3 May 2018 [Santa Rosa, CA] – As the latest round of UN climate change negotiations commenced on Monday in Bonn, Germany, in an effort to further develop the framework for implementing the landmark Paris Agreement, the U.S. government remains at odds with the rest of the world. It is this oddity that requires corporate leaders and individuals alike to step ahead of government impasse, and quite literally ‘lead the charge’ in the automotive sector.
With our transportation needs accounting for the largest share of total annual U.S. CO2 emissions – exceeding the U.S. power sector’s annual emissions for the second consecutive year [Source: Energy Information Administration] – our vehicle of choice in 2018 will have a lasting effect. And with SUVs and pick-up trucks accounting for 63% of U.S. sales last year [Source: Autodata], it’s important that we differentiate the best performing SUVs to ease this growing segment’s footprint on the world.
Fortunately, consumers have an abundance of choice, and according to Automotive Science Group’s (ASG) Managing Director, Colby Self, “The vehicle we choose to drive today, will have a significant influence on the vehicles available to us tomorrow. If we demand fuel efficient SUVs that push physical limits, automakers will deliver.”
According to ASG’s 2018 Automotive Performance Index (API) Study, there are notable standouts available to consumers today that are in fact ‘leading the charge’.
ASG’S annual Study, which assessed 823 (with trim variants) model year 2018 crossovers, SUVs and Minivans in North America, found 8 models with plug-in electric capabilities and a dizzying array of vehicle sizes and styles, from hatchbacks that have grown into mini-compact crossovers to coupe style SUVs to the capacious people movers of yesteryear.
Key to ASG’s 2018 analysis, was assessing the technological tradeoffs between vehicle electrification and light weighting strategies to improve life-cycle performance. It comes as no surprise in ASG’s study that the effective use of both strategies is a winning formula.
When assessing all 376 model 2018 crossovers (with trim variants) head to head, the Kia Niro Plug-in topped ASG’s Environmental Performance Index with the smallest carbon footprint, besting the all-electric Tesla Model X by 21% over the first 6.5 years of its life. When projecting across the full vehicle life-cycle, the Model X nearly catches up to the Niro with only a 4% environmental deficit. Weight is clearly a disadvantage for the Model X, with its 1,821-pound excess when compared to the Niro PHEV.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, with PHEV capabilities and an EPA rated 84 MPGe, lead the minivan segment, earning all-around performance honors for the second consecutive year. The Pacifica Hybrid also earned a class leading environmental performance rating, with a carbon footprint that is 34% smaller than the average vehicle in its segment. When comparing the Pacifica Hybrid against all crossovers and SUVs in a head to head assessment, the Pacifica Hybrid closely followed the Tesla Model X in ASG’s Environmental Performance Index, and came in ahead of all crossovers and SUVs with conventional powertrains, including those that are half its size. This is a testament to the PHEV’s capabilities and 33-mile all-electric driving range, earning ASG’s Best Environmental Performance and Best All-Around Performance awards in class.
ASG’s Economic Performance Index was topped by the all-new Hyundai Kona, with the lowest cost of ownership over the first 6.5 years of operation, earning ASG’s Best Economic Performance honor, edging out the Niro and all others. The Kona’s light weighting strategy gives it an impressive weight advantage, coming in at 801 pounds lighter than the average 2018 crossover. Less resources translates to reduced environmental footprint, increased operational efficiency and reduced life-cycle operating costs.
In aggregate, when assessing environmental, economic and social performance indicators across each vehicle’s life-cycle, the Kia Niro once again lead ASG’s comprehensive API as the Best All-Around Performance crossover, followed closely by the Niro Plug-in, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V to round out ASG’s Best 5 All-Around Performance crossover selections.
The SUV segment was comprised of 372 models (with trim variants), with the Nissan Rogue leading the API as the Best All-Around Performance SUV, followed closely by the Mitsubishi Outlander and Outlander PHEV, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport as ASG’s Best 5 All-Around Performance SUV selections.
All this to say, innovative offerings that are environmentally and economically preferable, are available to consumers today. For the savvy buyer, it’s all revealed in ASG’s data-driven analysis.
For more on ASG’s 2018 API findings by class and Index ratings, please visit www.automotivescience.com.
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ASG’S annual study found 37 electrified models - 15 full battery electric vehicles and 22 plug-in hybrid vehicles - up from just 8 production models in 2018. 2019 marks a momentous turning point where the most advanced powertrains are not only available to mainstream buyers, but according to ASG’s comparative analysis, some of these models also bridge exceptional environmental performance with industry leading economic performance and best all-around life-cycle value.
The Automotive Performance Index (API) applies statistical methods to demonstrate each vehicle rating in relative comparison. For example, the vehicle that performs highest in environment performance in a given class obtains a rating score of 100. Each vehicle in its class is then compared relative to the top-performing vehicle with a rating score reflecting the statistical difference in performance outcomes. A score of 91 translates to a 9% environmental performance deficit as compared to the top-performing vehicle.
Due to the API’s relative vehicle rating method, vehicle class divisions were identified as a critical input - these class divisions are detailed here.
While the Automotive Performance Index is indeed an exhaustive list of vehicles to trim level detail, with each vehicle assessment reporting over 200 unique data outputs (the culmination of thousands of data inputs), ASG has taken additional measures to ease the burden of sorting through all data points and all vehicle assessments. We have developed key performance categories and sorted all vehicles in each class according to Environmental Performance, Social Performance, Economic Performance and All-Around Performance. The vehicle in each class with the best score in each unique category is named the performance award winner (i.e. Best Environmental Performance Award winner). The vehicle in each class that scores highest combined scores in Environmental Performance, Social Performance and Economic Performance is named the ASG Best All-Around Performance Award winner.
One step further, we also name the Best 5 All-Around Performance Award winners in each class to provide consumers with a concise product comparison guide.