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