The Green Car of the Year award is a program designed by Green Car Journal to recognize and honor vehicles that display environmental leadership. For the sixth year in a row, the winner will be announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 18, 2011. This year the 2011 nominees have been narrowed down to five finalists that consist of one pure electric vehicle, one plug-in hybrid, two hybrids, and one gasoline-only powered vehicle.
Representing the EV phenomena, the 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first pure electric vehicle to be named a finalist. Powered by an 80-kilowatt synchronous motor that uses a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Leaf is estimated to get 100 miles per charge. The battery can be charged with a special 220-volt charger in four to eight hours. The five seater midsize hatchback is a zero emissions vehicle that has consumers eager in anticipation of its arrival. In fact, all 20,000 Leafs allotted for the US have all already been reserved.
Finalist number two is the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is a plug-in battery/gasoline hybrid hatchback that can power itself emissions-free for an estimated 40 miles solely on its lithium-ion battery pack. The full charge requires four hours using a 240-volt line or ten hours using a 120-volt line, and after the electric power is fully used the Volt can continue on for as many as 300 additional miles by gasoline.
Hyundai's first hybrid, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, is number three on the list. The family sedan is a full hybrid that uses advances in lithium-polymer battery technology. While the fuel economy numbers for the stylish hybrid have not yet been determined by the EPA, the automaker estimates 37/40 mpg city/highway. Its Direct Hybrid Blue Drive system can be driven at zero emissions and a fully-electric drive mode at speeds up to 62mph or a gas-electric mode at any speed. The 2011 Sonata Hybrid also features regenerative braking.
The second hybrid in the top five is the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. This luxurious hybrid contains a slew of standard amenities and achieves an impressive 41/36 mpg city/highway. The MKZ is powered by a 2.5 liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 Hybrid engine and a nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH). The electric motor powered by the NiMH can endure speeds up to 47mph. Also featured is a Regenerative Braking System that captures energy and uses it to recharge the high voltage battery.
Rounding out the top five is the lone gasoline-only powered vehicle, the 2011 Ford Fiesta. The compact Fiesta features a fuel efficient 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine and utilizes its aerodynamic shape to minimize air resistance and improve fuel efficiency. The vehicle has a class-leading 40mpg highway rating from the EPA which is credited to its six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission.
Altogether the 2011 Green Car of the Year boasts an impressive lineup. Featuring first time electric vehicle finalists and noticeably absent past winners such as diesels and hydrogen/fuel cell vehicles, the title is up for the taking.