If you were to consider, what is the greenest form of transportation, that is, the least environmental impact, you might answer, “Sneakers.” That’s not far off, but have you considered what goes into the manufacture of a pair of sneakers?
It requires a significant amount of energy [read: greenhouse gas emissions] to produce a single pair of sneakers, not to mention waste products that find their way into the air, water, and soil. When you really get down to it, perhaps the greenest form of transportation isn’t “sneakers,” but “feet.”
The same kind of comparison can be made of vehicles today, which is greenest and which is “meanest” doesn’t exactly stick to the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] fuel economy guide. While fuel economy is a pretty good measure of a vehicle’s environmental impact, perhaps a better measure would include factors such as responsible manufacturing processes, energy saving methods, recycling programs, use of renewable energy, and others.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy [ACEEE], a non-profit funded by various state energy boards, has been ranking vehicles with such an enhanced measure of environmental responsibility, the Green Score.
As expected, considering the weight of fuel economy in the ACEEE Green Book, electrified vehicles dominate the charts. In fact, only two gasoline-powered vehicles made it to the top twelve shown in the press release, the Toyota iQ and the Smart fortwo. On the 25th anniversary of the ACEEE Green Book, the 2013 Toyota Prius C hybrid electric vehicle [HEV] takes the top of the charts with a Green Score of 58/100 [I'm guessing “feet” gets a Green Score of 100]. The Prius c was followed, in order, by the Honda FIT EV, Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid [PHEV], Toyota Prius, Honda Civic HEV, Honda Insight, Volkwagen Jetta HEV, Scion iQ, Smart fortwo, and Toyota Prius v.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Ford dominated the bottom of the chart, the “Meanest” vehicles, with the F-250 XL and F-350 XL full-size pickups, and the E-350 full-size cargo van. True, these aren’t designed to be commuters, but buyers ought to consider their real needs when stacked against their impact on the environment.
This doesn’t mean there is no hope for full-sized vehicles, such as pickups, SUVs, and vans, because even these can be improved. The VIA Motors X-Truck extended range electric vehicle [eREV], recently revealed at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, is claiming to get 100 MPGe, which should push it further away from being the meanest than the Ford F-350 XL.