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Lean and Green — New hybrids plus a few electric vehicles head list of clean, energy-savvy vehicles

Even the person with the least desire to hug a tree could likely name the brand of car chosen as greenest by an energy think tank.

It was the Toyota Prius, in this case the compact “C” version. The model won the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s 15th yearly environmental ratings of cars and trucks.

But maybe the biggest news to come away from the group’s compilation of the nation’s greenest cars is the field was so competitive, with a host of hybrids and electric vehicles in the running.

Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz’s “smart” brand were among those in the mix. Toyota’s classic hybrid scored well across its lineup, with the original Prius placing third, new plug-in hybrid taking fourth and the Prius V — largest of the family — ranked 11th. In topping the charts the Prius C scored a 58 (the lowest score was a 17).

At the same time, a few green regulars such as the eight-time champion Honda Civic Natural Gas edition, were shut out from the organization’s top 12 list.

“The vehicles at the top of this year’s rankings are proof that automakers are really ramping up their offerings,” said Shruti Vaidyanathan, the council’s lead vehicle analyst.

“There are more hybrid and electric options on the market this year than ever before and the race for a spot on the Greenest list is increasingly competitive. Automakers have revamped their offerings to meet the growing demand for efficient vehicles and new fuel economy standards,” she says.

The full ratings, available at www.greenercars.org, show that high fuel mileage is important but so is maintaining the lowest volume in terms of pollution emissions.

Greenercars.org said that it sets out a criteria to examine the eco-performance of any 2013 model.

Cars and trucks are analyzed to come up with a Green Score. The tally consists of measurements on unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emissions of gases that contribute to climate change.

The group said it has updated its analytical standards this year “to more accurately estimate vehicles’ environmental impacts.” The council changed the way it scored emissions involved in manufacturing vehicles; the impact of gas, diesel and natural gas “upstream;” and the forecasted mix of fuels used to produce electricity to power electric cars.

All but three of the top 12 greener cars carry certifications from both the federal government and the state of California, which has the nation’s toughest emissions standards.

The council indicated that carmakers are revving up their environmental efforts a notch to meet “aggressive national fuel economy standards kicking in for model years 2012 to 2025.”

Top clean cars also included the Honda Fit electric vehicle in second place, the Honda Civic Hybrid at five and Ford’s Focus EV and Fusion and C-Max hybrids all in the top dozen. Volkswagen’s new Jetta hybrid and the smart fortwo placed seventh and eighth respectively, the analysis group said.

Just two “conventional” vehicles, those with gas only engines, made the list. They were the Scion iQ and smart fortwo.
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