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So far in 2012, vehicle fuel economy has hit a record high, as have sales for hybrids and plug-in vehicles -- according to an analysis released by our friends over at NRDC. They're calling 2012 "The Year of the Green Car."

But getting to marking 2012 as the first Year of the Green Car took some doing -- or really some undoing of 30 years of inaction on improving the fuel efficiency of new vehicles.  

So, what's this winning record-high fuel economy number?  23.6 mpg. Due to a quirk, or rather, an outdated testing system, in standards terms this means that vehicles sold in 2012 averaged around 29 mpg (to learn more about this issue, check out our report on testing and standards [PDF]) -- on the way to 35.5 mpg  in 2016. This is good news for our rapidly changing climate, too, as vehicles will also be meeting a new greenhouse gas standard of 250 grams of carbon pollution per mile of in 2016.

It is important to remember that model year 2012 vehicles are the first to be sold under the Obama Administration's historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards.  New standards were in place for 2011 vehicles as well, so we are seeing the start of what should be continued progress through 2025, when this administration's full program is phased in. Then we can look forward to celebrating new vehicles that average 54.5 mpg and emit half the carbon pollution.  

What all this means is that consumers hitting dealer lots have much better choices across the board -- and they are making those better choices, as the analysis behind NRDC's announcement shows.

Additionally, this is not just about small cars getting better mileage: It is important to flag, as NRDC's Luke Tonachel did, that plug-ins are on the way to selling 50,000 vehicles in 2012 and in some cases, despite what the critics say, outselling other vehicles:

(T)he Chevy Volt outsells about half of all U.S. vehicle models available. Among the vehicles it beats are the Audi A3, A5 and A6, the Nissan Xterra and Titan, and several Mercedes and Porsche models. I don't remember seeing them trotted out as market losers.
The fact is that October sales of plug-ins were strong.  My vote is that Plug-In Day had its impact with an estimated 25,000 people joining in events to talk to owners of plug-ins like the VOLT and LEAF and test drive a range of vehicles. Green cars are fueling the new vehicles market and consumers are the better for it -- using less oil, saving at the pump and spewing out less global warming pollution -- a must.

All this talk about green cars, technology and standards raises a question about whether our neighbors the north (Canada) and to the South (Mexico) can similarly look forward to more efficiency vehicles. For Canada, the answer is yes as their standards are harmonized with ours.  

Yet in Mexico it seems that one auto company, Toyota -- the maker of the market leading Prius hybrid -- wants to stand in the way of Mexico adopting standards that would ensure new vehicles in 2016 meet the same fuel economy standards that new cars sold in the U.S. will be meeting.  

My colleagues and Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council report that Toyota made a surprise move to disrupt Mexico’s standard setting process with a lawsuit.

(Interestingly, NRDC's blog calls this a "man bites dog" storym which reminds me that dogs always belong in the car not ON the car -- for a reminder of someone with a differing view on this matter, check out this video we shared over the summer.)

If you're interested in learning about green cars available now, this month's issue of Sierra magazine has an excellent EV Buyer's Guide.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Learn more about the Sierra Club's Green Transportation Campaign. www.sierraclub.org/transportation

    by Ann Mesnikoff on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 09:05:37 AM PST

  •  I ordered a Ford C-Max Energ plug-in this weekend. (6+ / 0-)

    Yea, plug-ins are coming, and Ford's newest just arrived at my local dealer. I've been wanting to move from a diesel to a plug-in, and after test-driving the Ford, I placed an order.

    Ford is also going to offer a Fusion Energi early next years, for those who prefer a more traditional sedan shape. And they've also got hybrids and an all-electric model.

    So we're starting to have some selection, and competition, among the big automakers. They recognize the market is potentially big, and are willing to take the risks and spend the research money to enter it.

    Good things are here, better ones are coming. :)

  •  We are researching an all EV for our next car. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ashaman, Vatexia, divineorder, BYw

    We are a one car household of 4.  My husband bike commutes all year long.

    Thank you for this.  Hotlisting it. :)

    "Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

    by Damnit Janet on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 09:16:09 AM PST

  •  My shiny new red Prius C sits right outside! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nirbama, BYw

    My 2002 Audi A4 Avant had seen better days and I needed a new car sooner rather than later.  I simply couldn't wait to test out the new hybrid Ford Fusion, which is also much more expensive than the Prius C, so opted for a small hybrid.

    I love my Prius C.

    I could be interested in an all-electric vehicle or a plug-in, but I have 100+ mile round trip commute to work, with no access to a charging station while away from home, and I find the price premium for plug-ins to be daunting.

    In the meantime--and Consumer Reports be damned--my Prius C is getting well over 50 mpg in all kinds of driving, more than double what i was seeing with the Audi.

    The icing on the cake for me is that, in the six weeks since I purchased my new car, I've already convinced two friends to look at the Prius C.  One is now the proud owner of an orange one!  The other is dithering.

  •  So many misses in this diary. (0+ / 0-)

    1. T)he Chevy Volt outsells about half of all U.S. vehicle models available. Among the vehicles it beats are the Audi A3, A5 and A6, the Nissan Xterra and Titan, and several Mercedes and Porsche models. I don't remember seeing them trotted out as market losers.

    So the Volt sells around 3500 units and yes that would beat these high dollar imports. No surprise there.

    2.  You missed all of the great mileage non-hybrid cars.  I have a 2012 Focus that gets better mpg than some hybrids do.  I can get nearly 40 mpg on the highway if I keep my speed to 60 mph or lower.

    3.  Electric cars are practically useless right now as none can go very far in electric only mode.   They may work as a commuting car, but that means most would need another car to make longer trips.

    What I want to see is an electric car with a 500 mile range for under 40K.

    •  99% (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw

      I dispute the statement "Electric cars are practically useless right now." My electric car easily covers 99% of my driving needs, both commute and weekend driving. On the rare occasion I need to make a longer trip there are expanding quick charge opportunities. That leaves the even rarer extended trip. I can easily rent a car or find another method of travel for the 1 or 2 times a year I have that requirement, and the in mean time I'm driving emission-free* with way lower fuel and maintenance costs.

      *Yes there are emissions to produce the electricity. Much lower emissions than an internal combustion engine.

  •  And I'm really excited about a new (0+ / 0-)

    technology that is coming on rapidly: Graphene capacitors.

    A capacitor discharges and recharges far, far more rapidly than a battery does, but is limited in the amount of charge it can hold. The addition of graphene, that miracle stuff, whose price has plummeted since it was first developed, fixes that limitation.

    An all-electric car that will charge in 10 minutes, not 5 hours, and can discharge quickly for extra power in an emergency...

    Yeah.

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