The past year has been one of anticipation among green-car advocates, who've spent many months waiting for certain vehicles to emerge into production.
At the start of the year, it was the Tesla Model X luxury electric utility vehicle, built in very low numbers for several months at the end of 2015.
These days, it's the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric hatchback, with its 238-mile rating and a price below $40,000, slated to go on sale in some locations before the end of this year.
Those two cars, along with the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, form the slate of three nominees for our Green Car Reports 2017 Best Car To Buy award.
Very soon, we'll have another post that goes through the larger number of vehicles that didn't make it past the nominee stage, for one reason or another.
As we always do in this first announcement, though, it's worth running down the rules and explaining how the award works.
2016 Tesla Model X
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016
2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium
To qualify for consideration as the Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy in a given year, a car must be all-new or updated in a very major way from the previous model year.
(That's why we didn't nominate the Model S again, Tesla fans. That electric luxury sedan won in 2013--but new front styling and more battery options in 2016 don't qualify it as substantially updated.)
So how do we choose among dozens of new vehicles to pick the short list of finalists that vie for the Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2017 award?
This year, to be eligible for consideration, a car must be available for purchase in North America by April 2017.
And at least two separate High Gear Media editors—preferably more—must have driven and reviewed it by November 1, 2016.
First, we rank the contenders by their numeric scores, which are found in the complete vehicle reviews published on The Car Connection. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
GM's Pam Fletcher and Josh Tavel accept Green Car Reports 2016 Best Car To Buy award for 2016 Volt
Second, this year we've upped the minimum ratings. We now require an EPA rating of 35 miles per gallon combined, or 90 MPGe for electric cars. Last year, the benchmarks were 30 mpg combined and 80 MPGe.
Any candidate that fails to achieve that level with at least one model is tossed out. (We will accept estimated figures for new vehicles, if necessary, before official EPA ratings are released.)
So far, we haven't added a minimum range requirement for plug-in electric vehicles, though it's worth noting that the two battery-electric contenders are both rated at 200 miles or more.
Finally, our editors get together as a group at an undisclosed location to assess the green aspects and credentials of various vehicles, discuss quality concerns, and work through any numeric ties in ratings.
We also include in our debates several other factors that contribute to green: real-world market impact, consumer significance, and lifetime environmental burden, among others.
At the end of this process, generally one car emerges as the winner. Sometimes it's a range of vehicles, as it was in 2012 for the newly expanded family of Toyota Prius hybrids.