Electric cars are the most efficient types of automobile made, and the ones we’ve listed below were selected as those nationally available in the U.S.
However, now that’s been said, we’ll admit the subject of “most efficient” current-model all-electric cars is nearly a moot point because our listed electric vehicles (EVs) are the only electric cars available nationwide.
If you live in California, home of 50 percent of the U.S. plug-in electrified vehicle sales and where more were purchased during 2014 than in all of China, this discussion is of course is irrelevant – you have access to all EVs in production.
But for the rest of the country, availability can be hit or miss for as many as 13 EVs tailor made for the Golden State’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) rules because their makers keep several as limited market, and two – Honda’s Fit EV and Toyota’s RAV4 EV have ceased production.
This state of affairs, lamented in other quarters by advocates who would rather see all EVs distributed in 50 states, is actually an improvement, and news in itself: As recent as last year only three EVs were reported as so available.
So you can take this as disheartening or good news depending on your perspective.
The Six Most Efficient Electric Cars
In any case, following are the six nationally sold EVs ranked by their combined EPA-rated miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). Links for further reading are to be found for each entry.
These cars promise zero emissions, quiet, smooth operation, and simplified maintenance with no internal combustion drivetrain to attend to. They are the most energy efficient cars hands down; there are none more efficient sold anywhere.
6. Tesla Model S 70D – 101 MPGe combined (101 City / 102 Hwy)
The latest edition to the Model S line, the all-wheel-drive 70D (“D” is for dual motor) replaced the base-level rear-wheel-drive P60 and is named after the 70 kilowatt-hour battery it now carries.
EPA estimated range is 240 miles, not far from the 85D’s 253, and MPGe is a healthy 101 compared to 93 for the power machine.
Nor for that matter is 329 horsepower exactly wimpy>It’s enough, in fact to propel this vehicle to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Starting at $75,000, all-wheel-drive makes sense for snow belt buyers, and this is a full Model S luxury performance sedan fitting in a stable as the most-efficient choice of three other Model S variants.
5. Ford Focus Electric – 105 MPGe combined (110 City / 99 Hwy)
The Focus Electric may be one of the least appreciated otherwise decent EV values going.
Its $29,995 before incentives sticker price puts it neck-and-neck with the globally best-selling Nissan Leaf, and the Ford gets liquid thermal management Nissan says is not needed with the Leaf.
Ford’s CEO in 2012 divulged just the battery in the car costs its manufacturer about as much as a Ford Fiesta, meaning Ford is not sparing on this aspect, and its 76 miles range is within the sphere of other EVs in its class.
Sales this year have been less than a tenth of those for the popular Leaf however.
One downside to the Focus Electric is it’s converted from the gas model. Its efficiency is lower than the Leaf’s and batteries do occupy rear storage space, and that’s been a deal breaker for some.
4. Smart fortwo Coupe and Cabriolet – 107 MPGe (122 City / 93 Hwy)
The electric version of Mercedes-Benz’s micro car division comes in coupe and convertible flavors, and takes the frugal minimalist ethos to a whole new level.
Smart USA reports they’re sold primarily in 10 ZEV states but on an on-demand basis, if a customer wants one outside the 10 ZEV states, it can be sold through any of its dealers across the country.
A 17.6-kwh lithium-ion battery gives the smart fortwo electric drive a range of up to 68 miles and can be recharged in six hours.
The 55 kilowatt (75 horsepower) electric motor is fairly quick off the line, hitting 37 mph in 4.8 seconds.
Starting at $25,000 for the coupe and $28,000 for the cab, their maker advertises after federal subsidies the coupe can be had as cheaply as $12,490 and the cab can be purchased for $15,490. A lease with $2,433 down has a payment like that of a smartphone at $139 per month.
3. Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2016 model year) – 112 MPGe combined (126 City / 99 Hwy)
The grandfather of this generation of modern electric car – if you don’t count the elite Tesla Roadster – Mitsubishi’s converted kei car from 2009 vintage skipped the 2015 model year and arrived late (or early?) as a 2016 model.
(All others listed in this article are 2015 model year).
More a consequence of its ailing U.S. manufacturer presence than an outright indictment on the car, after skipping 2013 also, the 2014 model’s entry price was slashed by $6,130 to a relative bargain $22,995 before subsidies.
Typical for EVs, power is routed via a single-speed fixed reduction transmission, In this case, the motor is a 49-kw synchronous permanent magnetic unit that develops the electric equivalent of 66 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque.
Energy storage is by way of a 16.0-kwh li-ion battery.
EPA-estimated range is 62 miles.
Pricing for the base 2016 i-MiEV ES is unchanged from the $22,995 of a couple years ago. This vehicle – badged also in Europe as Citreon and Peugeot models – has sold around 50,000 units and that makes it the world’s third-best-selling EV.
At under 2,600 pounds, this little runabout also hits the scales at a tad less than BMW’s advanced i3.
2. Nissan Leaf – 114 MPGe combined (123 City/101 Hwy)
This is the quintessential midsized hatchback EV that’s been on the market since December 2010 and is a linchpin product in the EV segment.
Nissan has sold 177,000 globally, and the 84-mile range Leaf, produced in Japan, the UK, and Tennessee for U.S. buyers has set a standard for this level of sub-100-mile range EV.
Power comes from an 80-kilowatt AC synchronous motor delivering 107 horsepower and 187 electrically limited pounds-feet of torque. Energy storage is a 24-kilowatt-hour battery in the floor to minimize impedance into the occupant compartment.
The aerodynamic and efficient commuter car starts at $29,860 and comes in two higher trim levels into the mid-30s before incentives.
1. BMW i3 BEV – 124 MPGe combined (137 City / 111 Hwy)
The first car from BMW’s sustainable i subdivision is also first in the U.S. in terms of energy efficiency.
Purpose made as an all-electric car, the i3 is brimming with technologies, not least of which being the carbon fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell contributing to a low sub-2,700 pound curb weight.
Light weight coupled with decent .29 coefficient of drag means less energy required, and the 81-mile estimated range i3 makes do with a 22-kwh li-ion battery under the floor in back.
A rear-wheel drive EV, the inside is a marvel of space utilization, with about as much volume a a 3-Series on tHe footprint of a 1-Series.
Tall, and in the eyes of some ungainly, if your idea however is form follows function, this car is a beauty to behold.
Suicide doors allow for ingress and egress and no B-pillar is in the way.
Zero to 60 is a respectable 7.2 seconds, and real-world range can be pushed to 100 and beyond, depending on driving speed and style.
Also available is a range extended REx version with two-cylinder 650cc, 34 horsepower, gasoline powered engine that charges the battery and does not drive the wheels. Its EPA-rated efficiency however is lower, at 117 MPGe combined.
The battery electric 124 MPGe version starts at $42,400.