A ‘green’ aura has been cast over the auto industry in ways large and small. While there has been growing interest in vehicles with greater environmental performance since the 1990s, that interest has been incremental. Higher efficiency models? Yep. Alternative fuel vehicles? Sure, some. Hybrids? Yes please. Plug-in models? Of course, growing slowly over the years but increasing exponentially in recent times, in no small part due to generous federal and state incentives, regulations moving us away from internal combustion, and a wholesale shift in auto industry strategies that are embracing electrification.
For several decades, most of this was driven by the need to address fuel efficiency and energy diversity, tackling a vexing dependency on imported oil. The other important driver was the need for cleaner-running cars with significantly lower tailpipe emissions, which spoke to mitigating the smog that has historically created air quality issues in major cities across the country.
Then, sometime around 15 years ago, there was a shift as concerns about climate change and carbon emissions began taking shape. While smog-forming emissions and fuel efficiency continue to be fundamental to the need for cleaner cars, carbon emissions – and ways to decrease them – is driving greater interest in plug-in vehicles that enable zero-emission driving. All this interest has grown in tandem with awareness of new vehicle models that achieve ever-higher levels of environmental sustainability across the board.
Widely recognized as the most important environmental awards in the automotive field over the past 19 years, Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards™ program takes all this in account as the most environmentally positive vehicles are identified each year, as they have been since the first Green Car Awards were announced in Los Angeles in 2005. As we’ve seen in recent years, electrification has taken on increasing importance in the automotive market and this is reflected in a greater number of electrified vehicles as finalists, and as it turns out, in this year’s award winners. And that leads us to this year’s Green Car Awards™ program.
Green Car Journal has awarded its prestigious 2024 Green Car of the Year® honor to the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Toyota’s Prius has earned its well-deserved reputation as a leading eco-conscious model since its introduction to American highways in 2000. Yet, amid the tremendously competitive nature of the Green Car Awards™ field and the program’s focus – which considers not only environmental achievement but also traditional touchstones like performance and a fun-to-drive nature – the Green Car of the Year© honor has remained elusive for the Prius and its plug-in iteration over the years. That ends now with the Prius Prime’s win of 2024 Green Car of the Year.
Toyota’s Prius Prime has evolved to become the ideal vehicle for our time. The plug-in hybrid variant of the new fifth-generation Prius hatchback, Prius Prime champions the high efficiency and eco-consciousness that has long defined the Prius nameplate. Now it also speaks to car enthusiasts with its compelling style and impressive performance. Importantly, it offers the range-anxiety-free ability to drive 44 miles on battery power and 600 overall miles as a hybrid. Given the average daily miles driven by consumers, that means most Prius Prime owners will find their daily driving experience to be one behind the wheel of a zero-emission electric vehicle achieving up to 127 MPGe.
There’s no lack of SUV models on the market these days so choices are abundant. Increasingly, many of these models feature electric drive and plug-in capability, and the magazine’s focus has gravitated here. To that end, Green Car Journal editors have identified the Alfa Romeo Tonale, this brand’s first plug-in hybrid, as the magazine’s 2024 Green SUV of the Year™.
The Tonale combines the marque’s sensuous Italian style with welcome functionality, a sporty and high-tech interior, and an engaging driving experience courtesy of adjustable driving dynamics and best-in-class horsepower. Its 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, which can be charged in less than three hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charger, enables the Tonale to drive 33 zero-emission miles on battery power while delivering an overall 360 mile range.
Honored with Green Car Journal’s 2024 Family Green Car of the Year™ award is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the electrified version of this automaker’s seven passenger Outlander SUV. This handsome electrified SUV does it all. Now a two-time winner of Family Green Car of the Year™, and in its earlier generation winner of 2019 Green SUV of the Year, the Outlander PHEV’s charms begin with three row seating for larger families, with the rear seat foldable and stowable in a floor well to optimize cargo space.
The Outlander PHEV’s efficient gas engine/twin motor PHEV drivetrain delivers satisfying efficiency while offering 38 miles of battery electric range as an EV, plus a total 420 mile driving range overall. Like full electric vehicles, the plug-in hybrid Outlander PHEV features ‘one pedal driving’ and DC fast charge capability. Adding to its versatility is Mitsubishi’s Super-All Wheel Control that enables confident driving over varying terrain and in challenging road conditions.
Making the cut to become a finalist in a Green Car Awards™ category is an honor earned by virtue of commendable environmental achievement that distinguishes a model above its peers. Each of these vehicles is recognized with Green Car Journal’s 2024 Green Car Product of Excellence™.
2024 Green Car of the Year© finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq 6, Hyundai Sonata, Tesla Model 3, Toyota Prius Prime.
2024 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Alfa Romeo Tonale, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Dodge Hornet, Genesis GV70 Electrified, Hyundai Kona.
2024 Family Green Car of the Year™ finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Kia EV9, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-90 PHEV, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Toyota Grand Highlander.
There was a time when environmental leadership in the auto industry was a scarce commodity. Seventeen years ago, when Green Car Journal announced its first Green Car of the Year® in Los Angeles, it was difficult to identify more than a few dozen truly worthy vehicles to be considered for the honor. Today it is a formidable challenge in a different way. Now, analyzing the expansive field of green cars that champion greater environmental performance can be downright mind numbing, along with the process of honing the list down to a manageable number of candidates for each of our Green Car Awards™.
Still, this is a great problem to have and we’re up to the challenge. In fact, we celebrate the difficult and time-consuming process. This sheer number of greener models means that all of us benefit from the ability to buy and drive an increasing number of vehicles that champion a lighter impact on the environment.
As finalists are evaluated during the judging process, Green Car Journal weighs an array of important criteria such as environmental achievement, cost, value, safety, performance, functionality, and availability. These may vary from one award category to another. For instance, cost is less of a factor in Luxury Green Car of the Year™; greater driving range may not be as critical in Urban Green Car of the Year™; and immediate availability is less of an issue for Commercial Green Car of the Year™, since commercial fleets tend to plan well ahead and are used to scheduled batch builds of specialized vehicles. Some criteria take on more importance, such as electric driving range in most categories where EVs are considered; family friendliness in awards where passenger needs or capacity are important; and tow ratings and realistic long-distance towing and hauling capabilities in the case of Green Truck of the Year™.
There are more complex issues at play today. We’ve seen order banks for some new or popular pickups like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Ford Maverick suddenly close for the model year, which means consumers are no longer able to order one, at least at this time. Since price is an important consideration for most award categories, when we see sudden price hikes in the thousands of dollars, we also take notice. Then there’s the issue of supply chain disruptions and materials shortages that can delay a model’s expected availability. We take all of this into account and dive deep to ensure we’re as up to speed as possible to avoid potential surprises.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards™ program has evolved over the years, most notably with the addition of more award categories to reflect the ever changing and expanding world of environmentally positive vehicles. Plus, along with the ‘greenest’ vehicles honored by the 2023 Green Car Awards™ program, Green Car Journal now recognizes the crucial roles that infrastructure and technology play in enabling a more sustainable driving future.
Let's get to it. Here are the winners of Green Car Journal’s prestigious 2023 Green Car Awards™:
TOYOTA CROWN – The Crown is Toyota's sophisticated new flagship that champions high fuel economy, lower carbon emissions, and appealing style. The five-passenger sedan features a stylish and high tech cabin designed to offer a premium feel. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter THS hybrid estimated to deliver 38 combined mpg, or a more powerful 2.4-liter turbocharged HYBRID MAX powerplant with 340 horsepower. On-demand all-wheel drive is standard.
CADILLAC LYRIQ – Featuring upscale styling and a premium theme, the Lyriq is Cadillac’s first all-electric vehicle that’s offered in single or dual motor versions with rear- or all-wheel drive. At a base price of $62,990, the Lyriq features an impressive 312 mile driving range. Satisfying performance is delivered by 340 horsepower in the single motor variant and 500 horsepower in the dual motor version.
Among this award’s finalists were the Cadillac Lyriq, Genesis GV60, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz EQB, and Polestar 2.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV – Last year’s introduction of the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander made waves with its more dynamic styling and upscale features. Now the next-generation Outlander PHEV has joined the lineup. Featuring standard all-wheel drive, the twin motor plug-in hybrid SUV now features significantly greater battery electric range of 38 miles and 420 miles overall, plus the addition of three-row seating that was unavailable in the previous generation Outlander PHEV.
RAM 1500 –The RAM 1500 is a model of versatility and functionality that provides pickup buyers loads of choices. It’s available in Quad Cab and Crew Cab configurations, offers two pickup box lengths, two- or four-wheel drive, and diverse power options. These include two hybrids – a 3.6-liter eTorque V-6 and 5.7-liter eTorque HEMI V-8 – plus a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel and 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. RAM can carry payloads up to 2300 pounds tow trailers up to 12,750 pounds.
FISKER OCEAN – The all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV features an appealing and sporty design enhanced by an attractive and uncluttered high-tech interior. It’s available in three versions with a driving range of 250 to 350 miles. Beyond its zero-emission electric drive, Fisker is committed to making the Ocean a model of sustainability with over 110 pounds of recycled materials used in its construction, including crushed carbon fiber and plastics from bottles and fishing nets.
FORD F-150 LIGHTNING PRO – The F-150 Lightning PRO available to fleets offers 240 to 320 miles of all electric range, depending on battery pack, with a payload capacity up to 2235 pounds. Towing capability up to 10,000 pounds is ideal for urban and regional applications where long-distance towing is not required, since towing can significantly reduce electric range. It’s available with Pro Power Onboard outlets for power at job sites. A Special Services Vehicle variant is made for non-pursuit police department applications.
MINI COOPER SE ELECTRIC – The fully electric MINI Cooper SE carries on the tradition of the MINI as a diminutive two-door hardtop with a fun-to-drive nature and go-kart handling, adding the important distinction of zero-emission operation. The Cooper SE Electric is an ideal vehicle for urban environments, offering a small physical footprint, easy maneuverability, and an electric driving range of 114 miles between charges.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE 4XE – The Grand Cherokee 4xe offers all the outstanding features of Jeep’s conventional SUV with the addition of plug-in hybrid capability. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine and two electric motors delivering a total of 375 horsepower. This Trail Rated Jeep features 25 miles of zero-emission on- and off-road driving and a combined 470 miles of range, can tow up to 6,000 pounds, and ford up to 24 inches of water since all high-volt electronics are sealed and waterproof.
FREEWIRE TECHNOLOGIES BOOST CHARGER – Freewire Technologies’ Boost Charger integrates lithium-ion battery storage to eliminate the need for expensive electrical service upgrades at gas stations adding EV fast charging. Phillips 66 has installed a Boost Charger at a station near its Houston headquarters and plans to leverage its network of 7,000 Phillips 66, Conoco, and 76 branded sites with additional Boost Chargers.
LI-CYCLE SPOKE & HUB TECHNOLOGIES – Li-Cycle’s Spoke & Hub system recycles end-of-life lithium-ion battery packs without requiring dismantling. Batteries undergo a submerged shredding process at regional Spoke facilities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe that produces no wastewater, with the output a black mass consisting of critical metals including lithium, cobalt, and nickel. A centralized Hub facility then processes the black mass and creates battery grade materials for reuse.
Finalists considered for this award were BMW eDrive Zones, ConnectDER, Ford Home Integration System, GM Hydrotec Fuel Cell Power Cubes, and Li-Cycle Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling.
Rising above a substantial field of ‘green’ competitors to become a Green Car Awards™ candidate is a noteworthy achievement in itself. To honor these vehicles, all finalists considered in a Green Car Awards™ category are recognized for their commendable environmental achievement with Green Car Journal’s 2023 Green Car Product of Excellence™.