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More Than 30 MPG Highway: The New Benchmark For Green Cars?

 
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2011 Ford Mustang V-6  -  30 mpg

2011 Ford Mustang V-6 - 30 mpg

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So what exactly IS a "green car"?

At both the Los Angeles Auto Show and Detroit Auto Show, you could find the word "green" all over the place. LA has been pitching itself for years as the greenest auto show, with fewer muscle cars and more hybrids, clean diesels, and so forth than any other U.S. show.

Judging from the signs, it appears that carmakers believe the new definition of "green" is a model that gets 30 miles per gallon or more on the EPA highway test cycle. We were curious how many cars exceeded that level.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius

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2010 Volvo C30

2010 Volvo C30

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2009 BMW 335d

2009 BMW 335d

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2010 Kia Soul

2010 Kia Soul

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Green Mustang?

In fact, Ford plastered big "30 MPG 305 HP" stickers on the sides of the 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 it launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Given its substantial horsepower, 30 mpg highway is indeed impressive from any V-6 Mustang (with six-speed automatic).

We're just not entirely sure that the 2011 Ford Mustang is exactly ... green. Especially if you use the acceleration it's endowed with, which the EPA test cycle doesn't.

150 cars over 30 mpg highway

Indeed, for the 2010 model year, there are more than 150 separate models listed as achieving that magic metric, out of the several hundred vehicle-engine-transmission combinations tested by the EPA.

The 30-mpg-plus vehicles range from a trio of 2010 Volvos (the C30,  S40, and V50, all with front-wheel-drive) that sneak in at 20 mpg city, 31 mpg highway to the undisputed mileage champ and greenest car, the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid (51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway).

Adding city mileage

If we stay at more than 30 mpg highway, but raise the bar to require city mileage of more than 25 mpg, the number of contenders falls from 151 to 61.

The bottom end of that range (yes, the 2010 Prius stays on top) are four cars of three models (the 2010 Kia Soul, 2010 Nissan Versa six-speed, and the discontinued 2010 Pontiac Vibe), all at 26 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.

Raising the bar

Raising highway mileage alone to more than 35 mpg cuts the number sharply, from 151 to just 29. Bottom of that list is the 2010 BMW 335d clean-diesel sedan, at 23 mpg city, 36 mpg highway--hardly the sort of bare-bones high-mileage miser you might expect.

Adding city mileage of more than 25 mpg cuts that still further, to just 23 cars. Just sneaking in is the 2010 Kia Rio automatic, at 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway.

And if you tighten the screws even further, to city mileage over 30 mpg, you'll have a grand total of exactly eight vehicles to choose from. The most prolifgate of those are the 2010 Smart ForTwo coupe at convertible, at 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway.

We say: 26 mpg city, 31 mpg highway

So we'd like to propose our own definition of green car: One rated by the EPA at better than 25 mpg in the city, and better than 30 mpg on the highway cycle.

That 2011 Ford Mustang? It may get 30 mpg on the highway, but it's projected to get only 19 mpg in the city.

We'd like to know what you think qualifies a car as "green". Tell us your thoughts in the Comments, below.

[FuelEconomy.gov]



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Comments (7)
  1. I have a simple definition: A car without a tailpipe is green. Any car with one, is not. Period.
     
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  2. Everyone talks about the electric and hybrid cars as being green. What is going to happen to all those battery packs when they need to be changed out. The manufacturing process for all those battery packs is highly toxic and use metals that are expensive, toxic and limited. Look up Rare Earth and China for some interesting reading. The all electric just move the energy resources used to the grid. You are still polluting if the energy plants are burning coal or producing radio active waste that know one still knows what to do with. How are those cars rated for energy consumption and how do they compare to clean diesel or hydrogen? I'm still waiting for a true green option to come out. Maybe a breakthrough in solar power or some new tech will be the answer. Right now I think we are trying to fix one problem while creating others that know one is talking about.
     
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  3. We've raised the bar:
    30-40mpg hwy = Almost Green
    40-60mpg hwy = GREEN
    60-100mpg hwy = Super Green
    100-200mpg (equivalent) = BLUE (a la Michael Granoff's no tailpipe cars)
    over 200 mpg = Super Blue (e.g. NEVs)
     
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  4. I would say that green-ness comes from the whole life cycle of the auto. How much energy does it take to produce, what kind of waste is generated, how much water is used? How much energy does it take and what kind of pollution is generated to use the auto including maintenance, repair, etc.? At the end of its useful life, how much of the vehicle can be recycled and at what cost in energy, waste, etc.
     
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  5. Is there anywhere we can get your list in Excel format (i.e. so we can sort it ourselves and compare cars City vs Highway milage? I realize this info is readily available on the web, but I've not seen it in a spreadsheet format where we use the data ourselves...... THANKS!
     
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  6. That's woefully poor compared to the old benchmark of 26 kWh / 100 miles for mainstream, major automaker highway capable family sedans, set at the turn of the century in 2000.
    All Fuels - All Years
    2000 Nissan Altra EV
    (kW-hrs/100 miles)
    City 29 Hwy 26
     
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  7. All Fuels - All Years
    2000 Nissan Altra EV
    (kW-hrs/100 miles)
    City 29 Hwy 26
     
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    Bad stuff?

 

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