World Green Car of the Year Award is Just Another Bad Joke

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The New York International Auto Show is in full swing, and with every auto show comes another set of awards. This year, the NYIAS was home to the announcement of the 2016 World Green Car, which was announced on Friday in a press conference.

I believe I can fly! | Image courtesy Toyota

The award is in its 12th year, and while it was slow on the green car front for the first few years, there are now quite a few battery-electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that offer owners a much lower carbon footprint and, in some cases, completely enable decoupling driving from emissions.

This award winner is chosen by a panel of 70+ international automotive journalists that vote on a winner each year. The list of 8 finalists was pared down to a short list of 3, which included the Chevrolet Volt (PHEV), the Toyota Prius (Hybrid), and the Toyota Mirai (Hydrogen Fuel Cell). The official press release shared that finalist vehicles had to be:

“All-new, or substantially revised, in production and introduced for sale or lease to the public in quantities of at least 10 in at least one major market during the period beginning January 1, 2015 and ending May 31, 2016.  Tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and use of a major advanced power plant technology (beyond engine componentry), aimed specifically at increasing the vehicle’s environmental responsibility, were all taken into consideration.”

The 2016 winner is the Toyota Mirai, which seems like a really odd selection to those of us in the cleantech industry because it’s not actually being sold at the moment and it’s not actually that green. Toyota put deliveries of the Mirai on hold in January because there simply isn’t enough of a fueling station network to make the car viable. The big number here is 23. That’s the number of hydrogen fueling stations in the US today. Total.

Current US hydrogen fueling station network | Image courtesy

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We regularly dig into the network of fuel cell fueling stations in the US here on CleanTechnica because it is such a large barrier to the adoption of fuel cell vehicles. Critics point to hydrogen fueling stations being about the same price to install as a gas station, but with hydrogen fueling stations having no widespread customer base to feed.

It’s the ultimate chicken or egg question… but why spend any of it? Basically, would we pay to install a completely new, trillion-dollar infrastructure when battery-electric vehicles just need a normal wall outlet… at any of the billions of locations in the world that already have them? Makes no sense to me.

The Mirai continues the Toyota push for a technology that still has several major hurdles to overcome before it could even be considered a viable car for anyone not living within ~10 miles of the existing hydrogen filling stations. Even beyond that niche market, there are significant issues with hydrogen and fuel cells which we have discussed in great length here and on EV Obsession.

Back to the award, this is another example of mainstream automotive media not penetrating an emerging market sufficiently prior to locking in on a candidate. It’s unfortunate, but as the market continues to evolve, let’s hope that mainstream industry “experts” start doing their research into what a green car actually is before making their collective voices heard… or at least play it safe and vote for the Volt.

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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.

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