Newest electric cars make hybrids green with envy

It’s a good sign when cars once considered among the “greenest” around find it harder to hold on to that distinction.

The growing range of choices in hybrid and electric cars has put ever-growing pressure on automakers looking to earn fuel-efficient accolades such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) annual Greener Cars list.

“Earning a spot on the ‘Greenest’ list is proving to be a real challenge for automakers given the variety of vehicle technologies on the market and the proliferation of highly efficient conventional vehicles,” said Shruti Vaidyanathan, the ACEEE’s lead vehicle analyst. “Just using the latest technology does not guarantee a top spot.”

This year, according to the ACEEE, if you’re a US motorist looking to boost your “green cred” with a new car purchase, the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the way to go.

The battery electric vehicle, making its debut this year in the US market, has earned the ACEEE’s highest Green Score ranking ever: 58 out of a possible 100. Because it’s electric, its efficiency isn’t measured in miles per gallon but in miles per kilowatt-hour, which is this case is 3.8  in the city and 2.9 for highway driving. If that doesn’t sound all that impressive, this should: that’s the equivalent of 112 miles per gallon for city and highway driving combined.

“Even taking into account the emissions generated from the electricity used to power the i-MiEV, it still handily outscores other vehicles on the market today,” Vaidyanathan said.

The Mitsubishi also usurped the long-time previous Green Score leader, the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which has held the ACEEE’s top spot for the past eight years. That Honda model now ranks second, followed by the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight and the Smart ForTwo.

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