Last week, the Automotive Science Group (ASG) released its 2016 Automotive Performance Index study findings. These findings demonstrated the stark differences in performance merits that differentiate conventional and alternatively powered cars and SUVs in 2016.
According to the API study index findings, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs), for the most part outperform their conventional combustion counterparts from a life-cycle environmental performance view.
However, to many’s surprise, conventional gasoline powered vehicles outperform alternatively powered vehicles from an economic performance view. This to some extent relates to the recent plunge in gas prices throughout the United States and globally. So wherein lies the balance between these competing priorities for new car buyers?
When comparing the over 800 model year 2016 cars in North America in a head to head life-cycle assessment, the ASG’s study was unable to isolate a single vehicle with a conventional combustion (fully gas-powered) engine earning a place on ASG’s Best 20 Environmental Performance List.
Perhaps that’s not the biggest surprise. For those wondering, the all electric Nissan LEAF topped the list with the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any model year 2016 car.
Topping the Best 20 Economic Performance list was the 2016 Nissan Versa, while earned the the status of the lowest cost of ownership, though the Versa was listed at #26 in terms of environmental performance, with a 49% environmental performance deficit when compared to the #1 LEAF. Only one vehicle with an advanced hybrid configuration made the Economic Performance List – the Toyota Motor Corp’s Toyota Prius c at #19.
As far as the best balance of economic and environmental performance, the ASG’s Best 20 All-Around Performance List had only five alternatively powered vehicles:#1 Nissan LEAF, #2 Ford Motor Company’s Ford Focus Electric, #3 Toyota Prius c, #5 Toyota Prius Two Eco, and #14 General Motors Company’s Chevrolet Volt.
The other 15 positions were held by vehicles with more conventional powertrains. The highest ranking conventional car was the Chevrolet Spark coming in at #4, with an all-around performance score falling just 5% short of the #1 Nissan LEAF..
Only five of the nine SUVs with hybrid and PHEV configurations made ASG’s Best 20 Environmental Performance List (SUV). The remaining 15 spots were occupied by fully gas-powered SUVs. Topping the list was the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, with the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any model year 2016 SUV.
The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 2016 Jeep Patriot earned the lowest cost of ownership of all model year 2016 SUVs and topped ASG’s Best 20 Economic Performance List (SUV) for the fifth consecutive year since 2011. The list possessed almost all conventional powertrains, with no hybrid, PHEV’s or diesel engines.
Similarly, ASG’s Best All-Around Performance List (SUV) was dominated by conventional powertrains with the the RAV4 Hybrid as the only outlier. The 2016 Mazda CX-3 topped the list and was named ASG’s BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE SUV of 2016.
So what does that mean for car companies moving forward? It looks like for the time being, it’s still cheaper to have a gas-powered car than an electric car, meaning technology and gas prices are going to have to change before the electric car revolution can sink deeper into the mainstream.