On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, the average fuel economy of the cars and light trucks on U.S. roads and highways was less than 15 miles per gallon (mpg). The first oil embargo in the mid-1970s led to the adoption of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE) calling for a U.S. fleet average of 27.5 mpg by 1985.
That didn’t happen because Ford and General Motors whined to the Reagan administration, resulting in a CAFE standard of 26 mpg remaining in force until 1989. Fast-forward to 2017, and automakers are once again whining about being unable to meet a CAFE standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025, a figure they agreed to in 2012.
None of this takes away from the achievements of the past 47 years, though. Nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of light vehicles counts for something, and the introduction in 1999 of the Toyota Prius really did change the game.
While hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars still make up a small fraction of all new cars sold in the United States and the rest of the world, sales rise each year, and each year, it seems, another automaker introduces another alt-energy vehicle. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has even promised to unveil a battery-powered big rig later this year. This is, indeed, progress in the spirit of Earth Day.
Just ahead of Earth Day this year, the experts at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) have named their 2017 top picks of eco-friendly cars costing less than $40,000 in three categories: hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electrics. KBB executive Jack Nerad noted:
With each new model year there are more ‘green car’ choices than ever before. Whether you are looking for something that stands out as visually unique to proclaim your environmental friendliness, or if you prefer your vehicle to blend in with the more traditionally gas-powered crowd, automakers now offer several vehicles with a variety of eco-friendly powertrain options to accommodate both the lifestyle and budget needs of just about any buyer.
Here’s the list for top 10 hybrid vehicles, including the starting price of the vehicle, its fuel economy rating and its horsepower (hp):
- 2017 Toyota Prius: $25,570; 54 mpg city/50 mpg hwy/52 mpg combined; 120 hp
- 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: $23,035; 57/59/58, 139 hp
- 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid: $30,480; 49/47/48; 212 hp
- 2017 Kia Niro: $23,785; 52/49/50; 139 hp
- 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid: $26,890; 39/46/42; 192 hp
- 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: $26,835; 39/45/42; 193 hp
- 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: $29,990; 34/30/32; 194 hp
- 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid: $28,750; 49/43/46; 182 hp
- 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid: $27,675; 42/38/40; 200 hp
- 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: $37,230; 30/28/29; 306 hp
Now, here’s KBB’s list for the top five plug-in hybrid vehicles, including the starting price of the vehicle, its electric/total range and its hybrid mode combined fuel economy rating:
- 2017 Toyota Prius Prime: $27,985; 25/640 miles; 54 mpg
- 2017 Chevrolet Volt: $34,095; 53/420 miles; 42 mpg
- 2017 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid: $36,105; 29/610 miles; 40 mpg
- 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid: $35,435; 27/590 miles; 39 mpg
- 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron: $39,850; 16/380; 34 mpg
Finally, here’s KBB’s list for the top five all-electric vehicles, including the starting price of the vehicle, its combined EPA fuel economy equivalent of city/hwy mpg (MPGe); and its range at full charge:
- 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: $37,495; 119 MPGe; 238 miles
- 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric: $30,335; 136 MPGe; 124 miles
- 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf: price TBA; 119 MPGe; 125 miles
- 2017 Kia Soul EV: $33,145; 105 MPGe; 93 miles
- 2017 Nissan Leaf: $31,545; 107 MPGe; 107 miles
Visit the KBB website for more information and details.