A look at the greenest cars of 2012

For the first time in 14 years, an electric car topped the list.

Green technology is becoming rather common in a diverse array of industries, but it's perhaps been researched and applied more extensively in the automotive field. Since 1998, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released a list of its greenest cars on the market.

"It's increasingly obvious that automakers are fully invested in providing consumers with the widest possible array of vehicle choices," ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan said in a statement. "Earning a spot on the 'Greenest' list is proving to be a real challenge for automakers given the variety of vehicle technologies on the market and the proliferation of highly efficient conventional vehicles. Just using the latest technology does not guarantee a top spot."

For the first time ever though, an automobile powered by electricity has made it to the number one spot on the list. The honors went to the Mitsubishi i-MIEV, which not only knocked out the eight-time reigning champion in its first year of manufacturing and distribution, but also was given a Green Score of 58 – the highest ever in the 14 year history of the list. The i-MIEV sports a combined city and highway fuel economy of 112 miles per gallon equivalent, which is better than any vehicle that's currently sold in the United States, according to an ACEEE press release.

From 2004 to 2011, the Honda Civic Natural Gas topped the list, but was placed in a tie with the lithium ion battery-powered Nissan Leaf, both were given a Green Score of 55 in this year's list.

The Green Scores are determined by a catalog of factors including greenhouse gas emissions from both the vehicle itself and the manufacturing process to make it, as well as general fuel and energy consumption.

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