5 Electric Vehicles Competing for 2017 Green Car of the Year

2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles took all five spots among Green Car of the Year finalists | General Motors

The Los Angeles Auto Show holds special appeal for clean vehicle enthusiasts and environmental advocates. Along with the large number of hybrid and plug-in vehicle debuts, industry experts decides on the Green Car of the Year. For several years running, the definition of “green car” has been wide-ranging and at times baffling.

Take, for example, the Chevy Impala Bi-Fuel model that made the short list of finalists for 2015. Most people don’t consider natural gas a clean source of energy unless you’re comparing it to coal. To take it a step further, note the Audi A3 TDI’s nomination that same year. You read that right — one of Volkswagen’s infamous emissions-cheating diesel vehicles was up for Green Car of the Year just two years ago. For 2016, the list included Honda Civic, a car that runs strictly on gasoline.

The good news is this year’s list of finalists includes only pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. We can set aside gas-powered models, fuel cell vehicles, and diesels for the time being. Here are the five cars competing for 2017 Green Car of the Year.

1. Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Pacifica Hybrid is the first minivan with a plug-in hybrid powertrain | Chrysler

Minivans are known for their spaciousness and convenience rather than their fuel economy. Owners are lucky to get over 20 MPG driving a Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, or other popular minivans. Chrsyler Pacifica Hybrid changes that in two important ways. First, it offers about 30 miles of electric range at 80 MPGe with its plug-in hybrid powertrain. Second, it blows away the pack with 28 MPG when operating on gasoline. These upgrades over the competition make Pacifica a strong contender for the award.

2. Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Bolt EV is the only pure electric model up for 2017 Green Car of the Year | General Motors

Of the many automobiles making their way to the U.S. market in 2016, Chevrolet Bolt EV may be the most important of the bunch. It conquers the biggest challenge electric vehicles faced by providing a whopping 238 miles of range at a reasonable price ($37,495) before incentives. In California and other states with EV incentives, Bolt EV will provide a legitimate alternative to gasoline models at less than $30,000. We’d consider Bolt a game-changer on every front and see it as the front-runner for the award.

3. Kia Optima PHEV

2017 Optima Plug-In Hybrid
The all-new Kia Optima plug-in hybrid charges up the midsize sedan segment | Kia

We are big fans of midsize plug-in hybrid sedans like Ford Fusion Energi, and Kia Optima PHEV brings another strong entry to the segment for the 2017 model year. The electrified Optima brings the same powertrain as the Hyundai Sonata PHEV with 27 miles of EV range and fuel economy of 99 MPGe. Technically, the Optima nameplate — including standard and hybrid models — is up for the Green Car of the Year award, so we expect this model to lose to worthier entries. 

4. Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime
Prius Prime claims the best fuel economy of any vehicle in electric mode | Toyota

In terms of shaking up the plug-in vehicle scene, Toyota Prius Prime makes a great case among Green Car of the Year finalists. Prime represents a huge upgrade over the previous Prius with 25 miles of EV range, compared to less than 10 in the first-gen model. Meanwhile, its 133 MPGe in EV mode makes it the most economical car ever released in the U.S. Finally, Prime’s ability to charge on a standard outlet in 5.5 hours makes it as convenient as any green car available. It presents the main challenge to Bolt EV for this year’s award.

5. BMW 330e

The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid in the foreground
BMW 330e delivers a plug-in version of a popular luxury sedan | BMW

Since plug-in technology is still expensive, luxury consumers make up a big part of the EV-buying market. Until 2016, Tesla dominated that market, but BMW made considerable headway with the i3 electric car and X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid SUV. The arrival of the 2017 BMW 330e continues the brand’s offensive in the electric car space. Offering about 14 miles of EV range and 71 MPGe, drivers can slash fuel consumption here without compromising on performance or comfort. As a green car, it’s important but unlikely to win the award.

Source: Green Car Journal

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