Southern California AAA Ranks Toyota RAV4 EV as Top Green Car in 2013

By · September 27, 2013

Rav4 EV

Toyota RAV4 EV. (Photo: Brad Berman)

A battery-electric plug-in vehicle is the top green car to own, according to the Auto Club of Southern California. The Toyota RAV4 EV topped the list in the Club’s “2013 Green Car Guide: Plugged Into the Future,” published yesterday. Hybrids took nine out of the top ten slots, however.

“Emissions are just one score out of 13,” said Steve Mazor, the Automobile Club’s chief automotive engineer and automotive research manager. “In many cases other than the RAV4, they [plug-in electric vehicles] are slow. They don’t handle well, generally are not very quiet, and they tend to be small cars and don’t have a lot of room in them.”

The Automobile Club’s Automotive Research Center also considers safety, braking, acceleration, handling, roominess, interior noise, and ease of entry and exit, among 13 criteria. All are rated equally, said Mazor.

“People use these cars,” he explained. By considering factors other than emissions, the Auto Club aims to show “you can buy a car that is more friendly for the environment and do the things you do with any car.”

This year, the Research Center evaluated 77 vehicles, including hybrids, electric vehicles, alternative-fueled vehicles, PZEVs, and conventional vehicles with “class-leading fuel efficiency.” The models are tested for at least a week. A model has to be a green car to even get into the competition, said Mazor.

The results, and total rankings, are included in the Green Car Guide. Besides evaluating vehicles, the Guide explains what makes a car qualify as green—describing different kinds of green powertrains and debunking some myths associated with each.

“There is a much larger choice of green vehicles than people think,” said Mazor. “If you want an SUV or a sporty sedan or just a mainstream mid-sized sedan, you might as well get a green car.”

Tesla Powertrain, But No Tesla Car

The RAV4 EV is only available to consumers in California, and only in very limited numbers. The SUV carries a powertrain produced by Tesla. Under an agreement made in late 2011 between Toyota and Tesla, only 2,600 RAV4EVs will be produced through 2014. The RAV4 EV officially retails for $49,800 and is eligible for $10,000 in state and federal incentives. Yet, more recently, Toyota offered the RAV4 EV for just $299 a month, including incentives, in a 36-month, 36,000-mile lease.

Toyota has sold a little more than 1,000 electric RAV4s to date, Jana Hartline, a spokesperson for Toyota Sales USA told Ranking first on the Auto Club’s green list should help raise awareness of the RAV4 EV, not just as a battery electric vehicle, but also as an all-around useful car, she added.

The Tesla Model S was not on the 2013 list. That is because Tesla would not provide a model for testing, said Mazor. The Auto Club received letters asking about the Tesla’s ranking, he said. As the Model S is now available for rental from Hertz, “we may do that next year,” said Mazor.

Cost is not considered in the total point score, so the Automotive Research Center also compiled a Cost-per-Point list. To arrive at those rankings, it divided the “as tested” Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price for each car by total points. No plug-ins or hybrids made it on the Cost-per-Point top ten list this year. The Nissan Versa 1.6S took top ranking there for the second year in a row.

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