All-electric vehicles now account for fewer of the dozen greenest cars available, partly because of a shift toward larger and heavier EVs that are less environmentally friendly, according to this year’s GreenerCars ratings, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
These EVs take only four of the top spots on the ratings’ “Greenest List” for 2022 vehicles—down from seven last year. Three of the previous top EVs—Hyundai Ioniq electric, BMW i3s, and Kia Soul electric—are no longer sold in the United States. Some have been replaced by larger versions with heavier batteries, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and BMW i4, that cause more greenhouse gas emissions.
As a result, energy-efficient gasoline hybrids account for five of the greenest cars—up from only two last year. They include Honda’s Insight, two by Hyundai (Elantra Blue and Sonata Blue), and two by Toyota (Camry LE and Corolla). The other seven greenest cars are plug-in hybrid vehicles, including the #1 scoring Toyota Prius Prime, which reclaims the spot it held in 2020, and #2 Hyundai Ioniq, or all-electric cars such as the Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2-door (#3) and the Nissan Leaf (#4).
“Automakers are pledging more all-electric models, but they’re discontinuing some of the most efficient ones, leaving consumers with fewer compact, ultra-green choices,” says Peter Huether, ACEEE’s senior transportation research analyst. “Automakers shouldn’t produce only huge EVs. Such EVs, though more energy efficient than similarly sized gasoline counterparts, mean higher consumer costs and planet-warming emissions than small electric cars.”
The 25th annual GreenerCars ratings come amid continuing tumult in the automotive industry. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the industry’s supply chain, leading to widespread vehicle and parts shortages. At the same time, the Biden administration announced a goal for 50% new EV sales by 2030 as well as new emissions and fuel-efficiency standards. Both announcements have the potential to greatly increase efficient and electric offerings over the next decade.
This year’s Greenest List features the most environmentally friendly cars for model year 2022. Each car receives a Green Score based on an environmental damage index, which reflects the cost to human health from air pollution associated with vehicle manufacturing and disposal, the production and distribution of fuel or electricity, and vehicle tailpipes. ACEEE evaluated more than 1,000 models, including vehicles fueled entirely by gasoline or diesel (including hybrids), plug-in hybrids powered by energy both from gasoline and electricity from plugging into the grid, and all-electric vehicles.
While the rise in the number of hybrids on this year’s Greenest List occurred in part because of the shift to heavier EVs, it also resulted from updates to the scoring methodology. Based on periodically updated estimates from the federal government, GreenerCars considers the emissions from producing a vehicle’s materials. For model year 2022, the federal estimate showed an increase in the emissions associated with mining lithium, a crucial mineral used in EV batteries.
1. Toyota Prius Prime: Green Score 69
2. Hyundai Ioniq PHEV: Green Score 68
3. MINI Cooper SE: Green Score 67
4. Nissan Leaf: Green Score 67
5. Kia Niro PHEV: Green Score 65
6. Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue: Green Score 65
7. Mazda MX-30: Green Score 65
8. Toyota Corolla Hybrid: Green Score 64
9. Honda Insight Hybrid: Green Score 64
10. Toyota Camry Hybrid LE: Green Score 63
11. Tesla Model Y Rear-Drive: Green Score 63
12. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue: Green Score 63