The American Automobile Association has released a list of their top picks for the greenest cars of the year, following close on the heels of Kelly Blue Book’s official recommendations. Unsurprisingly, the lists are similar. Let’s face it: there just aren’t that many quality eco-friendly vehicles cruising our roadways as of yet. But as gas prices continue to soar, we can probably expect that number to increase significantly. So if you’re thinking that this might be a good time to start considering some of the options when it comes to greener vehicles (that will not only save you at the pump, but also cut your carbon footprint), then perhaps you’ll want to check out some of AAA’s approved green automobiles for 2011.
In terms of gasoline-electric hybrids, the Toyota Prius gets AAA’s seal of approval. Although this may seem like a bold statement concerning the Japanese car manufacturer (which has suffered further recalls this year), keep in mind that the cars being recalled are all older models. The newer model Toyota’s are probably safer than anything else on the road at this point. And it’s easy to see why this car won in its category. It is completely affordable for most families, with a base price of $23,000, and extremely economical after purchase with an estimated 50+ mpg. Also notable in this category were the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and incredibly, the Audi A3 (currently powered by diesel to the tune of 42 mpg, but it will be available in a hybrid version later this year).
The top pick for plug-in hybrid is the Chevy Volt, which has been getting a lot of buzz over the past year. Although it is a bit more expensive than your run-of-the-mill gasoline-electric hybrid, with a starting price of almost $33,000, you can definitely expect some exciting extras for the dough. For one thing, you don’t need a charging station to plug it in; you can use a standard 120-volt outlet (although it will take 10 hours to charge by this method, while 240 volts will charge it in just 4 hours). Once charged, however, you can expect a range of 25-40 miles before your gasoline engine kicks in, and you’ll get up to 100 mph while running electric. And best of all, charging will cost you about $1.50 per day, saving you a lot at the pump.
Finally, there are the fully electric cars to consider, and the Nissan Leaf nabs the number one spot in this category. Although the price is comparable to the Volt, you can expect to receive up to $7,500 in government tax rebates, dropping your initial cost much closer to the Prius. Also, keep in mind that you will have no cost for gas (although you will have to install a charging station and it is estimated that the cost of electricity comes out to the equivalent of about $0.75 per gallon of gas…not too shabby). And with zero emissions, you’re doing your part for the environment, as well. The car is comfortable, consistent with Nissan standards, and you can expect 50-80 miles out of a single charge, making it ideal for most commuters.