Are "green" cars mostly hype?

How do companies mislead us?

They tout highway mileage. Chevrolet’s 2013 Impala delivers 18 mpg in the city and 22 mpg in combined city-highway driving. But Chevy promoted the 30 mpg highway rating that only one version of the vehicle achieved. Surprise! It bears little relationship to the mileage drivers actually get. For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has maintained loophole-riddled test procedures that they know allow automakers to cheat. It is time the agency fixed the flaws in its tests.

They apply imaginative language to mileage claims. Ford says its 2014 Taurus delivers “impressive fuel economy.” But with city-highway ratings no better than 23 mpg, five of six versions fail to meet the government’s fuel economy target for cars of that size. We’re not impressed.

They play down crucial facts. Chevrolet touts the 38 mpg highway rating of its 2013 Spark. But the Spark only hits that mark in a manual transmission model. Just 6.5 percent of new cars sold in the United States use manual transmissions.