By now, most car shoppers have become well acquainted with the concept of fuel economy. For each vehicle model, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides official highway and city miles per gallon (mpg) ratings, which are displayed on window stickers at the dealership. But if you walk over to a plug-in electric vehicle you’ll see a different rating on its window sticker: MPGe, or miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.
Just like gas-powered cars, some electric vehicles are more efficient than others, except instead of using less gasoline, these cars require less electricity to run. The EPA calculates this by substituting the equivalent electrical energy contained in one gallon of gasoline (roughly 34 kilowatt-hours) into the standard efficiency tests it does on all cars.
Since all electric vehicles run much more efficiently than internal combustion cars, an EV like the Nissan Leaf can travel 114 miles on the equivalent energy of just one gallon of gasoline.
It’s no surpise that the smallest, most urban-friendly vehicles tend to get the highest efficiency among electrics. Factors affecting MPGe include weight, aerodynamics and powertrain design. Just as with gas cars, the more powerful the drivetrain, the less efficient a car is likely to be. This explains why the luxurious high- performance Tesla Model S has the lowest MPGe of any electric sedan.
But for EV shoppers most interested in saving fuel—and the greenhouse gas emissions that result from burning it—high MPGe could be a more attractive feature than 0-60 time. Among compact EVs, several models are as much as 15 to 20 percent more efficient than the pack. Here are the five best performers:
Chevy Spark EV (119 MPGe): The Chevy Spark EV (pictured above) debuted last year with the highest MPGe of any plug-in and hasn’t relinquished its title yet. Available only in California and Oregon, the Spark EV can be leased for as low as $199 per month at some Chevy dealerships.
Honda Fit EV (118 MPGe): Coming in a close second, the Honda Fit EV’s 118 MPGe helps it to handily best other compact electrics with a range of 82 miles per charge. Honda will soon end production on the Fit EV, so interested shoppers will have to get on a waiting list soon in order to have a chance at landing one.
Fiat 500e (116 MPGe): Fiat’s stylish little electric city car can only be purchased in California, where state incentives bring its price tag down to just north of $20,500.
Nissan Leaf (115 MPGe): As a mid-size sedan, the EV is roomier than any of the other vehicles on this list but still manages an impressive 115 MPGe thanks to range-adding improvements Nissan added to the car last year. The Leaf can be purchased in all 50 states.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV (112 MPGe): Mitsubishi cut the price tag of the 2014 i-MiEV to less than $15,500 last year and added a host of new standard features.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.