Tesla Model S, Volkswagen e-Golf, and BMW i3 Selected In 2016 AAA Green Car Guide


Tesla Model S 70D - Image Credit: InsideEVs / Mike Anthony

Tesla Model S 70D

Three electric cars were selected as best choice in the 2016 AAA Best Green Car edition in different categories, while 2015 Tesla Model S 70D was named the overall winner:

  • Tesla Model S 70D (Over $50,000 and Large Car)
  • BMW i3 ($30,000 to $50,000 and Subcompact)
  • Volkswagen e-Golf (Compact)

About the winners:

“The Tesla is featured with 80 other green vehicles in the 2016 AAA Green Car Guide, a comprehensive report published annually by the largest member of the AAA federation – the Automobile Club of Southern California and its Automotive Research Center.

AAA’s top three green vehicles, all electrics, were announced today. The BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium rounded out the top three.

“The Tesla Model S 70D has a 240-mile range, room for five, excellent power and steering, and fast charge capability,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Add sleek styling, great acceleration and an air of sophistication that separates it from other alternative-fueled vehicles and you see why the Model S 70D was our top vehicle this year.”

Fluid Black BMW i3

Fluid Black BMW i3

2016 AAA Green Car of the Year and Top 5 points:

  1. 2015 Tesla Model S 70D 92.49
  2. 2014 BMW i3 88.47
  3. 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium 87.09
  4. 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Premium 83.49
  5. 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium  81.96

Each of 13 evaluations was scored on 0-10 points.  Scores were totaled to determine top vehicles. The guide summarizes vehicle specifications, test scores, data and observations and lists its strengths and weaknesses. Each year, the research center tracks significant changes to a vehicle from model year to model year. If no significant changes were made to the power train in 2016, a prior model year’s results were used. Top green vehicle winners received AAA’s environmentally-friendly trophy made of sustainable bamboo and recycled aluminum.

“The research center’s evaluators divided the vehicles into six categories, crunched the numbers, and identified winners in each category,” added Nielsen. “They also recognized winners by price,” he said. “The Tesla took three awards – Best Green Car over $50,000, the large car category winner and the AAA Green Car of the Year. In other categories, the best green car under $30,000 was the Mazda 3S Grand Touring, and the best green pickup is the Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat.”

“Today car shoppers can choose high-quality, zero-to-low-emission vehicles in a growing selection of body type and size and price.  The AAA Green Car Guide is designed to help give consumers research-based information and tips to find the vehicle that best suits their needs and navigate the green car marketplace with confidence,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automotive Research Center. “AAA’s expertise along with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s nearly half-century of automotive research with alternative fuel vehicles continues to benefit AAA members and the public today.”

“Green vehicles offer motorists a way to save on energy costs,” she added.  A recent AAA member green vehicle survey found that green car issues are important across generations with millennials and non-millennials saying they’d consider buying a green vehicle because of fuel costs and environmental impact.  The majority of respondents in the AAA survey also said they are interested in a green vehicle when shopping for a new car and 82 percent stated it was important to understand green technology.

To help car buyers and enthusiasts looking for the latest information on fuel-efficient vehicles and low-emission technology, the sixth annual AAA guide reviews battery electric vehicles, compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) vehicles, clean diesels, hybrids, partial zero emission vehicles (PZEVs), and vehicles with high fuel economy. Vehicles were grouped into categories according to size, body type and three price ranges. They were scored by the Los Angeles-based Automotive Research Center in real-world evaluations (acceleration, handling, ride comfort, turning, cargo capacity, etc.). The report also contains in-depth information about green technologies, vehicle safety and advanced driver assistance systems.

Tested vehicles were selected based on emission certifications from the California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings. Tests were performed at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. and on Southern California roads. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the EPA and the Automobile Club of Southern California developed the testing procedures.

The guide will be available to AAA members at no charge at select AAA branches while supplies last. More information can be found at www.AAA.com/greencar.

2016 AAA Best Green Car by Price:

Over $50,000:                    2015 Tesla Model S 70D

$30,000 to $50,000:        2014 BMW i3

Under $30,000:                 2014 Mazda 3S Grand Touring

2016 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners:

Large car:                             Tesla Model S 70D                                          (Electric)

Midsize:                               Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4matic       (Clean Diesel)

Compact:                             Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium                 (Electric)

Subcompact:                      BMW i3                                                               (Electric)

SUV/Minivan:                    Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium                     (PZEV)

Pickup Truck:                     Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat                            (Gasoline)”

Categories: BMW, Tesla, Volkswagen

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9 Comments on "Tesla Model S, Volkswagen e-Golf, and BMW i3 Selected In 2016 AAA Green Car Guide"

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The selection of a clean diesel is odd considering the current lawsuits against Mercedes for misrepresentation.

Totally subjective drivel! Gas car ahead of EV, and no mention of SparkEV, and not even Leaf?

Going by EPA MPGe figure to find the most efficient car that’s DCFC capable, and this is the list.

i3 (124 MPGe)
SparkEV (119)
eGolf (116)
Leaf (114)
iMiev (112)
SoulEV (105)
Tesla S70D (101)

For more details, see my blog “green car award”.


The Spark EV is a pure compliance car that residents of only 3 states have had the opportunity to buy or lease. Apparently there are no plans to widen its availability. The e-Golf is available in a few more states but not generally. I couldn’t buy or lease either. I think only generally available cars such as the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 should be considered for the Best Green Car award. If a small percentage of U.S. residents can buy or lease a car, what’s the point?

eGolf’s lack of availability while scoring 3rd place is one of my gripes. If eGolf is included, one should include other limited availability cars like SparkEV. Other gripe is to put gas car (Subaru) at #5 while ignoring all other EV, especially 107 miles range Leaf.

But you’re right; i3 takes first place from more objective metrics. This is why it pains me to see BMW struggling.

VW eGolf HAS Forward Collision Prevention, But Not Sold in 50 STATES!!!

So, VW beating the Leaf in Tech, and yet, only sells as if it was a CARB compliance car.

Interested in how the F-150 is the “green” pickup, when Ram has nearly the same (normalized) fuel economy and does not have all of that aluminium.

Ditto for the i3 and all of that CFRP.