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The worlds cleanest and greenest cars

Lean, green, driving machines. The world is moving towards a greener future when it comes to cars, with electric and hybrid models becoming more popular than ever. Traditional fuels, like petrol and diesel, are being banned in new cars from 2030, meaning battery-powered models will be your only options.

A car covered in green leaves before a city skyline

We look at which car is the best for the planet, comparing their emissions, running costs, fuel efficient technology and whether they have vegan options.

Global warming isn’t just a threat anymore - it’s happening. While we could help you with car insurance costs, these cars could help you fight climate change.

 

Can a car be 100% vegan?

There’s no such thing as an entirely vegan car. But, there are vegan alternatives that can be installed as a more eco-friendly option.

In cars, leather is often used for the steering wheels, seats, gear sticks and interior trims. Wool or Mohair is used for interior upholstery and mats. Rubber is used for our tyres and even steel is lubricated with animal grease.

While you can’t make everything 100% vegan, you can choose a car that would give you a choice to be more sustainable. These cars could use materials such as vegan leather, cloth seats or plastic trims instead.

For those looking for greener transportation, opting for a vegan interior can be just as important in reducing damage to the environment as choosing a car for its low or zero emissions. Therefore, we thought it was important to highlight in our study whether the ranked cars have vegan options available in the specific makes and models.

 

The top 10 cleanest electric cars

Electric cars are the ultimate in green driving technology. They use no fossil fuels, relying entirely on their batteries to power them. While they were once seen as the cars of the future (and didn’t all look particularly practical), they’re now growing in popularity. Their affordability, practicality and driving experience is getting better all the time, but which ones are the best?

We found out! 

An infographic showing the top 10 cleanest electric cars

Find out more about the top 10 cleanest electric cars

1. SMART forfour

The SMART forfour comes out on top of our list. This four-seater version of the classic SMART car is a great city car, while also offering additional practicality for families. The deceptively spacious interior makes it a comfy drive for four, while all the mod-cons you’d expect come as standard.

The forfour does 12,000 miles for £206 worth of electricity, making it an affordable, environmentally-friendly option. It also gives you the option of a vegan interior finish, making it green inside and out.

2. SMART forfour 2021

The latest (and last) model of the SMART forfour only loses out on top spot by two pounds. Its energy cost for 12,000 miles is £208, but apart from that, there’s very little practical difference between it and its predecessor.

3. SMART fortwo Cabrio

Are you spotting a pattern yet? SMART make great green cars, and their two-seater option deservedly takes third spot. It’s a truly tiny city car, capable of fitting in the smallest of parking spots. While it might not be that practical for long distance trips, or the weekly shop, it’s great for getting from A to B without harming the planet. Vegan finishings are available, and just like the 2021 forfour, it does 12,000 miles for £208 worth of energy.

4. SMART fortwo Coupe

The coupe version of the fortwo costs you £3 more to do the same distance as the Cabrio - £211. For this you get a slightly bigger, more traditional looking hatchback, still capable of compact parking, but with a bit more room in the boot.

5. SMART fortwo Coupe 2021

In fifth place, you guessed it, we have another SMART. This time it’s the 2021 version of the Coupe, the last model they exported to western markets. SMART were pioneers in electric cars, entering the field long before bigger manufacturers followed suit. The 2021 Coupe might set you back £214 for 12,000 miles.

6. SMART fortwo Cabrio 2021

Completing SMART’s domination of our top 10 is the 2021 fortwo Cabrio. It claims to charge in only 40 minutes, giving you a range of around 80 miles. Like most of our top six, it’s a great city runner, and can do 12,000 miles for £217. This makes it the most expensive SMART to run, but given there’s only £11 between first and sixth, none of them are likely to break the bank.

All SMARTs offer vegan interiors, meaning nothing like leather or wool is likely to find its way into the finish.

7. MG5 EV

The first electric car on our list that doesn’t offer vegan interiors is the MG5 EV. Though what it lacks in total environmental friendliness it makes up for in size. This is a proper big family estate car, with a huge boot and plenty of room for 5 people. It also gives you incredible range, capable of driving up to 250 miles on a full charge.

For 12,000 miles, you’d pay £328 in electricity. That’s a big step up from the SMART collection, but it gives you a much more ‘traditional’ car experience.

8. Fiat New 500

Fiat’s ‘new’ range takes the classic 500 stylings we all know and love, and puts an electric battery inside. If any car was made to be electric, it would be the Fiat 500. Small, nippy and perfect for city centre commuting, the New 500 costs £332 for 12,000 miles. That’s more expensive than other cars in its size range, but with a driving distance of 199 miles it also goes further.

It comes with vegan finishings, and gives you 30 miles of driving on just a five minute charge.

9. Peugeot 2008 SUV

Another big electric car comes in ninth place, this time the Peugeot 2008 SUV. Capable of covering 214 miles, the Peugeot is an electric car perfect for long distance driving. Family holiday? Sorted. Hefty commute? No problem. It’s also got bags of boot space and plenty of legroom, making it a comfortable drive.

You’d pay £342 for 12,000 miles, but that extra money doesn’t get you a vegan finish. Sorry.

10. Peugeot Traveller

It’s fitting that the most expensive car to power on our list is also the biggest. Some would argue that the Traveller isn’t really a car at all, and on first impression, it does scream van. But Peugeot tells us it’s an MPV, so we’ll go with that. It can seat nine, making it ideal for family and friends, and does 12,000 miles for £344.

 

The top 10 cleanest hybrid cars 

If you’re not quite ready to leap into the world of electric driving, hybrids are your next best bet. They’re powered by a mix of battery and fuel, meaning if you run out of charge, you should still be able to get home. They kick out significantly reduced emissions compared to standard fuel cars, and cost a lot less to tax. While there are plans to take them off the roads in the future, for now they’re a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. 

An infographic showing the top 10 cleanest hybrid cars

Find out more about the top 10 cleanest hybrid cars

1. BMW i3

The i3 does a fantastic 470.8 miles per gallon, making it by far the most efficient hybrid on the market. On battery alone it covers 205 miles.

Its comfy, and largely vegan interior offers enough room for 5 people, giving you a stylish, reliable vehicle for everyday use.

2. Volvo S60 MY20

Volvo claims the S60 is a ‘sports sedan that will rewrite the driving story’. While we can neither confirm nor deny that, we can tell you it does 275.8 miles per gallon. That’s a lot less than the BMW, but it only costs £346 for 12,000 miles, which is also a lot less than the BMW.

Vegan options? Yes. Stylish? Definitely.

3. Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

It looks like a Mercedes. It drives like a Mercedes. It even sounds like a Mercedes. The A-Class Saloon is everything you’d expect from the German car manufacturer, just without the fuel-guzzling engine. It does 313.9 mpg, while charging costs you £477 for 12,000 miles. That’s definitely towards the top end of the price scale, but hey, it is a Mercedes.

4. Volvo V60

The V60 is a big family estate, offering loads of legroom and built-in Google technology. In pure electric mode, it’s only capable of 50 miles on a charge, but with the addition of its petrol engine it can do 264.4 mpg. It’s one of the cheapest of our hybrid cars to run, costing £334 for 12,000 miles, while vegan finishings come as standard.

5. SEAT Leon e-hybrid 

Don’t you just love it when a car has an ‘e’ in its name? It just sounds futuristic. The e-hybrid is a hot hatch with an environmentally friendly difference. It does 256.8 mpg and can cover 12,000 miles for only £214, making it cheaper to run than some pure electric models.

6. Suzuki Across

Our first hybrid 4x4 is the Suzuki Across, a powerful SUV packed with modern touches. We particularly enjoy the heated steering wheel, ideal for 11 months of the year in the UK. It does 284.2 mpg and covers 12,000 for £476, meaning it’s not the cheapest option on our list.

It’s also the only one of our top 10 hybrid cards to not include vegan finishes. However, you do get a whole heap of boot room for your money, making it ideal for long trips.

7. Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe

A classic Mercedes-Benz coupe in style, the CLA is an attractive hybrid that wouldn’t look out of place next to any other business car. It delivers 285 mpg - about the average for most hybrids - with a pure electric range of 43 miles. It might also have one of the most stylish vegan interiors on the market.

8. Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback 

For a hatchback, there’s not a great deal of difference between the A-Class hatchback and Mercedes-Benz’ other, bigger models. It does 282.5 mpg, just like the CLA Coupe, and sets you back £490 for 12,000 miles, more than the Coupe. What it does offer is a great, powerful urban car, ideal for solo drivers or small families.

9. Ford Kuga

The Ford Kuga is another hybrid SUV that offers great comfort and even better economy. Capable of 314 mpg, it’s a highly efficient drive with plenty of space for people and possessions. On the downside, it’s by far the most expensive of the top 10 hybrids to run - costing £529 for 12,000 miles of driving. You could afford to charge two SEAT Leons e-hybrids for that.

10. Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 

The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid isn’t the most economical SUV hybrid available. It does only 235.4 mpg, with an electric range of 39 miles. However, it’s much more economical to charge, setting you back £319 in energy for 12,000 miles.

 

The top 10 cars with the lowest emissions  

An infographic showing the top 10 cars with the lowest emissions

If you’re choosing a car based purely on low emissions, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. We’ve compared how many miles these cars would have to drive to produce the daily methane production of one dairy cow (350g).

The Nissan ALTIMA is a stylish sedan that was the brand’s first foray into the hybrid market. It only kicks out 157.8 g/mi of C02 and 0.000276 g/mi of methane, making it the most fuel-efficient model available. Therefore, to produce the same amount of methane as one cow, you’d have to drive a huge 1,195,652 miles in a day!

The BMW M440i xDrive Coupe might not have the catchiest name, but it does have incredibly low emissions. You’d have to drive the furthest distance (3,377,687 miles) to equate to one cow's daily methane production. The M440i only produces 194.8 g/mi of C02 and only 0.0000977 g/mi of methane. Meanwhile, the Honda HR-V FWD emits less CO2 at 181.89 g/mi. But it gives off more methane at 0.00049 g/mi, equating to driving 673,469 miles to match a cow.

The Nissan Rogue looks (and sounds) like it shouldn’t make this list, but the beefy SUV only produces 164.8 g/mi of C02 and 0.0005757 g/mi of methane. To match the dairy cow, you’d have to drive 573,215 miles - a lot of car for not a lot of emissions.

You could say the same for the BMW X1, but again it’s a beast on the road while being friendly to the planet. This huge off-road Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) produces a lot of power for only 187.9 g/mi of C02, and 0.0004924 g/mi of methane. Another BMW comes in sixth, this time the X2 sDrive, emitting 190 g/mi of CO2 and 0.0004145 g/mi of methane. To produce the same amount of methane as one cow you’d be looking at driving over 600,000 miles each for both of these cars!

Following closely behind is the Honda HR-V AWD, with 204 g/mi of CO2 and 0.00014 g/mi of methane. This equates to driving a huge 2,357,143 miles before matching its four-legged friend. The Toyota NX, however, produces 172.4 g/mi of CO2 and 0.0008537 g/mi of methane. This is equivalent to driving 386,553 miles to match car and cow alike.

If you want low emissions but high fashion, look no further than the BMW M440i Coupe. Complete with a truly massive grill, if Batman got out of this car you wouldn’t be surprised. Despite having to drive the lowest number of miles to equal one cow's methane production (382,298 miles). This car still only produces 178.7 g/mi of CO2 and 0.0008632 g/mi of methane.

Wrapping up the top 10, and with an entirely different silhouette, is the Volkswagen Q3 S line. This rugged SUV emits the most CO2 out of all our low-emitters at 219 g/mi. This knocks it back to last place despite its 0.0001 g/mi of methane. To match the cow, you’d have to drive the second furthest at 3,300,000 miles to breakeven.

 

What technology can make cars more efficient? 

When it comes to producing green and sustainable cars, new advances in technology play a vital role in helping keep car emissions to a minimum. One of the most positive impacts technology can have on a car is making it more fuel efficient.

Our study has recognised 8 different uses of technology that can help manufactures improve their cars fuel efficiency, making them less harmful to the environment. These include:

  • Turbocharged engines
  • Gasoline direct injection (GDI)
  • Continuously variable transmissions (CVT)
  • 7+ speed gears
  • Non-hybrid stop-start
  • Cylinder Deactivation (CD)
  • Hybrid
  • Electric

Each of these features helps to reduce the car's fuel consumption and dramatically decrease the amount of pollution we create on our commutes. Based on US production data from 2021, we were also able to see which manufacturers utilise these features the most. Here are the results.

An infographic showing the cleanest car manufacturers

 

The most sustainable car manufacturers 

Based on all the previous data, we can reveal which car manufacturers are the most sustainable of all. We totalled up how many times these manufacturers’ cars appeared in our top 65 in each category. We also took into consideration their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) score as well as their manufacturer's use of advanced technology. This allowed us to crown one of them the eco-queens of the road.

Rank Manufacturer
1
Peugeot
2
Volkswagen
3
Smart
4
Fiat
5
Citroen
6
Bmw
7
Hyundai
8
Mazda
9
Lexus
10
DS
11
MG Motors UK
12
Nissan
13
Mercedes-Benz
14
Kia
15
Jaguar
16
Renault
17
Tesla

Peugeot is the best car manufacturer for the environment 

French car manufacturer Peugeot comes out in top spot. The brand appears 5 times in our top 65 electric cars, and has the 6th highest average ranking out of all the brands we explored. It also came 4th for CSR. That’s basically a metric that scores businesses on how they impact the environment and their staff, among other things.

Peugeot is committed to environmentally friendly design. It uses 30% of recycled materials on every new vehicle it makes, while also recovering energy during the manufacturing process.

Volkswagen is the second-best car brand for the planet 

Closely following Peugeot is German car manufacturer Volkswagen. VW has a goal to become a role model in environmental practices, having acknowledged that previous perceptions might not be so great.

The brand has 4 cars in our top 65, with an average rating of 4th. It falls down on a CSR ranking of 13th, though, meaning Peugeot pips it to the top spot.

SMART has more electric cars than any other brand 

When you think of electric cars, SMART is potentially one of the first names that come to mind. Sorry, Tesla. The brand has 11 cars in our top 65, more than any other manufacturer. It only falls back to third because of a low CSR rank of 11th. Likewise, despite being 100% electric, Tesla had the lowest CSR score by a mile, making it drop right to the bottom of our leaderboard. 

 

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, comments: “If you fancy making the move to a clean, green car, you could find they’re cheaper to run than most. You pay much better rates of car tax on electric models, while better safety features will certainly help when it comes to finding car insurance. However, modern technology could also make insuring an electric car more expensive than some conventional fuelled models. This is because these models can be more costly to replace or repair if you make a claim. Always shop around so you know you’re being offered the best price.”

 

Sources and methodology

Utilising the Vehicle Certification Agencies data from 2015 to 2021, we compiled a list of all cars with hybrid (petrol/electric or petrol/diesel - producing a maximum of 75g/km of CO2 emissions) and electric fuel type (zero fuel consumption (mpg) and 0 CO2 g/km). From this list we ranked electric and hybrids separately, with hybrids being ranked on all three metrics of fuel consumption, CO2 and Fuel/Energy costs, and electric ranked based purely on the energy costs for driving 12000 miles.

Historical data we made adjustments to be reflective of 2021 rates, with electrical cost per unit price at 17.2p/kWh, petrol at 121/p per litre and diesel at 125/p per litre. For Petrol, Diesel, and Hybrid cars we included ranking for Fuel economy, and fuel consumption. Cars identified as having Vegan friendly materials/options were given a 'Vegan Certified' identification.

Finally we utilised Technology share per manufacturer to see which manufacturers had a higher percentage of their production focused on eco-friendly models (electric, hybrid, etc.). The weighting for this was applied as electric 0.75, hybrid 0.2 and the 7 efficiency improving  technologies as 0.05 (this is adjustable in the table - see orange box on Mnfer Tech Share Ranking tab). We used CSRHUB to generate a rounded look on the manufacturer of each car model to understand each company's ranking based on contribution to community, employees, environment and governance. These metrics contributed to our overall scoring of each manufacturer's ranking for eco/vegan friendly solutions as well as how many cars the manufacturers had in the top 65 electric cars as well as the average rank of these cars.

Top 65 was chosen as this was the extent of the data for electric car models. Additional Data for the top non-electric/non-hybrid cars of 2022 for emissions (Total and just CO2 and Methane) have been included in case we wanted to explore the element of people who are not looking for Electric or Hybrid cars.