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Green Car of the Year finalists: different approaches to 'green'

November 15, 2011|By Rosanna Xia
  • A Toyota Prius V at the Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference in Santa Monica.
A Toyota Prius V at the Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference… (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters )

It’s not just about fuel economy anymore. The five 2012 Green Car of the Year finalists showcase the different ways we can drive with a smaller carbon footprint.

“There’s all-electric, a diesel, a natural gas and there’s a hybrid,” said John O’Dell, senior editor at “That shows the industry is finally getting to the point where there’s some consumer choice in green offerings. When you look at those vehicles, they run the gamut of fuel types, price range and vehicle types.”

The finalists — the Honda Civic Natural Gas, the Volkswagen Passat TDI, Mitsubishi i, the Toyota Prius V and the Ford Focus Electric — were nominated by Green Car Journal editors. The winner will be announced Thursday morning at the L.A. Auto Show.


Both the Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric represent the growing production of all-electric vehicles, which stood out with last year’s winner, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. The Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric sport new energy-efficiency features, including “regenerative brakes” that recharge the battery with recycled heat energy usually lost from decelerations.

The Prius V is a larger style of the traditional gas-electric hybrid car, expanding the Prius into its own family of vehicles. Like the Honda Civic Natural Gas, prices are expected to start around $26,000.

The Honda Civic Natural Gas uses no gasoline, tapping into an alternative fuel that O’Dell said is believed to exist in mass amounts in the United States. Mileage estimates rate the car at 38 highway miles per gallon. The clean diesel Volkswagen Passat TDI, boasting 43 highway mpg and 795 miles/tank, also uses no gasoline.

The alternative fuel cars still face obstacles, compared to conventional hybrids, which are currently less expensive and more convenient to refuel. O’Dell, who drives a Honda Civic Natural Gas, noted that even though he’s a fan, “it doesn’t make sense in some states because there are not as many natural gas stations.”

But the new cars show that not every green car is a Prius anymore, said O’Dell. “We have some choices," he said, "and there will be far more choices a few years from now.”

More than 75 green cars — including hybrids, clean diesel, alternative fuel and electric vehicles — will be featured at this year’s L.A. Auto Show.


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