• Chevy,Chevrolet,Spark EV,electric car,electric cars

Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars for 2014

Toyota Prius tops Clean Fleet list with lowest GHG

An oldie but goodie – the Prius set us on a low-carbon car path

Electric Cars Rule the Fuel Economy Race

What a difference a few years make. We first did this list of the Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars in 2009 and had a mix of hybrids (including an SUV), a CNG model and even a straight gas-powered car, the Mini Cooper.

Fast forward to 2014 and the low-carbon stakes have been raised significantly. and this year if you don’t have significant electric drive you don’t make the list. Here’s a look back at our 2009 list; almost looks quaint now, doesn’t it. All good cars and all except for the Altima and Escape Hybrids still on the market (and it should be noted that both of those models were replaced by gas-only ones that get better fuel economy than the hybrids did).

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Civic Hybrid
  3. Honda Insight
  4. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  5. smart fortwo
  6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
  7. Honda Civic CNG
  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  9. Ford Escape Hybrid
  10. Mini Cooper and Clubman

This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable fueleconomy.gov, with its extensive search capabilities. The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. The carbon footprint is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on 15,000 miles of driving, using the GREET 1.7 model.

For this year’s update we went back to fueleconomy.gov and looked at the list of the Top 10 cars in fuel economy. It has some familiar names, but often with an electrified twist. Here’s the new list (and we expect some significant changes for 2015 as new models join the ranks).

  1. Chevy Spark EV
  2. Honda Fit EV
  3. Fiat 500e
  4. Nissan Leaf
  5. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  6. Smartfortwo EV cabriolet

    Tesla,Model S,electric car,MPGe

    Tesla Model S – two spots in the Top 10

  7. Smart fortwo EV coupe
  8. Ford Focus EV
  9. Tesla Model S (60 kWh battery pack)
  10. Tesla Model S (85 kWh battery pack)

Based on EPA’s test cycle and its previously mentioned 45/55 highway/city driving split, these cars deliver 119 to 89 combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), a measurement the EPA came up with to allow side-by-side comparisons with cars with gasoline engines.

Since two of the top 10 are essentially duplicates of others (the Smart and Tesla) I think it would be fun to look at the next two down the list. That’s were it gets interesting as you run out of pure electric cars and move into the plug-in hybrid world.  The next couple are:

  • Chevy Volt
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Ford C-Max Energi

I’m not stretching the list here – the bottom three are tied in combined fuel economy. And the ticket of entry for this combined Top 10 (which now covers 14 models) is 58 MPGe!

Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in car, hybrid

Ford has a plug-in version of its best-selling Fusion sedan

Also worth noting is that except for the pricey Tesla Model S, most of these models are relatively affordable, especially with special lease deals the automakers are offering. While they tend to be on the small side, a consequence of squeezing the minimum battery since that’s the vehicle’ biggest expense, it does include the fulls-zie Model S, midsize Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi SUV.

Of course, the down side is that many of them remain in limited availability with the majority of the all-electric models being steered to California where they can earn the manufacturer the zero emission vehicle credits needed to continue to sell cars in the largest market in the U.S.

And bubbling under this list are hybrids, diesels and advanced gasoline vehicles getting better fuel economy than ever before. Thankfully for all of us – and for our planet – driving with a lighter carbon footprint is getting easier every day.


Share This Post

About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of The Enthusiast Network), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

5 thoughts on “Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars for 2014

  1. Peter Phonorkus
    March 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    If you want to discuss carbon footprint, you MUST consider manufacturing, lifespan and disposal. Yes, hybrid cars have a lower footprint during their lifespan but it does not offset manufacturing and disposal. Too many people have fallen victim to the hybrid=green marketing. It makes me sad that people won’t spend 5 minutes to research a hybrid’s true environmental impact.

  2. Yajaira Qian
    March 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I’m really glad I found this post. I’ve been checking for information on solar energy for months.Looking forward to reading through more posts about energy.

  3. yannick cornet
    March 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    This is unfortunately misleading. One needs to consider the entire lifecycle, including manufacturing and disposing of the car. “it takes 113 million BTUs of energy to make a Toyota Prius. Because there are about 113,000 BTUs of energy in a gallon of gasoline, the Prius has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom.” Concluding.. “Buy a Used Car. It’s Better Than a Hybrid” http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/05/the-ultimate-pr/

  4. Marek K
    September 2, 2009 at 12:21 am

    To use only gas milage to guage clean feet is a terrible way to do it. Manufacturing the batteries that go into hybrid cars consumes vast amount of energies that non-hybrid cars. Further, to reinforce the frame to hold these heavy batteries uses extra steel. To get a real clean footprint, you can generally do no better than getting the lightest car possible. While your list may be correct for post purchase efficiency, it gives a very skewed result of overall environmental impact.

Let us know what you think.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.