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Green Car Top 5

Diesels vie with hybrids for annual enviro-car award.

by on Oct.07, 2009

The 2010 Toyota Prius was an obvious choice for finalist in the Green Car of the Year competition, but the list includes a few surprises.

The 2010 Toyota Prius was an obvious choice for finalist in the Green Car of the Year competition, but the list includes a few surprises.

Hybrids dominate – though just barely – in the run up to the fifth annual “Green Car of the Year,” the annual award that will be announced at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

Designed to recognize vehicles that are making significant contributions to the environment, organizers today announced the five finalists, a list that includes three hybrids: the latest version of the Toyota Prius, the reborn Honda Insight and the new Mercury Milan Hybrid, as well as two diesel-powered vehicles: the Audi A3 TDI and Volkswagen’s new Golf TDI.

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The choices reflect a few surprises.  For one thing, the midsize Mercury Milan was picked instead of the more popular Ford Fusion Hybrid.  And jurors left out several Ford “eco” models, the maker’s growing list of vehicles, such as the Taurus SHO and Flex, using the new EcoBoost gasoline engine.  Also left off were the new hybrids or diesels from General Motors, Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

The list of Green Car finalists delivered a few surprises, including two diesels and the Mercury Milan Hybrid, which beat out the more popular gas-electric version of the Ford Fusion.

The list of Green Car finalists delivered a few surprises, including two diesels and the Mercury Milan Hybrid, which beat out the more popular gas-electric version of the Ford Fusion.

Nor did little Tesla make the list with its Roadster battery sports car, but that reflects the goal of the Green Car award, to honor vehicles “readily available to consumers,” a qualification that the $109,000 sports car – which is being sold at a rate of just 100 a month – probably doesn’t meet.

Then again, the fact that the jurors this year had so many models to choose from reflects the steady mainstreaming of environmentally-friendly powertrain technology.  It’s barely a decade since the first hybrid reached U.S. shores, and diesels were all but non-existent until recently.

“We’re seeing the trend for ‘green’ cars emerging at all levels,” said Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal, and GreenCar.com, which sponsors the annual award, “from entry-level cars to luxury models, and even performance cars and SUVs (and) crossovers.”

Cogan also noted that, as the diversity of the finalist list suggests, manufacturers are finding a variety of different ways to meet the environmental challenge – not only with alternate powertrains, but through the use of lightweight materials, for example, advanced tires and more aerodynamic designs.

The winner – to be announced during the L.A. Auto Show’s Media Days, on December 3rd – will be chosen by a panel that includes celebrity collector Jay Leno, motorsports legend Carroll Shelby, Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of the legendary undersea expert, Sierra Club’s Carl Pope and others.

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