True, we may be concerned about environmental responsibility, and in choosing a vehicle, you might start by checking out the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] Fuel Economy Guide 2018, but fuel efficiency is only part of the story. True, you might want to get a fuel-conscious vehicle, and some compacts range up to 50 mpg, but what if your family isn’t small enough to fit into a compact, or you need a work truck? Clearly, a 50 mpg compact isn’t going to fit your needs.
If you are looking for a truck or SUV, you could look for the best EPA-rated vehicle, but this would leave out another important piece of the puzzle, environmental responsibility, which might include manufacturer’s recycling programs, what kind of materials go into the vehicles, energy-saving programs, or even use of renewable energy. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy [ACEEE], has also taken these factors into account, and a recent ACEEE press release highlighted the greenest and meanest trucks available. Keep in mind that the vehicles on this list aren’t strictly the “greenest” simply because they have the best fuel economy, but for their overall environmental impact.
Small Trucks, SUVs, and Minivans
- Compact Pickup – Toyota Tacoma – The 2.7? manual transmission topped this list. As a matter of fact, at least six Tacoma variations were greener than other compact pickups available this year, including the 4.0? engine with automatic transmission. If you need to carry anything up to 1,350 pounds, the Tacoma is capable and reliable.
- Compact SUV – Toyota RAV4 EV – Toyota has been known for years as a leader in hybrid technology, so when Toyota took the gasoline-powered engine out of the hybrid, all that was left was a pure electric vehicle. The Toyota RAV4 EV is the first of its kind in the Toyota lineup, and is everything that an electric vehicle, and a RAV4, can be. It has seating for five and a range of just over 100 miles. With a starting price of just under $50,000, though, some consumers may balk, but it is tried-and-true high Toyota technology.
- Minivan – Honda Odyssey – With a seating capacity up to eight, the Honda Odyssey minivan, powered by a 3.5? V6, still manages to rate up to 28 mpg on the highway. Starting at just under $30,000, even the base model Honda Odyssey LX comes with great safety features, including anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, and side curtain airbags for all three rows of seating.
- Midsize SUV – Chevy Equinox – Chevy’s 32-mpg crossover, the 2013 Chevy Equinox, packs a lot of styling and features into such a small package. Powered by a 2.4? four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, this midsize SUV carries five passengers and can tow up to 3,500 pounds. The 2013 starts at just over $24,000, but if you’ve been eying an Equinox but are tired of the current look, keep an eye out for the 2014 redesign.
Large Trucks, SUVs, and Vans
- Standard Pickup – Dodge Ram 1500 HFE – Powered by a Pentastar 3.6? V6 engine mated to a Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission, even the full-sized Dodge Ram 1500 HFE pickup gets up to 25 mpg highway. Making use of as much of the available torque at each speed, the 1500 can carry just shy of one ton or tow just over five tons. An available engine start-stop system can save up to an additional 12% in fuel economy.
- Large SUV – Range Rover Evoque – The only luxury vehicle to make it to the top of any of ACEEE’s Green Book, the Range Rover Evoque is a full-featured SUV with standard all-wheel drive. It excels in both on- and off-road handling, still delivering 24 mpg combined. The motor may seem downsized but the turbocharged 2.0? and six-speed automatic are powerful and responsive. It is also somewhat cheaper than other luxury SUVs in the low $40,000s.
- Large Van – Ford Transit Connect Wagon – Built specifically for business, the 2013 Ford Transit Connect has enough cargo space for any business, large or small. The 2.0? Duratec i4 and five-speed transmission have enough torque to heavy loads, and a high enough final drive for fuel economy topping 27 mpg highway. Not bad for a van with a maximum payload of 1,600 pounds.
Fuel economy is very important to manufacturers of every class vehicle, whether commuting or hauling, and modern engine and electrification technology has pushed fuel economy numbers ever higher. Even full-sized pickup trucks benefit from such technology, including cleaner engines, flex-fuel engines, and hybrid power-trains.
Manufacturers are also taking other things into perspective, including recycling programs, such as the Ford Explorer, of which 85% is recyclable at the end of its life, meaning only 15% of it might end up in a landfill, a possible pollutant. General Motors [GM] is also getting greener, and in all of its plants plans to have 125 MW of renewable solar energy installed. Currently, GM is the leader in all automotive manufacturers, 13th in all American industry, utilizing solar to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Look for more information on the ACEEE Green Book and how you can make a greener vehicle choice.
Author B. Jerew is a freelance automotive journalist who cut his teeth as a master-level technician. He contributes to a number of industry-leading automotive blogs, and he’s provided this particular piece in association with Georgia Auto Finance.image source