Feb 28, 2024 - Business

This year's greenest car might surprise you

People looking at a 2024 Toyota Prius Prime at a car show in Detroit in September 2023.

People looking at a 2024 Toyota Prius Prime at a car show in Detroit in September 2023. Photo: Adam J. Dewey/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This year's most environmentally friendly car is the plug-in hybrid electric Toyota Prius Prime SE, according to a report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Why it matters: The hybrid, which can be driven using nothing but electric power, edged out ahead of the most "green" electric vehicle (EV), the Lexus RZ 300e.

Driving the news: The GreenerCars assessment analyzes 1,200 cars available in 2024, measuring the emissions and pollutants generated while the vehicles are on the road and as they are being manufactured and assembled.

  • Of the top 12 eco-friendly vehicles, seven of them were full EVs, including four of the top five.
  • The EVs were significantly more expensive than the five hybrids among that group excluding the fully electric Nissan Leaf, which was the third-cheapest car at $28,140.

The big picture: However, that's after the average price of EVs dropped by nearly 20% in 2023, though that was largely due to price cuts from Tesla, according to Cox Automotive. (Cox Automotive is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Axios.)

  • Despite a major surge in EV sales last year, many automakers are still putting emphasis on hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
  • For example, Honda on Tuesday, unveiled the CR-V e:FCEV, a new zero-emissions plug-in hybrid that runs on battery electricity and hydrogen.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Joann Muller: ACEEE's analysis fits in with the public's current hesitation toward electrification.

  • In recent months, many consumers have opted for hybrids, which accounted for a majority of the top-10 best-selling electrified models last year.

Yes, but: While plug-in hybrids can on paper contend with EVs in terms of their environmental impact, people who own plug-in hybrids don't always plug them in.

  • That means they're driving around on gas more than they think they are.

Fun fact: The least expensive car on the group's list of green vehicles, the Toyota Corolla, was more than $12,ooo cheaper than the least expensive model among the least environmentally friendly vehicles, the Jeep Wrangler 4dr 4X4.

  • The estimated annual fuel cost of the Corolla, a gas hybrid vehicle, was also $2,300 lower than that of the Wrangler, which is fully gas powered.
  • The least-green vehicle was the fully gas-powered Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680, which has a recommended sticker price of around $234,000 and an estimated annual fuel cost of over $3,000.

Go deeper: Report: Apple cancels electric car to focus on artificial intelligence

Go deeper