The world of hybrid and electric cars is getting more and more crowded with each passing year, as new models employing ever more advanced technologies begin to crowd the market. It can be tough to sort through the different hybrid models and get a sense of which ones offer what type of fuel economy, especially vehicles which seem to depend almost entirely on electricity as their prime energy source.
We’ve gone through the EPA ratings – which attempt to level the playing field and assign a specific MPG value for each automobile currently on sale – and picked out five hybrid and electric cars that currently offer better than 40-mpg. Let’s take a closer look at each of these ultra-efficient models.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is a compact sedan that features a unique, all-electric drivetrain. The compact Chevrolet Volt offers up 149 horsepower from an electric motor that is paired with a battery pack that can be recharged either by plugging it into the wall or by a gasoline motor that kicks in should the battery’s 40 mile range be exceeded. The gasoline motor is never in direct contact with the transmission or the wheels – it only serves to generate enough electricity to add an extra 300 miles to the Volt’s range. The EPA rates the 2011 Chevrolet Volt at 95-mpg city and 90-mpg highway while traveling on electric power, and 35-mpg city and 40-mpg highway with the gasoline engine running.
The 2011 Nissan Leaf is unique on our list of mileage kings due to the fact that its provides drivers with a pure electric drivetrain. The subcompact Nissan Leaf is not a hybrid, it is an electric vehicle, and Nissan offers a home charging station with the car in order to keep its battery topped up. The Leaf’s 107 horsepower motor (which also generates 207 lb-ft of torque) can squeeze as much as 100 miles out of a single battery charge under optimal driving conditions, and the EPA rates this range as the equivalent of 106-mpg in city driving and 92-mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Toyota Prius is a familiar name in the hybrid world, having helped pioneer the segment in the late 1990’s. The Toyota Prius offers compact passenger accommodations and a practical hatchback design in addition to its gasoline / electric drivetrain that includes a continuously-variable automatic transmission and the ability to travel exclusively on battery power for short distances at low speeds. Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system produces 134 horsepower from its 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, and the Toyota Prius returns an EPA fuel mileage rating of 51-mpg in stop and go driving and 48-mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Honda Insight is another blast from the hybrid past, and the second generation of this iconic dedicated hybrid vehicle is bigger, better and more comfortable than before. Also adopting a hatchback design, the compact Honda Insight features a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that teams up with an electric motor to provide a total of 98 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. The two engines work together on a constant basis, with no jarring transition between electric and internal combustion power. The relatively lightweight Honda Insight offers reasonable acceleration when compared against other hybrid models, and its EPA fuel economy rating checks in at 40-mpg around town and 43-mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid is the most fuel efficient version of the Japanese automaker’s popular compact sedan. The Honda Civic Hybrid maintains many of the features of the gasoline-powered Civic and offers the same level of interior room and comfort. The bonus for Civic Hybrid buyers is the ramped-up fuel economy that comes as a result of the Civic Hybrid’s 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor tandem. Offering up 110 horsepower, and managed by a continuously-variable automatic transmission, the Civic Hybrid enjoys a very impressive EPA fuel mileage rating of 40-mpg in city driving and 43-mpg during highway cruising.