AAA Selects Top Green Vehicles

AAA Honors Earth Day 2011 With Advice for 'Green' Vehicle Purchase

Media Contact: Cynthia Harris

Walnut Creek, April 13, 2011

In recognition of the upcoming Earth Day 2011, AAA Northern California is revealing its top picks for ‘green’ vehicles.

“The huge influx of ‘green’ technologies into the auto market is a big benefit to consumers,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “Increasing efficiency means that less fuel is burned for every mile driven. That’s great news for the environment and our pocketbooks.”

AAA’s top picks are selected by its auto buying experts who test drive and evaluate hundreds of vehicles each year. More information about alternative fuels is available at AAA offers a no-haggle car buying service with pre-arranged pricing to its members. Visit for details.

Electric Vehicles (EV’s)_

Electric Vehicles are fully electric vehicles and do not use gasoline at all. Motorists typically plug them in to a charging station at night or while not in use in a parking garage for example.

  • The Nissan Leaf is the standout in this category. The car is comfortable and the driving experience is enjoyable. Depending on traffic, speed and temperature, owners can expect to travel 50 to 80 miles on a single charge. That’s well within the range of most daily commutes. Enhancing the Leaf’s appeal, charging stations are increasingly available in the cities where this car is sold.
  • The Mini E Electric and the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive are also available (for lease only) in very limited numbers. Ford is planning on producing an electric version of its promising new Focus in the near future.


Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV’s)

Plug-Ins use a rechargeable battery pack that allows the car to travel up to 35 miles before the onboard gasoline engine starts. In some cars, this engine will provide power to the drive wheels. In other models this engine powers a generator that delivers power to the motor driving the vehicle while also recharging the batteries. Unlike fully electric vehicles, a plug-in hybrid is limited only by the range of its gas tank.

  • Currently, the Chevrolet Volt is the only commercially available PHEV offered by a major automaker. The Volt is currently available in select states, including California, and will be available nationwide by the end of the year. It can be plugged in overnight and driven 25 to 40 miles before the gasoline engine starts to recharge the batteries. Watch for the Toyota Prius PHEV to arrive later this year.


Gasoline-Electric Hybrids

These cars and trucks use a gasoline engine and an electric motor. A full or parallel hybrid can run on either the gasoline or electric motor, or use both for maximum performance. A mild hybrid uses the electric motor to aid the gasoline engine, which must always be running when the car is moving. Full hybrids can travel on electric power alone.

  • For fuel economy and minimal environmental impact, the Toyota Prius is hard to beat.  Its fuel economy is outstanding, with many owners reporting 50-plus miles to the gallon in daily driving. The Ford Fusion also delivers impressive fuel economy, and its transitions from electric to gasoline power are exceptionally smooth. The Hyundai Sonata hybrid is also impressive, with its roomy and family-friendly interior. The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ hybrids can hit speeds of up to 45 miles per hour and travel for more than two miles using only battery power.


Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

Natural Gas is a mix of methane, propane, ethane, butane and other components that naturally occur in the ground. Typically it contains 70 to 90% methane. When purified, natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels. CNG is the same as regular natural gas except that it's stored under pressure in tanks to save space

  • While many gasoline-powered vehicles have been converted to run on compressed natural gas, which is abundant and produced in the United States, the Honda Civic GX is the only sedan that comes from the factory with this ability. CNG vehicles use a standard piston engine.


Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles

  • The regular internal combustion engine is getting greener, too. An excellent example of an economical gasoline-powered vehicle is the new Chevy Cruz Eco. In AAA testing, this very attractive compact averaged 36 miles per gallon.
  • Diesels are not often thought of as being “green,” but the latest generation diesels produce fewer tailpipe emissions and significantly reduce carbon dioxide output. Today’s diesels are so clean they meet environmental standards in all states, including those that have adopted the more stringent California emissions rules. Among diesel powered cars, the Audi A3 is a standout.


AAA Northern California offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services and consumer discounts to nearly 4 million members. AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 100 years ago.

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