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Mark Phelan: Consumer Reports names the top green vehicles in a new award

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

Shoppers just got a hand picking the most environmentally benevolent vehicles.

From EVs like the Tesla S and Chevy Bolt to hybrids including the Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Escape and plain ol’ gasoline sedans — Toyota Avalon and VW Jetta — Consumer Reports’ new Green Choice status singles out vehicles that produce the fewest greenhouse and smog-forming gases.

“We’re trying to get more eyeballs on this important information,” Consumer Reports Director of Automotive Testing Jake Fisher said Thursday as he revealed the first vehicles to receive the status. Consumer Reports used EPA data to determine the greenest vehicles.

Hybrids and electric vehicles have a leg up, since they produce fewer tailpipe emissions, but more than a quarter of the vehicles rely solely on internal combustion engines.

“This is definitely good for brand image with a segment of customers who care a lot about technology and the environment,” Cox Automotive executive analyst Michelle Krebs said. “It also helps with stock price and how Wall Street investors view a company.”

Big vehicles — from minivans to pickups and luxury vehicles — have a hard time winning Green Choice status without significant electrification, whether that comes as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric vehicle.

 

Tougher every year

Green Choice status essentially mirrors the EPA’s "Smart Way" status, applied to vehicles with scores of 7 or higher for greenhouse and smog-forming emissions.

The benchmark will increase each year, Fisher said. In fact, a couple of vehicles fell off the list as new figures became available in the days before Thursday’s announcement. Consumer Reports worked closely with the EPA to create the award.

Initially awarded to 48 vehicles, Green Choice applies to about 20% of new vehicles, Fisher said.

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