To help members understand the latest automotive technology so they can purchase vehicles that best suit their needs, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center (ARC) began testing and reviewing vehicles over a decade ago in the AAA Green Car Guide, which initially focused entirely on rating fuel-efficient, low-emitting vehicles.
For the 2021 edition, we've expanded the focus of the guide to include testing and ranking cars and light trucks with the latest technology, including having at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature. In addition to vehicle evaluation, the guide covers a number of pertinent automotive topics in detail—for example, the latest advanced safety features, how to properly maintain your vehicle, and the development of autonomous vehicles.
The green cars tested by the ARC are evaluated on the basis of 13 categories: emissions, fuel economy,
crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess, and visibility.
The scores for the categories are totaled, and the cars are ranked from high to low.
Car Guide Winner: 1st Place Small
2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Vehicle Type: Small Electric
Category Ranking: 1
Price as Tested:$43,735
Fuel Type: Electricity
120V Charge Time: 5.2 miles per hour
240V Charge Time: 26.2 miles per hour
DC Fast Charger: 100 miles in 30 minutes
EPA City MPGe: 127
EPA Highway MPGe: 108
EPA Combined MPGe: 118
EPA-Est. Electric Range (mi): 259
Advanced Safety Features
Advanced Headlights [O]
Automatic Emergency Braking [O]
Blind-Spot Warning [O]
Forward-Collision Warning [O]
Lane-Departure Warning [O]
Lane-Keeping Assistance [O]
Rear Cross-Traffic Warning [O]
[S] Standard, [O] Optional
Although it's not an official psychological condition, range anxiety — the fear that your battery-powered car will run out of juice and leave you stranded — is a very real thing. That's where the Chevrolet Bolt EV comes in; its EPA-rated range of 259 miles addresses what matters most to EV buyers. Add to this the Bolt's fun-to-drive personality, with smooth acceleration and nimble handing, and you've got an EV that can go a long way toward putting range anxiety out of your mind. Would that the Bolt's ride rivaled its handling, though — the little EV's firm suspension will have you bemoaning any patches of rough pavement you cross. Steering wheel-mounted paddles let you adjust the car's level of regenerative braking — how much the car slows when you take your foot off the accelerator — to enable you to drive without touching the brake pedal in many situations. The Bolt's interior is relatively plain — verging on low-rent — for a car costing more than 40 grand (before incentives), but nicely arranged controls and an attractive instrument cluster and infotainment screens manage to give the cabin a high-tech feel. Options on our test car, including a wireless charging pad and premium Bose audio system, added to that impression.