4 Very Different Eco-Friendly Cars To Choose From

Are you looking for an environmentally friendly car? This guide will give you some insight into which green vehicle might be for you.

Year after year it seems that we’re becoming ever more environmentally aware and socially conscious. “Ethical consumerism” has become a real consideration for people shopping for a whole range of products, from food to electronics. 

This is especially true amongst Millennials and Gen-Z; a 2015 survey showed that 42% of consumers aged 18-34 would be prepared to pay extra for products they consider to be ethically manufactured or sourced. It’s no surprise then that auto manufacturers have responded to this trend, producing eco-friendly car models that reduce emissions and are made from more sustainable materials. 

If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly car then you’re certainly not alone. We hope that this guide will give you some insight into which green vehicle might be for you.

What Makes A Car ‘Green’?

It’s easy enough to claim that a car is ‘green’ – but what factors go into consideration when assessing how eco-friendly a car actually is? 

The answer is surprisingly complex, as a number of elements need to be weighed and balanced. The first and perhaps most obvious element is exhaust emissions, i.e. the pollution produced as the car is driving. The type of fuel used, plus fuel economy and engine efficiency all affect how much air pollution the car produces while running. 

But it doesn't end there. Other important considerations include: 

  • What materials is the car made from? 
  • From where are the parts sourced, and how are they transported? 
  • In the case of an electric car, how are the batteries produced, and how efficient are they? 
  • What is the car’s lifespan? 
  • What happens once it can no longer be driven: are the parts recyclable? 

Due to the number of variables, there isn’t yet a single, universal scale for environmental impact, though some organisations have tried. However, there is plenty of information out there – so on that basis, here are our top choices for the best eco-friendly cars available in the UK.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is something of a compromise. While it isn’t the most environmentally friendly car on this list, it does provide a greener alternative to fully electric cars. The first Prius model was launched in Japan in 1997 and was the world's first mass-produced hybrid car. 

Since their inception, these cars have spearheaded the movement towards a more sustainable model of driving, earning their 2016 model the title of “eco-friendly car of the year” by Cars.com

While certainly less polluting than your average vehicle, it doesn’t come without some drawbacks. Firstly, the hybrid engine does of course still produce some exhaust emissions.Secondly, the Prius has also come under criticism for its inefficient manufacturing process. The nickel used in the batteries is mined in Canada, shipped to Europe for refinement, shipped back to China to be turned into foam, and then shipped to Japan to be inserted into the cars. 

It may not be the greenest, but this car is a good middle-ground for consumers looking for something more eco-friendly than a fully petrol-powered car, but who are unwilling to go fully electric.

Renault Twizy

A very different option is the Renault Twizy, a fully electric quadricycle. Its electric motor has zero emissions and also runs pretty much silently, meaning that there is also reduced noise pollution.

The Twizy is powered by a 17hp electric motor with a one-speed automatic transmission and a compact lithium-ion battery pack. The batteries can be recharged via a household socket for about £1. The vehicle has a top speed of 50mph and the model’s range is said to go up to 56 miles, although real-world driving condition estimates would be closer to around 43 miles in warmer weather and 31 miles in winter conditions. 

As green as this vehicle may be, the limitations of its design are pretty obvious. The Twizy can seat a maximum of two adults, there’s no real storage space and very little engine power. As a runabout it’s a clean, green and fun option, but it’s not going to replace anyone’s family car.