Published October 02, 2012
Cars That Get Great Fuel Economy
With gas prices climbing, consumers are looking to save with energy-efficient cars. Luckily, fuel economy standards are on the rise, and there are more electric and hybrid cars on the market. In fact, all 10 cars on the list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles put out by the Environmental Protection Agency are either electric or hybrid cars. Their mileage is written as mpge, or miles per gallon estimate.
Two vehicles, the Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Van and Wagon, share the same mechanics and are lumped in sixth position on the EPA's list. But since those vehicles weren't in production at press time, Bankrate hasn't included them on its list.
In addition to fuel savings, keep in mind that electrics and hybrids get federal tax breaks, and some states offer additional tax incentives.
The i-MiEV was voted "The Greenest Vehicle of 2012" by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. This four-passenger, all-electric car is available in two models, with the lowest level ES starting at $29,125. After a federal tax credit of $7,500, the price moves down to $21,625, making it one of the least expensive cars on this list of energy-efficient cars.
Getting an EPA-rated 112 miles-per-gallon equivalent, or mpge, the gas-free i-MiEV is run off of a 49-kilowatt electric motor. The power comes from a 330-volt, 16-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery system, which pumps out 66 horsepower. You'll top out at a speed of 81 mph.
Mitsubishi says it takes 22.5 hours to get a full charge out of the standard 120-volt trickle charger. If you pick up the optional 240-volt charger, you'll get a full battery charge in seven hours. The commercial charger only takes 30 minutes, but you'll need to buy package options in order to get that feature.
The EPA estimates an annual "fuel" cost of $550 to charge up this vehicle and says you'll go 62 miles on a full charge in typical driving conditions.
The all-electric Ford Focus Electric tops the list of energy-efficient cars for five passengers. It starts at $39,200 but qualifies for a $7,500 tax credit, which brings it down to $31,700.
The Focus has a 107-kilowatt electric drive motor. The power comes from a 23-kilowatt-hour, high-voltage, lithium-ion battery system. That means no gas pumps and no oil changes. It will allow you to travel at a top speed of 84 mph.
Two charging options are available. Ford claims the standard 120-volt charger will take about 20 hours, while the optional 240-volt charger takes four.
According to the EPA, it'll go 76 miles on a charge with an estimated annual "fuel" cost of $600 to charge up this vehicle.
Nissan offers the Leaf in two models: the base model SV at $35,200 and the SL at $37,250. Nissan's energy-efficient cars qualify for a federal tax credit of $7,500.
The Leaf has many standard features -- heated seats, heated exterior mirrors and a heated steering wheel. The 80-kilowatt motor is powered by a 24-kilowatt lithium-ion battery system, hitting a top speed of 90 mph.
The higher level SL comes with some big benefits. For an extra $2,050, you get a standard quick-charge port, which will charge the car in around 30 minutes at commercial charging stations. The standard 120-volt trickle charger will take 20 hours for a full charge. With the 240-volt charging station, you'll get a full charge in seven hours, according to Nissan.
The EPA says you'll go 73 miles on a full change and estimates an annual "fuel" cost of $600 to charge up this vehicle.
Just recently arriving on the market for energy-efficient cars, the Model S is the newest addition to the Tesla family. The four-door, five-passenger all-electric sedan is the most expensive vehicle on the list. It starts at $49,900 for the 40-kilowatt battery, after a federal tax credit of $7,500. You'll pay $59,900 for the 60-kilowatt and $69,900 for the 85-kilowatt.
Tesla claims the 40-kilowatt battery on the S will go 160 miles on a charge, if you're doing 55 mph. The extra $10,000 for the 60-kilowatt battery will get you 230 miles, and the extra $20,000 for the 85-kilowatt battery will take you 300 miles.
Though it's not as fast as the Roadster, the S is no slouch when it comes to performance. The entry-level S will get you to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.5 seconds.
Tesla says you can get 62 miles of range per hour of charge by combining the 240-volt home charging station with the Twin Chargers, an additional option on the vehicle that costs an extra $1,500.
The EPA estimates its annual "fuel" cost at $700 to charge up this vehicle.
Coda Automotive is new to the electric-car market. It just released the Coda in March. It's a four-door sedan with a suggested retail price of $37,250, but it gets a federal tax credit of $7,500. If you're a California resident, you'll also get state tax credits.
It has a 100-kilowatt electric motor, which is a bit bigger than other electrics on the list of energy-efficient cars. The power comes from a 333-volt, 31-kilowatt-hour, lithium-iron phosphate battery.
With the optional 240-volt home charging station, you'll get a full battery meter in six hours, according to Coda. The 120-volt standard charger will take 36 to 40 hours.
You can expect to go about 88 miles on a charge with a "fuel" cost of approximately $850 annually to charge up this car, according to EPA estimates.
Starting at $39,145, the Chevy Volt no longer comes with the navigation and Bose audio systems as standard equipment. It's a plug-in hybrid vehicle that qualifies for federal tax savings up to $7,500 on energy-efficient cars.
As a plug-in hybrid, the Volt comes with two sources of energy. The primary power source comes from a 16-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack, which powers the electric motor. When the battery is almost depleted, the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in, using premium gas.
The EPA ranks this vehicle by combining the mpg of the gas engine with the mpge of the electric motor. It comes out at a combined 60 mpge. According to EPA estimates, you'll go 35 miles on just the battery and 380 miles with a full tank of gas.
Regenerative braking and the engine generator will partly recharge the battery, but to get a full charge you'll need to plug in the vehicle. With the 120-volt charger, you'll get a full charge in about 10 hours, according to Chevy. With the 240-volt charging station, you'll have a fully charged Volt in around four hours.
The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is the biggest gas saver in the Prius lineup. The standard model starts at $32,000, and the advanced model begins at $39,525.
The Plug-in gets its power from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gas engine combined with an electric motor system, as does the standard Prius. Combined they put out 134 horsepower, Edmunds says. The Plug-in uses a 4.4-kilowatt, lithium-ion battery instead of the nickel-metal hydride found on the standard Prius.
Prius says the Plug-in EV Mode will take you 11 miles on a full charge. After that, the electric and gas engines work together until the battery runs out. That gives it a combined 95 mpge and a combined 50 mpg with just gas, according to the EPA.
The Toyota Prius C also made the EPA's list, with the base model starting at $18,950. The C is the smallest in the Prius lineup and gets a combined 50 mpg, according to the EPA.
Starting at $24,000, the standard Toyota Prius is also in the lineup of energy-efficient cars. EPA ratings put the combined mpg at 50, the same as the Prius C. But the 51 city mpg of this Prius is a slightly lower than the C, and the 48 highway mpg is slightly higher.
The Honda Civic Hybrid comes in one trim option with a suggested starting price of $24,200. Upgrades such as leather seats, satellite-linked navigation and a continuously variable transmission are available for a higher price tag.
The Civic Hybrid has a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes standard with a 144-volt lithium-ion battery and a permanent magnet electric motor.
According to the EPA, you can expect to pay around $1,300 over the course of the year for gas, and you'll travel about 523 miles on a tank.
This vehicle was pushed off of the EPA's top 10 list of energy-efficient cars when the Tesla S was introduced, but Bankrate is including it because two other cars on the list are not yet in production.