We’re often told by plug-in skeptics, certain right-leaning media outlets and of course our honourable nemeses at BBC Top Gear that electric cars are responsible for more environmental damage and a higher carbon footprint during their manufacture, use and recycling than a conventional, gasoline-powered vehicle.
But now we’ve got some proof — from the Automotive Science Group no less — which places electric cars at front and centre in its 2014 Automotive Performance Index. What’s more, the ASG says that the 2014 Nissan LEAF is the car with the smallest life-cycle environmental footprint of any 2014 model year car capable of seating at least four passengers on sale in the U.S. today, beating every other plug-in and non-plug-in car in terms of the social, economic, and environmental impact it has.
Scientifically derived using complex algorithms, the 2014 Automotive Performance Index examined more than 1,300 cars on sale in the U.S. today, and looks at the environmental impact of each car from its manufacture through to its recycling, as well as its sociological and health impact in addition to more conventional benchmarks like top speed, specification and safety.
“This U.S. assembled, battery electric vehicle with an estimated 84 mile driving range is the best selling all-electric car in the world for good reason,” said the ASG in its official press release last week. “Now consumers can be confident that the increased environmental impacts of manufacturing the battery electric technology is more than offset with increased environmental performance during operational life.”
Moreover, the ASG says, even with the current U.S. electricity grid mix average — which varies state by state and region by region in its carbon footprint — owning a LEAF is environmentally beneficial, and will only get more so as the U.S. electrical grid cleans up its energy mix.
The Nissan LEAF wasn’t the only plug-in car to do well in this year’s study from ASG. In fact while the LEAF won overall and in the mid-size class in terms of its life-cycle environmental footprint, the Ford Focus Electric won in the Compact Car Class. Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S won for Best Environmental Performance in the full-size cars class for its zero-emissions drivetrain and eco-friendly manufacturing process.
Other plug-in cars, like the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and Ford C-Max Energi came in the top five for best all-round performance in the mid-size car class.
In true scientific style, the ASG has shared both its methodology and the forty-five key indicators (or standard) it uses when rating each vehicle, making it easy to see how the scores were derived. Covering everything from the raw material extraction used to produce the vehicle through to the way the vehicles are shipped to U.S. consumers, the labor and human rights of the people who manufacture the vehicle and even the economic cost of ownership, we think this has to be one of the most comprehensive ways we’ve ever seen of figuring out just which car you should buy.
You can see the 2014 Index for yourself by downloading it here, or you can skip the break to view it below.
AUTOMOTIVE PERFORMANCE INDEXTM AWARDS – MODEL YEAR 2014
2014 MINI-COMPACT CARS
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Mitsubishi Mirage
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Mitsubishi Mirage, Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Mitsubishi Mirage
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Chevrolet Spark
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Mini Cooper Clubman
2014 COMPACT CARS
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Ford Focus Electric
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Ford Focus Electric, Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius c, Honda Insight, Nissan Versa Sedan BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Ford Focus Electric BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Nissan Versa Sedan
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Ford Focus Electric
2014 MID-SIZE CARS
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Leaf
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Leaf, Ford C-Max Energi & C-Max Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Prius Hybrid, Honda Accord Plug-in
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Leaf
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Nissan Sentra
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Leaf
2014 FULL-SIZE CARS
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Hyundai Sonata
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Impala, Tesla Model S, Ford Taurus, BMW 328 Gran Turismo
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Tesla Model S
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Hyundai Sonata
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: BMW 328 Gran Turismo
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Toyota Prius v
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Toyota Prius v, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, BMW 328 Turbodiesel, Honda Crosstour, Toyota Venza
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Toyota Prius v
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: BMW 328 Turbodiesel
2014 CROSSOVER SUVs
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Mazda CX-5
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Jeep Patriot, Buick Encore, BMW X1
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Mazda CX-5
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Jeep Patriot
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: BMW X1
2014 MID-SIZE SUVs
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Rogue
BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Kia Sorento, Subaru Forester BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Lexus RX 450h
BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Nissan Rogue
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Rogue
2014 FULL-SIZE SUVs
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid BEST 5 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Nissan Pathfinder
BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Nissan Quest
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: Honda Odyssey BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE: Dodge Grand Caravan BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Nissan Quest
Note: ASGʼs class distinctions are data-driven and adhere to the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 40 Section 600.315.08, 1 July 2013) Classes of Comparable Automobiles. 2014 classifications are based on the calculated interior volume index. Automobiles that fall at a class intersect are further evaluated by interior and exterior dimensions to develop an advanced footprint model that minds the class gap. Further adjustments were made to combine mini-compact and sub-compact models into ASGʼs Mini-Compact category. EPA designated small SUV and standard SUV classes were separated by ASG into Crossover, Mid-size and Full-size SUV categories according to the calculated interior volume index. ASG determined that these three categories better reflect the market given the distinct size differences among sport utility vehicles available to consumers in 2014.
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