It should come as no surprise that the annual Greenest Automaker award from the Union of Concerned Scientists is gaining more traction all the time. After all, concern over the environment as well as overcoming a dependence on foreign oil are mentioned in news reports daily. Tougher federal standards are going into effect for 2015, and even more stringent ones are being proposed for 2025. As a result, automakers are stepping up their game, introducing more hybrids and electics with each passing year. They really need to, in order to meet the upcoming standards. In the meantime, celebrating the greenest of the carmakers is a worthwhile endeavor. Here, then, are the top three Greenest Automakers.
2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-ZEnlarge Photo
Number One: Honda
What is a surprise, perhaps, is who came out number one in this year’s awards. By a very narrow lead (one point), Honda beat out Toyota and Hyundai, making it a near three-way finish. Honda’s overall score of 86 reflects a fleet that’s 14 percent cleaner than that of the top eight manufacturers combined. That’s quite an accomplishment, and one that Honda should be justly proud of – especially since this year’s accolade marks its fifth consecutive Greenest Automaker award over the past decade.
Honda’s product offerings that help it claim the title include the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the world’s first production sport hybrid coupe, the all-new 2011 Odyssey minivan and redesigned 2011 Accord, both of which make use of more efficient low-friction engines and improved vehicle aerodynamics to achieve significant fuel economy gains. Honda also continues to demonstrate leadership in the area of alternative-fuel vehicles, including the expansion of sales of the natural gas-powered Civic GX sedan to dealers in Oklahoma and Utah, in addition to California and New York, and the limited-lease of the FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle to customers in California.
But Honda can’t rest on its laurels. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ data, Toyota was all set to capture the top crown this year. Yet the automaker stalled on global emissions, winding up in a tie with Hyundai. Sure, Toyota has the Prius, long considered by consumers as the pinnacle of green car technology--and awareness. But Toyota competes in all vehicle classes, and it needs to improve its conventional vehicles in order to capture the top spot.
On the near horizon for Toyota is the third-generation Prius Plug-in Hybrid, appropriately-named Prius PHV, which the company expects to launch in 2012. While the range of the Prius PHV will be less than the current Prius, it uses smaller batteries, and plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional hybrid vehicles. Automotive News reported that Toyota plans to introduce two Prius variants by 2013: one smaller than Prius (about the size of the Yaris compact), and one with about 50 percent more interior and storage space than the current Prius. The publication also mentions the possibility of a hybrid minivan from Toyota.
Speaking of Hyundai, the Korean carmaker was a big surprise with its near-win. The verdict may very well be a first-place score in the next round of assessments if, as the Union of Concerned Scientists says, Hyundai “maintains a focus on delivering clean and efficient products across all vehicle classes.” Needless to say, the company’s decision to concentrate more on four-cylinder engines as opposed to six-cylinder powerplants will likely boost its chances for a Greenest Automaker award.
Coming in the fourth quarter 2010, the all-new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is expected to deliver 37 mpg city/39 mpg highway fuel economy. Unlike other hybrids in the market, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid uses a breakthrough lithium polymer battery pack – which runs cooler, lighter, and is “more shapeable for optimum packaging.”
The gasoline version all-new Hyundai Sonata 2.0T will provide 274 horsepower from a gasoline direct injection (GDI) four-cylinder engine while achieving a projected fuel economy of 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway.