BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Consumers worrying about the greenhouse effect -- or just how spending too many greenbacks on gas will affect their household budgets -- should check out the super-efficient cars automakers are offering in 2013.
Roughly a half-dozen electric cars or plug-in hybrids offer the equivalent of 95 miles per gallon or more in combined city/highway driving, while some boast a shockingly good 100 mpg or higher.
"I think we're going to see more and more people in the mainstream -- not just liberals, but everyone -- saying: 'Why not just [buy a super-efficient car]? After all, the technology is proven,'" says Phil Reed, an Edmunds.com senior consumer-advice editor who drives an electric-powered Nissan (NSANY) Leaf.
Automakers have been selling "green" cars on the U.S. market for more than a decade, convincing consumers to pay often-hefty sticker prices to cut gasoline bills and help the environment.Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars typically cost $5,000 to $10,000 more than comparable gas-powered models, as they have expensive battery packs and large research and development costs. But Reed says many consumers are willing to pay a premium to protect Mother Nature. For instance, the expert says his brother recently explained buying a Toyota (TM) Prius hybrid by saying: "It's not going to fix global warming, but at least it's something I can do to help." Reed himself leased a Leaf not just for environmental reasons, but also because his home state of California allows electric-vehicle drivers to use Los Angeles' HOV lanes without car pooling. That shaves some 90 hours a year off of his commute to and from work. The auto editor also calculates that his Leaf is so energy efficient that running it is like paying just $1.50 a gallon for gas. "It's insurance against future energy shocks," Reed says. "That's one way to look at it." Here's a rundown of the five greenest mainstream vehicles automakers are offering U.S. consumers in 2013, based on fuel-efficiency figures manufacturers have released to date. All numbers reflect U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for combined city and highway driving, but are marked "mpge" instead of "mpg" because they refer to a "miles per gallon equivalent" for cars running mostly or entirely on batteries. Prices refer to manufacturer's suggested retail prices for base models but exclude state and federal tax credits that typically cut at least $7,500 off of most vehicles' costs. MSRPs also exclude taxes, title fees and destination charges.
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