The Most Eco-Friendly Half Ton Truck Engines

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Many hard-core “greenies” long for the extinction of the pickup truck. These people view pickups as an anachronism – a hold-over from a time when Americans actually worked for a living. If you’re reading this blog you already know, but here it is again:

Pickup trucks aren’t going away. High gas prices won’t end the American love affair with pickups because people buy trucks for a reason – they need em.’

The Most Eco-friendly half-ton truck engines.

The Most Eco-friendly half-ton truck engines.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what about the “greenies” who need a pickup but want one that’s eco-friendly? Some would say that there’s no such thing, but we disagree. Using federal fuel economy and carbon footprint data provided by the EPA, we’ve put together a list of the most eco-friendly pickup trucks.

Before we give you the rankings, here’s the methodology:

  • We’re looking at more than just total carbon footprint – aka the total tons of carbon a vehicle produces. While the total footprint figure is important, it’s important to qualify the total footprint against the power of the vehicle.
  • We did not use any manufacturer towing figures because we believe all half-ton tow ratings are inflated. We didn’t use payload ratings because they’re just as dependent of suspension as they are on engine power. We kept it simple and looked at SAE standard torque, horsepower, and published displacement only.
  • All of our footprint numbers are based on the annual EPA data for the 4×4 versions of the trucks…we wanted to maximize the total carbon footprint number of every vehicle.
  • We ignored E85 because most people don’t use it. We also ignored V6’s because very few people buy them in a half-ton truck.

If you think our methodology is flawed, feel free to publish your own article. We’re making some arbitrary choices here to try and get these numbers under control – deal with it.

Here’s the total annual carbon footprint data (sorted by annual CO2 output):

YearMakeModelEngineAnnual CO2 TonsPeak HPPeak TQ
2009FordF1504.6 3V11.4292320
2009ChevySilverado6.0 Hybrid12.2332367
2009FordF1504.6 2V12.2248294

Keep in mind that the annual carbon footprint numbers are a simple calculation. The EPA uses their average fuel economy rating and average annual miles driven to calculate the number of barrels of oil used.

Here are the results in terms of efficiency – peak horsepower per ton of carbon, peak torque per ton of carbon, and tons of carbon per liter of engine displacement:

YearMakeModelEngineHP/Ton CO2TQ/Ton CO2Tons CO2/Liter
2009ChevySilverado6.0 Hybrid27.230.12.03
2009FordF1504.6 3V25.628.12.48
2009FordF1504.6 2V20.324.12.65

First Place Overall: Dodge Ram 5.7

The Dodge 5.7 is the best compromise between power and carbon efficiency.

The Dodge 5.7 is the best compromise between power and carbon efficiency.

The Dodge Ram with the 5.7 is one of the most powerful engines on the truck market, yet the EPA annual carbon footprint is less than the Tundra 5.7, Titan 5.6, and Silverado 6.2 (despite very similar HP and TQ numbers). It might sound crazy, but the HEMI might be the best compromise between power and low carbon output.

Second Place: How about a three way tie?

The Silverado 5.3, F150 4.6 3V, and new Tundra 4.6 are all powerful V8’s with solid performance and the lowest carbon output in the group. Unless you need maximum power, any one of these truck engines will suit you just fine.

Third Place: Chevy Silverado Hybrid

Ya, that’s right, the hybrid came in third. Considering that the Ram (which is substantially more powerful) produces the same amount of carbon on an annual basis, there’s no way the Silverado Hybrid could rank first. Since all the engines in second place produce less carbon annually and have similar power, the hybrid is the obvious third choice.

This is yet another example of marketing getting in the way of science. Chevy’s own 5.3 (based largely on 1960’s pushrod technology) nearly matches the Hybrid 6.0 in terms of horsepower and torque per ton of carbon. What’s the point of the hybrid?

Least Eco-Friendly Half-Ton Engine: Of all the V8s, Ford’s soon-to-be-discontinued 4.6L with 2 valves per cylinder has the least efficient HP and TQ per ton of CO2 numbers. It’s also the least efficient in terms of tons of CO2 per liter of displacement. Ford’s getting rid of that engine to make room for the new EcoBoost, which will likely rock these ratings.

Bottom Line: Give Dodge credit – they integrated a number of fuel-saving technologies into their most powerful engine, and the result is a truck that is environmentally efficient – at least as far as trucks are concerned.

Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Reviews and Comparisons

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  1. mk says:

    Agree with all your findings I guess. Very impressed with the Dodge Ram’s 5.7L Hemi being powerful yet somewhat Eco-friendly or at least not any worse than the other 1/2 ton trucks. Also agree on Chevy’s outdated 5.3L outdated technology and what is the point of a Chevy hybrid costing 1,000’s more in the first place for pretty much nothing in terms of mpg. Any yes, the Ford’s wimpy 4.6L is crap but everyone knew that. I think almost 99% of truck buyers could care less about eco-friendly 1/2 ton trucks simply because they do not exist, at least not yet until the govt. really steps in and makes the mfgs. get over 21-22 mph hwy. on all their 1/2 ton trucks. We can only hope the mfgs. oblidge, but not too much at the expense of hp/torque.

  2. mk – I think that Chevy’s hybrid failure illustrates Toyota’s hesitance to produce a hybrid pickup. Smaller engines with lots of technology (like the new Toyota 4.6L) are the easiest way to reduce pollution…strapping a hybrid powerpack to a big V8 doesn’t make for a very powerful truck, nor does it reduce pollution. Dodge’s HEMI, with it’s MDS and VVT systems, is a great example of a big powerful motor with fuel-saving technology. Kudos to them. Of course, watch out for Ford’s new Eco-Boost V6 in the F150 next year…that thing is going to blow all the others engines away when it comes to eco-friendly power.

  3. Jeremy the Mad Hatter says:

    Where are all the “Bias” trolls now?

    I agree that the Ecoboost Ford line will put the market in it’s ear. Ford is pushing to make a viable alternative to a small V8 and if the Taurus SHO is any indication, they have found it.

  4. Mike says:

    Using CO2/HP doesn’t really make sense because fuel consumption (=CO2 output) is not proportional to power output. That means high horsepower engines will always do better.

  5. Mickey says:

    Great reading, and good to know info…..

  6. Mike – It’s not?! An engine can be optimized for power or optimized for efficiency, but rarely can an engine be optimized for both. I think you have a point about our HP/Ton of CO2 data being tilted towards the bigger motors, but I think the fact that the Ram produces the same amount of CO2 as the Silverado Hybrid indicates that our analysis is correct.

  7. Jeremy – Word – they must be on vacation.
    Mickey – Thanks.

  8. Mike says:

    Jason, it’s true that bigger engines need more fuel(=emit more CO2), but it’s not a 1:1 relationship. An engine that makes twice as much power doesn’t need twice as much fuel, because it’s performing the same work in the test cycle. If you rated cars in this way, the Veyron would be America’s greenest car (57 HP/ton CO2).

  9. Jeremy the Mad Hatter says:


    Lets think. Trucks are made to haul things. Things are heavy and require power (Force) to move them. The more power you can make per ton of CO2 the farther you can move the heavy thing for the same carbon hogwash. Sounds like a good benchmark to me. I understand that there is a break point to that and overkill comes into play but that is another story. Really, can you ever have TOO much power?

    Broo ha ha ha ha !

  10. Mike – I see your point. Honestly, the metric here gave me a little trouble. I looked at towing capacity per ton of CO2, payload capacity per ton of C02, and even 0-60 time per ton of C02. The problem with those figures is that they were all very dependent on configuration. Ford has a 5.4L F150 they claim can haul 3,000 pounds if you buy the ultra-heavy suspension. Dodge says that they’ve under-rated their towing and hauling rating because of their coil rear suspension. All trucks have different ratings depending on the package/cab/etc. Ultimately, I think there’s no ONE metric that works. However, if you consider that a) trucks need power and b) the total amount of C02 produced has to be weighted against what a truck can “do,” the data seems to fit. If nothing else, I think it shows that the HEMI 5.7 is an efficient engine for it’s size.

  11. Mike says:

    It does have to be weighted against what it can do, but you’re using the CO2 data that was measured doing nothing (other than moving itself). That’s the problem. If you want to rank them in terms of emissions vs. capability, you would actually need to run the EPA test with a trailer (sized relative to the power output) to get valid numbers.

    If you want to rank TVs in terms of power consumption vs. picture area, you can’t just take their stand-by power consumption and divide by picture area. If you did that, the largest TV would probably win, because the large screen helps its numbers, even though it’s not drawing any power in stand-by mode. Same deal with the trucks. The high hp rating boosts the HP/CO2 numbers but you’re not making it work any harder than a low-powered truck in the EPA test.

    That said, the numbers are still useful to compare similar trucks with similar power outputs. You just can’t use them to compare a 300 hp truck to a 400 hp truck.

  12. Mike – I like your idea. Testing the trucks with a 5,000 lbs trailer on each and then measuring the mpg would be a good test. My guess is that the biggest displacement motors would do best. The only problem with that metric is that towing isn’t really a normal use either. Most trucks spend just a few days a year towing a trailer. The rest of the time, they’re relatively un-taxed. I think the answer is that we still haven’t found the best metric…but I appreciate your input. Maybe next year we’ll do something bigger.

  13. mk says:

    Doesn’t matter, the Tundra has the best engine/tranny available for the best possible price factoring in mpg, hp/torque, performance, and driveability/braking (among other things) – end of conversation – agree? Doesn’t matter, most of us have driven the rest and the Tundra is the best!

  14. […] undoubtedly spent too much time pushing fuel-hungry big trucks and SUVs,  manufacturers are trying to step up their games in the light truck market, […]

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