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World Green Car of the Year: Who gets our vote? The Green Piece

So the finalists have been revealed for the World Green Car Award, which will be announced at the New York International Auto Show on April 21, 2011 (see article). The shortlist consists of: the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics; the Chevrolet Volt; and the Nissan LEAF. The three candidates were selected by three green experts appointed by the World Car Steering Committee. However, when the three vehicles are so different – they all feature contrasting powertrains – how do you select a winner? As we’re not part of the voting process (maybe next year!) we thought we’d share our vote with you – but first, let’s take a look at each of the nominees.

BMW 320d EfficientDynamics

It hasn’t had the fanfare of the Volt or the LEAF primarily because it uses a powertrain that the masses are more familiar with, but that hasn’t stopped the BMW 320D EfficientDynamics (see article) turning heads with its own environmental brilliance. The clean diesel model has an official combined figure of 68.9mpg and its CO2 emissions are a meagre 109g/km. All of this while boasting remarkable performance figures as it can race from 0-62mph in 8.2seconds, has a top speed of 137mph and develops 163hp between 3,500rpm and 4,200rpm. It benefits from a host of environmentally conscious features including regenerative braking, electric power steering, auto start-stop and an all-aluminium crankcase.BMW 320d effdyn saloon It actually participated in a road challenge from London to Munich last year (see article) and achieved a staggering 1,013miles on a single tank. At no point did its fuel efficiency drop below 65mpg and it achieved highs of 75.9mpg. It’s a remarkable statistic because if it could achieve more than 1,000miles per tank in real world driving, the average driver would only have to fill up around 12 times a year – and even driving normally they may be able to achieve 750-800miles each time.

Chevrolet Volt

Few vehicles have dominated headlines quite like the range-extended Chevrolet Volt (see article), which is known in Europe as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera. It can run for 41miles purely on electric power from its lithium-ion batteries while solving the issue of range anxiety with a small battery engine that starts once the electricity runs down. As a result it is capable of 350miles with a full battery charge and a full tank of petrol.2011 Chevrolet Volt While its range may not be as impressive as the BMW 320d, the fact that it is emissions free for 40miles – which is said to be sufficient to cover the daily driving habits of 75 per cent of Americans – certainly makes it a greener option. However, controversy has swirled over its classification and it has, somewhat harshly, been regularly compared to the Nissan LEAF, which is a pure battery electric model. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given the Volt a fuel economy rating of 60mpg, taking into account its capacity to power its motors using its petrol engine – this is well below the Nissan LEAF’s 99mpg equivalent (see article). However, the comparison seems somewhat callous when the Volt conquers the issue of range anxiety and the petrol engine only kicks in after 41miles. It’s a strong contender for the award having already been named Green Car of the Year by the American publication, the Green Car Journal.

Nissan Leaf

Already named the European Car of the Year (see article), the Nissan LEAF is the world’s first mass-marketed zero emission vehicle and has taken battery electric vehicles to a whole new level.Leaf The LEAF is a four-seat C-segment hatchback which is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can reach a top speed of 90mph with an incredible range of 100miles. Critics will point to the fact that it is not truly a zero emission vehicle because the electricity it uses is widely sourced from coal and other fossil fuels. However, as the electric grid takes more of its power from renewable sources the Nissan LEAF will become greener. Initial orders on its home turf in Japan were through the roof (see article) and quickly reached the target set for the whole year. By contrast in the US, uptake has been slower primarily due to the lack of recharging infrastructure while in the UK it is scheduled to be released this month.

Our verdict – The Leaf has it

All three models are highly deserving of the accolade and it shows how far green cars have come that we’re no longer simply looking at slightly more efficient models when considering this award – we’re actually embracing new technologies that could shape the way we drive in the future. The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics exemplifies just how far diesel technology can go; while the Volt is a welcome bridge from the era of the internal combustion engine to electrification, helping drivers get used to the concept of electric drive without the fears of range anxiety. However, our pick for the award is the Nissan LEAF simply because it puts the future right in our hands. The LEAF shows just how effective electric cars can be with its incredible range of 100miles and it will not look out of place on our roads now. In fact not only do we think the LEAF should get the award, but we predict it will receive the honour – it is also one of three finalists for the World Car of the Year Award 2011. Nevertheless, whichever car wins, it’s clear it’s good to be green.

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Nissan, BMW, Chevrolet, The Green Piece

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