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No EVs make it to the top 5 of AAA’s Green Car Guide best value list

We have made the case off and on over the years that EVs and diesel cars may not be the best value for those trying to buy a green car. AAA’s branch in the heart of green-car country now makes that point.


In its most recent Green Car Guide, AAA of Southern California breaks the best green cars in America into two lists. The first list is the top 5 overall best green cars. It is bracketed by two of the top selling fully electric cars available in America. The top car on the overall list, the Tesla Model S P85, has a price ranging from about $80K to about $130K depending upon your options list. Number five on that list is the very affordable, due to taxpayer incentives, Nissan Leaf. Interestingly, the value list has no electric or plug-in cars in the top five.

AAA’s annual Green Car Buyers Guide is no small effort. Just the report is 140 pages long. In its evaluation of the green cars in the market the club considers everything from safety, to cost to operate, and of course the cars’ green attributes. Energy efficiency and emissions make up much of that consideration. The five cars on the value list are all gasoline powered, non-hybrid cars. EV advocates call these ICE cars, as in internal combustion engine. How can they be considered green?

We could lay out the argument that the emissions of these cars is shockingly low and their energy efficiency surprisingly high. The emissions are so low that they are barely measurable by most methods. We could explain that their fuel economy is so good that they have a cost to operate better than many hybrids. Then we could do a cost of ownership analysis and lay out the case that if value is important, the electrification of a car may exclude it from some folks’ consideration. However, if we did that our readers would direct their ire at us personally. So it is with great relief that we simply act in this case as a news organization reporting to you, the reader, that AAA in the land of the green car has done this analysis and found that gasoline powered green cars are still the best value in the land.

According to AAA of Southern California here are the top 5 Best Green Car Value Vehicles:
1) Chevy Spark 1LT (Gasoline powered, not the EV version)
2) Hyundai Elantra GLS (38 MPG highway)
3) Nissan Versa SV (40 MPG Highway, 35 MPG combined)
4) Scion iQ (37 MPG combined, but less than 200 sold per month)
5) Nissan Versa Note SV (AAA loves the Versa)

We find it a little odd that the Scion iQ makes the AAA list given that it barely sells. Clearly, the AAA list does not have a factor for “availability in the real world.” The only Toyota family product that the Scion iQ outsells is the Lexus LFA supercar. That said, maybe being on such a list will spur sales?

Feel free to read the full report (you may want to make a sandwich before diving in), and then comment below about why the Leaf and Prius C could not make their way to the top 5 value green cars. Or, feel free to fire off your comments without reading the report. We value your opinion and like to expand the dialogue.

Related Stories:
Toyota Corolla tops all hybrids, diesels, EVs in small family car cost of ownership
The surprising truth about diesel fuel
Evidence mounts that the Chevy Spark EV is the best overall electric vehicle


Luke Ottaway    May 28, 2014 - 8:29PM

This is interesting. To be fair, conventional vehicles are getting better at using less fuel, and remain significantly cheaper than electrified or diesel vehicles. However, I don't think the results tell the full story. Consumer Reports is the source to trust for "total cost of ownership" analyses, and they came to a very different conclusion. In their 2014 cars issue, the magazine found that in 5 out of 11 vehicle segments (excluding sporty cars and all five SUV segments that lack quality hybrids), the most inexpensive vehicle to own was a hybrid. Not plug-ins, granted; those still command too steep of a price premium to top their segments just yet.

John Goreham    May 28, 2014 - 9:11PM

In reply to by Luke Ottaway

I agree. I am very surprised that the Prius C or sedan didn't make it to the top 5 of the affordable, or even top five overall. I am also surprised the Leaf did not make it to both lists given the huge financial incentives. A lot depends on how much weight a given attribute is given. Apparently, the green aspect is not strongly emphasized by this club's algorithm. It seems to me this list is simply 5 of the least expensive cars in the California marketplace. I've never seen a Scion iQ in person.