Earth Day, observed on April 22, is a global annual celebration of the environmental movement. The day and its activities date back to 1970.
The environmental push over the past four decades hasn’t skipped big business, which have contributed to concrete advances in new forms of energy, among them wind and solar. Companies have also introduced many new products that run on advanced engine power — power that gives off few if any emissions, especially compared to older, related products that run on fossil fuels.
Near the top of the list of products that are using energy more efficiently or using alternative energy are cars. While motor vehicle sales are an important part of the economy, their engines have long contributed to air pollution. Close to 15 million cars and light trucks will be sold this year alone in the U.S. And still the great majority of these continue to be powered by gasoline.
The reasons that people are interested in “green cars” go beyond environmental advantages. Gas prices have been as high as $4 in the last two years. Recently, the price of a gallon of regular gasoline was still above $3.50 nationwide. Despite many improvements in efficiency, gas cars, in many cases, get no better than 25 or 30 MPG. Large pickups and eight-cylinder cars get much worse than that. However, new all-electric engine cars get nearly as high as the equivalent of 100 MPG. That means fuel cost savings savings of hundreds of dollars a year in contrast to an all-gas car.
There have been a number of versions of green cars. The Toyota Prius, the most successful gas-electric hybrid, went on sale in 1997. It was the earliest version of a line of cars that would eventually push Toyota’s all-time hybrid sales above 5 million. Hybrids were a step toward the elimination of cars running exclusively on fossil fuels. The current Prius gets 50 MPG.
The big breakthrough in mileage came with the electric engines and plug-ins. An example is the Prius Plug-In, which gets the equivalent of an estimated 95 MPG in electric mode.
In preparation for Earth Day, research firm Kelley Blue Book put together a list of the Ten Best Green Cars of 2013. Some of these, like the Nissan Leaf, are well known. One is exotic — the Tesla Model S — a hyperfast, sports car. Others are hybrid engine versions of existing model lines like the Toyota Avalon Hybrid. The KBB list is a combination of all-electric and traditional hybrid cars.
On completion of the testing, Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, said, “A growing number of eco-conscious drivers are going ‘Green’ when it comes to the new car they choose to drive, and auto manufacturers have primed the pump with the widest array of offerings in the ‘Green Car’ segment than ever before. After driving and testing nearly every new vehicle on the market today, our editors compiled a 10 Best Green Cars list that provides a roadmap for consumers looking to get more miles from each gallon of gasoline or to eliminate gasoline altogether.”
24/7 Wall St. reviewed Kelley Blue Book’s list of the 10 best green cars, which takes into consideration fuel efficiency, value, and quality of hybrid, electric, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. For these 10 cars, we reviewed additional data provided by KBB.com, which included fuel efficiency and 2011 and 2012 sales, we looked at manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the base models, as well as for comparable non-hybrid or electric versions of these models. We also used publicly available data from the Environmental Protection Agency for those fuel efficiency and driving range figures not supplied by Kelley Blue Book. We also considered reviews of these models from groups such as auto data site Edmunds.com.