Five finalists were announced today for the 2011 Green Car of the Year Award, which will be presented next month at the 2010 Los Angeles Aut o Show.

The five contenders span two plug-in cars, two hybrid-electric vehicles, and one high-efficiency subcompact gasoline car:

  • 2011 Chevrolet Volt
  • 2011 Ford Fiesta
  • 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
  • 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
  • 2011 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is a battery electric vehicle with a range of 60 to 120 miles from its lithium-ion battery pack. It's the first pure electric car to be sold in substantial numbers by a major automaker since the 1920s.

The Chevy Volt also runs on electricity, with an electric range of 25 to 50 miles. But after its battery is depleted, an onboard gasoline engine switches on to generate electricity to power the car after that, operating at a fuel economy range of 35 to 40 miles per gallon.

One model of the Ford Fiesta is rated by the EPA 40 mpg on its highway test cycle. It's powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, and represents the first subcompact car Ford has sold in the United States in well over a decade.

The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is closely related to the well-received 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, though as a Lincoln, its interior is entirely resytled for greater luxury. Perhaps the MKZ Hybrid's most significant feature is its price: The base price of $35,180 is identical to that of the non-hybrid MKZ, which comes with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

Finally, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the first hybrid from the fast-growing Korean automaker. While not a dedicated hybrid like the Toyota Prius--the Sonata Hybrid shares a body with the standard gasoline Sonata--its front styling is significantly altered, giving it visual differentiation. It can run on electricity only as high as 70 mph.

Last year, the Green Car of the Year was the 2010 Audi A3 TDI clean-diesel compact hatchback. While no clean diesels made this year's list of nominees, two were on the list for 2010 and the year before that, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was the winner.

[Los Angeles Auto Show]