Could Citroen DS3 point to low-CO2 future?

WhatGreenCar has set out to ‘scientifically’ determine the greenest car of 2010 in its Car of the Year Awards.

After whittling the field down to a field of ten, it announced an unsurprising winner today – the Toyota Auris. The smaller, cheaper hybrid brother of the Prius was praised for making hybrid technology easily accessible on a lower budget.

However, a closer look at the ratings reveals a small surprise. Two of the models which were ‘highly commended’ were not electric, hybrid or alternatively-fuelled cars at all. They were in fact the Seat Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive and the Citroen DS3 1.6HDI.

Both models offer emissions of 99g/km – 10g/km more than the Auris hybrid, but both use efficient diesel engines.

What is more, the Citroen DS3 – a remarkable car considering how desirable it is while remaining ‘green’ – actually scored better on the WhatGreenCar rating system than the Auris by two points. The Seat fared even better, scoring one point less than the Citroen in a system where the lower the score, the better.

The result only serves to support the views of Engineering and Technology Magazine (IET), which recently caused a stir when it labelled electric vehicles a ‘poor bet’ due to unrealistic infrastructure, long charge times and range anxiety.

The magazine claims battery packs will never realistically be powerful enough to allay fears over the range of electric vehicles, and the electricity from the national grid may even prove more damaging to the environment than a combustion engine.

We are coming to a crossroads in the life of electric vehicles. The largest manufacturer of electric charging points has just 300 fully-operational recharging stations in the UK, just two years before the Vauxhall Ampera rolls off the production line.

Should manufacturers instead continue to look at reducing emissions and boosting economy of conventional petrol and diesel engines? Seat’s Ecomotive signature scored lower than the hybrid Auris in the ‘scientific’ based study, and rivals offer a whole range of eco-signatures; ECOflex, EcoBoost, Bluemotion and MultiAir.

It’s easy to say battery life, infrastructure and cost should all be fixed before electric cars really take off, but I can’t help but feel that time is getting nearer, with seemingly very little progress made.

And if efficient diesel models such as the ultra-stylish DS3 can realistically compete with best hybrids on the market, could we be seeing a move away from the electric dream, or a concerted effort to innovate and improve so that when the technology is rolled out, it is fully functioning and desirable to eco-conscious drivers?