As I mentioned in my climate change call to action post, pure electric, zero emission vehicles are the future of ground transportation. In future generations, electric cars like Teslas will be the norm, not the exception. However, we are a long time away from highways dominated by electric cars. Given current technology, standard internal combustion engine models are still much more widely available, affordable, and powerful (eg. Tesla doesn't make a pickup truck). Though battery technology has improved considerably in past years, they are still limited in range and power. Even the aerodynamic, lightweight, 5 seater Tesla Model S P100D (>$100k) only reaches a max range of 315 miles per charge, whereas my mom's Mazda 6 (<$30k) gets over 400 miles per tank of gasoline. Cheaper electric vehicles have even more limited ranges. To summarize, though electric vehicles are coming up, the vast majority of consumers in the next decade or two will still purchase normal cars for sake of greater range and lower price tags.
That being said, this trend won't necessarily be a death sentence for the environment. For one, we have to reach a peak fossil fuel dependency before we can start reducing that trend... meaning, mathematically speaking, the year before our first reduced-emissions year (in which electric cars and other sustainable tech are more prevalent) will likely be the year of highest historical emissions. So, it is not a bad thing that consumers will continue to buy normal cars in the short run, it just means that we haven't reached our peak emissions year yet (and by extension, future period of drastically lowered emissions).
Until we reach our first year where international emissions are drastically increased by electric cars and sustainable tech, it is wise for consumers and manufacturers to seek compromise -- delivering traditional cars with as high fuel efficiency as possible. Meaning, if for the time being we "have to" use gas-burning cars, let's maximize the distance we are traveling for each gallon of gas. Car manufacturers have largely taken up this initiative already, and most fleets contain highly fuel efficient vehicle. This article focuses on highlighting some incredibly popular vehicles of all shapes and sizes that get over 30 miles per gallon (combined highway and city MPG). For easy reading, I will group the models by their manufacturer.
This article is Part 1 of my newest series featuring the world's foremost cars rated at over 30 MPG.
In Part 1: Toyota
The Yaris is Toyota's most compact and lowest priced model. Beyond being a budget friendly compact car, the Yaris is also Toyota's most fuel efficient car without hybrid technology (like the Prius, etc).
MPG: 30 city / 36 highway --> 32.7 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 9,081 units
The Yaris is not as popular as Toyota's other models, perhaps due to its small interior and low power engine (106hp).
The Corolla is arguably Toyota's most popular model. I have known several people who have simply always owned a Corolla, gradually replacing them as they get older. They are famous for lasting into 200,000 miles while still riding comfortably and safely.
MPG: 28 city / 36 highway --> 31.6 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 304,334 units
With the Corolla, Toyota mastered size with price point, offering a small sedan for a price that has appealed to millions of Americans for decades. I believe that even as electric cars become more popular, we will see the Corolla on the road for a very long time.
The Prius is Toyota's famous hybrid vehicle. The Prius has long put Toyota on the map as an auto manufacturer focused on reducing emissions. The Prius is not a plug-in hybrid -- its electric battery is automatically charged by the gas engine and powers the car when idling or moving below roughly 25 mph, thus reducing emissions and fuel burned during these moments of slow/no movement.
MPG: 54 city / 50 highway --> 52.2 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 83,793 units
As shown, the Prius family are Toyota's most fuel efficient internal combustion vehicles by virtue of their hybrid technology. The Prius also comes in two other body sizes -- the smaller Prius C and the larger Prius, each with slightly different price tags, MPG, and sales figures.
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Though the traditional Camry (disappointingly) doesn't currently make it into the 30+ mpg club, the Camry Hybrid does! Needless to say, the Toyota Camry is, alongside the Corolla, one of the most popular and iconic cars on the road.
MPG: 42 city / 38 highway --> 40.2 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: unavailable, which is sketchy because I have ridden in one via Uber before lol
The Camry body style is a mid-sized sedan with enough room for your growing family or for a more spacious commute than the Corolla. With hybrid components, the Camry Hybrid is an attractive upgrade to the traditional Camry by virtue of the huge fuel savings Camry Hybrid owners can expect.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The non-hybrid RAV4 has been another historic favorite among the Toyota fleet, with nearly 300k models sold in the USA. The hybrid RAV4, utilizing the same technology employed in the Prius models, is launching right now and will be more widely available in 2017 (it is a new model, added as part of the 2017 fleet). Hopefully, the hybrid RAV4 will catch on with the same popularity as its less-fuel efficient sister model.
MPG: 34 city / 31 highway --> 32.65 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: brand new car!
The hybrid RAV4 brings all the beloved distinguisher of the traditional RAV4 -- SUV chassis, decent trunk space, comfortable interior space -- along with environmentally friendly (and wallet-friendly) hybrid technology. Also, the hybrid RAV4 has a towing capacity of 17,50 lbs! (Although, I'd imagine that the fuel economy decreases slightly while towing significant weights).
This post is part one of my series on 30+ MPG cars -- stay tuned for the next few parts!
Patrizio Murdocca is Chief Web Architect at Drover Rideshare, a student at Vanderbilt University, and President of Interfaced Ministries.