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'Green Car of the Year' Finalists Announced

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer October 2011

What's the most environmentally friendly car released this year? We'll find out at next month at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, when Green Car Journal doles out the annual prize - but until then, we can make our own guesses thanks to a recently announced list of the finalists.

According to Green Car Journal, a large field of contenders for the increasingly relevant award was narrowed to just six finalists: the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Civic Natural Gas, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius v and Volkswagen Passat TDI. To qualify, a vehicle needs to be new to the market and must go on sale before January 1, 2012.

Interestingly, the five contenders take several distinct approaches to improving fuel efficiency. Although three finalists use some form of electric power, only two - the Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric - are fully electric plug-in models that don't require gasoline. The other, Toyota's newly unveiled Prius v, features a hybrid drivetrain that uses regenerative braking to recharge its electric motor. And while the Passat TDI's refined turbodiesel engine helps it reach more than 40 miles per gallon on the highway, the Civic is the only car offered today that's powered by compressed natural gas - an inexpensive fuel compared to traditional gasoline.

"This year's Green Car of the Year finalists underscore that there is no single solution to our transportation challenges," said Ron Cogan, Green Car Journal's editor and publisher. "Here we have five exceptional answers to the question of how we're going to increase efficiencies, reduce tailpipe and CO2 emissions, and decrease petroleum use."

Previous winners of the award include the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, Volkswagen Jetta TDI and the Audi A3 TDI. Last year, the Chevrolet Volt narrowly edged out its rival, Nissan's all-electric Leaf, in the eyes of the award's judges - an 11-member panel consisting of automotive and environmental experts like Mario Andretti, Jay Leno, Carroll Shelby and Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

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'Green Car of the Year' Finalists Announced - Autotrader