“Green” SUV Of The Year Must Refer To Profits…

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When the Green Car of the Year Award finalists were announced, we were dismayed and a bit confused. When the winner was announced, it was anticlimactic. But with the list of finalists for the “Green SUV of the Year Award,” it’s just plain ridiculous. A press release announced the 2016 finalists and it is nothing but a list of new SUVs with only one that could almost qualify as green — the Toyota Rav4 Hybrid.

I drove the Toyota Rav4 Hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show two weeks ago because I previously owned a 2010 Prius for 6 years and was excited to see how it compared. However, I was hardly able to tell that it was a hybrid other than from the badging on the outside. The 2010–2015 Prius gets 45-50 mpg, which was very respectable and had noticeable modes that it would switch into which actually changed the way the car drove and sounded. The mileage on the Rav4 Hybrid in comparison is a measly 33 city / 30 hwy. That’s opposite of normal gas cars since the electric part of the drivetrain is extremely efficient in the city, which is where the hybrid excels.

model_x_1Back to the list… in addition to featuring mostly pure gasmobiles, the list also has a HUGE hole in it which I probably don’t need to tell our readers… but the Tesla Model X is nowhere to be found. The newly revamped BYD e6 is even more affordable, has ~200 miles of range and is also strangely absent. The BMW X5 xDrive 40e and Volvo XC90 T8 — two plug-in hybrids — also didn’t make the list for some reason. Here are the finalists they actually selected (I added the mpg numbers for reference):

  • BMW X1 xDrive28i (22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy)
  • Honda HR-V (25 mpg city, 31 mpg hwy)
  • Hyundai Tucson (26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy)
  • Mazda CX-3 (29 mpg city/35 mpg hwy)
  • Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy)

These awards seem to only exist to give credibility to the naysayers and people who sit in the corner yelling “greenwashing,” to which I now can only say… yup. I’m honestly not clear if the award was relevant at one point and only goes on existing because they started it as an annual award — so it must continue to exist annually vs a more relevant frequency — or if they just don’t care enough to have the integrity to only offer up cars that are truly green and not just the “Best of the Worst.” Either way, I’m dismayed.

I’m curious what our readers think. Is this as good as it gets this year? It is better than nothing? Or is this a case where the famous Abe Lincoln quote is all too applicable: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”?

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1638 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field

24 thoughts on ““Green” SUV Of The Year Must Refer To Profits…

  • Hilarious. In a very disappointing way. Dark humor at its best.

  • What a sad field of vehicles on the short-list. I assume the Model X and the German offerings were excluded for being too expensive.

    Could be worse… Don’t they do an award for Green Pickups too?

    • What’s worse is the Green Luxury Car of the Year Award….yeah, it’s a real thing. doh.

      • Perhaps I missed something….
        You refer to “they”, who don’t care enough to have integrity etc, but you never say who “they”are.
        This article could be improved if you included the name of the organisation that hosts/sponsors this award.
        Is it simply a motoring website or magazine? A blog? Or is it some sort of “official” body?
        Who are the judges and what are the judging criteria?
        Having answers to these questions would provide context for the story.

        • The intent was not to slam the organization and lay them out bare but rather, to shed light on how silly the award seems with its “green” title. I’m not a fan of greenwashing…

          A quick Google search can reveal the details for anyone who is interested.

          • Ummmm…. agree to disagree here.
            You wouldn’t be slamming the organisation simply by naming them. It’s just a fact, one which your readers have a reasonable right to expect to learn if clicking on a story. Part of the simple “Who, what, where, when, why and how” of even the most basic news story. Information that I would expect to find in the first paragraph, to provide context and logical structure for the rest of the story, should I choose to read it. Such choice would be based on my assessment of the importance/relevance of the story to me, and such assessment would be based on the “summary” contained in the opening paragraph.
            I don’t know what your editorial policy looks like, or if there’s a definite “house style” or tone, but I tend to hold Cleantechnica to a higher standard. It might be appropriate to talk about “them” and “they” on a facebook group post, when everyone knows who “they” are. But not if you want to be taken seriously as an independent source of reliable information.

            Remember that you have readers from all over the world. I’ve never heard of these awards before. Are they international? US based? Is it the motor manufactures that decide the nominees and the winners? Journalists? The public? When were these awards started? Where can I find a list of previous winners? Do they have a ceremony, like the Oscars, where everyone gets dressed and smiles for the camera on a red carpet? Does ANYONE take the awards seriously? Do they actually influence consumer behaviour in any way? Are these awards endorsed by any reputable organisations? Or have they been subjected to criticism by some trusted voices that I might recognise?
            Something. Anything. I need some sort of context, otherwise it’s just malicious gossip.

            Yes, I could probably go onto google and find the missing information for myself. But then again, I could probably go onto google and find ANY information.
            In which case, why would I need YOU?
            The public relies on any number of trusted journalistic sources to filter through the vast flood of information out there, find items that are relevant to a specific audience, check the facts, do some background research to provide context, and explain to us why something might be important, and perhaps provide a summary of alternative opinions and sources for further reading.
            By all means, simply mention the “organisation” behind these awards, with a hyperlink that I can click to find out more if, for whatever reason, you think it would be unwise to mention them by name (for some weird reason I can’t imagine but I’ll just trust you on this one…) Or a link to their own webpage. Or to a list of various motoring awards and the organisations behind them

            But asking me to go and google it? No, sir. That is YOUR job. For which you are getting paid.

            I hope you don’t take this criticism as negative, I’ve read a bunch of your stories and they’re generally well written and well researched. If criticism is forthcoming, it is because I am holding you to a higher standard than I would expect from the average blogger.
            I expect better.

          • That is helpful feedback and you make a solid point for more detail. I will lean farther forward against the mental line that stopped me from sharing more detail for this type of article. It’s always good to look for areas to improve.

          • No worries.

          • Damn good attitude. I wish more authors thought that way. One won’t even read the comments and discover how he comes across (and when he screws up).

          • Thanks, Bob 🙂 We’re all on this journey together and I view communication as the most important piece of the whole pie…if we can’t talk about it, we’re not going to make it very far.

          • Thanks to brunurb I now have a bit more context, and I can understand your reluctance to “out” the offending “news source”, especially as Cleantechnica has recently launched its own similar award. If your own awards take off, they have the potential to be a lucrative source of ad revenue.
            So there is a bit of an ethical tightrope to be negotiated.

            My own 2 cents’ worth of advice here would be: “The truth will set you free.'”
            Just report the facts. Something along the lines of:

            “In the #### issue of “Green Car Journal”, the magazine has revealed the 20## winners of its annual “Green Car Awards”, prompting a flurry of debate and controversy across social media platforms.
            The magazine, which has a current circulation of #### and subscriber base of ####, has been publishing an annual list of “Green Cars” since 20###. In the early years, the winners included the groundbreaking ### ### and the ### ####, but more recent nominees have left environmental advocates and regular readers of the magazine increasingly confused.”

            (Drop in screen-caps of a couple of tweets, maybe one from a prominent green spokesperson, or a celeb Tesla owner (Oprah?), and one from a former reader of the magazine (does brunurb have a twitter account?)

            “It is not completely clear what criteria are used by the Journal for deciding their so-called “Green Car Awards”. The most recent winner was the ####, which has an EPA fuel efficiency of ####mpg, leaving it in ####th position on the list of most fuel efficient cars available for purchase in the US. Similarly, the second place vehicle was the ####, with fuel efficiency of ####mpg, coming in at number #### on the list.”
            “There were no pure EVs on this year’s list, and the only hybrid is the ####, a model that enjoyed scant sales of only #### vehicles in the past year, a track record that leaves it in the category of what is known in the industry as a “compliance car”. (Many car companies manufacture low-emiison models in small numbers in order to satisfy the requirements of California’s CARB system, which then allows them to sell higher-margin gas guzzlers into that large market.) Noticeably absent from the list of “Green Cars” were any Battery Electric vehicles (BEVs), which are seen by many, including the ####, as the future of sustainable transport.
            BEVs that have seen brisk sales over the past year include the iconic ### Model ####, which has been voted Best #### by ####, and the #### ####, the best selling BEV of all time.”

            And of course, you would give them a fair chance to reply.

            “The publisher of the Green Car Journal, Mr Ron Cogan, defended the choices by claiming that ###### ##### ”


            ” ….. Mr Ron Cogan, did not respond to our request to comment on the matter.”

            But generally better to actually get a quote from the guy, as they usually tangle themselves up in their own complicated justifications, and the average reader can read between the lines just fine.

            It’s also perfectly fine to get a quote from some or other respected source in the industry, to weigh in with their opinion, criticising the publication or its award, so that you don’t have to do it yourself. If it’s an opinion, you can just slap some quotation marks around it and that puts it into THEIR mouth, not yours:
            “According to ###### ####, the noted ##### of the ####-winning documentary “#### #### ###” many so-called “green” awards are anything but.
            As to the Green Car Journal’s annual award, Mr #### diplomatically stated: “I don’t wish to criticise any particular media outlet, but I think the integrity of any award process can be judged by looking at the advertising base of the publisher.”
            CleanTechnica approached #####, an independent media analytics company, to conduct a survey of the Journal’s advertising base. To conduct their survey, they obtained advertising rates directly from the Journal’s website, and computed the total ##### and #####, based on the standard industry practice of #####. According to their analysis, the top three advertising contributors to the magazine were #####, #### and ####. Annual adspend by each of these corporations was conservatively calculated to be $###,$####
            and $#####.
            Ms ### #####, a spokesman for the #### Motor Corporation, was asked about this apparent conflict of interest, and responded that she could not reply on the record as to how the Corporation’s advertising budget is allocated.”

            BOOOM! Wrecked! With a polite smile on your face.

            Something along those lines would be a complete massacre of the integrity of the fake awards and its publisher, whilst maintaining your own. And the story has the potential to go “viral” as other media outlets would find it very easy to quote a well-researched article with solid numbers and identifiable spokespeople, that can be fact checked quickly by means of a google search and a few emails. NBC, NY Times and Fox (and so on) don’t put their own necks on the line and don’t risk alientating their own advertisers, because they’re just re-reporting. And they can always add their own spin to the story by getting some extra quotes from their own sources, or by speculating on which car SHOULD have won the awards. This way, you get THEM to do the slightly more wishy-washy job of speculating and opining. You could still have other articles on your own website from guest contributors that are speculative in nature, referencing comments from your own readers etc, but these would be clearly identified as follow-up opinion pieces and would be lighter in tone.
            But you have firmly staked your claim to the high ground, with a strategy that is completely defensible.

            Double/triple bonus. CleanTechnica becomes a trusted “source” for all things renewable. Other outlets start approaching you directly when they need a quick pithy quote to round out a story.
            You get lots of back links to your story, improving its ranking on all the search engines.
            Advertisers are kinda obliged to come to you if they want to be taken seriously.
            And you’re likely to start getting a better quality of press release for your “advertorial” content, if companies know that they can’t just submit unsubstantiated rubbish.

            See how this works?
            Cool beans. Onward and upward!
            (Sorry, don’t mean to tell you how to do your job. It was just my two cents’ worth, after all. Maybe you got a few extra cents for free, who knows? Use it, don’t use it. just my personal opinion, I’m not an expert, you can’t sue me if it doesn’t work, results not guaranteed, may cause spontaneous flatulence, etc etc all the usual disclaimers….)

          • Indeed. Commendable attitude.
            Whether I’m right or wrong doesn’t matter so much as the fact that the writer of the article even reads the comments, and is prepared to consider criticism without launching an attack.
            I like this guy.

          • Since i’m not a writer for this site, I have no problems outing the source of the “Green Car” award and why a lot of people think it’s BS 🙂

            It’s a magazine, Green Car Journal. Mostly run by one guy, Ron Cogan. I used to subscribe, but stopped after a few years when i realized that Mr Cogan favors gas cars with higher-than-average mpg, as “green”, rather than EV/PHEV, regular hybrid, or even fuel cell. In addition, guest articles thinly disguised as advertisements (including one I remember a few years ago touting the benefits of natural gas fracking, written by the CEO of a drilling company!)

            He stretches the concept of “green” way beyond what most people do, and a lot of actual cleantech enthusiasts think he’s pretty horrible at understanding actual green technology.

          • Thanks.
            It all makes a lot more sense now.
            And all the more reason for Cleantechnica to “walk the high road” in terms of journalistic standards, lest it also be seen as simply a mouthpiece for (other) special interests, and thus be dismissed as “propaganda”.
            There’s more than enough good news in the clean tech sector without having to resort to bias, hyperbole, or innuendo.

  • That’s a pretty sad list that illustrates well the need for a “green” SUV. We are not likely to change the obsession over large vehicles (in North America) so we are better of making those vehicles more efficient.

    To be fair I don’t think the Tesla Model X should be included (yet) seeing as they still aren’t really being delivered.

    • But it’s for next year…new cars announced this year for next year. It could work…they expect to ship tens of thousands of them next year.

      • Thank you for pointing out the award is for next year, admittedly I must have missed that somehow. That does make a big difference and I agree I would include the Model X then and would have definitely voted for it. I look forward to newer, smaller, and more affordable options in the future.

  • Toyota is almost irrelevant at this point. Mitsubishi’s SUV is going to stomp them into dust.

    Not to mention The new Leaf with 120 mile range this year and 150 next.

  • Does “Green” in this context refer tp the colour of the car? 🙂

  • Just curious, what were the parameters for those model to be green, color, cost or something else.

  • The “old” motor industry (including the media outlets that follow it) sometimes seem to be in complete denial of the changing currents in propulsion technology. And completely tone-deaf to the changing currents of popular opinion. Which would be sad.

    Or maybe they really DO have their finger on the pulse and know exactly what (most) people really want. Which would be even sadder.

  • Who got to Green Car Journal with the “green” to convince them their car was more “green”? This award has no more relevance to actual pollution or carbon emissions than a beauty contest with bribed judges.

    Is this just an extension of the corruption we saw with Dieselgate?

    • the guy who runs GCJ believes that gas cars with slightly-higher-than-average mpg count as “green”. I don’t know enough about his background or if he’s being paid to be that obtuse, but in his magazine, he routinely ignores EV/PHEV and reviews regular (non-hybrid even) gas cars.

      • Thanks. I suspected as much. Sounds like this sources opinion of what green is doesn’t count very much.

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