With electric trucks and SUVs coming, is it time to reevaluate what a green car means?

Over the past ten years, the green-car landscape has made progress in fits and starts. 

Since the 2011 Nissan Leaf that we named our original Best Car To Buy—rated at just 73 miles—electric cars have evolved rapidly. In 2020, Tesla rolled out range boosts for all of its models—including a 402-mile Model S. Lucid announced a model that will cover more than 500 miles on a charge. Rivian trucks with more than 400 miles of range are due to be delivered in 2021. And a Ford electric vehicle that achieves 300 miles—the Mach-E—is being delivered right now. 

2021 Lucid Air

2021 Lucid Air

Amid this fixation on range—and the correspondingly heavier manufacturing footprint for vehicles with such huge battery packs—we continue to wonder if we should have set an efficiency cutoff for electric vehicles. And should it be versus other electric vehicles, or versus equivalent gasoline models?

GM, for instance, is developing a GMC Hummer EV that will achieve more than a 350-mile range—out of more than 200 kwh of battery. This will not be an efficient electric vehicle. But is that beside the point?

2022 GMC Hummer EV

2022 GMC Hummer EV

Several years ago we took hybrids out of contention for the annual awards. And while we still cover hybrids of all kinds, and diesels specifically for trucks, because of the efficiency boost they bring, the arrival of accessible electric trucks from Rivian and Lordstown could change that in 2021. 

Meanwhile, plug-in hybrids are a great idea for easing the transition to fully electric. But ten years on, they still seem to be having trouble with the idea of offering enough plug-in electric range to be useful for the typical American daily round-trip driving commute of about 32 miles. The original Chevy Volt did it, with 35 miles of EPA range, and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has offered 32 all-electric miles since its introduction three years ago. 

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Pickings are slim; the Toyota RAV4 Prime offers 42 miles, and it was the only new model with an engine under the hood to make the cut this year. All while a number of PHEVs arrived with around 20 miles of electric range or less. 

We didn’t realize we were making this so tough. Should we include plug-in hybrids next year? Should we loosen the standards? Or take them out completely? And should we draw a line on what kind of electric car is a green car? Your thoughts are welcome below.

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