Toyota Motor Sales
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has produced an annual list of the “greenest” and “meanest” vehicles for 15 years. Its 2013 Greenest winner is the downsized Toyota Prius C.
The council gives cars and trucks a green score derived from Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy and emissions data. The Prius C’s score of 58 (with fuel economy at 53 city/46 highway) just topped the 57 rating of the battery electric Honda Fit EV.
The Fit was among two low-volume electric cars that made the Greenest list. The other was the Ford Focus Electric. Critics have called low-volume battery electrics “compliance cars,” built in relatively low numbers mainly to satisfy California’s zero-emission mandates.
Shruti Vaidyanathan, the council’s lead vehicle analyst, said in an interview that the annual list was intended to exclude cars with limited production, which is one reason the highly regarded Tesla Model S, whose production is just being started, was not included in the ratings. (Ms. Vaidyanathan also said that the council did not get relevant Tesla data from the E.P.A.) But Honda’s intended Fit EV delivery is definitely low volume. “Our stated plan is 1,100 Fit EVs over two years,” Chris Naughton, a Honda spokesman, said in an e-mail. The car will be available for lease only, with no purchase option.
Ms. Vaidyanathan said that including the Fit EV was a judgment call, based on the popularity of the standard Honda Fit and future expectations. The Ford Focus Electric, which is 10th on the Greenest list with a score of 52, has also been distributed in relatively low numbers, but Ms. Vaidyanathan cited research indicating that it would become a mass market vehicle.
Robyn Eagles, a spokeswoman for Honda, said that the Fit EV was not a compliance car. “We’re trying to understand the market,” she said in an interview. “For the first few years, production may appear low, but we’re simply gauging consumers’ interest in these vehicles and will adjust volumes as needed.”
Wes Sherwood, a Ford spokesman, said that 693 Focus electric cars were delivered through December.
“Our intent is to make fuel economy mass-market,” he said in an interview. “We expect that for a considerable amount of time our electric battery car sales will be less than our hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales. We think we’ve gotten hybrids to the sweet spot where they make sense for more customers, but all-electrics will take longer, and it’s clearly tied to the cost of the batteries.” He said the electric Focus would soon be available in 50 states.
Therese Langer, the council’s transportation program director, said in an interview that her organization did not have a rule about what constitutes a mass-market vehicle. “We try to avoid putting on our Greenest list those vehicles that are clearly not relevant to the consumer market,” she said.
The council said in a statement that the battery-powered Mitsubishi I-MiEV, Scion iQ and Smart Electric Drive were also not included in the survey “because of anticipated modest sales volumes.”
Despite somewhat disappointing sales, the Nissan Leaf battery car is clearly aiming for the mass market, but it is not in this year’s council ratings. Ms. Langer said that the group lacked relevant E.P.A. data on the 2013 Leaf. A Nissan spokesman, Steve Oldham, said in an e-mail that the new Leaf, as shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a lower-price base model, is still being tested. Reports say the 2013 Leaf is expected to have a longer range.
The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid received an “above average” class ranking, but its green score of 49 was not high enough to make the Greenest list.
The council also scores what it calls the “meanest” vehicles for the environment, and three Ford models tied for the lowest score of 17: the flex-fuel F-350, the flex-fuel F-250 (both in their four-wheel-drive versions) and the E-350 Wagon (a van). Supercars made the list, too, including the Bugatti Veyron and Bentley Mulsanne.