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Green cars: a review of 2010, and a look forward to 2011

gcg-xmas-image-2010-f.jpg would like to wish all of its visitors a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and here’s a year-end summary of 2010, together with a look forward to 2011.

2010 was the year when there was a huge amount of press releases from manufacturers about electric cars – even though, as 2010 closes, there are still virtually no mainstream electric cars that you can buy.

The Paris Motor Show in September featured an electric or ultra-low emission car on almost every stand. Many of these cars were concepts – some of which we will see, some we won’t. The most stunning was the Jaguar C-X75 Concept, an electric Jaguar with gas turbine range-extenders. Lotus also has to get a mention, for its incredibly ambitious plans to launch five new supercars – with hybrid options – over the next five years.

We drove many electric cars during 2010, but of course it’s the Nissan LEAF – the world’s first mainstream electric hatchback – that’s the big news, and it deserves to be, as it is an excellent car, and it justly deserves its 2011 Car of the Year crown. But we mustn’t forget about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV – also an all-electric car, and again a very refined one – and the versions from Citroen – the C-Zero – and Peugeot – the iOn – all are exactly the same car apart from the badges.

However ‘conventional’ cars with internal combustion engines still represent 99.9% of the cars that people buy. Yes, there have been some new hybrids; the third-generation Toyota Prius (admittedly launched in 2009) remains an excellent car, and the new Honda CR-Z brings hybrid technology to a small, fun sporty car for the first time.

But it was cars without any hybrid or electric technology that really impressed us. The latest Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion emits just 99 g/km CO2, along with 74.3 mpg, and it is an incredibly refined car. Another Volkswagen was one of the best cars we drove all year, the Scirocco . In TDI form it could achieve 55.4 mpg, while being great to drive, but VW has since launched a BlueMotion Technology version which can achieve an incredible 62.8 mpg along with emissions of just 118 g/km CO2.

BMW, winner of our Greenest Manufacturer of the Year Award for two out of the last three years, is still producing cars that are great to drive whilst also being incredibly efficient. The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics can achieve 68.9 mpg with emissions of just 109 g/km CO2. And even the new BMW 520d can manage 57.6 mpg – such fuel economy would have been unthinkable from this class of car only a few years ago.

However probably our favourite car of the year has been the MINI Countryman . In diesel form, it was the first ever car to get awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10. It achieved this by managing to combine efficiency, fun, practicality, and all-weather ability in one well-designed package. The Cooper S version does the same thing, but with more of a focus on performance rather than economy. A few years ago the concept of a four-wheel drive MINI crossover would have been seen as madness, but more and more people sliding around in the snow in two-wheel drive hatchbacks are now thinking that the Countryman is not such a crazy idea after all.

So what about 2011? After all the hype, mainstream electric cars will finally be here. The first deliveries in the UK of the Nissan LEAF are due to take place in the beginning of March.

The government’s Plug-In Car Grant will be available from the start of January, offering up to £5,000, or 25%, towards the cost of electric or plug-in cars, as long as they appear on the official list. Some of the initial nine cars that are eligible will be here in the first half of 2011; others, such as the Vauxhall Ampera – an electric car with a petrol range-extender engine – won’t be here until 2012.

For Londoners, Boris’s new Congestion Charge will come into effect on 4 January 2011. Rather than the outgoing system of giving exemption from the charge to cars with new low-emission technology, such as hybrids, it will change to an emissions-based system, where cars that emit 100 g/km CO2 or less will be exempt – as long as they also comply with Euro 5 air quality standards.

Finally, Green-Car-Guide Live! will be taking place again in 2011. We ran this event in 2008, and at the time it was the UK’s largest ever green motorshow. In 2011 it will be part of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power . There will be a showcase of the latest green cars, both as a static display, and on the track. The event takes place at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, 15-17 July 2011. As well as the latest green cars, there will also be a huge collection of modern and historic racing cars and bikes, as well as powerboats, air displays and military demonstrations. No green car event in 2011 will be as entertaining. Put the date in your diary now, and more details will be released in the new year.

The accompanying photo shows a MINI Countryman on the famous Cholmondeley sprint circuit; this is very appropriate, as the Countryman will be competing in the World Rally Championship in 2011/2012. We hope this will mean that rallying will once again become interesting, and it demonstrates the point that Green-Car-Guide has been making for well over four years now: cars can be green and fun.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from

Paul Clarke
Founder and Editor