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Top Honors: 2020 Green Car Awards

by Ron CoganJanuary 30, 2020
Electrics, hybrids, high efficiency combustion models…which ones stand out? Every year, Green Car Journal identifies the best-of-the-best through its Green Car Awards program. Here are this year’s most notable new ‘green’ vehicles of the 2020 model year.

The 2020 model year is an important one for ‘green’ cars as an increasing number of more environmentally positive vehicles make their way to market. What’s also notable is that this is happening across the board, from entry-level sedans and luxury cars to pickups and crossover/SUVs.

Green Car Journal undertakes an extensive vetting process that considers the universe of potential ‘green’ finalists in the U.S. market and narrows the field to a top five in popular, high-profile award categories. Winners are identified in each of these categories, with awards presented by Green Car Journal editor/publisher Ron Cogan and senior editor Cam Benty at awards press conferences in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Washington DC.

Award winners earn their Green Car Awards™ distinctions by raising the bar in standing out with their exceptional efficiency, desired features, and a satisfying driving experience, Along with the standard hallmarks of safety, value, performance, and style, efficiency and affordability to the mass market are important elements in the selection of Green Car Awards™ winners. Substantial numbers of more environmentally positive vehicles such as these on the nation’s highways brings a cumulative and significant reduction of carbon emissions and fuel use over time.

The winner of the magazine’s legacy Green Car of the Year® award – presented at the LA Auto Show since 2005 – is selected by a high-profile jury that includes leaders of national environmental and efficiency organizations, auto enthusiast/entertainer Jay Leno, and Green Car Journal editors. Rising to the top for consideration as 2020 Green Car of the Year® were the Ford Escape, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Soul, Mazda3, and Toyota Corolla. And the winner? Toyota’s all-new 2020 Corolla and Corolla Hybrid.

Featuring a more sophisticated look and riding on a stiffer platform with independent multilink rear suspension, the 12th generation Toyota Corolla features improved ride and handling and a full complement of driver assist systems rivaling those found in more expensive models. The conventionally-powered Corolla achieves notably high fuel economy of up to 31 city/40 highway mpg, with the Corolla Hybrid rated at an impressive 53 city/52 highway mpg. Importantly, affordable price points for both conventional and hybrid variants make them approachable to a great many buyers and not just a select few.

Also presented at the LA Auto Show, 2020 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists included the Ford Explorer Hybrid, Honda CR-V, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota RAV4. Taking the win for 2020 Green SUV of the Year™ was the Honda CR-V and its new CR-V hybrid variant.

Honda’s popular CR-V offers an array of design and technology refinements for 2020 along with the important addition of an all-wheel drive hybrid version, the first hybrid Honda SUV sold in the U.S. The CR-V Hybrid uses Honda's efficient two-motor hybrid system to deliver an expected 50 percent fuel economy increase over the already-fuel efficient gasoline model. CR-Vs come standard with the full suite of Honda Sensing safety and driver-assist technologies.

Recognizing environmental leadership in the light truck category is increasingly important considering the huge number of pickups sold each year. Pickup enthusiasts are increasingly interested in style and connectivity, but also for the fundamentals that trucks are famous for, whether that’s handling commercial duties, towing a boat or trailer, carrying loads of gear, or just comfortably seating a family of five. Increasingly, buyers also want pickups offering greater efficiency and improved environmental impact. The Green Truck of the Year™ award recognizes leadership in this arena and is presented annually at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas, in the heart of ‘truck country.’

This year’s 2020 Green Truck of the Year™ finalists included the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford Ranger, and RAM 1500. All offer far more sophisticated capabilities and greater environmental performance than the workhorse pickup trucks of years past, while also featuring the high levels of comfort, safety, and drivability of their passenger car counterparts. Green Car Awards™ jurors honored the RAM 1500 as the 2020 Green Truck of the Year™, the second year in a row this exceptional has earned this honor.

Its distinction as 2020 Green Truck of the Year™ is testament to the focus that RAM 1500 has on filling the needs of everyday drivers and tradesmen, while offering higher efficiency that decreases fuel use and carbon emissions. Along with its appealing design, lighter weight, and work-and-play functionality, RAM 1500 offers a new and more powerful 3.0-liter EcoDiesel powerplant that achieves an EPA estimated 22 city/32 highway mpg. A pair of eTorque mild hybrid powerplants, exclusive to the segment, deliver up to 20 city/26 highway mpg fuel efficiency. RAM 1500 features considerable towing and hauling capabilities and is equipped with the latest connected and driver-assist technologies.

The San Antonio Auto & Truck Show also hosted Green Car Journal’s inaugural 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™ award program. This high-profile award recognizes the increasingly important role that environmental performance plays in the family vehicle arena. Finalists included the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Hyundai Venue, Kia Niro, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and Nissan Versa. These models represent the spectrum of vehicle types most appealing to families including sedan, minivan, and crossover SUV models powered by efficient internal combustion and plug-in hybrid power, at varying price points affordable to most families. Driving away with the first-ever 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™ honor was Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV meets the diverse needs of families while delivering value, style, performance, and notable environmental performance. This plug-in hybrid SUV is stylish, comfortable, and spacious enough to handle all the trappings of family life, while offering a very approachable cost for a plug-in crossover with its level of features. Among its strengths is a sophisticated series and parallel hybrid powertrain that enables 22 miles of driving on battery power alone for daily errands or commuting, or greater than 300 miles of travel on hybrid power. It can plug in to a household outlet, a 240-volt wall or public charger, or even a public DC fast charger for quickly replenishing its lithium-ion batteries.

The finale for Green Car Journal’s awards season is the Green Car Awards™ presentation at the  Washington Auto Show in Washington DC. This auto show, with its strategic adjacency to the halls of power that have long influenced environmental progress in the auto industry, is an ideal venue for the Green Car Awards™ that have been presented here since 2008.

In Washington, Green Car Journal honors the automotive field’s most important enabling technologies through its 2020 Green Car Technology of the Year™ award. The diverse technologies considered for this award are instrumental in making a new generation of more environmentally-positive vehicles possible. Finalists this year included BMW Wireless Charging, Ford’s Modular Hybrid Transmission, Hyundai Active Shift Control, Hyundai Continuously Variable Valve Duration, and Tesla V3 Supercharging. Rising above its fellow nominees was BMW Wireless Charging, which Green Car Awards™ jurors honored as the 2020 Green Car Technology of the Year™.

BMW Wireless Charging offers a new and innovative direction for the future of electric vehicle charging. Paired today with BMW’s 530e plug-in hybrid, this unique system uses magnetic induction to wirelessly charge a vehicle’s batteries without the need to plug in, shutting off automatically once charging is complete. The car’s center display guides drivers in positioning their car over the system’s charging GroundPad while parking.

The premium vehicle market is the focus for a growing array of electric, hybrid, and high efficiency models. These are honored by Green Car Journal’s Luxury Green Car of the Year™ award. Contenders this year included the BMW 745e, Karma Revero GT, Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring, Porsche Taycan, and Range Rover Evoque. Emerging the winner of the prestigious 2020 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ award was the Karma Revero GT.

Green Car Journal editors note that the Karma Revero GT exemplifies what can be accomplished with stunning design, great technology, and a sophisticated extended range electric drivetrain. Karma Automotive, a startup with manufacturing facilities in Southern California, devoted significant design and engineering efforts in evolving its earlier Karma Revero into the more sophisticated Revero GT that features new front and rear designs, all-new body panels, a sumptuous interior, and a new infotainment system. This restyled luxury sport sedan is not only compelling inside and out, but is motivated by an all-new series hybrid drivetrain delivering a greater 80 mile battery electric range, and 360 mile range overall with electricity from its BMW-sourced engine-generator.

Making it through Green Car Journal’s extensive vetting process to become one of the top five contenders for a Green Car Award™ is significant accomplishment. Selection as a finalist signifies that a new model or technology makes a notable contribution toward a new generation of cleaner, more efficient, and more environmentally compatible transportation. By virtue of their notable ‘green’ credentials and environmental achievement, each of the five finalists in all Green Car Awards™ categories is honored with Green Car Journal's prestigious 2020 Green Car Product of Excellence™ recognition.