The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy last week released its latest “Green Book” ratings on 2011 car models’ environmental impact. The number one spot went for the eighth year to the Honda Civic GX CNG, which is powered by compressed natural gas, followed by the all-electric Nissan LEAF and the conventional-engine, but petite, Smart ForTwo. Hybrids Toyota Prius, Honda Civic hybrid and the Honda Insight round out the top five.
The question “Which Car Is Greenest” is becoming more and more complicated as consumers’ options grow. These ratings go beyond simply measuring tailpipe emissions and fuel use. Greencars.org (the ACEEE’s Green Book site) looks at a fuller “life cycle assessment” of each vehicle, including the “impacts of a product from ‘cradle to grave’: materials production and product manufacturing; emissions and other effects when the product is in use; through end-of-life effects of disposal and recycling.”
The Green Book also rates the “meanest” cars, those with the worst implications for the planet. While SUVs and light trucks were heavily represented at the bottom of the list, the worst was the Bugatti Veyron. Fortunately for the planet, it is not likely to dominate car sales any time soon, since it is also the world’s most expensive car model, with a price tag of $1.7 million.
In a distantly related story, a blogger for cars.com reported that his 2011 Chevy Volt sustained some $600 in damage when a rat visited the electric car, which was attractively warm from recharging, and chewed through some wiring while staying toasty during a chilly Chicago night. (The damage, an “act of nature,” was not insured.)
Does this mean that electric cars are a bad idea, or that a plague of rodents will overwhelm Chevy Volt owners? Probably not. But it is a reminder that every new invention or technology has unintended consequences, particularly once it is rolled out to scale. Isn’t the real question how to restructure how we live such that human beings across the world do not need to own personal-use vehicles? By reducing global issues to questions of technology, we are in danger of missing the need for truly revolutionary change….in mindsets.
Photo: 05-06-10 © Dimitris Stephanides via iStockphoto