Hyundai and diesel vehicles leading charge for cleaner auto fleets

HOUSTON — Stronger fuel economy standards drove universal declines in average emissions from the eight top automakers’ fleets this year, though Detroit’s Big Three are lagging, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

This is the first year that all eight best-selling automakers reduced their average greenhouse gas emissions compared to their 1998 fleets in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ environmental ranking. Hyundai-Kia offered the best average environmental performance, displacing 2013’s greenest fleet, Honda, which lagged this year in the midsize class, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported.

Hyundai-Kia vehicles emitted 15 percent less global-warming pollution and 13 percent less smog-forming pollution than the national average.

The group noted that the average new car emits about 20 percent less global warming pollution and nearly 87 percent less smog-forming tailpipe emissions compared to 1998.

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Meanwhile, the three major U.S. automakers — Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler — showed higher than average emissions, the report noted. Chrysler, which has shown the slowest improvement over the past decade, received the group’s “dirtiest tailpipe” award.

“Vehicles sold by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler produce significantly more pollution than the national average,” the Union of Concerned Scientists said. “Ford is improving the fastest by selling more hybrids and by using turbochargers to power smaller, more efficient engines (without reducing performance).”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a Cambridge, Mass.-based alliance that advocates using scientific analysis to guide government policy, corporate practices and consumer choices.

AAA recognizes diesel

In AAA’s 2014 Green Car Guide released this week, five diesel vehicles ranked among the auto club’s top 10 picks for greenest vehicles. While Tesla’s electrtic S P85 and Toyota’s electric RAV4 EV took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, Audi’s A7 TDI Quattro came in third. Three other Audi vehicles and the Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC also ranked among the top 10.

AAA assessed vehicles based on their fuel economy, emissions and harm to people and the environment. It noted that diesel-fueled passenger vehicles are more popular in Europe than in the U.S., where they suffer from negative reputation for being noisy, dirty and rough-running.

“None of these qualities applies to modern diesel cars, however — they’re smooth and quiet and emit virtually no odors,” AAA wrote in its report.

Average passenger-car fuel economy has reached 25.4 miles per gallon this year, up from 17.4 miles per gallon in 1985, according to AAA.

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