To help those in the market for a green car or truck, the 160-page, comprehensive fifth annual AAA guide reviews 88 battery electric vehicles, compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) vehicles, clean diesels, hybrids, partial zero emission vehicles (PZEVs), and vehicles with high fuel economy. These vehicles were tested and scored by the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) in 13 categories (braking, fuel economy, emissions, handling, ride comfort, etc.). The report also contains comprehensive information about green technologies from the ARC evaluators.
“Low-emission vehicles and hybrid choices vary in quality, price and size. The AAA Green Car Guide is one of our ongoing programs to help consumers navigate the wide-ranging green car marketplace,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “AAA’s expertise and history of automotive research with alternative fuel vehicles continues to benefit AAA members and the public today.”
“The center also has a long-term interest in helping motorists cut their fuel bills and clean the air,” said ARC Manager Megan McKernan. “Green vehicles offer motorists a way to reduce emissions and save fuel and, depending on the choice of green vehicle, can help motorists save cash, especially when gas prices are high,” she added.
“For the 2015 guide, the research center divided the vehicles into six car classifications and identified the winners and finalists in each category,” said McKernan. “We also recognized overall ‘Green Car’ and ‘Best Value’ winners,” she said. “The Tesla took two awards – best overall and large car category.”
In describing the top-scoring green vehicle manufacturer, which held onto the top spot from last year, McKernan said, “All evaluators rated the Tesla high for comfort and ride quality. It handled well on our slalom course, and it has the best acceleration times of all the vehicles.”
The Tesla P85D has a 253-mile range, but even with a 240-volt charger, it can take 12 hours to fully re-charge, according to McKernan. “Despite charging time, the Model P85D was our top-scoring electric vehicle this year.”
The 2014 Nissan Versa SV tops the 2015 guide list as the best green car value when price is factored in, according to McKernan. “It’s priced under $17,000, averages about 35 miles per gallon and has a spacious interior making it an affordable fuel-sipping car,” she added.
The research center tracks significant changes to a vehicle from model year to model year. If no significant changes were made to the power train in 2015, a prior model year’s results were used. For example, staff tested a 2014 Mazda3 sedan. No significant changes were made to its powertrain in 2015, so the 2014 results were include in the 2015 AAA Green Car Guide.
Overall Top Scoring Green Cars:
1. 2015 Tesla S P85D Performance (Electric) 94.87
2. 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium (Electric) 85.50
3. 2014 BMW i3 (Electric) 85.40
4. 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium Partial Zero-Emissions 83.86
5. 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE Clean Diesel 80.91
Best Value: Cost-Per-Point Scores:
1. 2014 Nissan Versa SV (Gasoline) $249
2. 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV (Gasoline) $260
3. 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS (Gasoline) $269
4. 2015 Toyota Yaris LE (Gasoline) $273
5. 2014 Kia Soul+ (Gasoline) $276
2015 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners:
Large car: Tesla Model S P85D (Electric)
Midsize: Audi A7 TDI Quattro Tiptronic (Clean Diesel)
Compact: Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium (Electric)
Subcompact: BMW i3 (Electric)
SUV/Minivan: Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium (PZEV)
Pickup Truck: Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat (Gasoline)
The ARC’s engineers and technicians – who have more than 100 years combined experience – evaluated the vehicles. Each category was scored on 0-10 points. Scores were totaled to determine top vehicles. Then, each vehicle’s total score was divided by its “as-tested” price to determine its cost per point for best value. The guide lists vehicle specifications, test scores, data and observations in one-page summaries.
Tested vehicles were selected based on emission certifications from the California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings. Tests were performed at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and on Southern California roads. Testing procedures were developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the EPA and the Auto Club.
The guide will be available to AAA members at no charge at AAA branches while supplies last. It also can be downloaded on the iPad or on the AAA web site. More information can be found at www.AAA.com/greencar.