The past three weeks have seen three fairly significant Green Car Awards presented: the Kia Soul EV won the overall Canadian Green Car Award as well as Canadian Green Car of the Year, while the World Green Car of the Year was presented to the BMW i8 plug-in supercar at the New York International Auto Show.

Adding to the potential confusion, the two Canadian Green Car Award winners were both announced within days of each other. The Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s CGCOTY presentation was held at Vancouver auto show, while the Canadian Green Car Award was presented at the Green Living Show in Toronto.

As an AJAC member, a voting member of the World Car of the Year committee, and a steering committee member for the Canadian Green Car Awards, I thought it’d be helpful to clarify the differences in the awards, especially the Canadian ones. If you’re a consumer looking to save money at the pump, prevent environment-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, and/or contribute as little as possible to human health-harming emissions, here’s why I believe there’s a benefit to having separate awards for all three, as well keeping your eyes open to various other green awards as well.

Let’s start with the Canadian awards, since those two seem the most similar. Both involve volunteer efforts of many hours by their respective organizations, as well as voting expertise and time commitments from deadline-challenged, auto writing professionals. Many of these contributors are independent freelancers, and therefore unencumbered by direct commercial connections to auto advertisers that sometimes creep up in awards from individual publications.

I should clarify up front that I was heavily involved in organizing the Canadian Green Car Award, as one of only three steering committee members, voted on the World Green Car award but didn’t help organize it, and didn’t vote or participate in AJAC’s CGCOTY at all, outside of maintaining my AJAC membership and receiving occasional group-wide general updates on it.

Born as a unified award presented by both AJAC and the Green Living Show in 2012, the Canadian Green Car award is in its third year, and has always been presented in conjunction with the Green Living Show. It is voted on by automotive journalists now from both within and outside of AJAC, including some of the best-known auto journalists in the country, ones carefully selected that have shown a special interest in environmental causes, green topics and advanced technology.

What makes the CGC awards distinct is that they are open to all green or environmentally sensitive vehicles that meet certain strict fuel consumption criteria, and not just ones that happen to be all-new for this particular model year, or for automakers that pay a separate entry fee. Any vehicle that meets the efficiency criteria are nominated in their respective categories, with jurors voting on a short list to rank the top vehicles in each segment. From there, as long as automakers have made the vehicles available to test drive for the majority of the voters, provide environmental information on the availability and production methods of the car, and agree to bring the vehicles to the award ceremony should they win, they are eligible to become finalists in six distinct categories.

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