The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published its 2012 Fuel Economy Guide and taking top honors as the model year's most fuel efficient vehicle is the 2012 Mitsubishi i electric vehicle (above) with an EPA-rated 112 miles per gallon equivalent in combined driving, 126 MPGe city and 99 MPGe highway. Because electricity is not measured in gallons, a conversion factor is used to translate the fuel economy into MPGe. MPGe ratings are based on an EPA formula in which 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline, and the energy consumption of a vehicle is determined using five standard drive cycle tests simulating varying driving conditions.
The next 10 most fuel-efficient 2012 models are the Nissan Leaf all-electric hatchback (99 MPGe combined), Azure Dynamics Transit Connect all-electric van (62 MPGe combined), Azure Dynamics Transit Connect all-electric wagon (62 MPGe combined), Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (60 MPGe combined, which includes a mix of gasoline and electric energy use), Toyota Prius hybrid (50 MPG combined), Honda Civic Hybrid (44 MPG combined), Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon (42 MPG combined), Honda CR-Z hybrid hatchback (37 MPG combined), Scion iQ hatchback (37 MPG combined), Audi A3 Diesel hatch (34 MPG combined), and the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Diesel (34 MPG combined).
According to the EPA's website, the fuel economy guide is "an annual publication containing the fuel economy estimates for all cars and light trucks. The guide includes much more information than appears on the window sticker alone. It includes information about alternative fueled vehicles, the range of fuel economy for different classes of vehicles, a list of fuel economy leaders, and tips for improving fuel economy." The annual guide is published jointly by the EPA and the Department of Energy.
Mitsubishi 'Very Pleased'
"We are very pleased to see that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have rated the 2012 Mitsubishi i as the top fuel economy leader in its annual Fuel Economy Guide," Yoichi Yokozawa, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, said in a statement. "With 17,000 i-MiEV-based units produced for various international markets, we look forward to providing North American consumers with an exceptionally well-engineered electric vehicle that has proven itself to be reliable, safe, efficient and very affordable in overall price and cost of operation." The 17,000 figure includes units produced for PSA Peugeot Citroen. The number reflects sales through October.
Mitsubishi this month started production of the i that is destined for North America, as the Japanese automaker prepares to start selling the small car in Hawaii, California, Washington and Oregon by the end of the month. The automaker also said the North American version of what's sold as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Japan and Europe will have more torque than overseas versions. A tire-pressure monitoring system and front and rear bumpers has been added in order to conform to North American safety requirements.
Mitsubishi is looking to sell 1,500 of the electric vehicles by March 31 and 5,000 a year in the U.S. starting in 2013. The company's North American division is marketing the four-door hatchback as a zero-emissions commuter car that best complements a conventional car instead of serving as a household's only vehicle. The i, which is priced in North America at about $6,000 less than the $35,200 Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle, offers an EPA-rated single-charge range of about 62 miles, or 11 miles fewer than the Leaf.
The i almost 145 inches long -- or about two inches shorter than the Mini Cooper hatchback -- while its motor delivers about 145 foot-pounds of torque. The U.S.-spec 2012 i will be available in two trim packages: $29,125 for the ES version and $31,125 for the SE version. The latter includes an HDD navigation system with rear-view camera, a direct-current quick charging port and a Bluetooth system with USB port for iPods and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. However, unlike the more content-rich Leaf, the vehicle won't initially be available with a telematics system.