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The Green Life: Ask Mr. Green: What's the Best Car?

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June 12, 2012

Ask Mr. Green: What's the Best Car?

Bob Schildgen is Mr Green

Hey Mr. Green,

What's the best car for both ecofriendliness and driving about 75 miles per day?

--Alex in Manchester, Kansas

Rating a vehicle's whole package is a hugely complicated job. That's because we're talking not just about the carbon emissions of the actual driving but about everything, cradle to grave, in its life span--from the toxics spewed when it's built to the disposition of its mortal remains.

So I defer to the minds at the estimable American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (aceee.org), who rank cars by crunching terabytes of vehicle-related data from reliable sources like the Argonne National Laboratory.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a subcompact electric car that can go 3.8 miles on just one kilowatt-hour of electricity, earned ACEEE's top rating in 2012--the first time a plug-in has done so since 2000.
But if the i-MiEV's limited range (62 miles per charge) is a problem, you could opt for another of ACEEE's top 12 cars, listed at greenercars.org. The Prius C came in second, followed by a tie for third between the Nissan Leaf and the Honda Civic Natural Gas.

With electricity averaging 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in the United States, and gasoline hovering around $4 per gallon at press time, the per-mile cost of running even an efficient gasoline-powered car is about three times higher than that of driving an i-MiEV or a similar EV. Over 100,000 miles, that equates to a savings of almost $9,000. So be sure to factor that figure in--along with federal tax credits of up to $7,500--when shopping for an EV, which can cost up to $20,000 more than a comparable gas-powered car.

 

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!

 

--photo by Lori Eanes

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