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The Most Fuel Efficient Cars of 2015
January 26, 2015 | 4 Comments

In this post, I will highlight the top 15 cars with the best fuel efficiency across all electric, hybrid, and gas-powered vehicles sold in the United States. 2015 will be another banner year for improved fuel efficiency at the top end of the market as 3 new vehicles (the BMW i3 REx, Mercedes Benz B-Class EV, and the Kia Soul Electric) join 6 new and re-designed vehicles from last year on this list of most fuel efficient cars sold in America. Many of this year’s models (including the Ford Focus electric, with a $6,000 price drop) have seen notable price decreases since I researched last year’s most fuel efficient cars. This is progress. Now, the rest of the market needs to catch up.

Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles 2015Back in 2012, the auto industry and government agreed to a major new U.S. fuel efficiency standard for fleets of 54.5 mpg by 2025 and these new vehicles are signs of progress towards those benchmarks. However, overall progress in fuel efficiency across the entire market is still very slow. According to the EPA, the U.S. average fleet fuel efficiency increased by only 0.5 mpg between 2012 and 2013 to 24.1 mpg, and is expected to only increase another 0.1 mpg to 24.2 mpg in 2014. Meanwhile, vehicle weight and horsepower averages are both near all time highs. Bigger, faster, AND more fuel efficient don’t always jive.

This overall market trend of very slow efficiency gains goes against consumer demand. According to the most recent J.D. Power Avoider study, fuel efficiency is still the the #1 vehicle purchase consideration:

“For a third consecutive year, gas mileage continues to be the most influential purchase reason at the industry level (15%) and is the second-most-frequently cited reason for rejecting a vehicle, behind price.”

With low gas prices, why bother with a fuel efficient vehicle? Well, there is more to fuel efficiency than immediate financial return, of course. According to the same J.D. Power survey,

“Among new-vehicle buyers who purchased an electric vehicle, more buyers say that they did so due to environmental concerns (32%) than gas mileage (29%).”

In addition to keeping track of the cheapest new cars (which can directly influence transportation costs and your personal finances if you are buying a new car), I also like to keep track of the most fuel efficient cars for the same reasons. Operating and environmental costs do matter. And the technology and efficiency gains are fascinating to follow.

If you are in the market for a new car, in some cases as with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Toyota Prius C (which just missed this list) and Chevy Spark, it might actually make economic sense to consider these efficient vehicles, as they come with $7,500 tax credits. However, it must be noted that the majority of these vehicles do not make economic sense if purchased new. For that, you may want to turn to the list of cheapest new cars that I put together or consider buying a used version of one of these vehicles in a few years.

Mileage, Cost, & Other Metrics

Noted fuel economy, CO2 emission (in grams/mile), and annual fuel cost metrics were gathered from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov site. Annual fuel costs listed are based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and a gasoline price of $2.55 per gallon and $0.12 per kWh for electricity. If you have different driving habits, you can plug them in to their calculator for each model to run the numbers. This is important, because the MPG and MPGe (equivalent) for electric hybrid vehicles will differ greatly based on daily commutes.

For MSRP’s, I have listed the actual MSRP prior to any federal or state tax credits. There is still federal electric vehicle tax credit of up to $7,500 (depends on your tax situation) available to approved electric vehicles. Tax credits are phased out for an automaker when they have produced their 200,000th electric vehicle, but no automaker is close to that number yet.

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars of 2015:

Here are the top 15 most fuel efficient cars of 2015, from least to most efficient.

15. Cadillac ELR

  • 2015 Cadillac ELRMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $75,000
  • Engine: Plugin Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 54
  • City MPG: 54
  • Highway MPG: 55
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $950
  • CO2 Emissions: 91 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 37
  • Comments: The Cadillac ELR is a plug-in that debuted last year. I gets 37 miles (similar to Volt) on electricity, prior to gas kicking in to power electric. eMPG of 82 on electric, prior to 33 on gas. Don’t bother saving up for this one. The price tag comes in at a hefty $75,000.

14. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

  • 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-inMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $30,815
  • Engine: Plugin Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 58
  • City MPG: 59
  • Highway MPG: 56
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $700
  • CO2 Emissions: 133 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 11 miles
  • Comments: With only an 11 mile all-electric range, the Prius plug-in is not a good deal in comparison to the Volt (with 38 miles of range). The Prius plug-in has a 98 eMPG with electric and 50 eMPG with gas.

13. Chevy Volt

  • 2015 Chevy VoltMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $34,170
  • Engine: Plugin Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 62
  • City MPG: 63
  • Highway MPG: 61
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $800
  • CO2 Emissions: 81 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 38 miles
  • Comments: The Volt is an extremely well-liked vehicle by its owners and with a large price cut is attainable by many now. It has a 38 miles range on electricity before the gas generator kicks in (it always runs on electricity). If in electric mode only, it has an eMPG of 98. There will be an all new Volt in 2016.

12. Toyota Rav4 EV

  • 2015 Toyota Rav4 EVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $49,800
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 76
  • City MPG: 78
  • Highway MPG: 74
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $800
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 103 miles
  • Comments: The 2014 Toyota Rav4 EV is still being sold into 2015, but it is not yet determined if the vehicle will continue in 2015. That would be disappointing, if true, because it is a SUV with an amazing 103 mile range! 2014 model specs are listed here. It’s just too pricey, in my opinion.

11. Mercedes Benz B-Class EV

  • 2015 Mercedes Benz B Class EVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $41,450
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 84
  • City MPG: 85
  • Highway MPG: 82
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $700
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 87 miles
  • Comments: A mid-2014 new vehicle, the B-Class is an electric hatchback from Mercedes. I’ll let you be the judge, but for for a pricy luxury car, it’s well, um… kind of ugly, in my opinion.

10. BMW i3 REx

  • 2015 BMW i3 RExMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $45,200
  • Engine: Plugin Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 88
  • City MPG: 97
  • Highway MPG: 79
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $650
  • CO2 Emissions: 40 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 72 miles
  • Comments: The BMW i3 Range Extender is an Interesting new model. It is a plugin hybrid with 72 miles of electric range (similar to a full electric) before kicking over to a gas-powered 2 cylinder engine to power the electric drive (similar to the Chevy Volt). The electric eMPG is 117, while the gas is 39.

9. Tesla Model S

  • 2015 Tesla Model SMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $71,070
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 95
  • City MPG: 94
  • Highway MPG: 97
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $650
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 208 miles with 60 kWh battery, 265 miles with 85 kWh battery
  • Comments: The 2014 Tesla Model S is still being sold, with specs listed above, but a highly anticipated new model will debut in 2015 at the Detroit auto show.

8. Kia Soul Electric

  • 2015 Kia Soul EVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $33,700
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 105
  • City MPG: 120
  • Highway MPG: 92
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 93 miles
  • Comments: This is an all new Kia Soul model, with an impressive 93 mile range and a 105 eMPG combined rating. I think this one could sell well. It is initially only available in California. With its reasonable pricing, this is a solid debut in the EV market for Kia.

7. Ford Focus Electric

  • 2015 Ford Focus EVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $29,995
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 105
  • City MPG: 110
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 76 miles
  • Comments: The Ford Focus electric is getting a $6,000 price cut this year, to bring it’s MSRP under $30,000, pre-tax credit.

6. Smart ForTwo EV Cabriolet

  • 2015 Smart ForTwo ElectricMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $25,750
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 107
  • City MPG: 122
  • Highway MPG: 93
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 68 miles
  • Comments: As with the gas-powered Smart cars, much better deals for much bigger cars make the EV version a tough sell.

5. Mitsubishi i-MiEV

  • 2015 Mitsubishi i-MiEVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $22,995
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 112
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 62 miles
  • Comments: The 2014 i-MiEV is still being sold, with a late release, and the metrics shown here are for the 2014 model year. MSRP, after a $7,500 tax credit is just $15,495 afater a $6,500 price cut over the previous model. I’m surprised I have not seen more of these on the road at this price.

4. Nissan Leaf

  • 2015 Nissan LeafMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $29,010
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 114
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 101
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 84 miles
  • Comments: Due to attractive lease offers, the Nissan Leaf is still the top selling electric vehicle. There was a redesigned Leaf in spring of last year, with an added 9 miles of range (and slightly less efficiency). Heavier battery = lower efficiency.

3. Volkswagen e-Golf

  • 2015 Volkswagen e-GolfMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $35,445
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 116
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 105
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 83 miles
  • Comments: The Volkswagen e-Golf is a new 2015 vehicle and it vaults up to the #3 spot in efficiency. It is more expensive than the top 7 vehicles on the list, but is arguably more functional and attractive as well.

2. Fiat 500E

  • 2015 Fiat 500EMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $32,300
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 116
  • City MPG: 122
  • Highway MPG: 108
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 87 miles
  • Comments: The Fiat 500e hit the market last year and is still the #2 rated vehicle in efficiency. For its size, however, this vehicle is just too pricey compared to the competition.

1. Chevy Spark EV

  • 2015 Chevy Spark EVMSRP (before tax credit or other incentives): $26,685
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 119
  • City MPG: 128
  • Highway MPG: 109
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $500
  • CO2 Emissions: 0
  • EV Mode Range: 82 miles
  • Comments: Last year’s new #1 is still the top in efficiency, with a combined 119 eMPG. With the $7,500 tax credit applied, the price drops to below $20,000, making the Spark EV a legit attainable electric vehicle that should be considered by any new vehicle buyer.

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