Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Eco-Friendly Cars with the Best Fuel Economy

With gas prices rising to unprecedented heights, eco-friendly cars have never been more in demand. Check out our picks for the top 20 cars with the best gas mileage.

Green Fuel Efficient Car Concept; car made out of moss on moss and dirt crossection with blue backgroundPogonici/Getty Images

Cars with smaller impacts on your wallet and the world

Eco-friendly cars have long been popular with people interested in sustainable living and sustainable travel, but they have another big advantage that appeals to a broader range of consumers: They’re an easy way to get better gas mileage.

With fuel prices on the rise at the same time that road-tripping vacations are gaining popularity, manufacturers are taking notice. More types of green cars and trucks are available now than ever before.

Not only can driving an eco-friendly vehicle save you money at the pump—or help you avoid it altogether—they can also help reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, thus limiting their contribution to climate change.

Close up shot of modern hybrid car dashboard selector with fuel efficient and fully electric mode switch buttonsMarin Tomas/Getty Images

What is an eco-friendly car?

While all-electric cars get most of the attention, they’re not the only kind of eco-friendly vehicle. Some green rides still use gasoline primarily, or supplement their gas power with an electric battery to produce eye-popping driving ranges of more than 600 miles per “tank.” Others provide a smaller electric-only range before switching to gas consumption.

Compared with traditional vehicles, eco-friendly cars have better fuel economy and a lighter impact on the environment. Because of their limited use of fossil fuels, green cars contribute less to greenhouse gases and leave a smaller carbon footprint. However, they still require electricity—produced by wind, coal and other sources—to generate power.

Before you decide to purchase the first climate-friendly car you test drive, consider the pros and cons of each type.

Electric motor eco-friendly cars

Purely electric cars rely only on battery power to go. They produce little to no greenhouse gases while in motion, are quieter inside and out, and depending on the vehicle, may be able to travel hundreds of miles before needing to be plugged in to recharge. To know just how far, check the MPGe, or “miles per gallon equivalent,” rating. MPGe is only calculated and used for vehicles with a plug-in battery component. “Regular” hybrids simply display a classic MPG, which tends to be higher than gas-only versions of those cars.

When it’s time to “refuel,” you can find charging stations from coast to coast. In fact, as of July 2022, more than 49,000 public EV charging stations, with more than 124,000 individual charging ports, were available throughout the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Some are considered “fast charging,” delivering enough power in 30 to 40 minutes to fill up your battery “tank.” Others are slower Level 2 style chargers, which require considerably more time to move the needle on your dashboard from E to F. For this reason, many EV drivers choose to have a charging port installed at their home. To make charging more accessible, the Biden administration has laid out an ambitious plan for “the first-ever national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers along America’s highways and in communities, a key piece of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Of course, just like the rechargeable battery in your cell phone or computer, an EV battery eventually will be depleted and need to be discarded. Many manufacturers, however, claim upward of eight years or 100,000 miles before an electric car battery will need to be replaced and therefore contribute to electronic waste.

Hybrid eco-friendly cars

Using a mix of battery power and gasoline, the hybrid electric battery is not plugged in but, rather, is charged through regenerative braking—a process that recycles energy captured from braking into electricity—and by the internal combustion engine, resulting in better fuel economy overall. Thanks to being on the market the longest, hybrid vehicles have been the most sustainable transport method for most Americans since the Toyota Prius debuted more than 15 years ago.

Fuel-celled eco-friendly cars

Unlike plug-in electric vehicles that pull their energy solely from a battery, fuel-cell cars combine oxygen and hydrogen to generate electricity and power the car. They also have a fuel tank to store that power and a battery that will capture the energy from braking to provide additional power to the electric motor. Fuel cells produce zero emissions and can be sourced from renewable materials, like water.

Natural gas vehicles

There are two types of natural gas vehicles: those that use liquefied natural gas (LNG) and those that rely on compressed natural gas (CNG). Both are fuel-efficient because they burn a low-emissions fuel derived from natural resources, making them better for the environment than cars that burn traditional gasoline. LNG, however, may ultimately prove not to be very green at all, as the production of it requires fracking, which comes with a host of environmental concerns.

green leaf with a cut out car symbolDavid Malan/Getty Images

Benefits of eco-friendly cars

Owning and driving an eco-friendly car creates positive environmental benefits, thanks to a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels and production of less pollution. As more people switch to eco-friendly cars, we develop a more sustainable transport network. The other major benefit is cost savings that accrue through fewer trips to the gas pump and through potential tax credits and rebates.

Save money on gas

Whether you buy a pure electric car, a hybrid or something else, eco-friendly cars will help you save money on gas because they are more fuel-efficient. That’s no small matter, considering the average household will spend $5,000 on gas this year—up from $2,800 just a year ago, according to CNBC.

Tax credits and rebates

When you buy or lease an energy-efficient car, you may be eligible to get money back. Available federal, state and even local financial incentives could bring down the real cost of buying or leasing an electric vehicle.

  • Federal tax credit. A $2,500–$7,500 tax credit may be available to you for purchasing an electric, hydrogen fuel cell or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. These same credits are available for leases, but the credit goes to the manufacturer. However, some dealerships will factor these savings into the lease, which could lower your down payment or monthly payments.
  • Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP). This rebate goes directly to California residents who buy or lease eligible electric vehicles, with low- to moderate-income households eligible for higher rebate amounts.
  • Local rebates and incentives. Local municipalities may provide you with additional rebates for the purchase or lease of electric cars. Additionally, if you install a home charging station, you could be eligible for even more money back for using natural resources instead of fossil fuels.

Fewer emissions

Hybrids, all-electric and even fuel-efficient gas-powered cars reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions, which helps limit climate change. When it comes to making the most sustainable transport choices, it’s best to drive one of the 20 eco-friendly cars below, listed from least to most fuel-efficient.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

  • Gas mileage: 36 MPG
  • EV range: N/A*
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $39,555

Thanks to a hybrid engine that uses both electric power and gasoline, the Highlander Hybrid can keep you going strong for more than 600 miles before needing to refuel with either gas or electricity. Not only is this vehicle a great choice for its fuel efficiency—outpacing its peers in environmental protection—but this massive SUV also comes complete with Toyota’s legendary safety and reliability.

*Because hybrids don’t run exclusively on battery power, no EV range is calculated. Similarly, hybrid vehicles don’t get plugged in, so time to charge does not apply.

Chevy Spark

  • Gas mileage: 38 MPG
  • EV range: N/A
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $13,600

It’s not electric or a hybrid, but this gas-powered mini maestro delivers incredible fuel efficiency, which will save you money at the pump—after you save a small fortune at the dealership. The Chevy Spark is one of the best value-priced options for gas-only eco-friendly cars on the road today; it starts at under $14,000, a fraction of the price of other green cars.

Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid

  • Gas mileage: 40 MPG/105 MPGe
  • EV range: 40 miles
  • Time to charge: 11 hours at 120V, 3 hours at 220V
  • Base price: $28,030

There’s no all-wheel drive (AWD) option on the Escape Plug-In Hybrid, but the ability to drive 40 miles on nothing but battery power means that you may be able to commute, run errands and shuttle the kids around town without burning a single gallon of gas. And yet, when you need to go long distances or take the great American road trip with your family, you’ll have the MPGe to deliver a budget-friendly vacation with the space needed to stash all your people and all their stuff comfortably.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

  • Gas mileage: 44 MPG
  • EV range: N/A
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $37,850

Thanks to regenerative braking, the EV battery of the Avalon Hybrid is actually being charged every time you drive. You can then move around town without using a drop of gasoline, which will save you money and be better for the environment. Thinking about leasing an Avalon? First, find out the things dealers won’t tell you about leasing.

Kia Niro PHEV

  • Gas mileage: 46 MPG/105 MPGe
  • EV range: 27 miles
  • Time to charge: 9 hours at 110V, 2¼ hours at 220V
  • Base price: $29,590

The 2022 Kia Niro PHEV offers the best of both worlds: sustainability over short distances, but with the range needed to have a fully functioning vehicle for road trips and longer commutes. This green car just needs an overnight plug-in before you can drive locally on nothing but the electric battery. But when you want to travel farther, the Kia Niro PHEV has a traditional gas tank to keep you going. When you do fill up the tank, make sure you have one of the best gas credit cards to reap all the rewards.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue

  • Gas mileage: 52 MPG
  • EV range: N/A
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $27,750

To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Blue drive system uses “stop-and-go technology,” which automatically shuts off the engine when the car is not actually moving, like when it’s stopped at a red light. With the engine off for short periods of time, the Sonata Hybrid Blue saves energy and makes the car more fuel efficient. The engine automatically starts up again when you press the gas pedal, and off you go! Here’s how to find the cheapest gas near you.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

  • Gas mileage: 53 MPG
  • EV range: N/A
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $27,980

While not able to travel solely on battery power, the Camry Hybrid employs the electric component of its engine to deliver a whopping 676-mile range on a single tank of gas. This incredible performance helps to make this popular Toyota one of the best choices for drivers with a serious case of climate anxiety.

Toyota Corolla Hybrid

  • Gas mileage: 53 MPG
  • EV range: N/A
  • Time to charge: N/A
  • Base price: $24,050

Thanks to its powerful and smart battery power, the safe and solid, if unspectacular looking, Corolla Hybrid can keep you driving for more than 600 highway miles before you’ll need to stop at a gas station. Thanks to this vehicle and its full range of electric and hybrid vehicles, Toyota continues to be one of the most well-respected and reliable eco-friendly brands.

Toyota Prius Prime

  • Gas mileage: 54 MPG/133 MPGe
  • EV range: 25 miles
  • Time to charge: 5½ hours at 110V, 2 hours at 220V
  • Base price: $28,670

The bestselling PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) offers class-leading fuel efficiency as well as a long list of famous Toyota safety features and, surprisingly, a lot of cargo space for a vehicle with superior fuel consumption. The Prius provides sustainability-minded drivers with great gas mileage and a car they can keep on the road for years to come.

Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell XLE

  • Gas mileage: 74 MPGe city/highway combined
  • EV range: 402 miles
  • Time to charge: 5 minutes
  • Base price: $49,500

Using fuel cell technology that produces zero emissions, charging in just five minutes and including complimentary fuel from Toyota for up to six years or $15,000 (whichever comes first) with a purchase or lease, the Mirai XLE is one of the best eco-friendly cars on the market today. Sadly, unless you live in Hawaii or California, owning a fuel cell vehicle is not practical, as there is no hydrogen fueling network in the U.S. outside those two states.

Jaguar I-Pace HSE

  • Gas mileage: 76 MPGe
  • EV range: 234 miles
  • Time to charge: Up to 63 miles in 15 minute, 10 hours at 220V, 1½ hours at 440V
  • Base price: $71,300

The all-electric I-Pace’s battery has enough power to travel for up to 234 miles per charge, which equates to an impressive 76 MPGe. While a 10-hour charge time for a full battery through a standard outlet may seem like a long wait, the 2022 model provides a short-burst charge netting more than 60 miles of driving in just 15 minutes. By the way, the Jaguar is just one of 100 things that turned 100 in 2022.

Ford F-150 Lightning Electric

  • Gas mileage: 78 MPGe
  • EV range: 320 miles
  • Time to charge: 14 hours at 240V, less than an hour at fast-charging stations
  • Base price: $41,770

Not only is this 100% electric green vehicle a capable pickup truck with zero emissions, but it also delivers rugged power to help you get your jobs done. What’s more, it can also power your home! The F-150 Lightning’s extended-range battery can supply your home with power for up to three days in the case of an outage, as long as your house is properly equipped with a Home Integration System, sold separately, and an 80-amp Ford charging station has been installed outside.

Mazda MX-30 EV

  • Gas mileage: 100 MPGe
  • EV range: 100 miles
  • Time to charge: 5 hours at home, less than 1 hour fast charging
  • Base price: $33,470

The MX-30 EV marks Mazda’s foray into the world of green cars. As its first all-electric vehicle, this luxury ride nets only 100 miles per charge but can be fully energized in just over 30 minutes at a Level 3 DC Fast Charger, found at charging stations across the country. ChargePoint has 1,500 Level 3 ports in the U.S.—the most in America—and 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV customers receive a $500 ChargePoint credit. For at-home overnight charging, each MX-30 EV comes with a Level 1 120V charging cable that can be plugged into any household outlet. Bonus: Mazda tops the list of car brands that are cheapest to repair.

MINI Cooper SE EV

  • Gas mileage: 110 MPGe
  • EV range: 114 miles
  • Time to charge: 24 hours at 110V, under an hour fast charging
  • Base price: $29,900

Anglophiles will love the ability to zip around town in an environmentally friendly all-electric British car. The Mini Cooper SE EV comes with a 120-volt Level 1 charging cord, delivering a maximum of 10 amps, which will recharge the battery slowly, adding just three to four miles of range every hour. But you can pull into one of the many 240-volt charging stations in America and use its fast-charging cords to speed up this process considerably.

Volkswagen ID.4

  • Gas mileage: 112 MPGe
  • EV range: 280 miles
  • Time to charge: 7½ hours at 240V
  • Base price: $41,230

The ID.4 is Volkswagen’s first all-electric SUV, and the brand’s first global electric vehicle. The rear-wheel drive ID.4 Pro nets drivers an estimated 280 miles of range, and for the first three years of ownership, you’ll get free 30-minute fast-charging sessions at any of the 800 Electrify America 150 kW DC fast chargers throughout the U.S. With the ID.4, you can travel in a cool, high-tech vehicle that responds to the sound of your voice to change the temperature, radio station and so much more. Speaking of high-tech, check out these weird car features you might not even know about.

Chevy Bolt EUV

  • Gas mileage: 115 MPGe
  • EV range: 247 miles
  • Time to charge: 24 hours at home, less than an hour at fast-charging stations
  • Base price: $34, 495

Chevrolet expanded its fully electric vehicle lineup and introduced a bigger, more versatile Bolt. The SUV-inspired Bolt EUV (electric utility vehicle) is spacious and rugged compared with its hatchback predecessor. It offers fast charging too—it can “fuel up” with 95 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

Nissan Leaf EV

  • Gas mileage: 115 MPGe
  • EV range: 149 miles
  • Time to charge: 8–12 hours at 240V, fast charging in under an hour
  • Base price: $27,400

The Leaf EV provides owners with the enjoyment of 100% electric driving for 149 miles per charge, without gas or tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions, answering the question of whether electric cars are eco-friendly. The Nissan Leaf is one of the all-electric vehicles perfect for consumers worried about their carbon footprint.

Tesla Model S

  • Gas mileage: 120 MPGe
  • EV range: 405 miles
  • Time to charge: Full charge in 30 minutes at a Tesla Supercharger, 10 hours at home
  • Base price: $99,900

The leader in luxury all-electric vehicles sales, the former Tesla Model S Long Range is now simply called Model S, and the 2022 edition tops out at more than 400 miles of driving on a full charge. And that full charge can be achieved in well under an hour at any of the 35,000 Tesla Superchargers globally. When plugged in to a traditional outlet at home, the charging time is similar to other electric vehicles, which equates to an overnight process. When you wake up in the morning, you should be charged and ready for another day of driving. Another thing you won’t have to worry about: having your car stolen. The Tesla Model S is one of the least frequently stolen vehicles, thanks to its high-tech security features.

Tesla Model Y

  • Gas mileage: 131 MPGe
  • EV range: 330 miles
  • Time to charge: 10 hours at 220V, less than an hour at fast-charging stations
  • Base price: $62,990

The Model Y is similar to the Model S, but it’s been made into more of a crossover SUV, providing ample cargo space to carry your family’s stuff while still delivering stellar all-electric performance and a high-tech interior. While you may find all-electric small SUVs at a better price point than the environmentally friendly Tesla Model Y, none come with the same hip factor to wow friends and family.

Toyota bZ4X

  • Gas mileage: 131 MPGe
  • EV range: 242 miles
  • Time to charge: 9 hours at level 2 charging, 1 hour at fast charging
  • Base price: $43,215

When it arrives later in 2022, the bZ4X will be an all-new vehicle and nameplate for Toyota. Reducing emissions by driving a fully electric car is one way to lessen your impact on the environment and reduce your carbon footprint. Thanks to three methods of charging, you’ll be able to get the power you need to get where you’re going, and with a year of free charging at EVgo locations, you’ll easily be able to drive this new Toyota as far as you wish on road trips.

Aerial view of cars driving on highway interchangeChris Sattlberger/Getty Images

Choosing the right car for you

The kind of car you drive can really affect the environment and your budget. While electric vehicles may save you money week to week because you don’t have to suffer inflated gas prices and also produce no pollution while you drive, there could be a bigger upfront cost at the dealership. As you work toward sustainable living, you may want to learn how to shop sustainably as well, so read up on fast fashion to find out what clothing brands to avoid.

Why you should trust Reader’s Digest

We scoured automotive websites, inquired about current government rebates and pored over manufacturer websites to get the most accurate information about fuel economy, price and performance on these 20 eco-friendly electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles.

Sources:

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.