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The Wheel Thing: The greenest of green cars

The Tesla S P85D finished well above every other green car in AAA's 2015 ratings.
The Tesla S P85D finished well above every other green car in AAA's 2015 ratings.
Tesla Motors

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Wanna drive the greenest, meanest machine?  All you need is about $140,000.  And maybe a smart phone to place your order.

The American Automobile Association is out with their annual scorecard of green cars, and the Tesla S P85D trumps all others. If you've got the greenbacks to reach this level of green, you'll get dual motors that produce 691 horsepower, a range of 250 miles, and the option of launching from zero to 60 mph in just over three seconds. AAA rated the Tesla tops by a wide margin, finding it full of muscle, yet refined and luxurious.

Bunched up well behind the P85D are a variety of other pure electrics, including VW's e-Golf, BMW's i-3, and the Nissan Leaf. One hybrid makes the top ten.  It's Toyota's Highlander Limited. There are a quartet of clean diesels, all built by Germans–the VW Golf TDI, Audi's A7 and A8 diesel models, and BMW's 328d.

The only traditional gasoline powered vehicle in the top 10 is Subaru's Outback 2.5i, which uses tricks like turbocharging and continuously variable transmission to squeeze lots of miles out of a gallon. Still, there are quite a few good old internal combustion powered vehicles just below the top 10 on AAA's list, mixed in with the electrics, hybrids and clean diesels.

A couple of key takeaways. There are dozens and dozens of models of cars available now that offer very efficient, very clean motoring, without sacrificing comfort, style or performance.  And there's a lot of variety in power packages–good choices among electrics, hybrids, diesels and traditional ICE (internal combustion engine.)

So, it's a pretty good time for folks looking to help out the planet, and save on fuel.

But, there's always something tempting just around the corner. The Tesla X is expected to be released within the next year, with a price tag somewhere around $35,000. Chevy will launch it's all-electric Bolt in 2017, and Audi has an A3 sport wagon with a plug-in hybrid with a total range of 550 miles that should be for sale before the year ends.