Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars (and one SUV) for 2009

People and fleets that use vehicles with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile are rewarded with making our future a little better and with their fuel costs being much lower. The following cars, wagons, and SUVs have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile of any vehicles available for volume commercial sales in the United States in 2009. All can achieve freeway speed. In many cases, they also have the best fuel economy. Most are already selling in quantity.

From California to Capitol Hill to Copenhagen, plans and incentives are being created for a cap-and-trade of emissions. Passenger vehicles can get up to a $7,500 per vehicle tax break for being zero emission. The rewards for buying and selling low emission vehicles will increase. The incentives will be paid for, in part, by higher costs for gas guzzlers.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a priority with fleet managers and millions of conscientious consumers. These Clean Fleet Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Passenger Vehicles are listed from lowest to highest in carbon footprint.

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Civic Hybrid
  3. Honda Insight
  4. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  5. smart fourtwo
  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, 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.

Fleets are also early adopters of vehicles with even less emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid conversions, and diesel hybrid concept cars. Because these are not offered for commercial volume sale, they are not part of this 2009 list. Electric and alt-fuel vehicles are also covered in detail at Clean Fleet Report.

The Toyota Prius continues to lead the four-door sedan field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize is lowest on the list with 4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle; combined fuel economy is 46 mpg. Yes, 4 tons of CO2e is a lot; but many cars, light trucks, and SUVs create three times that emission. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota announced the 2010 Prius with an expected 50 mpg combined and an optional solar roof option to power accessories and thereby boost mileage.

The Honda Civic Hybrid compact rates at 4.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 42 mpg.

The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System is priced for thousands less than the Prius. The Insight will deliver 41 mpg combined, with annual emissions of about 4.5 tons of CO2e.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.8 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes.

Complete Report

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

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