America’s Most Eco-Friendly Vehicles

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Electric cars have been around for as long as their gas-guzzling counterparts. But technical limitations such as battery size and efficiency have until recently hampered mass adoption of what is demonstrably a cleaner and more efficient form of fuel-powered transport.

Today, thanks to innovations in how electricity is collected, stored, and discharged, we have recently entered a new era of motorized mobility. Innovations such as high-energy lithium ion battery cells, the development of battery-charging networks, and engineering feats like hybrid drivetrains and regenerative braking, are rapidly making electric vehicles and gas-electric hybrids a new normal. Now, most of the world’s largest automakers either offer eco-friendly electric and hybrid cars or are developing them.

While internal combustion engines will be around for the foreseeable future, fuel economy is climbing thanks to a combination of technological development and regulatory nudges, such as vehicle fuel economy mandates in the United States and European countries, among other nations.

With the new hybrid technologies, today it is possible to own hybrid cars able to drive the equivalent of over 40 miles to the gallon. Fully electric cars fare even better, able to drive the equivalent of over 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

While hybrids and electric cars have only been adopted by a small portion of the market, they are growing in popularity. One of the models on this list, the BMW i3 was among the 26 fastest selling cars of 2018.

The following is a list of the most eco-friendly vehicles in the U.S. marketplace for the 2018 model year. All figures come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual review of fuel economy for all passenger vehicles sold in the United States to determine the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the market for the 2018 model year. For electric vehicles, the fuel efficiency figure listed is in MPGe, or miles-per-gallon equivalent, a metric developed by the EPA to translate the fuel economy of vehicles running partially or exclusively on electricity into miles per gallon of gasoline.

In a few cases, multiple versions of a given model have different fuel efficiencies, all of which are high enough to make the list. In those cases, we list only the most fuel-efficient model.

Source: Courtesy of Chevrolet

18. Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
> Fuel (or energy) efficiency: 46 mpg
> Type: Midsize hybrid sedan
> Annual fuel cost: $900

The Chevy Malibu Hybrid is one of two Chevrolet vehicles on this list. Its 80-cell, 1.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides extra mileage compared to the 30 mpg non-hybrid version. The Malibu Hybrid can run on battery power alone at speeds of up to 55 mph before the gasoline engine kicks in. The 2019 model costs around $28,000, about $6,000 more than the gasoline only version. The vehicle earns an Excellent rating from Motortrend.

Source: Courtesy of Honda

17. Honda Accord Hybrid
> Fuel (or energy) efficiency: 47 mpg
> Type: Large hybrid sedan
> Annual fuel cost: $900

The hybrid version of one of the best selling cars in the United States squeezes out an extra 14 mpg compared to the most efficient non-hybrid Accord. Honda claims that the 2019 Accord Hybrid gets an extra mile per gallon, 48 mpg, compared to the 2018 model. The Accord Hybrid costs about $25,000, or about $2,000 more than the starting price for the non-hybrid version. The Accord Hybrid is one of two Hondas on this list.

Source: Courtesy of Kia

16. Kia Niro FE
> Fuel (or energy) efficiency: 50 mpg
> Type: Hybrid crossover
> Annual fuel cost: $850

The $24,400 Kia Niro FE traditional hybrid crossover gets a little more mileage than the slightly fancier Niro LX. An extra $5,000 gets you the plug-in hybrid version that gets less mileage than the FE when the gasoline engine runs solo but an MPGe of 105 when the battery is assisting. For 2019, Kia introduced a fully electric Niro with an MPGe of 112 and a maximum range of 240 miles.

Source: Courtesy of Toyota

15. Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
> Fuel (or energy) efficiency: 52 mpg
> Type: Midsize hybrid sedan
> Annual fuel cost: $800

The entry-level LE version of the Toyota Camry Hybrid gets 18 miles per gallon more than the most fuel efficient four-cylinder version of the non-hybrid Camry, and it draws out 6 more miles per gallon than the pricier XLE and SE versions of the Camry Hybrid. Though it is pricier and less roomy than the larger Honda Accord Hybrid, at about $28,000 for the 2019 base model, it gets measurably more fuel economy.

Source: Courtesy of Toyota

14. Toyota Prius Two Eco
> Fuel (or energy) efficiency: 56 mpg
> Type: Midsize hybrid sedan
> Annual fuel cost: $750

The most fuel efficient version of the Toyota Prius starts at about $25,000 but gets 4 more miles to the gallon (combined city and highway) than the standard Prius that costs about $2,000 less. Toyota also has the Prius Prime, a $28,000 plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 25 miles on battery power alone, giving it an MPGe of 133, but it has a lower mpg than the Prius Two Echo when its battery is not assisting.