Does a shortage of green in your wallet have you considering greener choices at the dealership?

With gas prices more than $4 per gallon, many drivers have suddenly seen the (green) light, seeking regular fuel and hybrid models that squeeze every last mile out of a gallon.

So what does “green” really mean when it comes to buying a car?

Each year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, analyzes how cars rate when it comes to the environment. The group looks at greenhouse gas emissions, fuel economy and criteria pollutants. As well as ranking the best and worst in various vehicle categories, the council also ranks the greenest (best) and meanest (worst) overall.

The green score rates an auto’s environmental impact on a scale of 0 (worst) to 100 (best), based on a vehicle’s output of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, both during the manufacturing process and on the road. View the meanest and greenest cars on the following page.

Greenest cars for 2008

Ranking Make/Model Mpg (City) Mpg (Hwy) Green score Est. fuel cost 1 yr
1 Honda Civic GX 24 36 57 $884
2 Toyota Prius 48 45 53 $1,338
3 Honda Civic Hybrid 40 45 51 $1,467
4 SmartForTwo 33 41 49 $1,810
5 (tie) Toyota Yaris 29 36 46 $1,930
  Nissan Altima Hybrid 35 33 46 $1,813
7 Toyota Corolla 28 37 45 $1,991
8 (tie) Mini Cooper Clubman 28 37 44 $2,201
  Ford Focus 24 35 44 $2,201
  Toyota Camry Hybrid 33 34 44 $1,813
  Honda Civic 26 34 44 $2,127
  Honda Fit 28 34 44 $1,991

Meanest cars for 2008

Ranking Make/Model Mpg (City) Mpg (Hwy) Green score Est. fuel cost 1 yr
1 Volkswagen Touareg 15 20 14 $4,198
2 (tie) Bugatti Veyron 8 13 17 $6,510
  MB GL320 CDI or R320 CDI 18 24 17 $3,570
  Jeep Grand Cherokee 17 22 17 $3,756
5 (tie) Lamborghini Murcielago 8 13 18 $6,510
  Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI 18 24 18 $3,399
  Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG 11 13 18 $5,423
  Hummer H2 12 16 18 N/A
  GMC Yukon 2500 12 16 18 N/A
  Bentley Azure or Arnage 9 15 18 $5,918

* Annual fuel costs calculated by Fueleconomy.gov based on a price of $4.11 per gallon, and 15,000 total miles per year (55 percent city driving, 45 percent highway).

Sources: Rankings and green rating from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2008; estimated annual fuel costs by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy via FuelEconomy.gov.

ACEEE’s top green pick for 2008 is the Honda Civic GX, which runs on natural gas. “It does really, really well on the criteria pollutant side of things,” says Shruti Vaidyanathan, vehicle analyst for the council. “It also gets pretty good fuel economy.”

The Civic GX gets the equivalent of 24 miles per gallon city and 36 mpg highway, according to Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, estimates.

What are some factors that make a car hard on Mother Earth? Diesel fuel, large powerful engines and big vehicles, says Vaidyanathan. Because many offer lower mileage, they also tend to be harder on the wallet, too.

First on the meanest list is the Volkswagen Touareg. The main reason comes down to one word: diesel, says Vaidyanathan. “Diesels have gotten cleaner and cleaner over the years,” she says. “But there are still more criteria pollutants being emitted from a diesel than from a gas-powered vehicle.”

Of the group’s 12 meanest picks for 2008, five run on diesel, five use premium gas and two use regular gas.

Greenest and meanest cars in 2008

1. Honda Civic GX 1. Volkswagen Touareg
2. Toyota Prius 2. Bugatti Veyron
3. Honda Civic Hybrid 3. MB GL320 CDI or R320 CDI
4. SmartForTwo 4. Jeep Grand Cherokee
5. Toyota Yaris 5. Lamborghini Murcielago
6. Nissan Altima Hybrid 6. Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
7. Toyota Corolla 7. Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG
8. Mini Cooper Clubman 8. Hummer H2
9. Ford Focus 9. GMC Yukon 2500
10. Toyota Camry Hybrid 10. Bentley Azure or Arnage
11. Honda Civic    
12. Honda Fit    
 
1. Honda Civic GX


Specs:

1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, automatic transmission, runs on natural gas

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