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Cleanest & Greenest Cars Comparsion

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I went over the Solar Today spreadsheet in some more detail. Assuming that the owner of a particular vehicle uses “best practices” i.e. fuels their vehicle using the cleanest fuel available for that car, and making some crude estimates of the embedded carbon footprint of the energy costs of building the car in the first place, these are my estimates based on their spreadsheet for the 10-year carbon footprint costs of owning a particular car.

The SUV listed are the hybrid versions. Electricity fuel is assumed to be from wind or solar ie the owner asks their utility company to provide them with “100% green electricity”. Diesels are assumed to be powered from B100 biodiesel, and that diesel is assumed to be 60% less embedded fossil fuel total grow cycle compared to gasoline. E85 is assumed to be slightly i.e. 10% better total fuel cycle than gasoline – although the numbers about how much better if any ethanol is which I have seen vary widely. CNG I am using US government figures of being 90% cleaner. PHEVs I am assuming that 90% of the miles are from electricity – i.e. that their owners are very good citizens re resisting the temptation to run them in gasoline mode. Ask me if you want a copy of my spreadsheet. Based on these assumptions, my conclusions are:

  • Electric vehicles come out on top.
  • Plug in hybrids do very well but they still have a carbon footprint about 2X bigger than electric cars
    • (this surprises me because I am a big fan of PHEVs!)
  • CNG vehicles do very well even though they are fossil fuel
  • Biodiesel vehicles do very well
  • Even the best current small hybrids do much worse
  • Even current motorcycles do much worse
  • Bioethanol from corn vehicles are a cruel joke
  • SUVs and trucks are a disaster even if they are hybrids

Here’s some quick comparisons:

  • A Tesla is about 10X cleaner over its lifetime than a Camry (assuming the Tesla is charged by windpower or solar.
    • Its about 8X cleaner than a tiny Smart Car.
  • A Chevy Volt is about 7X cleaner over its lifetime than a Lexus Hybrid SUV
    • Its about 6X cleaner than its kissing cousin the Chevy Malibu

James Adcock

To open, edit, and to perform your own calculations use the link below


Cleanest and Greenest Car Comparison
Calculations provided by James Adcock (jimad@msn.com)
SOLAR TODAY EFFICIENT CAR ROUNDUP 12k mile 12k mile 12k mile 12k 12k 12k 12k 12k CO2 CO2 CO2
10-year 12k mile E-mode E-mode E-mode fuel cost bioD fuel CO2 fuel per per embed
total Manufacturer Model GVW mpg Price Seats Drive HP Drive type Fuel CO2 carbon carbon carbon kWh CO2 cost lbs cost mile mile
best comb direct footprint footprint footprint Gasoline B100 B100 corn corn bio fossil
lb lb 100% coal 50% coal PV/wind Diesel lb US$ E85 E85 lb lb lb
8,100 Tesla Roadster (R08) 2,700 $100,000 2 RWD 248 EV250 Li 0 4,110 2,055 0 $330 8,100
15,274 Chevy Volt (R2010) 3,700 45 $35,000 4 FWD 160 Phev40 Flex 5217 4,110 2,055 0 $877 1,056 $1,120 0.09 0.43 11,100
16,317 Toyota Prius PHEV (R09) 3,700 45 $25,000 5 FWD 110 Phev40 Gas 5217 4,110 2,055 0 $877 1,056 $1,120 0.09 0.43 11,100
19,245 Honda Civic GX 3,620 28 $24,000 4 FWD 113 CNG CNG 8385   $1,286 0.70 10,860
20,152 VW Beetle TDI (D) 3,784 45 $20,000 4 FWD 110 Tdiesel D 870 $1,133 880 $1,200 0.07 0.07 11,352
20,152 VW Golf TDI (D) 3,784 45 $20,000 5 FWD 110 Tdiesel D 5969 $1,133 880 $1,200 0.07 0.50 11,352
21,604 VW Jetta TDI (D) 4,268 45 $25,000 5 FWD 110 Tdiesel D 5969 $1,133 880 $1,200 0.07 0.50 12,804
21,961 VW Jetta TDI (R08) 4,387 45 $30,000 5 FWD 140 Tdiesel D 5969 $1,133 880 $1,200 0.07 0.50 13,161
43,258 Honda Insight (D) 2,380 65 $18,000 2 FWD 90 Hybrid Gas 3612 4,110 2,055 0 $607 731 $775 0.06 0.30 7,140
57,697 MotoGuzzi 73 850T MC 600 42 $900 2 RWD 50 Gasoline Gas 5590 $940 1,131 $1,200 0.09 0.47 1,800
61,882 Toyota Prius 3,615 46 $23,000 5 FWD 110 Hybrid Gas 5104 $858 1,033 $1,096 0.09 0.43 10,845
63,408 Toyota 95 Tercel (D) 2,937 43 $4,500 5 FWD 93 Gasoline Gas 5460 $918 0.45 8,811
64,962 M-B Smart Fortwo 2,090 40 $12,000 2 FWD 71 Gasoline Gas 5869 $987 1,188 $1,260 0.10 0.49 6,270
66,757 Honda Civic Hybrid 3,620 42 $21,850 4 FWD 110 Hybrid Gas 5590 $940 1,131 $1,200 0.09 0.47 10,860
83,712 Chevy Malibu (L) 4,717 27 $22,750 5 FWD 170 Hybrid(I) G/Flex 8695 $1,462 1,760 $1,867 0.15 0.72 14,151
84,747 Nissan Altima (L) 4,535 33 $23,000 5 FWD 200 Hybrid Gas 7114 $1,196 1,440 $1,527 0.12 0.59 13,605
85,107 Toyota Camry 4,655 33 $23,000 5 FWD 192 Hybrid Gas 7114 $1,196 1,440 $1,527 0.12 0.59 13,965
87,666 Chrysler Sebring 4,180 25 $20,000 5 FWD 189 Gasoline Flex 9391 $1,579 1,901 $2,016 0.16 0.78 12,540
90,556 Subaru 96 Legacy Wagon 4,100 30 $4,500 5 AWD 130 Gasoline Gas 7826 $1,316 1,584 $1,680 0.13 0.65 12,300
101,102 Saturn Aura Green Line 4,717 27 $23,000 5 FWD 164 Hybrid(I) Gas 8695 $1,462 1,760 $1,867 0.15 0.72 14,151
103,654 Honda Accord (D) 4,453 26 $31,000 5 FWD 200 Hybrid Gas 9030 $1,518 1,828 $1,938 0.15 0.75 13,359
111,845 Lexus GS450h 4,675 24 $59,500 5 RWD 339 Hybrid Gas 9782 $1,645 1,980 $2,100 0.17 0.82 14,025
116,113 Ford Escape SUV 4,680 23 $33,000 7 2/4WD 160 Hybrid Gas 10207 $1,717 2,066 $2,191 0.17 0.85 14,040
119,098 Toyota Highlander SUV 5,675 23 $33,000 7 2/4WD 200 Hybrid Gas 10207 $1,717 2,066 $2,191 0.17 0.85 17,025
129,812 Lexus LS600HL 6,006 21 $105,000 5 RWD 400 Hybrid Gas 11179 $1,880 2,263 $2,400 0.19 0.93 18,018
Fuel prices 4/2/2008
CNG 3.00 US gal equivalent
Gasoline 3.29 US gallon
Diesel 4.25 US gallon
E85 3.50 US gallon
B100 4.50 US gallon
Electricity 0.11 kWh
D=discontinued: price shown is Blue Book for final year
L=limited distribution: check local availability
I=Idle cut-off/boost system: "hybrid" drive means engine halts and restarts automatically; modest regen braking and electric boost at full throttle
A=Available as option
R=Reported limited availability in specified model year
  After initial 40 miles. Carbon calculation assumes 80% of mileage is electric, and charging source is carbon-free
C02 content gasoline 20 pounds per mile
diesel 22 pounds per mile
coal 1 pounds per kWh

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