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EPA designates most energy-efficient cars

Hybrids and EVs dominate a new list of the 'greenest' vehicles, but what will the future hold for energy-efficient cars?

By Claire_Martin Oct 4, 2012 5:58AM
Ford Focus Electric photo by FordThe Honda Civic Hybrid gets 44 mpg equivalent (mpge), while the Toyota Prius plug-in pulls down 51 mpge city and the Chevy Volt logs 62 mpge highway. The numbers are impressive, considering the average fuel economy for vehicles on U.S. streets is 23.8 mpg. 

But these three vehicles are at the bottom of the Environmental Protection Agency's new list of the most energy-efficient cars on America roads, according to a report by Business Insider

At the top? Coda Automotive's sedan gets 77 mpge on city streets, the Tesla Model S clocks 88, the Nissan Leaf gets 106 and the Ford Focus Electric tops out at 110. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is king of the urban road with 126 mpge. 

The majority of the cars on the EPA's list are electric, yet there's been recent debate over whether EVs will be the energy-efficient car of the future. As we've written about, Toyota is scaling back its production of electric vehicles while boosting hybrids. The New York Times has covered Tesla's struggles, including the company's sale of 5 million shares to raise cash. And Chevrolet's stop-and-go Volt production -- the result of lagging sales -- has been widely covered.

The EV has a consistent supporter, however, in Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors and a leader in the development of the Volt. Lutz predicts the EV category will continue to grow as the cost of batteries and other technology drops. "This is a market in its infancy," Lutz told Yahoo! Finance. "But by 2020 or 2025, maybe 10 percent of the world's production will be electric vehicles."

Given that the new fuel-economy standards instituted by the Obama administration require an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025, it would seem Lutz might be prescient. But according to some industry experts, that's not necessarily so. 

Getting to 54.5 won't require alternative technologies, they say, but rather aerodynamic designs, lighter bodies and smaller engines. According to what Daniel F. Becker of Safe Climate Campaign told The New York Times, “The vast majority of vehicles will be more efficient without using electric or hybrid powertrains.” 
Oct 4, 2012 6:05PM

I have a question.  In 1990 Suzuki partnered with GM and sold the Swift / Metro.  Mine is 22 years old now and gives me 50 miles to the gallon highway- Steady run in 5 th gear at 58 miles per hour. I have replaced an alternator, struts and tires- that's it in 22 years.  The interior of this car fits two 300 pound adults in the front and two 130 pound adults in the back with two duffle bags. This car weighs in around 1,600 pounds. This car makes an annual trip to Florida and back to New York, 2,800 miles cruising at 75 miles per hour.


It is 22 years later just think of the technology advances- look at your Iphone.  Suzuki still makes the Swift in over half of the countries in the world except North America.- IF -   22 years ago we had this incredible mileage what do you think our potential is for today? When a 4,000 pound car gets 38 miles to the gallon. In 2010 VW was to start selling a early Rabbit equivalent diesel getting 75 miles to the gallon.  It is now planned for 2015.  Guess what? It's out there for the rest of the world.


We are a market. Controlled by the Fuel companies.  The profit is so huge it controls the car companies, shipping companies, drug companies, plastic industry  etc....


The problem here is this.  Lower class America struggling to survive and go to work is now working for the Gas companies guaranteeing steady revenue for life.  Slavery or indentured servant, remember those terms.  What are you?  Why are we allowing these companies to direct our futures?  Haven't Americans struggled for over 200 years to gain strides, become free and determine the road ahead?

Oct 4, 2012 7:18PM

"In 2010 VW was to start selling a early Rabbit equivalent diesel getting 75 miles to the gallon. It is now planned for 2015. Guess what? It's out there for the rest of the world."


That isn't based on the Imperial system of gallon but the European. On the American scale, it would be at 45 to 50 MPG, which you get with the Golf/Jetta TDI that are already available. There is no grand conspiracy to the MPG of the vehicles these days, just simply two different measurement systems.


As to your Geo compared to todays vehicles, your Geo had no modern conveniance, no safety systems and no sound deadening. It is a literal tin can on wheels that gets you from point A to point B. That isn't so much a bad thing but safety standards have changed since then. Cars are getting HEAVIER thanks to emissions standards, safety standards and the demand of comfort. Thanks to all this added weight, you are going to get a lot less MPG.

Oct 7, 2012 11:33AM
Low emmision diesels and then devolp hydrgen and nuclear powered vehicles. Sugar cane makes much better ethenol than corn and won't raise basic food prices like corn does. Florida has tons of sugar cane, and they can grow alot more than we do now, and put refineries here in Florida for it.
Oct 7, 2012 8:51AM
Can't speak for anyone else, but here in Tampa, Florida we are encouraged to lower our use of electricity as much as possible.  The encouragement comes in the form of higher rates once 1000 KW of power is used per month.  So, why would anyone in Florida buy a plug-in car?

Oct 7, 2012 8:05AM
we had a '83 (?)  ford escort wagon with a mazda diesel.  moved from denver to fresno--fully loaded, 55 mph, 58 mpg.  i based my service intervals if the mileage dropped below 45 mpg, it was time for service.  can't get them anymore, can you?  seems like every time someone comes up with a good, efficient vehicle, they stop making them--always got a good excuse, not making enough money, etc.
Oct 7, 2012 6:58AM
Can't wait to see what the real cost of driving these vehicles is when the cost of recharging the batteries goes through the roof when the 220 or so coal-fired power plants are forced to close soon. Wonder if the EPA will provide those figures then ?
Oct 7, 2012 3:14AM
The Geo metro is still desired.  I miss my death pod!
Oct 7, 2012 2:12PM
For the life of me I can't understand what people see in electric cars. The cost is prohibitive and the payback vs. hybrids or diesel vehicles with high mileage will take a decade or more. Battery technology hasn't improved all that much in the past century. Sound radical? Not really google electric cars and you will find that electric cars made in the early 1900's got the same forty mile range per battery charge as the Volt. These vehicles will not be ready for prime time until electric vehicle range is dramatically improved.
Oct 7, 2012 1:54PM
Its difficult for us to give up our fossil fuel vehicles and we can try to come up with rationalizations on why electric and hybrids are bad and expensive. The truth is an electric vehicle gets better comparative mileage than a gas  even diesel one. Also the cost to make the electricity is less than gas(which is approaching 5 per gallon) even by the most efficient vehicle out there. Still more expensive to buy the hybrids and electric but they are coming down and resale on them is better than gas ones in general example prius. Batteries are able to be recycled and are green, gas fumes can't be recycled  
Oct 7, 2012 7:27PM
EVs are the equivalent of what cars are when they first came out: the playtoys of the wealthy. Until there are enough recharging stations in the infrastructure to support EVs, owning one is completely impractical. just as it would be impractical to own a car at the dawn of the 20th century, due to the lack of gas stations available at that time. We will need someone who can vastly reduce the cost of construction of EVs before the price will be within range of most consumers, similar to what Henry Ford did with the Model T. Until that happens, EVs will never have sufficient demand to go mainstream.
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