5 Cars with the Best Fuel Economy
- BMW i3
137/111 e-mpg city/highway; with range extender: 117 e-mpg/39 mpg combined city/highway. The EPA’s fuel economy champ for 2015, the compact i3 comes wrapped in oddly polarizing styling and is so much more, and in many ways less, than an electric 3 Series. It puts the equivalent of 170 horsepower to the pavement, with (as is the case with all EVs) 100 percent of the electric motor’s torque available immediately, which makes it feel peppier than expected. Its expected range is 80-100 miles on a charge, which can be accomplished in as little as six hours depending on the type of charger and electrical supply. An optional DC Combo Fast Charger is capable of restoring the battery to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes when connected to a Level 2 public charging station. This is also the only EV to offer an optional extended range gasoline engine to run the electric motor once the car’s lithium-ion battery is depleted, though a tiny gas tank means frequent full-ups to keep going indefinitely.
- Chevrolet Spark EV
128/109 e-mpg city/highway. The all-electric version of Chevy’s smallest car is a perky performer, with a 130-hp electric motor sending an immediate 327 pound-feet of torque through the front wheels. Its lithium-ion battery pack is claimed to get an average 82 miles on a charge, with recharging taking around seven hours with a 240-volt line or an impractical 20 hours via a standard 120-volt circuit; an optional “fast charger” is available for compatible public charging stations. The Spark EV is only available via select dealerships in California and Oregon.
- Volkswagen e-Golf
126/105 e-mpg city/highway. New for 2015, the electrified version of the compact Golf hatchback comes powered by a 115-hp electric motor that generates a launch-amenable 199 pound-feet of torque. Its range is 70-90 miles on a charge, which takes as much as 20 hours via a standard 120-volt outlet, though that period falls to around four hours with 240-volt charging; a fast charging unit for select public stations is optional. The e-Golf comes only in a single fully loaded version and includes a forward collision mitigation system; sales are restricted to select dealerships in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, DC.
- Fiat 500e
122/108 e-mpg city/highway. The all-electric version of the perky Fiat 500 subcompact coupe flaunts its alluring Italian styling and backs it up with an impressive three-figure economy rating. It gets an EPA estimated 87 miles on a charge, with its electric motor delivering the equivalent of 111 horsepower. Acknowledging an EV’s inherent range limitations, Fiat gives purchasers and lessees of a new 500e up to 12 days of rental-car transportation each year for three years to facilitate longer car trips. The 500e is sold only in California and Oregon.
- Nissan Leaf
126/101 e-mpg city/highway. As the top-selling EV in the U.S., the Leaf is nicely equipped, is priced right and is styled just far enough from the mainstream to give a high-tech look, yet it remains as much a “normal” car at heart as is possible. It’s 107-horsepower equivalent electric motor is rated to run for an average 84 miles on a charge, which Nissan says can be accomplished in less than five hours when tethered to a dedicated 240-volt line (or overnight via standard 110-volt outlet); fast-charging unit is optional for use with certain public charging stations.