Green vehicle

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"Green vehicles" redirects here. For other uses, see Green vehicles (disambiguation).
The Toyota Prius is the world's top selling hybrid car, with cumulative global sales of over 3 million units by June 2013.[1] Some owners use its identity to make an environmental statement.[2]

A green vehicle or environmentally friendly vehicle is a road motor vehicle that produces less harmful impacts to the environment than comparable conventional internal combustion engine vehicles running on gasoline or diesel, or one that uses certain alternative fuels.[3][4] Presently, in some countries the term is used for any vehicle complying or surpassing the more stringent European emission standards (such as Euro6), or California's zero emissions vehicle standards (such as ZEV, ULEV, SULEV, PZEV), or the low-carbon fuel standards enacted in several countries.[5]

Green vehicles can be powered by alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and include hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, compressed-air vehicles, hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles, neat ethanol vehicles, flexible-fuel vehicles, natural gas vehicles, clean diesel vehicles, and some sources also include vehicles using blends of biodiesel and ethanol fuel or gasohol.[4][6] Several author also include conventional motor vehicles with high fuel economy, as they consider that increasing fuel economy is the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector in the short run.[7] As part of their contribution to sustainable transport, these vehicles reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to energy independence by reducing oil imports.[4][7]

An environmental analysis extends beyond just the operating efficiency and emissions. A life-cycle assessment involves production and post-use considerations. A cradle-to-cradle design is more important than a focus on a single factor such as energy efficiency.[8][9]

Energy efficiency[edit]

Cars with similar production energy costs can obtain, during the life of the car (operational phase), large reductions in energy costs through several measures:

Comparison of several types of green car basic characteristics
(Values are overall for vehicles in current production and may differ between types)
Type of vehicle/
Fuel economy
(mpg equivalent)
RangeProduction cost
for given range
Reduction in CO2
compared to conventional
Payback period
Conventional ICE10-78Long
(400-600 mi)
(360-540 mi)
(73-150 mi)
Luxury models
(160-300 mi)

Very high
varies depending
on energy source
Hydrogen fuel cell80[10]Astronomical
Hybrid electric30-60380 mi[10]Medium5 years[11][12]


Comparison of energy efficiency between battery and hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
Sales of both the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (top) and the Nissan Leaf all-electric car (bottom) began in December 2010.
PSA Peugeot Citroën Hybrid Air concept exhibited at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
Further information: Alternative fuel vehicle

Green vehicles include vehicles types that function fully or partly on alternative energy sources other than fossil fuel or less carbon intensive than gasoline or diesel.

Another option is the use of alternative fuel composition in conventional fossil fuel-based vehicles, making them function partially on renewable energy sources. Other approaches include personal rapid transit, a public transportation concept that offers automated, on-demand, non-stop transportation on a network of specially built guideways.

Electric and fuel cell-powered[edit]

Examples of vehicles with reduced petroleum consumption include electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell-powered hydrogen cars.

Electric cars are typically more efficient than fuel cell-powered vehicles on a Tank-to-wheel basis.[13] For this reason[citation needed], battery powered vehicles and plug-in hybrids are gaining popularity. They have better fuel economy than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles but are hampered by range or maximum distance attainable before discharging the battery. The electric car batteries are their main cost. They provide a 0%[14] to 99.9% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to an ICE (gasoline, diesel) vehicle, depending on the source of electricity.[15]

Hybrid electric vehicles[edit]

See also: Hybrid vehicle

Hybrid cars may be partly fossil fueled and partly electric or hydrogen-powered. They are more expensive to purchase but cost redemption is achieved in a period of about 5 years due to better fuel economy.[11][12]

Compressed air cars, stirling vehicles, and others[edit]

Compressed air cars, stirling-powered vehicles, Liquid nitrogen vehicles are even less polluting than electrical vehicles, as the vehicle and its components can be made more environmentally friendly.

Solar car races are held on a regular basis in order to promote green vehicles and other "green technology". These sleek driver-only vehicles can travel long distances at highway speeds using only the electricity generated instantaneously from the sun.

Improving conventional cars[edit]

The Fiat Siena Tetrafuel 1.4 is a multifuel car designed to run as a flex-fuel on gasoline, or E20-E25 blend, or neat ethanol (E100); or to run as a bi-fuel with natural gas (CNG).

A conventional vehicle can become a greener vehicle by mixing in renewable fuels or using less carbon intensive fossil fuel. Typical gasoline-powered cars can tolerate up to 10% ethanol. Brazil manufactured cars that run on neat ethanol, though there were discontinued. Another available option is a flexible-fuel vehicle which allows any blend of gasoline and ethanol, up to 85% in North America and Europe, and up to 100% in Brazil.[16] Another existing option is to convert a conventional gasoline-powered to allow the alternative use of CNG. Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, India, Italy, and China have the largest fleets of natural gas vehicles in the world.[17]

Diesel-powered vehicles can often transition completely to biodiesel, though the fuel is a very strong solvent, which can occasionally damage rubber seals in vehicles built before 1994. More commonly, however, biodiesel causes problems simply because it removes all of the built-up residue in an engine, clogging filters, unless care is taken when switching from dirty fossil-fuel derived diesel to bio-diesel. It is very effective at 'de-coking' the diesel engines combustion chambers and keeping them clean. Biodiesel is the lowest emission fuel available for diesel engines. Diesel engines are the most efficient car internal combustion engines. Biodiesel is the only fuel allowed in some North American national parks because spillages will completely bio-degrade within 21 days. Biodiesel and vegetable oil fuelled, diesel engined vehicles have been declared amongst the greenest in the US Tour de Sol competition.

This presents a problem, however, as biofuels can use food resources in order to provide mechanical energy for vehicles. Many experts point to this as a reason for growing food prices, particularly US Bio-ethanol fuel production which has affected maize prices. In order to have a low environmental impact, biofuels should be made only from waste products, or from new sources - like algae.


Further information: Personal rapid transit

Animal powered vehicles[edit]

Horse and carriage are just one type of animal propelled vehicle. Once a common form of transportation, they became far less common as cities grew and automobiles took their place. In dense cities, the waste produced by large numbers of transportation animals was a significant health problem. Oftentimes the food is produced for them using diesel powered tractors, and thus there is some environmental impact as a result of their use.

Human powered vehicles[edit]

Human powered transport includes walking, bicycles, velomobiles, row boats, and other environmentally friendly ways of getting around. In addition to the health benefits of the exercise provided, they are far more environmentally friendly than most other options. The only downside is the speed limitations, and how far one can travel before getting exhausted.

Benefits of green vehicle use[edit]


Vehicle emissions contribute to the increasing concentration of gases linked to climate change.[18] In order of significance, the principal greenhouse gases associated with road transport are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).[19] Road transport is the third largest source of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK, and accounts for over 20% of total emissions,[20] and 33% in the United States.[21] Of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transport, over 85% are due to CO2 emissions from road vehicles. The transport sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases.[22]


Vehicle pollutants have been linked to human ill health including the incidence of respiratory and cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer. A 1998 report estimated that up to 24,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK as a direct result of air pollution.[23] According to the World Health Organisation, up to 13,000 deaths per year among children (aged 0–4 years) across Europe are directly attributable to outdoor pollution. The organization estimates that if pollution levels were returned to within EU limits, more than 5,000 of these lives could be saved each year.


Hybrid taxi fleet operators in New York have also reported that reduced fuel consumption saves them thousands of dollars per year.[24]


A study by CNW Marketing Research suggested that the extra energy cost of manufacture, shipping, disposal, and the short lives of some of these types of vehicle (particularly gas-electric hybrid vehicles) outweighs any energy savings made by their using less petroleum during their useful lifespan.[25] Critics of the report note that the study prorated all of Toyota's hybrid research-and-development costs across the relatively small number of Priuses on the road, rather than using the incremental cost of building a vehicle; used109,000 miles (175,000 km) for the length of life of a Prius (Toyota offers a 150,000-mile (240,000 km) warranty on the Prius' hybrid components, including the battery), and calculated that a majority of a car's cradle-to-grave energy gets expended during the vehicle's production, not while it is driven.[26]

Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman official Bente Øverli stated that "Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others." Based on this opinion, Norwegian law severely restricts the use of "greenwashing" to market automobiles, strongly prohibiting advertising a vehicle as being environmentally friendly, with large fines issued to violators.[27][28][29][30]

A study that looked at other factors other than energy consumption and carbon emissions has suggested that there is no such thing as an environmentally friendly car.[31]

The use of vehicles with increased fuel efficiency is usually considered positive in the short term but criticism of any hydrocarbon-based personal transport remains. The Jevons paradox suggests that energy efficiency programs are often counter-productive, even increasing energy consumption in the long run.[32] Many environmental researchers believe that sustainable transport may require a move away from hydrocarbon fuels and from our present automobile and highway paradigm.[33][34][35]

National and international promotion[edit]

European Union[edit]

The European Union is promoting the marketing of greener cars via a combination of binding and non-binding measures.[36] As of April 2010, 15 of the 27 member states of the European Union provide tax incentives for electrically chargeable vehicles and some alternative fuel vehicles, which includes all Western European countries except Italy and Luxembourg, plus the Czech Republic and Romania. The incentives consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as well as of bonus payments for buyers of electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrid electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles.[37][38]

United States[edit]

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting the marketing of greener cars via the SmartWay program. The SmartWay and SmartWay Elite designation mean that a vehicle is a better environmental performer relative to other vehicles. This US EPA designation is arrived at by taking into account a vehicle's Air Pollution Score and Greenhouse Gas Score. Higher Air Pollution Scores indicate vehicles that emit lower amounts of pollutants that cause smog relative to other vehicles. Higher Greenhouse Gas Scores indicate vehicles that emit lower amounts of carbon dioxide and have improved fuel economy relative to other vehicles.

To earn the SmartWay designation, a vehicle must earn at least a 6 on the Air Pollution Score and at least a 6 on the Greenhouse Gas Score, but have a combined score of at least 13. SmartWay Elite is given to those vehicles that score 9 or better on both the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Scores.

A Green Vehicle Marketing Alliance, in conjunction with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL), periodically meets, and coordinates marketing efforts.[39]

Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize[edit]

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE (PIAXP) is a set of competitions, programs and events, from the X PRIZE Foundation to "inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break America's addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change."[40] Progressive Insurance is the title sponsor of the prize, the centerpiece of which is the Competition Division, within which a $10 million purse will be divided between the winners of three competitions.

The essence of each competition is to design, build and race super-efficient vehicles that will achieve 100 MPGe (2.35 liter/100 kilometer) and can be produced for the mass market.[41] Within the Competition Division, there are two vehicle classes: Mainstream and Alternative. The mainstream class has a prize of $5 million. The alternate class has 2 separate prizes of $2.5 million, one for side-by-side seating and one for tandem seating.[42]

Some of the competitors, such as Aptera and Tesla, are already taking deposits for 'green' vehicles from customers.

Green car rankings[edit]

BMW i3 electric car.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car.
Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.
Tesla Model S electric car.
Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
VW Golf TDI clean diesel.

Several automobile magazines, motor vehicle specialized publications and environmental groups publish annual rankings or listings of the best green cars of a given year. The following table presents a selection of the annual top pickings.

Selected annual rankings of green cars
Type of
Most efficient EPA-certified vehicles based on combined MPG rating[43]
BMW i3 REx — Current year, gasoline fuel2014Plug-in Hybrid88 mpg-e97 mpg-e79 mpg-e
Honda Insight — All years, gasoline fuel2000Hybrid electric534961
BMW i3— All years, all fuels2014Electric car124 mpg-e137 mpg-e111 mpg-e
Green Car JournalGreen Car of the Year
BMW i3 — 2015 Award[44]2014Electric car124 mpg-e137 mpg-e111 mpg-e
Honda Accord ninth generation line-up
— 2014 Award[45]
hybrid and plug-in variants
mim 29 mpg, hybrid 47 mpg, plug-in 115 mpg-e[46]
Ford Fusion 2nd gen line-up — 2013 Award[47]2013Gasoline, EcoBoost,
hybrid and plug-in variants
mim 34 mpg, hybrid 47 mpg, plug-in 100 mpg-e
Honda Civic GX — 2012 Award[48]2012Natural gas282436
Chevrolet Volt — 2011 Award[49][50][51]2011Plug-in hybridGas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e37 mpg35 mi
Audi A3 TDI — 2010 Award[52]2010Clean diesel333041
VW Jetta TDI — 2009 Award[53]2009Clean diesel414043
Green Car JournalGreen Car Vision Award
Ford C-Max Energi — 2012 Award[54]2013Plug-in hybridGas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
100 mpg-e
43 mpg
20 mi
Ford Focus Electric — 2011 Award[55]2012Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
105 mpg-e
100 mi
Nissan Leaf — 2010 Award[56][57]2011Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e73 mi
Chevrolet Volt — 2009 Award[50][51][58]2011Plug-in hybridGas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e37 mpg35 mi
World Car of the Year — World Green Car
BMW i3 — 2013 Award[59]2014Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
124 mpg-e81 mi
Tesla Model S — 2013 Award[60]2013Electric car
(60/85 kWh battery)
Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
95/89 mpg-e208/265 mi
Mercedes-Benz S 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
— 2012 Award[60]
2012Clean diesel5.7 l/100 km (50 mpg-imp; 41 mpg-US)
Chevrolet Volt — 2011 Award[61]2011Plug-in hybridGas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e37 mpg35 mi
Volkswagen BlueMotion — 2010 Award[62]
(Golf, Passat, Polo)
2010Clean dieseln.a.n.a.n.a.
Honda FCX Clarity — 2009 Award[63]
(miles per kilogram of hydrogen)
2009Hydrogen fuel cell776772
Consumer Reports Top Picks: Green Car Category
Tesla Model S — Best overall model 2014[64]2014Electric car
(60/85 kWh battery)
Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
95/89 mpg-e208/265 mi
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2014[64]2014Hybrid electric505148
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2013[65]2013Hybrid electric505148
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2012[66]2012Hybrid electric505148
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2011[67]2011Hybrid electric505148
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2010[68]2010Hybrid electric505148
Toyota Prius — Best green car 2009[69]2009Hybrid electric464845
Consumer Reports American Top Picks: Green Car Category
Ford Fusion Hybrid — Top Pick 2011[70]2011Hybrid electric394136
Ford Fusion Hybrid — Top Pick 2010[71]2010Hybrid electric394136
Ford Escape Hybrid — Top Pick 2009[72]2009Hybrid electric323431
What Car? Green Awards
BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics — Overall Winner 2012[73]2012Clean dieselUK combined 56 mpg-imp (5.0 L/100 km; 47 mpg-US)[73]
Vauxhall Ampera — Overall Winner 2011[74]2012Plug-in hybridEC combined 235.4 mpg-imp (1.200 L/100 km; 196.0 mpg-US)[75]
Toyota Auris Hybrid — Overall Winner 2010[76]2010Hybrid electricUK combined 74 mpg-imp (3.8 L/100 km; 62 mpg-US)[76]
Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe S — Overall Winner 2009[77]2009Clean dieselUK combined 60 mpg-imp (4.7 L/100 km; 50 mpg-US)[78]
Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Style — Overall Winner 2008[79]2008Clean dieselUK combined 52 mpg-imp (5.4 L/100 km; 43 mpg-US)[80]
Mother Earth News Best Green Cars
Best Green Cars of 2011[81]
Chevrolet Volt2011Plug-in hybridGas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e37 mpg35 mi
Nissan Leaf2011Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e73 mi
Toyota Prius2011Hybrid electric505148
Ford Fiesta2011Gasoline332938
Honda CR-Z CVT2011Hybrid electric373539
VW Jetta TDI2011Clean diesel343042
Best Green Cars of 2010[82]
Ford Fusion Hybrid2010Hybrid electric394136
Honda Civic Hybrid2010Hybrid electric424045
Honda Insight2010Hybrid electric414043
Toyota Prius2010Hybrid electric505148
VW Golf TDI2010Clean diesel343042
VW Jetta TDI2010Clean diesel414043
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Greenest Vehicles of the Year
Greenest Vehicles of 2012 (Top 5)[83]
Mitsubishi i-MiEV2012Electric car112 mpg-e3.8 mile/Kwh2.9 mile/Kwh
Honda Civic GX2012Natural gas-27mpg-e38 mpg-e
Nissan Leaf2012Electric car99 mpg-e3.1 mile/Kwh2.7 mile/Kwh
Toyota Prius2012Hybrid electric505148
Honda Insight2012Hybrid electric424144
Greenest Vehicles of 2011 (Top 5)[84][85]
Honda Civic GX2011Natural gas282436
Nissan Leaf2011Electric car99 mpg-e3.15 mile/Kwh2.72 mile/Kwh
Smart fortwo (Cabriolet/Coupe)2011Gasoline363341
Toyota Prius2011Hybrid electric505148
Honda Civic Hybrid2011Hybrid electric414043
Greenest Vehicles of 2010 (Top 5)[86]
Honda Civic GX2010Natural gas282436
Toyota Prius2010Hybrid electric505148
Honda Civic Hybrid2010Hybrid electric424045
Smart fortwo (Convertible/coupe)2010Gasoline363341
Honda Insight2010Hybrid electric414043
Kelley Blue Book Top 10 Green Cars
Top 10 Green Cars of 2014 (Top 5)[87]
BMW i32014Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
124 mpg-e81 mi
Nissan Leaf2014Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e73 mi
Toyota Prius2014Hybrid electric505148
Tesla Model S2014Electric car
(60/85 kWh battery)
Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
95/89 mpg-e208/265 mi
Honda Accord Hybrid2014Hybrid electric475045
Top 10 Green Cars of 2011 (Top 3)[88][89]
Nissan Leaf2011Electric carGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e73 mi
Chevrolet Volt2011Plug-in hybridGasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
93 mpg-e35 mi
Toyota Prius2011Hybrid electric505148
Top 10 Green Cars of 2010 (Top 3)[90][91]
Toyota Prius2010Hybrid electric505148
Honda Insight2010Hybrid electric414043
Ford Fusion Hybrid2010Hybrid electric394136

Green vehicle motor shows[edit]

See also: Motor show

Dedicated electric and green vehicle motor shows:

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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  14. ^"eg India, China, Australia"
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  46. ^ Compare Side-by-Side 2014 Honda Accord variants
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]