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Cars

Published on January 7th, 2018 | by James Ayre

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Most Energy Efficient Cars For Sale In USA

January 7th, 2018 by  


As just noted in the first part of this two-part series, we decided to take a look at the most fuel efficient (i.e., gas efficient) cars on the market in the US (that article) and then take a look at the most energy efficient electric cars in the USA (this article), followed by a comparison of the two (also this article). There are both similarities and differences that stood out to us after doing so, but there’s basically one key take-home point that you might be able to guess.

We also came away with some automotive suggestions for buyers with different needs. Those are on the bottom of the article.

Without further to do, let’s jump in.


Most Energy Efficient Plug-In Vehicles Available In The USA

Below is a short discussion of “fuel”/energy efficient plug-in electric vehicle models sold in the US. The top model currently available in the good ole USA is produced by a Korean company, and the runner up is produced by a Japanese company. In third and fourth place, though, American companies are indeed represented.

You may notice that the efficiency ratings here are MPGe instead of MPG. “Miles per gallon” is for gasoline, of course, but to try to keep the ratings comparable and sensible to consumers, this “Miles per gallon equivalency” rating was formed. Basically, the point is to compare energy efficiency across different sources of energy.


Hyundai Ioniq Electric — 136 MPGe Combined (150/122)

Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The most recent iteration of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric has been granted a combined fuel efficiency rating from the US EPA of 136 MPGe — a combo of a highway fuel efficiency rating of 122 MPGe and a city fuel efficiency rating of 150 MPGe.

These ratings relate to the current 28 kWh battery configuration, which allows for a US EPA range rating of 124 miles per full charge. Notably, Hyundai execs have revealed that the upcoming model year of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric will feature a real-world range of around 200 miles per full charge — which will require a large battery pack capacity and probably a somewhat reduced energy efficiency.

The current Hyundai Ioniq Electric manages around 100 miles of travel per used 25 kWh of battery pack.

Read our review of the fully electric Hyundai Ioniq.


Toyota Prius Prime — 133 MPGe Combined

Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

In second place we have the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime PHEV, which was granted a fuel efficiency rating of 133 MPGe by the US EPA. As noted earlier in this article, the Toyota Prius Prime possesses a very impressive liquid-fuels-only efficiency rating as well — possibly making the model particularly attractive to those who don’t always have time and/or the opportunity to charge the battery pack.

The Prius Prime is essentially as fuel efficient as the non-plug-in Prius models are, but also possesses the ability to run in all-electric mode for 30 or so miles per full charge — with the only real downside as compared to other Prius models being the higher price tag for the Prius Prime, but that is only a moderate price rise and the Prime can also land the owner a $4,500 tax credit.

Read our review of the Toyota Prius Prime.


Tesla Model 3 (Long Range) — 126 MPGe (131/120)

In third place we have the Tesla Model 3 (Long Range), which has been granted a fuel efficiency rating of 126 MPGe by the US EPA — which relates to a highway efficiency of 120 MPGe and a city efficiency of 131 MPGe.

The Tesla Model 3’s high energy efficiency rating, and also the reduced disparity between highway and city ratings, is mostly down to the model’s very low drag coefficient — as, speaking otherwise, the model actually possesses a fairly large interior and storage area and is outfitted with relatively heavy semi-autonomous driving sensors and systems as well.

It’s important to note here that the figures above relate to the Tesla Model 3 outfitted with the heavy battery pack (and thus longer range). The lower range Tesla Model 3 (~220 miles rather than ~310 miles) should possess a substantially better MPGe rating, perhaps even propelling it to the #1 position on this list.


BMW i3 — 124 MPGe (137/111)

Photo by Jose Pontes | CleanTechnica

In fourth place we have the 2017 BMW i3 — which, very notably, used to possess a much better US EPA fuel efficiency rating than it does now. The 2017 model year changeover saw the inclusion of a large battery pack, at the expense of the models superb energy efficiency (battery packs are heavy). To be fair, the model is still superbly energy efficient. The efficiency here is more than double the most efficient non-plug-in car on the US market.

Check out our 2013 review of a BMW i3, our 2017 review of a BMW i3, our other 2017 review of the i3, and/or our webinar about the BMW i3.


Chevy Bolt EV — 119 MPGe (128/110)

Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

In fifth place we have the Chevy Bolt EV, which was granted a US EPA fuel efficiency rating of 119 MPGe — split by a 128 MPGe city efficiency and a 110 MPGe highway efficiency.

Considering how heavy the model’s battery packs are, the fairly high fuel/energy efficiency is impressive — being nearly comparable to the Tesla Model 3 in city performance, but suffering at highway speeds due to the higher drag coefficient.

Check out our Bolt reviews from Chief CleanTechnica EV Reviewer Kyle Field, an owner 1,200 miles after purchase, an owner one year after purchase.


Roping in the honorable mentions, the list of most efficient cars in the United States at the beginning of 2018 breaks down like this:

  1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric — 136 MPGe Combined (150/122)
  2. Toyota Prius Prime — 133 MPGe
  3. Tesla Model 3 Long Range — 126 MPGe (131/120)
  4. BMW i3 60 — 124 MPGe (137/111)
  5. Chevy Bolt EV — 119 MPGe (128/110)
  6. BMW i3 94 — 118 MPGe (129/106)
  7. Honda Clarity EV — 114 MPGe (126/103)
  8. BMW i3 94 REx — 111 MPGe (35 MPG on REx)
  9. Kia Soul EV — 108 MPGe (124/93)
  10. Smart Fortwo Electric Coupe — 108 MPGe (124/94)
  11. Ford Focus Electric — 107 MPGe (118/96)

Most Energy Efficient Vehicles For Sale In The USA (All Types)

If we made this into a three-part series, the third article would combine all types of vehicles for a grand list of the most energy efficient cars. But that would be too simple and too weird. When we consider what the most fuel/energy efficient vehicles are regardless of energy source, what do we see? The same exact thing that we see when we list the most energy efficient plug-in electric vehicles.

In other words, if you have no preference as far as electric plug or gas station but you want a fuel/energy efficient vehicle, then go with an electric one. The list of most efficient cars, of all types, is the same as the list of most efficient plug-in cars:

  1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric — 136 MPGe Combined (150/122)
  2. Toyota Prius Prime — 133 MPGe
  3. Tesla Model 3 Long Range — 126 MPGe (131/120)
  4. BMW i3 60 — 124 MPGe (137/111)
  5. Chevy Bolt EV — 119 MPGe (128/110)
  6. BMW i3 94 — 118 MPGe (129/106)
  7. Honda Clarity EV — 114 MPGe (126/103)
  8. BMW i3 94 REx — 111 MPGe (35 MPG on REx)
  9. Kia Soul EV — 108 MPGe (124/93)
  10. Smart Fortwo Electric Coupe — 108 MPGe (124/94)
  11. Ford Focus Electric — 107 MPGe (118/96)

Conclusions

Rather than attempt to be objective here, I’ll just go ahead and offer my unvarnished thoughts after looking at both lists.

Those looking for an affordable (not to everyone, but to many people) and highly fuel efficient car are probably best off going with the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (Blue trim).

Those looking for a plug-in hybrid that offers excellent performance as a conventional hybrid could probably be happy with any of the PHEVs on the first list — all of which have higher fuel economy on gas than even the most efficient Toyota Prius did not that long ago.

Those wanting a plug-in hybrid that you will generally use in all-electric mode — with the hybrid capacity only to be used for long trips — are probably best off going with the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV or Chevy Volt PHEV.

Those wanting an all-electric vehicle with a long range are probably best off going with a Tesla Model 3 or a Chevy Bolt EV — with the decision between the two mostly coming down to: individual style preferences, opinions on semi-autonomous driving features, the appeal (or not) of Tesla’s Supercharger network for long-distance travel, and willingness to wait for Tesla to actually deliver the Model 3 you want.

Compare dozens of electric cars in our electric car buying guide.


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.



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