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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Green Car Rating

Air Date: Week of March 20, 1998

The money spent on roads is only one part of the transportation equation. Another major factor is the type of vehicles that use those roads. A new report aimed at consumers examines the pollution potential of new cars and rates them on a scale of one to one hundred. Steve Curwood spoke John DeCicco who co-authored the report The 1998 Green Guide to Cars and Trucks from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in Washington, DC.

Transcript

CURWOOD: The money spent on roads is only one part of the transportation equation. Another major factor is the type of vehicles that use those roads. A new report aimed at consumers examines the pollution potential of new cars and rates them on a scale of 1 to 100. The 1998 Green Guide to Cars and Trucks was put together by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in Washington, DC. The Council's transportation director, John DeCicco, co-authored the report. He says the most environmentally friendly car, with a score of 56, is General Motors' electric car, the EV-1.

DECICCO: Electric vehicles always do very well because they avoid tailpipe emissions, the kind of in-your-face pollution that is among the most damaging to public health. Natural gas vehicles do very well. In fact, the second vehicle on the list is a version of the Honda Civic, the GX compressed natural gas or CNG vehicle. Then, as we go down, say, the top 12, we have the small subcompact cars that have very high fuel economy. Things like the Chevy Metro and Suzuki Swift, and a Mitsubishi Mirage and a Honda Civic. Sprinkled in there, we also have one large car, amazingly, and that's Ford's Crown Victoria in the CNG compressed natural gas version.

CURWOOD: Now, you said the electric cars that top you list only get a rating of 56 out of a theoretical 100. What could they do to get a better rating?

DECICCO: Well, to provide sufficient energy, you need a lot of battery and it's very heavy. That added mass drags down the efficiency of the vehicles.

CURWOOD: Let's talk about money for a moment. What does it cost to have a clean car technology? What does it add to the price of a car?

DECICCO: Well, it depends on the technology. To go into, say, a zero emission level, with an electric vehicle, right now the only really commercially available technology is a pure battery. And batteries are inherently very expensive. So that boosts the cost of the car quite a lot. But as you look down the road at what's happening in technology, hybrid vehicle options that can get by with a lot less battery are under development. In fact, Toyota has started selling one in Japan. And then fuel cell technology is something in which many of the auto makers are now investing heavily and holds promise of really having, in the long run, costs little or no different than what we see today.

CURWOOD: Now, we want to hear about your dirty dozen. The worst cars.

DECICCO: Well, of course.

CURWOOD: Of course.

DECICCO: What we have in the 12 worst vehicles for the environment list are 10 large sport utility or heavy-duty 4-wheel-drive pickup vehicles, plus a couple of Italian exotic sports cars. The Ferrari 550 and a Lamborghini Diablo. The vehicle that tops the list this year is actually the Lincoln Navigator, in the 5.4 liter, 8-cylinder 4-wheel-drive version. It's important to remember, when we highlight, say, in this case the 12 worst vehicles, we're talking about particular models there. You can buy Navigators or the similar Ford Expedition without 4-wheel-drive. You don't need to get the largest engine option. It's important to consider what your actual requirements are and not let yourself be oversold on features that you don't really need, because many of those features create a lot more pollution.

CURWOOD: John DeCicco is co-author of the 1998 Green Guide to Cars and Trucks from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

 

 

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