AAA has released its 2014 Green Car Guide (PDF), a 140-page document that discusses what it means to be green, how to be a greener driver, how to shop for green cars, what choices are available and what green cars are on the horizon. Most importantly, the guide evaluates and ranks 83 different green vehicles, from high-mileage gasoline vehicles to battery electric cars, and everything in between. This year's king of green vehicles, according to AAA, is the Tesla Model S.
Despite some interpreting this to mean that AAA is calling the Tesla Model S (with 85-kWh battery) the greenest car, the scoring system only includes two "green" categories out of the 13 evaluated: emissions and fuel economy; the Tesla earns 10 out of 10 in both, but so do every other EV on the list. The other categories include braking, crashworthiness, visibility, slalom handling, ride quality, interior noise, acceleration, ease of entry and exit, interior size, turning circle and luggage capacity. The Model S scored very well (more than 7 out of 10 points) in every category except the last four mentioned. So, this isn't about whether the Tesla is the greenest of the lot. Instead, it's about the AAA deeming it the best all-around car of the green bunch.
AAA also calculates the cost per point for the 83 cars tested. The best green car value, according to this evaluation, is the gasoline-powered Chevrolet Spark 1LT at $229 per point. The Tesla Model S is in the bottom five, at $953 per point. So while the Tesla might be AAA's best green car, those points don't come cheap.
The best green car value is the gasoline-powered Chevrolet Spark 1LT at $229 per point.
In terms of the greenest car available, there are other evaluations out there. For instance, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its own list earlier this year, using broader methods for evaluating what makes a car green, including emissions, fuel economy, curb weight and battery weight (the latter two are used to inform environmental impact of production and disposal). Their top three green cars are the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, Toyota Prius C and Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Model S isn't even in the top 10. Oh, and let's not forget Green Car Journal's Green Car Of The Year, the Honda Accord. Still, which car would you rather drive every day?