Highway vehicles in the United States emit approximately 1.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, close to one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. With climate change widely viewed as a long-term threat to the planet and health of the population, consumers and auto industry players continue to seek more fuel-efficient driving options.
In light of Earth Day — a celebration aimed at putting environmental protection in the spotlight, and a reminder of the much needed action yet to be done — 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the vehicles with the lowest CO2 emissions per mile. Data was obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2017 Fuel Economy Guide.
Because electric cars emit zero CO2, the top 13 best vehicles for the environment are all electric cars, led by Hyundai Ioniq Electric. The Ioniq Electric’s 136 mpg equivalent makes it the most efficient even among the other electric vehicles on this list. Pollution from power plants that generate electricity for electric cars is part of the true environmental impact of a particular vehicle, but production stage factors such as these were not considered for this ranking.
Efficient fuel consumption helps reduce environmental harm. While almost all cars currently run on oil, fossil fuels are nonrenewable sources of energy and eventually alternative fuel sources will be needed for the current level of automobile travel to continue.
Efficient fuel consumption can also be beneficial to personal finances. The price of gas fluctuates wildly, and a fuel-efficient vehicle can make a major dent in a driver’s annual operating costs.
According to the EPA, on the assumption of 15,000 miles of travel, a driver in the United States spends between $500 and $4,000 on fuel each year — less for fuel efficient cars that use regular unleaded gasoline, and more for gas guzzling vehicles that require premium fuel. To estimate an average expenditure, the EPA assumes 25 mpg fuel economy and $2.44 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. At this rate, a typical driver would end up spending roughly $1,500 a year on fuel.
Unsurprisingly, large SUVs and high performance sports cars dominate the list of least efficient vehicles. By contrast, small, hybrid and electric compact vehicles tend to be among the most eco-friendly and most cost effective vehicles on the market. Drivers of Chevy Bolts, VW e-Golfs, and Hyundai Ioniq Electrics — each among the top five most eco-friendly cars — spend an average $550 on fuel annually.
A few of the nation’s greenest cars, despite having among the lowest CO2 emissions, are relatively expensive to drive. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, for example, is more costly to drive than the average vehicle. While the only waste product of the Fuel Cell is water, the hydrogen needed to operate the car is currently more expensive than gasoline.
To determine the most environmentally-friendly vehicles available in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed CO2 emissions per mile driven for over 1,200 vehicles with data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2017 Fuel Economy Guide datafile. To break ties between vehicles with equal CO2 emissions, we used fuel efficiency figures followed by five-year fuel cost savings from the same dataset. We only considered the most environmentally- friendly vehicle within each model. For example, the Tesla S 60D was selected among eight versions of the Tesla Model S tracked by the EPA.
These are the most eco-friendly vehicles.