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2011 Green Car of the Year Contenders, Start Your Engines... or Electric Motors

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author photo by Autotrader October 2010

Finalists for the 2011 Green Car of the Year award have just been announced by the title’s organizer: Green Car Journal. They are the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Nissan Leaf. The five were chosen from dozens of nominees, but are considered to best represent the current green car market.

The inclusion of two electric vehicles on this year’s list, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, mark the first time any EV has ever been in the running for this award that honors “environmental leadership in the automobile field.” The 2010 year winner was the Audi A3 TDI. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI (with the same diesel-powered engine as the A3) took the title in 2009. For 2011, there isn’t one diesel among the top five contenders.

Although the predominantly electric Volt and all-electric Leaf are obvious candidates, the other contenders have their merits. Ford’s small Fiesta hatchback, capable of up to 40 mpg on the highway, shows that the gasoline engine continues to become more efficient and displays a manufacturer’s willingness to offer such a small, stylish car in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai Sonata and Lincoln MKZ hybrids present new, relatively inexpensive possibilities for buyers looking to go green without making appreciable sacrifices in driving dynamics or horsepower.

“These 2011 Green Car of the Year finalists represent an industry in transition,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal. “It wasn’t long ago when electric drive was a novelty. Now it’s expected that auto manufacturers will include electric drive in some form among their offerings.”

The award is presented each November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Aside from the diesels, past winners include the low-volume Honda FCX Clarity for 2008, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid for 2007 and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid for 2006.

Jurors include automotive celebrities Jay Leno and Carroll Shelby, as well as Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club, Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defense Council, and leaders of other top environmental organizations.

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2011 Green Car of the Year Contenders, Start Your Engines... or Electric Motors - Autotrader