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The focus in Green ICT (information and communication technology) is on software and hardware solutions to reduce energy consumption. Here the authors consider the design of vehicular ad hoc networks (VANETs) to reduce energy consumption because of communications. Based on a realistic transport traffic scenario on a motorway, `M4` in UK, this study computes the energy consumption in a motorway ad hoc wireless network. This is based on a geographical adaptive fidelity (GAF) topology management protocol, where the energy consumption has been analysed for equal-grid, adjustable-grid and genetic algorithm models. Considering nodes in the VANET network and their transmission ranges, this study provides a network model to compute the energy consumption of VANETs and compare their energy efficiency performance. As a result, the proposed genetic algorithm model has been found to be more energy efficient than the adjustable-grid model which is better than the equal-grid model.