The 10 Most Efficient Vehicles Sold in the U.S. in 2021

I’ve always been a fuel economy nerd, and as one, I’ve kept a close eye on automotive vehicle efficiency over the last few decades. In this article, I will list the 10 most efficient vehicles of 2021 that are sold in the U.S. market, along with their specs and pricing. When I first started compiling this list, every single vehicle on the list was a gasoline-electric hybrid (primarily gasoline like the original Toyota Prius) or simply a small, efficient gas-powered vehicle. Today, all of the vehicles on this list are 100% powered by electricity. And that will be the trend for the next few decades, until hydrogen or another power source technology overtakes electricity.




I also keep track of the cheapest new cars for many of the same reasons – I love seeing technological improvements that drive price and performance efficiency. Maybe I missed my true calling as an engineer. With all of the climate change warnings and disasters that we’ve seen in the past few years, there is an urgency in efficiency gains and the shift of consumer vehicle fleets from gas to 100% electric drivetrains. The transportation sector is the largest source of emissions in the United States and even if electric vehicles are 100% powered upstream by today’s power grid, they produce only about one-quarter of the CO2 of new gas powered vehicles.

As a personal finance writer, I should note that electric vehicles are typically still more expensive than their gasoline counterparts in terms of purchase price. Total cost of ownership, on the other hand, is starting to tilt in the favor of electric vehicles. The cost of battery technology has plummeted in recent years, bringing down purchase prices, while the ongoing maintenance and fuel costs of electric vehicles have always been lower than gasoline.

Most Efficient Vehicles 2021

The folks over at MIT recently put together data showing the monthly costs and emissions (including upstream emissions for electric vehicles) of most mass-produced vehicles sold in the U.S. market. It is worth a look to compare vehicles and emphasize the point that monthly costs for electric vehicles are now comparable to hybrid and gas-powered vehicles. And, there is still up to $7,500 in federal electric vehicle tax credits and a number of state electric vehicle tax credits available for a number of electric vehicle manufacturers, impacting those economics even further.

There have been a number of new developments in the last year that point to an even more promising near future for electric vehicles. While only 1.8% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2020 were electric, a number of manufacturers have decided to bank on an electric future.

  • Ford announced a $22 billion investment in electric vehicles through 2025.
  • GM has announced the launched of 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 and plans to eliminate all gas and diesel powered vehicles by 2035.
  • VW expects that half its vehicles sold in 2030 will be electric.
  • Tesla continuously has record quarterly sales and has seen its stock consistently hit new all-time highs, and a number of new electric vehicle manufacturers are entering the market.
  • Manufacturers are adding electric SUVs, Pickups, and even a Hummer! Manufacturers gravitating towards the types of vehicles people are buying versus strictly subcompact models is a big positive sign for electric vehicles.

We’ve also seen a commitment from the current administration to build 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S. as part of its infrastructure plan and has called for $100 billion in new electric vehicle customer incentives.




Mileage Efficiency, Cost, & Other Metrics

For the specs listed below, efficiency (eMPG), CO2 emissions (in grams/mile), and annual fuel (electricity) cost metrics were gathered from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov site. Upstream CO2 emissions are national averages (assuming the individual does not have their own electricity generated and is purchasing from a utility), and compare to a new vehicle average of 410 grams/mile. Annual fuel costs listed are based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and $0.13 per kWh of electricity.

For MSRP, I have listed the price prior to any federal or state tax credits, which could greatly reduce cost. There is still a federal electric vehicle tax credit of up to $7,500 available for purchases on approved electric vehicles (eligibility varies based on your tax situation). Tax credits are phased out for automakers when they have produced their 200,000th electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. market – and for the first time, a few automakers have passed that mark. Tesla and GM models are no longer eligible for the federal tax credit as they have surpassed the 200,000 vehicles sold threshold.

The Most Efficient Vehicles of 2021 Sold in the US:

Here are the top 10 most efficient cars (vehicles) of 2021 sold in the United States, from #10 to #1.

10. Mini Cooper Electric Hardtop

2021 Mini Cooper Electric Hardtop

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $29,900
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 108
  • City MPG: 115
  • Highway MPG: 100
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 150 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 110 miles
  • Overview: A good price point for an electric Mini!

9. Nissan Leaf

2021 Nissan Leaf

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $31,670
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 111
  • City MPG: 123
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 140 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 110 miles
  • Overview: The #1 selling electric car globally from 2010-2017. Sales have been stagnant in recent years, however. The Leaf is still eligible for the federal tax credit.

8. Kia Niro Electric

2021 Kia Niro Electric

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $39,090
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 112
  • City MPG: 123
  • Highway MPG: 102
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 140 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 239 miles
  • Overview: Similar to Kia’s sister brand, the Hyundai Kona. The Niro boasts slightly less impressive specs when compared to the Kona, yet comes with a higher price tag.

7. BMW i3

2021 BMW i3

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $44,450
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 113
  • City MPG: 124
  • Highway MPG: 102
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 140 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 153 miles
  • Overview: It was rumored that the i3 production was going to end, but the new BMW CEO gave the vehicle a vote of confidence to continue at least for the time being.

6. Kandi K27

2021 Kandi K27

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $17,499
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 114
  • City MPG: 127
  • Highway MPG: 102
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 140 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 59 miles
  • Overview: A new glorified golf cart from China. The K27 checks in as the 6th most efficient vehicle of 2021, on the promise of being the lowest price electric vehicle. It has a tiny range of just 59 miles, so it really can only be used as a short commute, running errands, or city car. It will be interesting to see if, at this price point, this car builds some momentum in the U.S. market. My guess is that it does not.

5. Chevy Bolt

2021 Chevy Bolt

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $37,890
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 118
  • City MPG: 127
  • Highway MPG: 108
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 140 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 259 miles
  • Overview: GM’s all-electric Bolt boasts impressive specs for the price. GM passed the 200,000 electric vehicles sold mark, so the Bolt is no longer eligible for the federal tax credit.

4. Hyundai Kona Electric

2021 Hyundai Kona Electric

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $37,390
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 120
  • City MPG: 132
  • Highway MPG: 108
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 130 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 258 miles
  • Overview: Strong range and good size for the price!

3. Tesla Model Y – Long Range

2021 Tesla Model Y

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $49,990
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 125
  • City MPG: 131
  • Highway MPG: 117
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 130 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 326 miles
  • Overview: I’m struggling to see the difference between the Y and the Model 3, but the range and efficiency are impressive, and the Model Y is now the 2nd best selling electric vehicle in the U.S., behind only the Model 3.

2. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

2021 Hyundai Ioniq

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $33,245
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 133
  • City MPG: 145
  • Highway MPG: 121
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $500
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 120 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 170 miles
  • Overview: The Hyundai Ioniq is currently only sold in the following U.S. states: CA, CO, CT, ME, MA, MD, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT.

1. Tesla Model 3 – Standard Range+

2021 Tesla Model 3

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $39,990
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 142
  • City MPG: 150
  • Highway MPG: 133
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $450
  • CO2 Tailpipe Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • Upstream CO2 Emissions: 110 grams/mile
  • Battery Range: 263 miles
  • Overview: Specs for the “Standard Range+” Model 3 listed above. The Model 3 is still the top selling electric vehicle in the market, despite Tesla vehicles no longer being eligible for the federal tax credit.

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