An important part of Green Car Journal’s mission is encouraging environmental progress in the auto industry through its annual Green Car Awards™ program.
These high-profile awards recognize vehicles that champion environmental achievement while remaining true to their purpose – they are fun to drive, look to our safety, provide value, and deliver the attributes most important to new car buyers Importantly, they lead the way forward in meaningful ways through lower carbon emissions, greater efficiency, and improved overall environmental compatibility.
Green Car of the Year®, the magazine’s signature award first presented at the 2005 L.A. Auto Show, enjoys worldwide attention and is widely recognized as the most prestigious environmental award in the auto industry.
Weighing the merits of this award’s finalists are jurors from highly-respected efficiency and environmental organizations including Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, Board Chair of Climate Mayors; Dr. Alan Lloyd, Senior Research Fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Jason Hartke, President of the Alliance to Save Energy. Celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors round out the awards jury.
Models considered for Green Car Awards™ span all vehicle classes, from economy cars to luxury cars, and from Show. In addition, all five exceptional finalists for each award earn Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green Car Product of Excellence™ distinction for their environmental achievement.
GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR® Winner: Honda Insight. Finalists: Lexus ES 300h, Nissan Altima VC-Turbo, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Volkswagen Jetta.
GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR™ Winner: RAM 1500. Finalists: Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford Ranger.
CONNECTED GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR™ Winner: Nissan LEAF. Finalists: Audi e-tron, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Tesla Model 3, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
COMMERCIAL GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR™ Winner: Ford Transit Connect. Finalists: Ford Special Service PHEV Sedan, Mercedes-Benz Metris, RAM 1500, RAM ProMaster City.
Along with models like the 2019 Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron, and upcoming Porsche Taycan, we're seeing a new generation of high-tech battery-powered vehicles that bring an exciting new direction to legacy automakers. These models also have something important in common: They aim to disrupt Tesla, the industry’s de-facto electric car leader.
Disruption is a word thrown about with abandon these days as veritable institutions of business and commerce fall from grace, or at least profitability, at the hands of an ever-changing and disruptive world. Think Sears, Borders, and Kodak. The list of major companies disrupted – either gone, a shadow of their former self, or on the ropes – continues to grow. While the auto industry has largely escaped this same fate, change is definitely in the wind. And its bogeyman in recent years has clearly been Tesla.
PREVIOUS DISRUPTION: We’ve seen the auto industry disrupted before, not by innovators but rather by geo-politics, circumstance, and a lack of long-term vision. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the 1979 Oil Crisis that brought serious gas shortages were a result of political disruption. It was a time when stations ran out of gas, lines of cars snaked for blocks as drivers tried desperately to keep their tanks full and their car-dependent lives on track, and consumers looked for more fuel-efficient vehicles to ease their pain. The problem, however, was there were few fuel-efficient models being produced since there had been no particular demand for them. The auto industry had to adapt, but with typically long product cycles it would take years to adequately fill this need.
Segue to 2003 and the launch of Tesla Motors, an occurrence that seemed interesting but hardly a threat to legacy automakers. Its high-tech Tesla Roadster introduced in 2008 – based on engineless ‘gliders’ produced by Lotus – proved that electric cars could be sporty, fun, and go the distance in ways that all other electrics before it could not, to the tune of 250 miles of battery electric driving on a single charge. Then came the Tesla designed-and-built Model S, Model X, and the new-to-the-scene Model 3. Clearly, the battle for leadership in electric cars was underway.
A HISTORY OF INNOVATION: The auto industry’s penchant for innovation has always characterized its giants. Over its long history, this is an industry that brought us the three-point safety belt, airbags, anti-lock braking, cruise control, direct fuel injection, electronic ignition, and near-zero emission gasoline engines. And let us not forget Kettering’s invention of the electric starter that first saw use in 1912 Cadillacs, an innovation that tipped the scales – and history – in favor of internal combustion over electric cars of the era and helped lead to the combustion engine’s dominance to this day.
While Tesla may have established its role as the industry’s electric car innovator, that’s not to say that legacy automakers haven’t made tremendous progress. GM’s short-lived EV1 electric car of the 1990s proved that exciting and fun electric cars were possible, but not necessarily affordable to make at the time. The technologies developed by GM through the EV1 program live on to this day with evolutionary electric-drive technology found in its acclaimed Chevrolet Bolt EV and other electrified models. Advanced battery electric production vehicles have also been a focus at Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Smart, and VW, with others like Porsche set to enter the market with long-range battery EVs.
So here’s the lesson of the day: If a business model no longer works, as was the case with General Motors and Chrysler during the financial meltdown in the late 1990s, you restructure. A brand no longer resonates with consumers? You drop it, like GM did with Oldsmobile. And if a class of vehicles is falling out of favor in lieu of more desired ones, you move on, as Ford is doing by phasing out almost all of its passenger cars in coming years in favor of more desired crossover/SUVs and pickups.
THE AGE OF ELECTRIFICATION: A paradigm shift is also occurring as automakers grapple with changing consumer preferences, regulatory requirements, and the projected demand for future vehicles and technologies. Enter the age of electrification. Over the past decade, Tesla has set the bar for innovative battery electric propulsion, advancements in near-autonomous driving technology, over-the-air vehicle software updates, and more. It has achieved a real or perceived leadership position in these areas and that’s a threat to legacy automakers. Now automakers are responding in a serious way and Tesla itself is under siege.
GM fired the first volley with its 2017 Bolt EV, beating Tesla’s long-touted Model 3 to market with an affordable long-range EV capable of traveling 238 miles on battery power. While Tesla is now delivering its well-received Model 3 in increasing numbers after a series of production challenges, the race with GM to produce an ‘affordable’ mainstream EV with 200-plus mile range was not much of a race to affordability at all. GM won that one handily, holding the line with a $37,500 price (after destination charges), while Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 has yet to materialize. As Tesla did with its earlier model launches, the automaker is delivering uplevel, high-content, and higher-performance versions first, in the case of the Model 3 from a recently-lowered base price of $42,900 to $60,900, depending on configuration. The Bolt EV’s MSRP has moved in the other direction, dropping slightly to $36,620 for the 2019 model.
Nissan’s all-new, next-generation LEAF that debuted in 2018 improved its range to 150 miles, with a recently-announced LEAF PLUS model joining the lineup with a bigger battery and a range of 226 miles. Hyundai’s 2019 Kona Electric and Kia’s 2019 Niro Electric offer a battery range of about 250 miles, although these offer availability only in California and perhaps a few other ‘green’ states.
EXCITING NEW ENTRIES: Jaguar’s 2019 I-PACE, a fast and sporty crossover with a 234 mile battery electric range, is now available and priced to compete with Tesla’s Model S and X. We'll soon be seeing Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan long-range electrics on U.S. highways, with others like Aston Martin and Maserati developing high-end electric models as well.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the coming months and years. To be sure, legacy automakers will not cede their leadership positions and market share without a terrific fight… and that fight is intensifying. Tesla doesn’t fear risk and has shown it will go in new directions that others will not, unless they must.
But Tesla doesn’t operate like legacy automakers that have been around for a long time, some more than a century. Those companies have mastered mass production, fielded extensive model lineups, developed widespread and convenient service networks, and have a history of successful worldwide distribution. Tesla is still learning this game, although it is making headway with its intense and successful efforts to deliver increasing numbers of its Model 3 to customers.
Importantly, legacy automakers are immensely profitable, while Tesla has had but a few profitable quarters since its launch and its losses have been in the billions. Tesla’s well-documented difficulties in ramping up mass production of the company’s 'entry-level' Model 3 – and its initial deliveries of only up-level Model 3 examples at significantly higher cost than its widely-publicized $35,000 base price – have added to its challenges.
That said, it would be a mistake to count Tesla out for the long haul based on its current and historic challenges including missed financial and vehicle delivery targets, serious Model 3 production challenges, and a number of high-profile Tesla crashes while driving on its much-touted Autopilot. Regardless of all this, in 2018 Tesla’s Model 3 was the best-selling luxury model in the U.S.
Legacy automakers will have Tesla directly in their sights and Tesla will continue to innovate. A veritable race-to-the-finish!
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.
First off, this is not the LEAF we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the road since the model’s introduction in 2010. Our drive of the new generation 2018 Nissan LEAF quickly reinforced this is a whole-new animal, a new generation of the venerable electric car intended to capture the imagination and, not coincidentally, market share in the increasingly competitive electric vehicle field.
We have history with the LEAF. Green Car Journal first experienced the original LEAF’s capabilities in a technology demonstrator designed to share what Nissan had in mind for its groundbreaking, soon-to-come production electric vehicle. At Nissan’s behest, we tested the automaker’s LEAF-destined electric drivetrain in its EV-12 test mule back in 2009 at Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. We later witnessed the LEAF’s unveiling, clearly showing Nissan’s willingness to push the envelope for electric cars with an edgy design.
We were impressed. So much so, in fact, that Green Car Journal honored the LEAF with the magazine’s 2010 Green Car Vision Award™ in Washington DC, ahead of its introduction to the market. Nissan’s insight into what electric vehicle buyers desired has indeed proved visionary over the years. Testament to this is the LEAF’s standing as the world’s leading affordable, mass production EV since its launch.
The all-new generation Nissan LEAF aims to expand on this success with new styling and a 50-percent increase in driving range. It also features a full suite of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. This all-electric model is more attractive with excellent aerodynamics that result in a low 0.28 drag coefficient. Improved aerodynamics not only means a quieter ride but also contributes to greater range. That’s an important consideration in electric cars with near-silent drivetrains that don’t mask outside noise.
The new Leaf features a 150-mile driving range between charges compared to the previous generation’s 100 miles. This is an important milestone that serves to overcome potential ‘range anxiety.’ Why 150 miles rather than shooting for the 200+ mile range like the Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3? It’s all about balancing price with functionality. Simply, Nissan aimed at providing an affordable price point under $30,000 for the LEAF. That meant delivering the range it figured would fit the driving needs of most drivers while keeping battery costs within reason. It’s a sound strategy.
A more powerful 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack features improvements and revised chemistry that bring a 67 percent increase in energy density. Nissan designers have located the low-slung battery pack and other heavy components to the middle of the chassis to enhance the car’s center of gravity and handling. Fun fact: Using vehicle-to-home systems, the LEAF’s battery can store a home’s surplus solar energy while parked during the daytime and use it to help power a home in the evening.
LEAF’s electric powertrain features a 147-horsepower electric motor that’s well-suited to the model. It provides 38 percent more horsepower than the previous version with 26 greater torque for improved acceleration. Acceleration is crisp with more than enough power at the ready for all the driving situations we encountered on twisty roads and Interstates. Intelligent Ride Control delivers more precise motor torque control during cornering. This also reduces vibration while improving ride quality and steering control. Electric power steering software has been tweaked for improved steering feel. The LEAF’s steering torsion bar is also stiffer for better feedback and more linear response to steering inputs.
Nissan’s e-Pedal slows down the car via regenerative and friction braking when a driver’s foot lifts off the accelerator. This delivers electricity to the battery while essentially providing braking force without using the car’s brake pedal. It even brings the car to a complete stop. We found that driving with e-Pedal kept our LEAF tester in place while stopped on a steep hill without requiring a foot on the brake pedal. Notably, e-Pedal allows drivers to go without using the brake pedal 90 percent of the time.
LEAF’s ProPILOT cruise control conveniently maintains a constant distance to the vehicle ahead. If that vehicle stops, ProPILOT automatically applies brakes to also bring the LEAF to a full stop. It remains stopped even with your foot off the brake. Driving resumes when ProPILOT is activated with the touch of a switch or light pressure on the accelerator. The system also helps keep the LEAF centered in its lane at speeds between 19 and 62 mph. Other LEAF driver-assist technologies include Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.
The new LEAF’s interior has a more luxurious and high-end look. Its dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch display for infotainment and the navigation system, if so equipped, plus Nissan's Safety Shield state-of-charge and power gauge. Another seven-inch screen faces the driver in place of conventional dials. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on LEAFs with the higher-spec infotainment/navigation system.
Today’s electric car market is different than that of the past. There are more choices in a growing number of vehicle classes and this makes it tougher for automakers to compete. Nissan aims to not only compete in the electric car field but dominate globally as it has in recent years.
The LEAF’s status as a true world car is underscored by widespread availability like the previous-generation LEAF. It’s also reinforced by Nissan’s global manufacturing capabilities with assembly plants in Japan, England, and in Smyrna, Tennessee. Offering the all-new LEAF at a base price of $29,990 here in the U.S. is a strategy that should bode well for Nissan in today’s increasingly competitive electric vehicle market.
The Honda Clarity family of vehicles has earned Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year Award® amid a field of finalists that all featured electrification as part of their market strategy, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan LEAF, and Toyota Camry. The award was announced at a Green Car Journal press conference during AutoMobilityLA at the LA Auto Show.
Honda’s Clarity sedan is a future-thinking model that redefines how to deliver what drivers desire today, while also anticipating the shifting needs of a more environmentally positive driving future. It is offered in three electrified variations – one powered by plug-in hybrid power, another exclusively by battery power, and a third by a hydrogen fuel cell that creates electricity on board. This distinguishes Honda as the first-ever automaker to do this.
The Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Electric, and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid use the same advanced platform and many of the same powertrain components, enabling Honda to amortize manufacturing costs. This also makes it straightforward to increase or decrease production of each variant to meet changing demand.
The winner was selected by a jury of environmental and efficiency leaders including Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Board Member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, plus celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors.
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.
Focusing on the unique combination of hard-working functionality and environmental achievement, the Green Car Awards™ at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show recognize vehicles that do the heavy lifting in real life while also keeping an eye on lower emissions, higher efficiency, and overall environmental improvement. This year, emerging on top for Green Car Journal’s 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year™ is the Ram ProMaster City, the second year in a row this light commercial vehicle has earned the honor. Honda’s all-new Ridgeline is distinguished as the magazine’s 2017 Green Truck of the Year™.
Along with the Honda Ridgeline, finalists for this year’s 2017 Green Truck of the Year™ included the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford F-250 Super Duty, GMC Canyon, and Ram 1500. Vying for the 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year™ along with the Ram ProMaster City were the Ford F-250 Super Duty, Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, and Nissan Titan XD.The Ram ProMaster City compact commercial van and wagon are ideally-sized for city use where maneuverability and versatility are key. The model’s strong suit is offering the hauling and commercial-use capabilities desired by businesses and fleets while also addressing the efficiency that has a direct impact on the bottom line.
ProMaster City is powered by a Fiat-derived 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine that benefits from efficient Multiair technology. Its 178 horsepower is delivered to the road via a nine-speed automatic transmission. The combination provides an impressive 21 city and class-leading 29 highway mpg.
Honda’s all-new second generation Ridgeline returns to American highways with a design that’s more truck-like and refined at the same time. The model’s signature unibody construction delivers a smooth car-like ride unsurpassed in the pickup field, providing the functionality needed by most truck buyers with the ability to carry a 1500 pound load, tow up to 5,000 pounds, and transport five occupants in comfort. Its 280 horsepower V-6 provides satisfying acceleration and 26 mpg highway fuel efficiency.
Green Car Journal editors weigh the merits of all potential vehicles through its vetting process and narrow down the field to five candidates, which are then considered by the Green Car Awards™ jury. Jurors are veteran writers and editors in the light truck field, having served on staff at publications like 4 Wheel & Off Road, PV4, Hot Rod’s Pickups, Hot Rod Vans, Pickups & Mini-Trucks, and Vans & Trucks, plus auto buff magazines including Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, and others. All have owned and tested myriad pickup and van models over the years, which allows a keen perspective on the attributes and nuances that make for great pickups and vans that serve both personal and business uses.
The Washington Auto Show is known for its impressive assemblage of new vehicle models and concepts plus specialty displays of advanced, specialty, and historic vehicles. Its proximity to the nation’s capital earns it the reputation as the auto show circuit’s ‘Policy Show,’ underscored with presentations by the Department of Energy, visits by members of Congress, and at times even the President. The show is also known for its focus on environmentally positive vehicles as host to Green Car Journal’s prestigious Green Car Awards™ program.
This year, Green Car Journal focused attention on three of the hottest categories of ‘green’ vehicles by announcing winners of its 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year™, Green SUV of the Year™, and Luxury Green Car of the Year™ awards. Making its debut at the Washington show, Connected Green Car of the Year™ recognizes vehicles that intelligently blend sophisticated connected technologies with advanced powertrains, materials, and design – all coming together to deliver driving enjoyment, efficiency, and enhanced safety with lower environmental impact.
New cars are becoming smarter and more autonomous, with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, automated parking, and other driver assist systems signaling that the age of the connected car has arrived. A growing array of 'green' models with connected technologies are on the market with many more coming soon. Best exemplifying the integration of environmental performance and connected technologies were this year's finalists Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 330e, Toyota Prius, and Volvo XC90 T8, and the car that emerged as the 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year, Chevrolet's all-new Malibu Hybrid.
An impressive EPA estimated 48 city/45 highway mpg combined with advanced on-board electronics and connectivity are hallmarks of the new Malibu Hybrid. The mid-size sedan comes standard with Chevrolet MyLink radio and an 8-inch diagonal color touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, rear vision camera, OnStar, and 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. That’s a lot of tech for a model that starts at an approachable $28,645. Available systems include low speed front automatic braking, parking assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. A unique Teen Driver feature actively encourages safe driving and allows parents to view stored information on how their teenagers drove the vehicle.
The popularity of crossovers and SUVs continues to surge, underscoring why it’s important they continue to evolve with improved environmental performance in mind – whether offering a smaller footprint for easier maneuverability and efficiency, or using advanced powertrains that eke the most from a gallon of fuel or incorporate hybrid power. These are the vehicles that 2016 Green SUV of the Year™ seeks to honor. Finalists this year included the BMW X1 xDrive 28i, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and award winner Honda HR-V.
Based on the Honda Fit platform but substantially larger in all dimensions, the new HR-V compact crossover features coupe-like styling with SUV functionality that includes an interior volume rivaling that of some midsize SUVs with its second row seats folded. Powering the HR-V is the same 1.8-liter engine as the Honda Civic, delivering 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft torque while achieving up to 35 highway mpg. The HR-V offers many desired features combined with an approachable $19,215 price. Standard or available electronics include brake assist, electronic stability control, rear view camera, Bluetooth, tire pressure monitoring, and Honda LaneWatch. A 5 inch color LCD screen or 7-inch touchscreen display are offered.
Higher-end vehicles with ‘green’ attributes are gaining an increasing amount of attention from automakers. Buyers now have the ability to find more environmentally positive aspirational vehicles that feature the aesthetics of a sleek sedan, the excitement of a sports car, or the functionality of an SUV, combined with high efficiency or even plug-in hybrid power. Finalists for 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ illustrated this trend, including the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, and award winner Volvo XC90 T8.
Volvo's all-new XC90 T8, the industry's first seven passenger plug-in hybrid SUV, uses a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E engine with a rear axle electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. This enables an overall 350 mile driving range and an all-electric range of about 17 miles. A 46 horsepower starter-generator motor located between the engine and transmission provides start-stop capability and additional power as needed. The XC90 T8 includes all of Volvo’s conventional safety systems plus items like lane departure warning, road sign information display, pedestrian and cyclist detection, pilot assist adaptive cruise control, and park assist with automatic parking. The $68,100 XC90 T8 is EPA rated at a combined 25 mpg and 54 MPGe on battery power.
Five exceptional ‘green’ cars have just been identified by Green Car Journal as its finalists for the coveted 2016 Green Car of the Year® award. These 2016 models include the Audi A3 e-tron, Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Prius.
The magazine points out that this is the strongest field of finalists the annual Green Car of the Year® program has considered, with each nominee making a strong environmental statement in distinctly different ways. All share a common strategy of recognizing what’s most important to today’s drivers through the use of diverse powertrain technologies and their own brand of ‘green’ features. The bottom line: All approaches are essential to achieving today’s important environmental goals, including greater fuel efficiency, lower tailpipe emissions, reduced carbon emissions, and overall environmental improvement while providing satisfying performance and retaining the joy of driving.
FINALIST: AUDI A3 E-TRON
The A3 Sportback e-tron is Audi's entry in the hot plug-in hybrid vehicle market. This five-door hatchback uses lithium-ion batteries and a 102 hp electric motor to deliver up to 19 miles of all-electric driving, after which its 150 hp, 1.4-liter gasoline TFSI engine provides power for extended driving in efficient hybrid mode.
FINALIST: CHEVROLET VOLT
Chevrolet’s second generation Volt features sportier styling, better performance, and a lighter and more powerful two-motor drive system. The five-passenger, extended range electric now drives up to 53 miles on batteries alone, with its 1.5-liter gasoline powered generator creating on-board electricity to deliver an overall 420 mile range.
FINALIST: HONDA CIVIC
Now in its tenth generation, the all-new Honda Civic delivers exemplary fuel efficiency in an affordable, conventionally-powered model. The Civic thoughtfully blends hybrid-like fuel economy and appealing style, with an array of desired amenities and advanced electronics that meets the needs of a great many drivers.
FINALIST: HYUNDAI SONATA
Hyundai’s stylish 2016 Sonata offers it all with efficient gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid choices within the Sonata lineup. New this year, the hybrid delivers up to 43 highway mpg and features distinctive styling cues. The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid drives up to 24 miles on batteries with additional range on conventional hybrid power.
The Toyota Prius emerges in 2016 a completely redesigned model, faithfully delivering the attributes expected of an industry-leading hybrid with important design, technology, and efficiency updates. It features a familiar yet bolder exterior and incorporates suspension and other improvements to deliver improved driving dynamics.
GREEN CAR AWARD PROGRAM
Since 1992, Green Car Journal has been recognized as the leading authority on the intersection of automobiles, energy, and environment. The GCOY award is an important part of Green Car Journal’s mission to showcase environmental progress in the automotive field.
The auto industry’s expanding efforts in offering new vehicles with higher efficiency and improved environmental impact mean there is an increasing number of vehicle models to be considered for the Green Car of the Year® program. This is a significant departure from when just a limited number of new car models were considered for the inaugural Green Car of the Year® program, which Green Car Journal first presented at the LA Auto Show in 2005.
During the award’s vetting process, Green Car Journal editors consider all vehicles, fuels, and technologies as an expansive field of potential candidates is narrowed down to a final five. Finalists are selected for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance. Many factors are considered including efficiency, EPA and CARB emissions certification, performance characteristics, ‘newness,’ and affordability. Availability to the mass market is important to ensure honored models have the potential to make a real difference in environmental impact.
The Green Car of the Year® is selected through a majority vote by a jury that includes leaders of noted environmental and efficiency organizations including Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy. Green Car Journal editors and celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno round out the award jury.
Green Car Journal will announced the winner of the 2016 Green Car of the Year award during press days at the L.A. Auto Show on November 19.
There’s something almost magical about plugging your car into an outlet at night and waking up to a full ‘tank’ in the morning. There’s no need for a stop at the gas station, ever. Plus, there’s no nagging guilt that the miles metered out by the odometer are counting off one’s contribution toward any societal and environmental ills attendant with fossil fuel use.
This is a feeling experienced during the year Green Car Journal editors drove GM’s remarkable EV1 electric car in the late 1990s. Daily drives in the EV1 were a joy. The car was sleek, high-tech, distinctive, and with the electric motor’s torque coming on from zero rpm, decidedly fast. That’s a potent combination.
The EV1 is long gone, not because people or companies ‘killed’ it as the so-called documentary Who Killed the Electric Car suggested, but rather because extraordinarily high costs and a challenging business case were its demise. GM lost many tens of thousands of dollars on every EV1 it built, as did other automakers complying with California’s Zero EmissionsVehicle (ZEV) mandate in the 1990s.
Even today, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says his company loses $14,000 for every Fiat 500e electric car sold. Combine that with today’s need for an additional $7,500 federal tax credit and up to $6,000 in subsidies from some states to encourage EV purchases, and it’s easy to see why the electric car remains such a challenge.
This isn’t to say that electric cars are the wrong idea. On the contrary, they are perceived as important to our driving future, so much so that government, automakers, and their suppliers see electrification as key to meeting mandated 2025 fleet-wide fuel economy requirements and CO2 reduction goals. The problem is that there’s no singular, defined roadmap for getting there because costs, market penetration, and all-important political support are future unknowns.
The advantages of battery electric vehicles are well known – extremely low per-mile operating costs on electricity, less maintenance, at-home fueling, and of course no petroleum use. Add in the many societal incentives available such as solo driving in carpool lanes, preferential parking, and free public charging, and the case for electrics gets even more compelling. If a homeowner’s solar array is offsetting the electricity used to energize a car’s batteries for daily drives, then all the better. This is the ideal scenario for a battery electric car. Of course, things are never this simple, otherwise we would all be driving electric.
There remain some very real challenges. Government regulation, not market forces, has largely been driving the development of the modern electric car. This is a good thing or bad, depending upon one’s perspective. The goal is admirable and to some, crucial – to enable driving with zero localized emissions, eliminate CO2 emissions, reduce oil dependence, and drive on an energy source created from diverse resources that can be sustainable. Where’s the downside in that?
Still, new car buyers have not stepped up to buy battery electric cars in expected, or perhaps hoped-for, numbers, especially the million electric vehicles that Washington had set out as its goal by 2015. This is surprising to many since electric vehicle choices have expanded in recent years. However, there are reasons for this.
Electric cars are often quite expensive in comparison to their gasoline-powered counterparts, although government and manufacturer subsidies can bring these costs down. Importantly, EVs offer less functionality than conventional cars because of limited driving range that averages about 70 to 100 miles before requiring a charge. While this zero-emission range can fit the commuting needs of many two-vehicle households and bring substantial fuel savings, there’s a catch. Factoring future fuel savings into a vehicle purchase decision is simply not intuitive to new car buyers today.
Many drivers who would potentially step up to electric vehicle ownership can’t do so because most electric models are sold only in California or a select number of ‘green’ states where required zero emission vehicle credits are earned. These states also tend to have at least a modest charging infrastructure in place. Manufacturers selling exclusively in these limited markets typically commit to only small build numbers, making these EVs fairly insignificant in influencing electric vehicle market penetration.
Battery electric vehicles available today include the BMW i3, BMW i8, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan LEAF, Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, Tesla Model S, Toyota RAV4 EV, and VW e-Golf. While most aim at limited sales, some like BMW, Nissan, and Tesla market their EVs nationwide. The Honda Fit EV and Toyota RAV4 EV are being phased out. Fleet-focused EVs are also being offered by a small number of independent companies. Other battery electrics are coming.
BMW’s i3 offers buyers an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that generates on-board electricity to double this electric car’s battery electric driving range. A growing number of electrified models like the current generation Prius Plug-In and Chevy Volt can also run exclusively on battery power for a more limited number of miles (10-15 for the Prius and up to 40 miles in the Volt), and then drive farther with the aid of a combustion engine or engine-generator. Both will offer greater all-electric driving range when they emerge as all-new 2016 models. Many extended range electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids like these are coming soon from a surprising number of auto manufacturers.
It has been an especially tough road for independent or would-be automakers intent on introducing electric vehicles to the market. Well-funded efforts like Coda Automotive failed, as have many lesser ones over the years. Often enough, inventors of electric cars have been innovative and visionary, only to discover that becoming an auto manufacturer is hugely expensive and more challenging than imagined. In many cases their timeline from concept and investment to production and sales becomes so long that before their first cars are produced, mainstream automakers have introduced models far beyond what they were offering, and at lesser cost with an established sales and service network to support them.
A high profile exception is Tesla Motors, the well-funded Silicon Valley automaker that successfully built and sold its $112,000 electric Tesla Roadster, continued its success with the acclaimed $70,000-$100,000+ Model S electric sedan, and will soon deliver its first Tesla Model X electric crossovers. While Tesla has said it would offer the Model X at a price similar to that of the Model S, initial deliveries of the limited Model X Signature Series will cost a reported $132,000-$144,000. It has not yet been announced when lower cost 'standard' Model X examples will begin deliveries to Tesla's sizable customer pre-order list.
Tesla’s challenge is not to prove it can produce compelling battery electric cars, provide remarkable all-electric driving range, or build a wildly enthusiastic – some would say fanatical – customer base. It has done all this. Its challenge is to continue this momentum by developing a full model lineup that includes a promised affordable model for the masses, its Model 3, at a targeted $35,000 price tag. It will be interesting to see if the Model 3 ultimately comes to market at that price point.
This is no easy thing. Battery costs remain very high and, in fact, Tesla previously shared that the Tesla Roadster’s battery pack cost in the vicinity of $30,000. While you can bury the cost of an expensive battery pack in a high-end electric car that costs $70,000 to over $100,000, you can’t do that today in a $35,000 model, at least not one that isn’t manufacturer subsidized and provides the 200+ mile range expected of a Tesla.
The company’s answer is a $5 billion ‘Gigafactory’ being built in Nevada that it claims will produce more lithium-ion batteries by 2020 than were produced worldwide in 2013. The company’s publicized goal is to trim battery costs by at least 30 percent to make its $35,000 electric car a reality and support its growing electric car manufacturing. Tesla has said it’s essential that the Gigafactory is in production as the Model 3 begins manufacturing. The billion dollar question is…can they really achieve the ambitious battery and production cost targets to do this over the next few years, or will this path lead to the delays that Tesla previously experienced with the Tesla Roadster, Model S, and Model X?
Tesla is well-underway with its goal of building out a national infrastructure of SuperCharger fast-charge stations along major transportation corridors to enable extended all-electric driving. These allow Tesla vehicles the ability to gain a 50 percent charge in about 20 minutes, although they are not compatible with other EVs. For all others, Bosch is undertaking a limited deployment of its sub-$10,000 DC fast charger that provides an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. A joint effort by ChargePoint, BMW, and VW also aims to create express charging corridors with fast-charge capability on major routes along both coasts in the U.S.
The past 25 years have not secured a future for the battery electric car, but things are looking up. The next 10 years are crucial as cost, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance challenges are tackled and hopefully overcome to make affordable, unsubsidized electric cars a mass-market reality. It is a considerable challenge. Clearly, a lot of people are counting on it.
For a decade, Green Car Journal has been recognizing vehicles that significantly raise the bar in environmental performance. With automakers stepping up to offer ever-more efficient and ‘greener’ vehicles in all classes, the magazine’s awards program has naturally expanded to include a greater number of awards for recognizing deserving vehicles.
This prompted the recent suite of Green Car Awards presented during Policy Day at the Washington Auto Show in the nation’s capital – the 2015 Green SUV of the Year™, 2015 Green Car Technology Award™, and 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™.
BMW’s gull-wing i8 earned the distinction as the 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year, outshining competitors Audi A8 L TDI, Cadillac ELR, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and Tesla Model S. Aimed at aspirational buyers who value superb styling and exceptional performance combined with the efficiency of plug-in hybrid drive, the i8 is unique among its peers with an advanced carbon fiber passenger body shell. It also features a lightweight aluminum drive module with a gasoline engine, lithium-ion batteries, and electric motor. The i8 can drive on battery power for 22 miles and up to 310 miles on hybrid power.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel rose to the top as the magazine’s 2015 Green SUV of the Year, besting finalists Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, Lexus NX 300h, and Mazda CX-5. Offering excellent fuel efficiency for an SUV of its size, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 offers up to 30 highway mpg and is approved for B20 biodiesel use. An Eco Mode optimizes the 8-speed transmission’s shift schedule, cuts fuel feed while coasting, and directs the air suspension system to lower the vehicle at speed for aerodynamic efficiency.
The Ford F-150 was honored with the 2015 Green Car Technology Award for its milestone use of an all-aluminum body. Competing for the award were advanced powertrains in the BMW i3, BMW i8, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Ford F-150, Honda Fit, Kia Soul EV, Tesla Model S, VW e-Golf, and Volvo Drive-E models. The F-150’s aluminum body enables the all-new 2015 pickup model to shed up to 700 pounds for greater efficiency and performance.
While the Green Car Technology Award has a history at the Washington Auto Show, the first-time Green SUV of the Year and Luxury Green Car of the Year awards could not have existed just a short time ago. Simply, SUVs and luxury vehicles were seldom considered ‘green,’ and for good reason. An SUV/crossover’s mission was to provide family transport and recreational capabilities, while aspirational/luxury vehicles were expected to deliver the finest driving experience combined with high-end appointments and exceptional design. Both categories held few environmental champions and ‘green’ was hardly an afterthought.
The evolving nature of ‘green’ cars has brought about a fundamental shift in which environmental performance is now important in SUVs and luxury vehicles. Even so, not all models in these classes are created equal. The challenge has been finding the right balance – the ‘sweet spot’ – that finds SUVs and luxury vehicles delivering the efficiency and environmental qualities desired without sacrificing the conventional touchstones – quality, safety, luxury, value, performance and functionality – that consumers demand. This year’s winners of the 2015 Green Car Awards clearly achieve this balance.
Presenting these important awards at the Washington Auto Show is compelling considering its reputation as the ‘Policy Show,’ a result of the show’s proximity to Capitol Hill and the influence that Washington DC has in driving a more efficient generation of vehicles to market. The 2015 Washington Auto Show has also expanded in recent years, receiving accreditation from the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA) as one of the five top tier auto shows in America. This year’s Washington Auto Show featured more than 700 vehicles from over 42 domestic and import auto manufacturers, plus a Green Car Awards exhibit showcasing 15 finalist vehicles within the show’s Advanced Technology Superhighway exhibit area.
A steady stream of advanced powertrains, new fuel-efficient systems like stop/start, and more alternative fuels have helped raise fuel economy to new heights in recent years, but the latest breakthrough in energy-efficient cars may surprise you: safety technology.
Recently in a white paper on autonomous vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that “Vehicle control systems that automatically accelerate and brake with the flow of traffic can conserve fuel more efficiently than the average driver. By eliminating a large number of vehicle crashes, highly effective crash avoidance technologies can reduce fuel consumption by also eliminating the traffic congestion that crashes cause every day on our roads.”
NHTSA is referring to a new generation of energy-saving, life-saving technologies on our roads – and often these systems are money-saving and time-saving, too.
Real-time navigation in cars helps drivers keep their eyes on the road while diverting them around traffic. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that, in 2011, congestion in 498 metropolitan areas caused Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and buy an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel, for a congestion cost of $121 billion.
Adaptive cruise control is a new driver assist that automatically keeps a safe distance from the car ahead, keeping traffic running smoothly. A report by MIT estimates that a 20 percent reduction in accelerations and decelerations should lead to a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 25 percent of congestion is attributable to traffic incidents, around half of which are crashes. Sophisticated automatic braking technology helps drivers avoid crashes, and fewer fender benders improve fuel economy since drivers spend less time idling in traffic.
In the future, autonomous cars may enhance road safety while giving us a leg up on fuel efficiency. After analyzing government data, Morgan Stanley observed, “To be conservative, we assume an autonomous car can be 30 percent more efficient than an equivalent non-autonomous car. Empirical tests have demonstrated that level of fuel savings from cruise control use/smooth driving styles alone. If we were to reduce the nation’s $535 billion gasoline bill by 30 percent that would save us $158 billion.”
With all these benefits, clearly the traditional definition of ‘fuel economy’ is restrictive and counter-productive. We can achieve much more with a broader view. Here’s how.
The federal government established a national fuel economy/greenhouse gas program with the ambitious goal to nearly double fuel economy by 2025. Our compliance is based on the fuel efficiency of what we sell, not what we offer for sale. While consumers have more choices than ever in energy-efficient automobiles, if they don’t buy them in large volumes, we fall short. So we will need every technology available to make this steep climb.
We can still squeeze more fuel savings from safety and congestion-mitigation technologies, but these systems reduce fuel use in ways not apparent in government mileage tests so the government doesn’t consider them towards meeting federal standards.
The federal government should recognize the real-world fuel economy improvements from these safety technologies. In fact, the government can encourage their deployment by allowing automakers to count the demonstrated fuel economy benefits of these safety technologies towards meeting their compliance with the federal fuel economy program.
While automakers don’t advocate speeding, we are urging regulators to put the pedal to the metal on this priority. More rapid adoption of these new technologies will help keep drivers safer, avoid traffic congestion, save time, save money, and reduce fuel use.
Mitch Bainwol is president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, www.autoalliance.org
Jeep's impressive Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, the model that just drove away with Green Car Journal's 2015 Green SUV of the Year award at the 2015 Washington Auto Show, is one SUV that's sure easy to like. At least that's what we kept thinking during a recent 500 mile trip in a Grand Cherokee Limited test vehicle.
While not a small vehicle by any means, the Grand Cherokee is easy to maneuver and, for a 4x4, offers a surprisingly accommodating ride. Plus, the EcoDiesel variant is very efficient as far as full-size SUVs go, delivering fuel economy that tracked well with its 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway EPA ratings. Long-time SUV drivers will surely share that this is amazingly efficient for a full-size, full capability Sport Utility Vehicle.
Those considering a Jeep Grand Cherokee have a mind-boggling number of choices in models, powertrains, and option packages, with the base model starting at $30,000 and uplevel trim packages ranging up to $64,500. Our Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel test vehicle offered a base price of $36,395 but landed closer to $50,000 with the added Luxury Group, Adventure Group, and Unconnect packages, the latter offering desired electronics like premium navigation, HD radio, and SiriusXM Traffic.
On-board electronics is a big deal in most models these days and the Grand Cherokee is no exception. Electronics is well-looked-after with standard fare like remote start, 7-inch multi-view display, rear back-up camera and back-up assist, ready alert braking, tire pressure monitoring, and integrated voice command with Bluetooth.
The Luxury Group package in our test vehicle upgrades the display to an 8.4-inch touch screen and also adds features like self-leveling Bi-Xenon HID headlamps and automatic high-beam headlight control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, and Napa leather ventilated seats.
While buyers have other V-6 and V-8 gasoline engine choices, those wanting the best fuel economy combined with maximum towing capacity will naturally opt for the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. Rated at 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft torque, this powerhouse-of-an-engine is sufficient to tow 7,400 pounds and delivers welcome performance.
In addition to the Grand Cherokee Limited we drove, the 50-state diesel is also available in Overland and Summit versions. With full-time four-wheel-drive like our test vehicle, the model’s EPA numbers are 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined fuel economy – high numbers for a large vehicle with this level of functionality. Another positive is the EcoDiesel’s range of up to 730 miles between fill-ups. We completed our considerable road trip without fueling up, a welcome experience.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s diesel engine is supplied by Italy's VM Motori and was developed in collaboration with Fiat Powertrain Technologies. While VM Motori has had many owners – Detroit Diesel, DaimlerChrysler, Penske, etc. – it is now a 50-50 joint venture between GM and Fiat. Over the years, virtually every auto manufacturer has used VM Motori diesel engines at one time or another.
Fiat's MultiJet II common-rail injection, water-cooled exhaust-gas recirculation Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR), and 16.5:1 compression ratio enable the 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam engine to meet stringent Tier II, Bin 5 and ULEV II emissions rules. It is designed to use Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) and is approved for B20 (20 percent biodiesel/80 percent petrodiesel). Other features include a water-cooled, variable-geometry turbocharger, 60-degree cylinder banks, chain-driven camshafts, and low-voltage ceramic glow plugs for quicker cold-weather starts.
There is an Eco Mode to maximize economy by controlling items like transmission shift schedule, idle speed, and interactive deceleration fuel shut off, the latter cutting fuel feed when coasting. Eco Mode is automatically engaged at startup. A button on the center stack can be used to disengage Eco Model when more sporty performance is desired. While engaged, Eco Mode directs the Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system to lower the vehicle at speeds above 55 mph, providing for better aerodynamic efficiency. On 4WD models in 4H, Eco Mode also alters the front-to-rear torque split to increase fuel economy.
The model’s Selec-SpeedControl feature, which includes both Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control, assists when ascending steep grades. Hill Descent Control helps monitor throttle, speed, and braking when traveling down a hill, while Hill Start Assist keeps brakes applied after removing your foot from the brake, allowing time to accelerate without rollback.
The 4x4 version gets Quadra-Trac II that offers all-speed traction control. An electronic limited-slip differential transfers up to 100 percent torque to the wheels when needed to lend year-round traction on wet or dry surfaces. As is the case with 4WD vehicles, shifting into low-range provides rock-crawling prowess.
We returned from our journey impressed not only with this vehicle’s functionality in carrying people and cargo, but its ability to do so in comfort and style. Plus, of course, there’s the Grand Cherokee’s all-important efficiency and impressively long driving range between fill-ups.
Those who need a full-size SUV that can handle any mission with complete confidence, while doing so in ways that require far less fuel than one would reasonably expect, should consider placing the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel on their short list. Its efficiency, capabilities, and general do-everything attitude earned it Green Car Journal's 2015 Green SUV of the Year for these, and many other, very good reasons.
Coinciding with the release of symposium co-sponsor Alcantara’s fifth annual Sustainability Report, the International Symposium on Sustainability brought together leaders in the automotive field including manufacturers, NGOs, and academics from leading universities.
Staged at the prestigious Venice International University in Venice, Italy, the symposium’s purpose was to share ideas and, at times, argue salient points from varying perspectives to redefine sustainability as it impacts global welfare. Green Car Journal was in attendance to hear first-hand the divergent perspectives.
Presenters and panelists included top industry executives from Alcantara S.p.A, Audi AG, BASF Group, Formulec Co., General Motors, and PSA Peugeot Citroen. On the academic side there were directors and leaders from Aarhus University, Ca' Foscari University's Center for Automotive and Mobility Innovation, Ecole Politechnique de Paris, Kedge Business School, University of Lausanne, and Venice International University. The World Bank and Connect4Climate were also represented.
As a buzzword, the term ‘sustainability’ has been overused and is rarely consistently defined in standard conversation. For some it is simply a financial term used for keeping profitability high enough for production to move along at a healthy pace. For others, it is keeping product lines fresh and appealing to draw sufficient consumer interest and maintain long-term existence. Regardless of perspective or intent, today sustainability has become an initiative of strategic importance in conducting business around the world.
Throughout the course of the two-day symposium, discussion netted some solid resolutions for change in addition to opening a dialogue for future consideration. It was perhaps the conflicting perspectives that generated the most interesting results and demonstrated some of the voids between academic perspectives and practical applications by major manufacturers. This is not unique to a single symposium and, in fact, the disparity in viewpoints between automakers and academia was previously noted by Green Car Journal at its Green Car Summits on Capitol Hill in the States.
The International Symposium on Sustainability was conceived to explore three fundamental topics for better understanding the challenges that the automotive industry will face in years to come, focusing on consumer perceptions, sustainability indicators, and products technology. In addition, its goal was to explore the possible trajectories and development paths the industry could take to achieve its sustainability goals.
A belief that current products and technologies are not sustainable was a common thread in symposium discussions, even as there was recognition that much has been done in recent decades to curb the auto industry’s negative impacts. It was also recognized that not only products but also the processes implemented to produce them need to be greener, with an inclusive focus on the entire value chain and not exclusively on automakers.
No one was more outspoken about corporate infractions to the environment and supply chain worker conditions in poor countries than Professor Guido Palazzo, Director of the Strategy, Globalization, and Society Department at the University of Lausanne. Kicking the symposium into high gear right from the start, Palazzo called for major change by what he referred to as ‘global business actors.’
“We have unclear or non-existent rules of the global game, which generates a growing negative impact on multinational business activities,” said Palazzo. “There are direct political struggles between corporations and the civil society, which will ultimately create changes leading to corporate engagement in filling global regulatory gaps and self-regulation. This is a compound agenda that will not change overnight.”
Professor Palazzo shared the perspective that a ‘radical transparency’ change is long overdue with regard to production processes and the inclusion of workers and unions in formulating policies that achieve environmentally friendly production. Manufacturers do not believe that such radical change is possible if profitability – and their very own corporate sustainability – were to be maintained, said Palazzo. While there is no conflict with regard to the need to achieve carbon neutrality, he pointed to the corporate orientation as one of taking smaller steps to work towards the common good. Investing time to research supply chain policies to ensure that products are created in more environmentally responsible ways is a given as part of this.
In his presentation, Frank Figge, Professor of Sustainable Development and CSR at Kedge Business School, noted that the world is 90 percent dependent on petroleum today and this handcuffs the market to an “environmentally damaging source of power.” Indeed, there was a clear consensus among those attending that dependence on oil was the most significant hurdle.
Also supporting this was GM Director of Sustainability David Tulauskas, who said that moving away from petroleum and toward alternative sources of power is needed for vehicles, with safe and cost-effective transportation systems created to support sustainable lifestyles. He added that consumers are at the center of what automakers do and they increasingly want advanced vehicles that address this.
Thorsten Pinkepank, BASF Group Director of Corporate Sustainability Relations, shared that companies not only need to do good but need to know how to do good, pointing out that driving sustainable solutions to current challenges is both a major growth initiative and a responsibility for all.
Consumer behavior is co-determined by motivation, ability, and opportunity, said John Thøgersen of Aarhus University. He added that the gap between motivation and behavior is rooted in many causes with no magic bullets to solve this problem, and in fact a wide range of techniques are needed to facilitate willing participation and make ‘sustainable choice’ the easy choice for consumers. According to Thogersen, energy labels like those indicating fuel economy and CO2 emissions on new cars can be effective tools for change, but improvements in the clarity of labeling and education of consumers is still warranted.
Alcantara Business Development Leader Eugenio Lolli shared that his company was pushed on creating quality product by its Japanese competition. But he also noted it was the edict laid down by management to achieve 100 percent sustainability that allowed Alcantara to reach its goals, with this sustainability not only achieved through the production of materials but also with suppliers through self-assessment and audits.
“We need to improve the quality of our lives and modify the way we use our cars,” stated Andrea Boragno, CEO and Chairman of Alcantara as he summarized how the nature of the car is changing. His conclusion was that we need to push for a better understanding and sharing of sustainability technology to achieve the goals and standards being set for manufacturing and consumer goods.
Simply stated, current products and technologies are not sustainable, although much has been done in recent decades to curb the negative impacts of the industry. Importantly, not only products but also the processes implemented to produce them need to be greener, with specific focus on the entire value chain and not only on carmakers.
According to Professor Palazzo, the challenge can be summarized by the following: The way we produce products in the world is not sustainable at the current rate. Even if a company ‘greens up’ its supply chain, that may not be enough to have an impact on a company’s sustainability. There is current concern for the ability to market ‘green’ initiatives on their own. Importantly, there is a need to understand that change is required by those running corporations today. He also added that consumers have routines that are deeply entrenched, thus there is a duty to educate the consumer and transform their mindset for sustainable product creation and a preference for companies that have sustainable production.
Concluded Professor Palazzo: “We cannot continue at our current mode for two billion cars. It is unrealistic. We need a different system…the current one makes us sick. We need to change the way we live today.”
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, a model already leading the pickup pack in fuel efficiency, just keeps getting better. The pickup’s new HFE (High Fuel Efficiency) version now bumps up the clean diesel model’s highway fuel economy by another mile per gallon, delivering the highest fuel economy of all current full-size pickups.
Like the standard EcoDiesel model, the HFE’s efficiency is achieved in part by an eight-speed automatic transmission, stop-start system, thermal management system, pulse-width modulation, and active aerodynamics that includes grille shutters and air suspension that lowers the truck at speed for better aerodynamics. The new HFE variant gets a unique trim package and is available with a body-colored fascia adopted from the Ram Express model for a sporty appearance, plus distinguishing HFE badging, of course.
Well, this should be no surprise. Reuters reports what we’ve suspected all along because there’s a long history of this happening: Low gasoline prices are negatively impacting the sale of alternative fuel vehicles including those running on natural gas and electricity.
Not surprisingly, with lower gasoline prices comes a decided uptick in purchases of larger and lower efficiency vehicles, especially SUVs. Beyond personal transportation, the commercial sector is also being hit hard because the cost differential involved in buying large natural gas trucks presently fails to pencil out well compared to conventionally powered models.
Is this a trend? Only short term, really. Cars of Change and Green Car Journal editors have noted such occurrences over the past two decades and the trend has always ebbed and flowed with varying fuel prices, incentives, and other factors. While the long-term prospects for battery electric vehicles hinge on lower cost batteries in the future, hybrids and high efficiency conventional vehicles are here to stay.
Over the 10 year history of Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year award program, there has never been a battery electric car that has been compelling enough to be recognized as the best-of-the-best in an ever-expanding field of ‘green’ cars. That has changed with the groundbreaking BMW i3, Green Car Journal’s 2015 Green Car of the Year®.
The BMW i3 came out on top of a field of finalists that included the Audi A3 TDI, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Honda Fit, and VW Golf. The array of technologies and fuels represented included high efficiency gasoline, electric drive, clean diesel, and natural gas.
BMW’s i3 stands out as one of the most innovative vehicles ever to be introduced by any major automaker. It breaks the mold – literally – with a strong and lightweight body using materials and technology at home on the race track, and now used for the first time to construct a mainstream production car. It is a milestone, forward-thinking approach.
Meeting both near-term and far-reaching goals is no easy thing. The challenge is to design and build cars that offer meaningful environmental achievement while delivering the traditional touchstones desired by new car buyers, among them comfort, safety, convenience, connectivity, performance, and value. Also important in the world of advanced vehicles like battery electric cars is a significant commitment to the manufacturing and sale of these vehicles that goes beyond a few thousand units sold in select geographical areas. BMW’s commitment with the i3 is focused not only nationally in the U.S., but globally as well.
Offering a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body on an aluminum space frame, BMW’s innovative i3 brings environment-conscious drivers all-electric drive with an optional internal combustion range extender. The most unique aspect of the i3 is the car’s body structure, which incorporates the first-ever use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to form the body and passenger cabin of a mass-production vehicle. CFRP is as strong as steel and 50 percent lighter. It is also 30 percent lighter than aluminum.
This BMW’s drive module includes an electric drivetrain, 5-link rear suspension, and an aluminum structure. Its lithium-ion battery pack is mounted mid-ship beneath the floor. Strategic placement of the 450 pound battery pack and drive components provides a very balanced 50-50 weight distribution to enhance handling and performance.
Acceleration is crisp, with a 0-60 elapsed time of 7.2 seconds provided by an electric motor producing 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque. With a curb weight of just 2,700 pounds, the i3 has is sprightly even at highway speeds. Strong regenerative braking characteristics often allow the i3 to be driven with just the accelerator pedal in city driving. When a driver lets off the accelerator, regen slows the car quickly and allows it to come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.
Charging at home with an available 220 volt charger delivers a full charge in about three hours. Where available, public DC fast charging can bring an i3 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 20 minutes and a full charge in 30 minutes. The i3 BEV features an 81 mile EPA estimated range on batteries. The i3 REx, equipped with an internal combustion range extender that creates on-board electricity as needed to help keep batteries charged, features a 72 mile battery driving range and 150 miles total with the range extender.
Efficiency is a given. EPA rates the i3’s city fuel economy at 137 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and 111 MPGe on the highway, with a combined 124 MPGe. For the REx-equipped model, EPA rates mileage at 117 MPGe combined.
The 2015 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a majority vote of an award jury comprised of Green Car Journal staff and invited jurors, including TV personality and car aficionado Jay Leno plus leaders of the nation’s most high-profile environmental and efficiency organizations. These jurors include Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, President emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The diversity of new car models at showrooms today reflects an evolving and sophisticated market in which a growing number of new car buyers have decided that environmental performance must meet their needs and expectations, on their terms. As it happens, 2015 Green Car of the Year jurors have clearly decided that this year, the electric BMW i3 does it best.
It is an exciting time to be involved with the auto industry, or to be in the market for a new car. The auto industry has responded splendidly to the challenge of new emission, fuel economy, and safety standards. The public is offered a greater than ever selection of vehicles with different powertrains, lightweight materials, hybrids, and electric drive vehicles across many platforms. We see increasing numbers of clean diesel vehicles and natural gas is making a resurgence, especially in the heavy-duty sector.
The positive response by the auto industry to the ever-tightening pollutant emission and fuel economy standards includes tactics such as the use of aluminum in the Ford F-150 and the increased use of carbon fiber by BMW, among many innovations introduced across many models and drivetrains. These evolutionary changes are a major tribute to the automobile engineers who are wringing out the most they can in efficiency and reduced emissions from gasoline and diesel engines. I view this evolutionary change as necessary, but not sufficient to meet our greenhouse gas goals by 2050.
New car ownership is currently down in Europe and is leveling off in the U.S. For global automotive manufacturers, however, this trend is offset by the dramatic growth in places like China and India. The potential for dramatic growth in the developing world is clearly evident: In the U.S., there are about 500 cars per thousand people, compared to about 60 and 20 in China and India, respectively.
How can these trends be reconciled with the environmental and health concerns due to climate change and adverse air quality in the developing world? The evidence for climate change accumulates by the day. Hazardous air quality in many major cities in China has drawn global attention, providing a visual reminder of how far the developed world has come and how much environmental protection needs to be accelerated in the developing world. Damaging air pollution is increasingly seen as a regional and even worldwide challenge. Dramatic economic growth in many developing countries is generating pollution that knows no boundaries. Air pollution from China, for example, fumigates Korea and Japan and is even transported across the Pacific to impact air quality in California and other Western states.
It will take a revolutionary change to provide personal mobility without unacceptable energy and environmental consequences. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) document states, it is likely that a major shift to electric drive vehicles would be required in the next 20 to 30 years. Electric drive vehicles, coupled with renewable energy, can achieve essentially zero carbon and conventional pollutant emissions. The NAS report also predicted that the costs of both battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles would be less than advanced conventional vehicles in the 2035-2040 timeframe.
This transition will not occur overnight and we will be driving advanced conventional vehicles for many years to come. In a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation, Dr. David Greene calculated that the transition could take 10 to 15 years, requiring sustained investment in infrastructure and incentives in order to achieve sustained penetration. While this investment is not inexpensive, it is projected that the benefits of this investment will be 10 times greater than the costs.
So where do we stand today on electric vehicles? We are seeing an unprecedented number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles across many drivetrains and models. There were about 96,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. last year and more than 10 new PEV models are expected this year. While the sales fall short of some optimistic projections, it is an encouraging start after many years of more hope than delivery. The FC EV is expected to see significant growth after the initial limited introduction of fuel cells in the 2015-2017 timeframe by five major automobile companies.
It will take many years of sustained increasing penetration into new car sales to make this revolution a success. It is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. The challenge is how to ensure sustained sales of electric drive vehicles in the face of the many attributes of advanced technology conventional vehicles. Electric drive vehicle drivetrains have an affinity with the increasing amount of electronics on board the vehicle, which might ultimately yield very interesting, capable, and competitive vehicles.
I have little doubt that if we are serious about our energy, environmental, and greenhouse gas goals the revolution in technology will occur. All the major automobile companies seem to recognize this in their technology roadmap, which includes advanced conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.
In conclusion, the next 20 years promise to be equally as challenging and exciting as the last 20 years. I have little doubt that the automobile engineers are up to the task ahead, but whether we have the political fortitude to stay the course to achieve the necessary air pollution and GHG reductions is far less certain.
Dr. Alan Lloyd is President Emeritus of the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). He formerly served as Secretary of CalEPA and Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.