With gas prices at their highest levels in years, the term “fuel economy” has again entered the lexicon of new-car buyers. Those living in California are subject to the nation’s priciest petroleum at an average $4.70 for regular grade gas and a whopping $5.01 for premium according to the AAA.
So it comes at an opportune time that the Environmental Protection Agency has released data regarding the most efficient models in all vehicle types and energy sources for 2022 via its fueleconomy.gov website. Though the days are gone when the most frugal rides were automatically among the smallest cars in production, it should come as no surprise that the most fuel frugal models for the new model year are full electric cars and SUVs. The champion in this regard is the just-released Lucid Air, with combined city/highway equivalents of between 116 mpg and a top 131-mpg, with an estimated range of up to 516 miles with a fully charged battery pack, depending on the trim level.
In addition to home-charged electric cars affording the lowest energy costs and consumption among all vehicle types, they produce zero tailpipe emissions, and have a lower overall environmental impact regardless of the initial generated power source. To help verify the latter, the EPA’s website allows users to find out how local methods for generating electricity area affects a given vehicle’s total greenhouse gas emissions. EV owners can also track their projected energy costs based on miles driven and local gas and/or electric rates by Zip Code. Unfortunately not all electric vehicles are as yet offered in all 50 states; check with a local dealership for availability.
One can also search the government’s fuel economy database by vehicle and fuel type, for those who aren’t yet ready to take the proverbial plunge into full battery power but still want to drive something that’s cheaper to run and is less harmful to Mother Nature.
Unfortunately, despite the growing number of fuel-sipping hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and full electric models coming to market, automakers struggling to meet national vehicle efficiency standards, based solely on sales. While the EPA says average new-vehicle fuel economy across the board hit a new high for the 2020 model year at 25.4 mpg, that figure fell far short of the 4.3 percent annual efficiency improvements targeted in federal standards. It’s expected to drop a hair to 25.3 mpg for 2021. The domestic brands, which tend to make the most profits selling large trucks and SUVs lag behind other automakers in this regard, with General Motors estimated to be the least efficient of all manufacturers at a fleet average of 21.5 mpg, with Stellantis and Ford the next lowest at 21.6 and 22.7 mpg, respectively.
Only Tesla, Subaru, and Honda met the government’s corporate average fuel economy targets without amassing energy credits from other automakers.
“We’re facing a climate crisis, yet automakers are producing cars that are barely more fuel efficient on average than what they sold a year earlier, even as technology improves,” says Avi Mersky, senior transportation researcher for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “They’re following the letter of the standards but exploiting all the weaknesses in the regulation to keep making gas guzzlers. It’s terrible for the climate and it costs drivers at the pump, especially now as gas prices are increasing.”
Whether you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, ongoing operating costs, or both, we’re presenting lists of the 10 most energy efficient gas-powered, gas/electric hybrids, and full electric models for 2022. We’re noting the miles-per-gallon (MPG) and electric equivalent (MPGe) estimates for their top-performing models, as well as their annual operating costs, based on 15,000 miles driven and current national average prices for gas and electricity.
- Lucid Air Dream: 131 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $500.
- Hyundai Kona Electric: 120 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $550.
- Chevrolet Bolt EV: 120 MPGe: Annual Energy Cost: $550.
- Chevrolet Bolt EUV: 115 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $550.
- Kia Niro Electric: 112 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $600.
- Nissan Leaf: 111 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $60
- MINI Cooper SE: 110 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $600.
- Mercedes-Benz EQS: 97 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $700.
- Audi e-tron quattro: 95 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $700.
- Mazda MX-30: 92 MPGe; Annual Energy Cost: $700.
- Toyota Prius Prime PHEV: 133 MPGe/54 mpg; Annual Energy Cost: $700.
- Hyundai Ioniq PHEV: 119 MPGe/52 mpg; Annual Energy Cost: $750.
- Kia Niro PHEV: 105 MPGe/46 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $850.
- Hyundai Tucson PHEV: 80 MPGe/35 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,050.
- Kia Sorento PHEV: 79 MPGe/34 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,100.
- Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: 76 MPGe/33 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,150.
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: 74 MPGe/26 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,400
- Audi A7 e quattro PHEV: 70 MPGe/27 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,450.
- Volvo S60 T8 Recharge PHEV: 69 MPGe/30 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,500.
- Volvo S90 T8 Recharge PHEV: 63 MPGe/30 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,600.
- Hyundai Ioniq: 59 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $850.
- Toyota Prius: 56 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $900.
- Hyundai Elantra Hybrid: 54 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $950.
- Honda Insight: 52 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,000.
- Toyota Corolla Hybrid: 52 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,000.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid: 52 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,000.
- Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: 52 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,000.
- Kia Niro Hybrid: 50 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,000.
- Honda Accord Hybrid: 47 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,100.
- Lexus ES 300h: 44 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,150.
- Mitsubishi Mirage: 39 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,300.
- Mitsubishi Mirage G4: 37 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,400.
- Hyundai Elantra: 37 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,400.
- Honda Civic: 36 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,400.
- Hyundai Accent: 36 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,400.
- Kia Rio: 36 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,400.
- Toyota Corolla Hatchback: 35 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,450.
- Kia Forte: 35 MPG; Annual Energy Cost: $1,450.
- Volkswagen Jetta: 35 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,450.
- Toyota Corolla: 34 MPG: Annual Energy Cost: $1,500.
You can search fuel economy, costs, and emissions information for all new and used vehicle types via fueleconomy,gov’s Power Search tool.