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.


Mercedes wants to turn your car into a comfortable shopping mall on wheels

Mercedes-Benz designed its MBUX infotainment system with e-commerce in mind. Motorists can upgrade compatible cars via an over-the-air software updating system, but the brand wants to take this technology to the next level.

Can electric cars be S3XY? Tesla says yes with the new Model Y crossover

Tesla introduced a crossover named Model Y at its design studio in Los Angeles. It's a more spacious alternative to the Model 3 it shares 75 percent of its parts with, and is a smaller sibling to the Model X.

Karma Automotive continues clawing back from the brink with three new cars

Karma Automotive will bring three new cars to the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, including a long overdue redesigned version of its Revero plug-in hybrid and an all-electric concept car.

Ford to expand autonomous-car research in race to launch robo-taxi service

Ford is in a race with Waymo and GM Cruise to launch large-scale taxi and delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Already testing its technology in four U.S. cities, the automaker looks set to expand its program to a fifth.

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.

Automakers are spending billions on self-driving technology people are afraid of

Automakers are spending billions of dollars on developing the technology that will power self-driving cars, but research shows consumers have no interest in giving up control. Will they ever recoup their investment?

Unrestrained by heritage, Polestar sets its sights on becoming a digital brand

With no heritage to worry about, Polestar is free to move full-speed ahead towards its goal of becoming a digital brand. All of the company's upcoming models will be electric, and they will inaugurate an Android-powered infotainment system.

Mustang-like and electrified. What did Ford just show a preview of?

Ford posted an enigmatic picture of a blue Mustang emblem on a black background right as Tesla prepared to introduce the Model Y. Is the Blue Oval teasing a hybrid Mustang, or is it previewing a Mustang-inspired, battery-powered crossover?

Amazon and Kia team up to simplify EV home-charging station installs

Kia Motors announced a new program with Amazon for electric vehicles. Customers planning to purchase a new Kia EV or PHEV can check out recommended Level 2 240-volt home charging stations and arrange installation in their homes.

Audi’s traffic light information system shows the challenges facing V2X tech

Audi’s traffic light information system is among the first commercial applications of potentially game-changing V2X tech. So how does it work in the real world? We spent a few days getting stuck at red lights to find out.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Fisker plans sub-$40,000 electric SUV with 300 miles of range for 2021

Fisker Inc. plans to launch an electric SUV with a base price of under $40,000, and a range of around 300 miles in 2021. The unnamed vehicle could compete with the Tesla Model Y, if it ever gets into production.

Tesla gives us a cryptic look at its cyberpunk, Blade Runner-inspired pickup

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself. It could make its debut in 2019.

2020 Cadillac CT5 luxury sedan gets turbocharged power, chiseled looks

The 2020 Cadillac CT5 replaces the CTS in the General Motors luxury brand's lineup. Cadillac will unveil the CT5 at the 2019 New York Auto Show in April. Until then, it's keeping most details under wraps.