Honda Civic GX NGV – photo by Mariordo / Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (source: Wikimedia Commons)

While everyone’s no doubt heard that 2010 is the year electric cars are to debut in the United States, it hasn’t happened yet. So for now, at least, the greenest cars on the market are still Honda’s natural-gas powered Civic GX and hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic.

Balitmore Sun

As we wait for the ‘year of the electric car’ to get in gear and plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and the fully electric Nissan Leaf to whirr onto the market, we still look to that old standard hybrid, the Toyota Prius to lead the way in widely available green auto technology. The Prius finds itself at the top or near the top of most ‘greenest car’ lists for 2010 so far. Also high up is the Honda Civic GX NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle) a compact model that runs on compressed natural gas. It topped American Council for Energy Efficient Economy’s ‘Greenest Vehicles of 2010′, which placed the Prius in second place, followed by the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Smartfortwo. Though NGV technology has been around for many years, the GX is still only available in some regions of the United States.

American business magazine Forbes also made lists concentrating on luxury cars that pollute the least – lead by three Lexus hybrids – but also includes a separate section on non-luxury vehicles for those of us who aren’t stinking rich. The non-luxury list has the same basic winners (Prius, Civic Hybrid and Civic GX) but gives little detail. Forbes bases its rankings on Air Pollution Scores and Carbon Footprints from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

MSN Autos features Natural Resources Canada’s Top 10 least-polluting cars of 2010 sold in Canada and has the Prius in the #1 position, the Civic Hybrid at #2 and the Honda Insight at #3. The list is based amount of emissions released by the vehicles.

As far as car companies go, this AP article ranks Europe’s least polluting automakers, based solely on the CO2 emissions per km of each maker’s entire range of models. The data is from 2008, comes from the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) and has Fiat on top, followed by Peugeot-Citroen and Renault.

Concerns about the Toyota Prius’ battery being so toxic that it makes the car less environmentally friendly seem to have come from a bit of politically motivated yellow journalism with all the credibility of an urban legend. This article from The Straight Dope explains.

Unfortunately no car is as of yet truly green. Hybrids, natural gas powered cars and even fully electric vehicles still rely on fossil fuels, toxic batteries and lots of other stuff that’s bad for the environment. Relatively speaking, however, they are a step – small, but significant – in the right direction.

Additional resources:

Living Green Style – 2009: 10 Least Polluting Cars

CNN Money gallery – 12 greenest cars of 2010