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The best cars for the environment

If you need new wheels and are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, here's a list of ecologically friendly vehicles to consider.

By Apr 8, 2014 11:23AM

This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site on MSN MoneyIf you're really into buying local and living green, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle when it comes to choosing a car. Of the 12 Greenest Vehicles of 2014, none of them are from U.S.-based automakers.

Woman in car adjusting mirror © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Blend Images, Getty ImagesThe rankings system from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) gives the highest scores for environmental friendly vehicles to nine cars from Japanese manufacturers and three from German companies. (On the flip side, five of the worst cars for the environment are from U.S.-based manufacturers. Yikes.)

Of course, someone looking at the Dodge Ram (worst vehicle on the list) probably isn't going to be attracted to a teeny Smart Car (best), nor would they be able to serve the same purpose. But assuming you're not shopping for a huge truck or flashy sports car (champions of poor fuel economy), and you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint, these 12 cars highlighted by the ACEEE's Green Book are worth a look.

The ACEEE considered a lot of data in determining its vehicle Green Scores, which fall on a scale of 0 to 100, but the main focus was on fuel economy and emissions tests reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. The score also takes into account pollution from vehicle manufacturing and factors in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe took the top spot with a Green Score of 59. Most people are familiar with the miles-per-gallon measurement of fuel economy, the frame of reference for energy efficiency, but the fuel economy for electric vehicles is measured in miles per kilowatt-hour. A gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWh, making the Smart Electric Drive's city fuel economy of 3.61 miles per kWh roughly equal to 122 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent).

12. Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 42 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

11. Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Convertible/Coupe
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg-city, 38 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

10. Honda Insight
Fuel Economy: 41 mpg-city, 44 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

9. Honda Civic Natural Gas
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg-city, 38 mpg-highway
Green Score: 54

8. Mitsubishi Mirage
Fuel Economy: 37 mpg-city, 44 mpg-highway
Green Score: 54

7. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 3.9 mpkWh/51 mpg-city, 3.0 mpkWh/49 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

6. Lexus CT 200H
Fuel Economy: 51 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

5. Honda Civic Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg-city, 47 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

4. Toyota Prius
Fuel Economy: 51 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

3. Nissan Leaf
Fuel Economy: 126 mpge-city, 101 mpge-highway

Green Score: 55

2. Toyota Prius C
Fuel Economy: 53 mpg-city, 46 mpg-highway
Green Score: 57

1. Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe
Fuel Economy: 122 mpge-city, 93 mpge-highway
Green Score: 59

Given the new technology and fuel savings, it's no surprise that these vehicles will be more expensive than their less fuel-efficient counterparts. If you plan to finance  new vehicle, you should have an idea of your credit standing and know whether or not you have a shot at affordable auto financing. So check your credit scores and carry on toward your green ride. You can see two of your credit scores for free  once a month at, plus get a personalized plan for building your credit.

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Apr 13, 2014 5:30AM
The best car for the environment is the one that you currently are driving. It uses less resources and creates less pollution than having a new car manufactured.
Apr 8, 2014 8:10PM

Out of twelve cars, the Toyota prissy-a$s was three of them.

And they can not be good for the environment when prissy-a$s drivers emit more smug than any other people on the planet.

Apr 13, 2014 5:04AM
And HOW do you ecologically dispose of all those batteries at the end of their life? Or are they edible by this writer?
Apr 13, 2014 3:08PM
The best, is the car with pedals and a chain that only emits small amounts of methane gas, once in a while.......
Apr 13, 2014 1:24PM
I find it interesting that none of the "Green" or "Low environmental footprint" folks that love electric cars ever include the massive amounts of pollution required to make the batteries. Once you factor that in you find that it's not so good. Mining the lithium which comes from China requires massive amounts of energy. It is also highly damaging to the environment as it's requires even more energy to refine. So next time you are driving an electric remember it's not helping the environment at all it's just helps you pocket book a little.    
Apr 13, 2014 4:23PM
We have 0bamacare, why not an 0bama-Car too? Those democrat rocket scientists in Congress could easily design an 0bama-Car,..and then they can 'just' pass a law that forces us all to buy it. And, you can not see the 0bama-Car before you buy it either,..but that's ok, because once you try to buy it, won't be able to get into the dealership anyway.

Happy motoring taxpayers! 

Apr 13, 2014 11:52AM
One should probably check to see how reliable these vehicles are and how many recalls they've averaged before purchasing.  A true "environmentalist "who eschew owning a vehicle in the first place.  Funny how many of the hollywood folk and a former vice president  love to tell us all what we should or shouldn't drive but then proceed to fly on private jets, live in very inefficient  mansions but yet want to be seen driving the "green" car while keeping a stable full of luxury automobiles. 

 ( Disclaimer this does not mean all hollywood folks are like this, or if they are it's still a somewhat free country and people can spend on things as they see fit. Many others not living in the preceding named geographic location have been known to engage in similar practices and therefore one should not unfairly conclude that it's just citizens living in the afore mentioned areas that exhibit these purchasing behaviors. )
Apr 8, 2014 4:34PM

I love how these articles always contradict their own premise and seemingly back-track on their point. Take the first sentence of the last paragraph for an example. The author basically admits (or just points out) that it'll obviously take you a long-a** time to recoup any of the price difference and/or see any TRUE savings at all. If saving money, as well as your "carbon footprint", is your concern, then the Mitsubishi Mirage is the ONLY true value in the list.

Now all you tree-huggers start yappin' about my apathy toward "global (it's all bulls**t) warming".

Apr 13, 2014 4:30PM
Actually the best cars for the environment are the ones like the 53 ford rusting away at the edge of my pasture. it creates a nice portrait of a bygone era and provides shelter for the small critters. No tires no fluids just  sitting by itself in other wise pristine woodlands rusting back to its original state.
Apr 13, 2014 9:54AM
This "Best Car for the Environment" is brought to you by: Toy Motor Corp, the most recalled automobile brand in the world.
Apr 13, 2014 7:51PM
We can't fit in them little clown cars... have to drive them with our heads sticking out of the roofs.
Apr 8, 2014 1:44PM
So, this was an add for then?
Apr 14, 2014 12:19AM
How can these hybrids be green, when the batteries they use are so toxic, they don't yet know how to dispose of them safely.
Apr 13, 2014 6:34PM
If you figure the CO2 generated in the harvesting of minerals, manufacturing, shipping and disposal of batteries the electric and hybrid cars don't come out so well.  I bought a Prius as a toy because I was curious about the hybrid system.  It's amazing the way other drivers act when I'm in the Prius rather than my normal ride, a crew cab long bed diesel truck.
Apr 13, 2014 3:19PM
This thing for the environment is not a car, not a motorcycle, not a horse. If you are get right down to it, it's your own 2 feet and for those ones who do have feet. If the person behind the wheelchair pushing you on if you want to get ridiculous is it ridiculous. If man is person causing global climate change. There's only one answer to the to this question and that is man must die. Sorry, passed away. It works. You don't have to agree with you don't have to like, but that's what comes out to of these environmentalist us kill a few hundred billion and we can save the planet buster philosophy that's what you're saying whether they say it or not, they can't do that and give us your money money can't save everything and can't cure everything is not a solution. All this does is make their bank account a lot healthier than yours. What you think the want to start charging you a carbon tax for so they can tax you on breathing. This plan is been around for millions of years, and mother nature's been around just as long she knows how to take care of this planet better than anybody, any scientist out there cannot compete with her. Sorry, that's the truth. So when you can control the weather, make it rain. When you want to make snow when you want to make hurricanes or tornadoes when you want to. Then you got just as much power as mother nature. Until then, all you naysayers out there and all you liberals can take your climate change or global warming, and put it where the sun does not shine, it doesn't mean anything to anybody anymore. We know you're a joke, but you won't stop pursuing something that you can't control. That's how bright you people are and don't get me wrong, I don't go around shooting anything I don't throw garbage out. This is stand there. I don't think people should take nuclear waste import were really want to or dump oil into the rivers, creeks or the ocean. That's wrong to do that to everybody knows it or you liberals don't think that the people running these oil companies and gas companies live on his planet. But they do unless I'm missing something to the got a secret spacecraft someplace for them to! Go away at night come back. During the day. I don't think so! So start using some common sense about this stuff is all it takes common sense something you liberals don't have anymore so let's just stop the bull!
Apr 26, 2014 9:14PM
No cars on the streets will be the best for the environment.
Apr 14, 2014 1:56AM
hehe, I drive an 87' Jeep Grand Wagoneer, with a BIG 360 v8! I love it! It's great for the environment! It's name is the Prius Killer! :) (seriously, I am all for cleaner air, but I just would rather drive something I can haul stuff in, go camping in, and it looks cool!)
Apr 13, 2014 11:43PM
The last tank of gas I used in my Ford Focus, it averaged 40 mpg. The current tank is at 38. Granted it's almost all highway miles, but it's comfortable enough, and looks good. I'd say it's fairly green. These electric cars require a lot of energy to produce. Not to mention, the nickle needed for the batteries is strip mined. And unless you have a solar charger, it is using produced electricity, usually coal fired. According to a research paper from Pitt. University ( I think) they need to travel well over 100,000 miles before they are greener than a mid size sedan. More if it is highway miles. Do the batteries last that long?
Great for the 1%er's. These vehicles still use earth products in one form or another. Maybe Osama will give me new bicycle for the green cause. I live in paid off cabin stocked with food and ammo. As if the 1%er's would drive something like this
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