and connectivity technology to enhance commercial operation.
Green Car Journal has honored winners of its highly-anticipated 2018 Green Car Awards™ at the 2018 Washington Auto Show, capping off the final awards of the magazine’s 2018 award program that also included presentations at shows in Los Angeles and San Antonio, Texas. In Washington, the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In was recognized as 2018 Connected Green Car of the Year™, while the Kia Niro was named 2018 Green SUV of the Year™ and the Karma Revero as 2018 Luxury Green Car of the Year™. These three awards speak to the increasing attention automakers are placing on environmental performance in the important luxury, connected, and crossover/SUV markets.
The Connected Green Car of the Year™ award acknowledges advanced and environmentally positive vehicles with on-board systems that connect vehicle to driver, to the world, and to the road. For a growing number of drivers, this is becoming just as important as driving with a lighter environmental impact.
Cadillac’s CT6 Plug-In rose to the top amid finalists that included the BMW i3, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model X, and Volvo S90 T8. The luxury plug-in hybrid sedan provides up to 31 miles of battery-electric driving and an overall range of 430 miles. It excels with its connectivity, driver assist systems, and on-board electronics. Driver assist systems include Forward and Reverse Automatic Braking that respond to an impending collision and apply brakes as needed, plus Pedestrian Braking. Adaptive Cruise Control automatically accelerates and brakes to maintain a driver-selected following distance to the vehicle ahead, while Lane Keep Assist gently steers the car if the system determines a driver is unintentionally leaving a lane. A head-up display and enhanced night vision are also provided.
Presenting a new and affordable option for those who seek the functionality of a small crossover with impressive levels of driving efficiency, the Kia Niro was selected as 2018 Green SUV of the Year™ over finalists Chevrolet Equinox, MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, Mazda CX-5, and Volvo XC60 T8. The Niro comes in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, with the hybrid delivering up to 52 city and 49 highway mpg. Although designed to be at the affordable end of the automotive spectrum, an impressive array of standard and available features is offered including a rearview camera and 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus driver assist technologies like blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking.
Honored as Green Car Journal’s 2018 Luxury Green Car of the Year™, the Karma Revero achieved this distinction in an impressive field of luxury vehicles that included the BMW 530e, Cadillac CT6 Plug-In, Lexus LS 500h, and Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. The Revero features a stunning design and the industry’s largest solar roof. The plug-in grand touring car is built on an aluminum spaceframe and powered by two high-power electric motors that deliver a combined 403 horsepower and satisfying levels of driving performance. This range extended luxury electric car drives 50 miles on battery power and 300 miles overall with electricity created on board by its engine-generator. Inside its comfortable and accommodating cabin, driver and passengers are treated to an elegant leather interior accented with reclaimed wood trim and the latest in high-tech displays and instrumentation.
These 2018 Green Car Awards™ winners and finalists reflect the expanding efforts being made by automakers worldwide to not only meet government and state mandates for more efficient and alternative fuel – in this case electrified – vehicles, but also their response to market forces that are demanding these vehicles. The result is a competitive automotive landscape that’s ‘greener’ than ever, something that bodes well for buyers seeking vehicles offering the driving performance and features they desire, with the added benefit of significantly improved environmental impact.
For a decade now, Green Car Journal has been presenting its Green Car Awards™ at the Washington Auto Show to recognize environmental achievement in the auto industry. The magazine’s most recent press conference during the 2017 Washington Auto Show’s second Policy Day found automakers honored for their efforts in three important categories. Named 2017 Connected Green Car of the Year™ was the Mercedes-Benz C350e, while the 2017 Green SUV of the Year™ was awarded to the BMW X5 xDrive40e and the 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ to Acura’s new NSX.
Along with the award winners, 2017 Connected Green Car of the Year™ finalists included the Audi A3 e-tron, Honda Civic, Tesla Model X, and Toyota Prius Prime. Also identified as 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ finalists were the BMW 740e xDrive, Jaguar XE 20d, Mercedes-Benz S550e, and Range Rover Td6, with 2017 Green SUV of the Year finalists including the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-9, Mercedes-Benz GLE550e, and Nissan Rogue Hybrid. All offered either plug-in, efficient diesel, or advanced internal combustion power and each featured admirable levels of environmental performance.
The Mercedes-Benz C350e, Green Car Journal’s 2017 Connected Green Car of the Year, offers drivers the luxury and driving enjoyment expected of a premium sedan, with the added benefit of plug-in hybrid power. Its overall driving range of 410 miles means there are no compromises. An estimated 11 miles of zero-emission driving is provided on batteries at an EPA estimated 51 miles-per-gallon equivalent.
Drivers are well-connected with an on-board Wi-Fi hotspot and an array of advanced, connected features including location-based, real-time traffic information and route guidance. Driver assistance systems play a major role in the C320e with data from radar sensors and stereo cameras enabling autonomous and semi-autonomous features. Among its capabilities is helping avoid collisions with vehicles ahead and in cross traffic at intersections, even applying full emergency braking if needed. On board systems can maintain a set distance from a vehicle ahead, even in stop and go traffic. Steering inputs helps drivers stay in their lanes.
Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green SUV of the Year, the BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance, combines the versatility and luxury of a full-size, five-passenger SUV with the driving confidence of intelligent all-wheel drive. It offers desired levels of functionality and convenience expected of a full-size SUV, while also addressing efficiency and use of electrification.
A 241 horsepower, 2.0- liter TwinPower turbo four-cylinder engine and 111 horsepower electric motor enabling this nearly 5,000 pound plug-in hybrid SUV to accelerate from 0-60 mph in under seven seconds. It can travel 14 miles under electric power alone with a total driving range of 540 miles. To enhance all-electric driving, intelligent connectivity constantly monitors all factors affecting range including traffic conditions, route profile, and driving. Route guidance functions include displaying public charging station locations on a navigation map.
Winning the 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year was achieved in style by the all-new NSX hybrid supercar. Promising the luxury of carving the perfect turn, riding on race-inspired suspension, and the exhilaration of breathtaking acceleration, the Acura NSX delivers the ultimate driving experience while also somehow netting some 31 percent better city mpg than the previous generation.
The NSX champions aerodynamics, hybrid drive, and lightweight materials like carbon fiber, SMC fiberglass, aluminum, and high-strength steel. Its mid-engine, twin-turbocharged V-6 connects to a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission integrated with a rear electric motor, with two additional electric motors powering the front wheels. The car’s 573 total system horsepower propels it from 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds. In a word, this hybrid supercar is ‘thrilling.’
Winners and finalists for these three Green Car Awards are proof positive that it is no longer good enough to design and build vehicles with style, quality, functionality, and performance. It is necessary to do all this while also delivering much more, taking into account the need for highly-evolved models with improved efficiency, lower environmental impact, greater safety, and ever-expanding ways of connecting our lives and our vehicles to one another.
Hosting these Green Car Awards in Washington DC is appropriate considering the policies, regulations, and incentives that have historically come out of Washington DC that play a significant role in influencing the success and direction of lower emission, more efficient advanced technology vehicles. With its status as the largest public show in Washington and its proximity to the halls of power in the nation’s capital, the Washington Auto show is also the logical venue in Washington DC to honor environmental achievement in the auto industry.