The redesigned Chevy Volt has already garnered rave reviews and won 2016 Green Car of the Year in Los Angeles. Now the next battle is set for the New York Auto Show, where the Volt joins the Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle and new Prius as the three finalists for 2016 World Green Car, an award decided by industry journalists. Each model makes a strong case for most environmentally friendly vehicle of the 2016 model year.
In the case of the 2016 Chevy Volt, the new model’s improvements over the outgoing edition tell most of the story. Electric range jumped from 38 miles to 53 miles; economy reached 106 miles per gallon (from 98 miles gallon) in electric mode and gained five miles per gallon in gasoline mode; the 2016 model got more power; and the price is lower than the original’s. Considering drivers won’t need much fuel and this car offers 420 miles of range, it makes a strong case.
Toyota Mirai, the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go on widespread sale in the U.S., is in many ways a car ahead of its time. This car famously emits just water from its tailpipe. However, due to a lack of open hydrogen stations in the two California regions where it is available, sales are even more limited than we would have guessed. Thousands are on the waiting list, but Toyota sold only 113 models in the first four months of availability.
Nonetheless, Mirai (“future” in Japanese) represents a bold move by Toyota in pushing the potential of a new alternative fuel. It can cover 312 miles on full hydrogen tanks, more than any electric vehicle on the market, and do so at 66 miles per gallon. Compared to the Tesla Model S, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy put the Mirai ($57,500) just one tick below the high-profile EV, confirming its green car bona fides.
Toyota Prius, the third finalist, is an engineering marvel where gasoline fuel economy is concerned. In its most efficient Eco model ($24,700), Prius gets an EPA-estimate 58 miles per gallon in city driving — a record by any measure. Considering the low cost of gas in 2016, this model is getting people very far on the smallest fuel budget, and for that it deserves a great deal of credit.
As electric vehicle adoption remains challenging in many U.S. cities, the 2016 Prius serves as the alternative to EVs. It remains the greenest model for drivers who cannot plug in due to garage limitations or other practical concerns. It may not be able to emit water or no emissions whatsoever — as a solar-powered electric car can — but it is an important car nonetheless.
Despite the boldness of the Mirai or the impossible efficiency of the new Prius, Chevy Volt has to be considered the frontrunner for 2016 World Green Car. Drivers can cover about 90% of their trips on electric power and do not have to worry about range in the Volt. In a package that comes in below $30,000 after rebates, there is no better entry to the market for the 2016 model year. We’ll see what the judges decide in New York.
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