Based on the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Hyundai ranks No. 1 in America as the automaker with both the highest overall fuel efficiency and the lowest CO2 emissions. The news comes straight from the EPA 2011 Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends Report, which covers the 2010 model year. (Note: The EPA’s Trends Report is released annually and always covers vehicles from two model years previous to its publication date; thus, for example, 2011 model-year vehicles will be evaluated in the 2012 Trends Report, scheduled to be published in 2013, etc.)
And while Hyundai has been tracking its fleet fuel efficiency for a while now—and routinely boasting of its very impressive results—this is a nice third-party confirmation of how well the company’s push toward greener products is achieving its goals.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Hyundai raised its overall fuel-economy mark from 25.1 mpg in the 2009 model year up to 27 mpg in 2010 according to this year’s EPA Trends Report, with only one other company scoring above 26 mpg—and that was Kia, Hyundai’s corporate sibling. Kia tied its big brother in this measure and trailed Hyundai’s industry-best CO2 emissions levels of 330 grams per mile (g/mi) by just 1 g/mi; the automaker with the next lowest figure, Toyota, came in at 350 g/mi. Further, the EPA’s projections for the 2011 model year show Hyundai extending its lead by achieving a combined fuel-efficiency mark of 27.5 mpg and lowering its overall emission levels to 323 g/mi.
For some of that context stuff, the 2011 estimates for the top five automakers in terms of fuel economy were as follows:
Hyundai, 27.5 mpg
Kia, 27.2 mpg
Honda, 25.7 mpg
VW, 25.2 mpg
Toyota, 25.1 mpg
And the five top-ranked companies for CO2 emissions:
Hyundai, 323 g/mi
Kia, 327 g/mi
Honda, 345 g/mi
Toyota, 354 g/mi
Mazda, 355 g/mi
The three domestic automakers—unsurprisingly—finished at the bottom of the Trend Reports ratings, courtesy of the companies’ reliance on full-sized trucks for so much of their volume.
Hyundai’s 2012 Fuel-economy Snapshot
Hyundai is likely to keep its position atop the leaderboard this year, too, and not just because its numbers won’t be pulled down by fuel-thirsty trucks. The automaker’s ongoing powertrain investments have expanded the use of fuel-saving technologies like gasoline direct injection and advanced six-speed transmissions even to its entry-level car, the Hyundai Accent. As a result, fully 40 percent of the company’s nameplates offer at least one vehicle capable of 40 mpg on the highway. These economical entries include:
Accent—30 mpg city/40 mpg highway/34 mpg combined with a six-speed manual or 30/40/33 with a six-speed automatic transmission
Hyundai Elantra—29/40/33 with both transmissions
Hyundai Veloster—28/40/32 with a six-speed manual transmission
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid—35/40/37 with a six-speed automatic
Of course, merely offering cars like this doesn’t help raise fuel-economy numbers unless you also sell them, but Hyundai is doing that as well. The automaker delivered 214,132 vehicles able to reach 40 mpg last year, accounting for more than one third of its total sales volume. This year, that figure rose to 37 percent in January and 40 percent in February, as Hyundai also boosted its overall EPA rating to 28.3 mpg.
54.5 mpg or Bust
There’s also a clear focus on maintaining fuel-economy leadership at Hyundai going forward. In 2010, Hyundai had initially set an objective of reaching a fleet-wide average of 50 mpg by 2025, and now, after President Obama has targeted an even higher mark for that deadline, the automaker has done the same. Per an exclusive statement from Hyundai: “We are committed to meeting the 54.5 mile-per-gallon regulation by 2025 and we are confident we’ll find a way to meet that standard—which we support.”
Just keep in mind that here we’re talking about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) ratings, not the EPA window-sticker numbers used in the Trend Report. But since Hyundai rang up a 37.7 mpg mark in February using the CAFE calculations, and has 13 years to reach the higher number, the automaker is obviously ready to set some trends of its own.