Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970, an annual event that falls on April 22. On that original holiday, millions of Americans celebrated clean air, water and land. Since then, Earth Day has taken on global proportions and is celebrated in nearly every country.
To mark this auspicious occasion, CARFAX has identified certain gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that you might consider. Each one sips fuel and emits far fewer emissions than their gasoline counterparts, thanks to a drivetrain composed of a gasoline engine, one or more electric motors and a battery source to store electricity.
Think “hybrid” and the Toyota Prius should come to mind. That’s understandable as Toyota sells more hybrids than all other manufacturers combined. Indeed, this automaker sells more than a dozen hybrids through its Toyota and Lexus brands.
The Prius has been on the market since 2001 and has since evolved into a line of four vehicles, including the subcompact Toyota Prius c. What makes the Prius worthy of your consideration is its roomy interior, 51/48 mpg city/highway fuel economy and high residual values.
Your toughest decision is whether to choose a Prius V wagon, the subcompact Prius c, the traditional Prius hatchback or the new Prius Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Each one offers special advantages ranging from optimal passenger room with expansive storage capacity, to extended electric-only driving range.
The Honda Insight arrived on the market six months ahead of the Toyota Prius in 1999, but Honda’s hybrid fortunes have not made much of a dent. Indeed, the original model, a two-seater, was offered from 2000 to 2006 and averaged 48/58 mpg city/highway.
Honda gave the Insight a second try in 2010, delivering a larger model closer in proportion to the original Toyota Prius. After five years, the second generation Honda Insight was also canceled. Fortunately, the Honda Accord Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and the hybrid Honda CR-Z can still be had.
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Among domestic manufacturers, Ford has had the most success with hybrids. In 2010, the company introduced the Ford Fusion Hybrid and has kept with the model through generational updates.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid dispenses with the traditional egg-shaped hybrid visage to present a model that is nearly identical to the gas-powered version. The original Fusion Hybrid was built from 2010 to 2012 and had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack.
The second generation Ford Fusion Hybrid has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. It is rated at 44/41 mpg city/highway. You can also select the Ford Fusion Energi — a plug-in hybrid variant — or the Ford C-Max, a compact model with hybrid and plug-in hybrid offerings.
Lexus CT Hybrid
Also known as the Lexus CT 200h, the CT Hybrid is the smallest of six hybrid models offered by Toyota’s luxury brand. It may share its underpinnings with the Toyota Prius, but this model has Lexus styling written all over it.
Introduced in 2011, the CT Hybrid is prized for its lower stance, sporty suspension and improved handling. It is the type of hybrid for people who want something beyond uninvolved steering while achieving a consistent 43/40 mpg city/highway.
Other small hybrids to consider from this brand include the Lexus NX 300h and the Lexus HS 250h.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Hyundai threw its hat into the hybrid ring beginning in 2011 when it released the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Unlike some manufacturers that have relied on a continuously variable transmission (CVT), in the Sonata Hybrid you have a standard six-speed automatic transmission present.
In the first-generation Sonata Hybrid (2011 to 2015) the transmission is paired with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. Energy is stored in a lithium-polymer battery.
Beginning in 2016, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid keeps the lithium-polymer battery, but uses a smaller 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a more powerful electric motor. This hybrid is rated 39/43 mpg city/highway.
As with Hyundai’s other vehicles, the Sonata Hybrid is competitively priced and comes with such features as dual-zone climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and keyless entry. A top-end Limited edition brings in a navigation system, leather seating, an upgraded sound system and larger wheels. You might also consider the Hyundai’s cousin, the Kia Optima Hybrid, when shopping the Sonata Hybrid.
Infiniti Q50 Hybrid
Among the luxury hybrids, the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid may offer the best blend of high quality materials, style, performance and fuel efficiency. Indeed, for people who want to flout their green credentials within preeminent styling, the Q50 Hybrid is worth considering.
The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid is rated as high as 29/36 mpg city/highway. It achieves a combined 31 mpg and nets 354 horsepower with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and an electric motor, which are paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. On the market since 2014, an all-wheel drive variant is also available.
Infiniti offers four trim levels for its high-end hybrid. Standard equipment includes: heated front seats, a power tilt and telescopic steering column, leather seating, a 14-speaker Bose audio system and a moonroof.
Besides Infiniti there are many other upscale hybrid models to consider. Among them are: the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Lexus GS 450h, Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid, BMW ActiveHybrid 5 and the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid.
Your hybrid choices are many and include a number of sedans and hatchbacks. Among used vehicles a handful of trucks and SUVs are also available, including the GMC Sierra Hybrid, Ford Escape and the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid. This Earth Day you can mark the occasion by shopping for an efficient hybrid, just one form of clean driving to benefit the planet.