Best Alt-Energy Car: 2017 Digital Trends Car Awards

Our favorite alternative-energy cars shun gas for greener pastures

best alternative energy 2017 car awards Digital Trends altWe’ve driven them all. Now it’s time to choose the best! The 2017 Digital Trends Car Awards pit the year’s strongest contenders in five different categories against each other, and crown an overall Car of the Year

This year, our Alternative Energy category features two highly anticipated new models: the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, and the battery-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV. Both are zero-emission vehicles that rely on electric power, but they take very different approaches to cutting pollution.

The contenders

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Honda Clarity Best Alternative Energy Car

The Clarity is one of the first hydrogen fuel-cell cars intended for the mass market. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity, and the only “tailpipe” emission is a trickle of water out the back. Aside from the lack of engine noise, the Clarity feels very similar to a regular gasoline car. Like the Nissan Leaf, the Clarity’s main mission seems to be making a new technology seem normal.

With an estimated range of 366 miles per tank of hydrogen, the Clarity can also rival the practicality of gasoline cars. Like a gasoline car, it also takes just a couple of minutes to fill it up the Clarity with hydrogen, but only if you can find one of the handful of hydrogen stations currently in operation. Most of these stations are located in California, the only state the Clarity is sold at the moment.

Chevrolet Bolt EV

Chevrolet Bolt EV Best Alternative Energy Car

Chevy’s Bolt EV uses battery power, which is something we’ve seen before. What we haven’t seen before is a car with the Bolt’s combination of long range and mainstream pricing. It has a 238-mile range, and starts at $37,495 before government incentives. Not bad.

Besides offering a decent amount of range at an affordable price, the Bolt EV is simply a nice little car. The hatchback body is practical, and the Bolt features a decent array of tech, including a streaming-video rearview mirror. While by no means a sports car, the Bolt is also enjoyable to drive, thanks in part to the low center of gravity created by its floor-mounted battery pack.

And the winner is…

Chevrolet Bolt EV

Both the Clarity and Bolt were good all-around cars, but when it came time to pick the winner, we chose batteries over fuel cells. While the Clarity is held back by limited hydrogen infrastructure, the Bolt EV makes battery-electric cars more practical for more people, offering more range than any other car at its price point.