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
Combined city/highway mileage: 98 mpge This $39,955 plug-in hybrid runs on rechargeable batteries for some 38 miles, then switches automatically to a combination of battery power and gasoline (the car has a 9.3-gallon fuel tank). In essence, that means Chevrolet ( GM) Volt owners have an electric car for daily commuting or short trips, but a gas/electric hybrid when they need to drive across the country to Aunt Millie's for Thanksgiving. Reed says that eliminates "range anxiety" -- the fear that your electric car's batteries will run out of juice far from home, forcing you to find a power outlet you can "borrow" for hours for recharging. Charging a Volt takes around 10 to 16 hours using a standard 120-volt wall socket, or about four hours by using a special 240-volt outlet. (Installing a 240-volt charger in your home costs around $2,200, although you might qualify for state tax credits or utility-company rebates.)
Combined city/highway mileage: 99 mpge (2012 estimate) Nissan just knocked $6,400 off of the Leaf's starting price, making for the U.S.' least-expensive mainstream electric car. The Japanese automaker brought the Leaf to America in the 2011 model year, offering U.S. drivers the chance to get the equivalent of nearly 100 mpg fuel efficiency. Designed to look and feel like any other small four-door hatchback, the $28,800 Leaf relies on a 107-horsepower electric motor to get around. The 2012 Leaf only went about 73 miles between charges; Nissan says this year's version will have a longer range but hasn't yet released exact figures for range or mpge. And while charging up a Leaf takes around 21 hours using a standard 120-volt wall socket, you can cut that to around four hours with a 240-volt outlet and an optional 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger.
Combined city/highway mileage: 100 mpge This newly unveiled $32,950 model represents Ford's ( F) first foray into the plug-in hybrid world, combining an electric motor with a 141-horsepower gasoline engine and 14-gallon gas tank that kick in if the batteries run down. That means a fully fueled C-Max Energi can run on battery power for some 21 miles, then flip automatically over to hybrid mode and go about 600 miles more before needing gas and/or a recharge. Reed adds that the four-door wagon got high marks when Edmunds editors tested it -- beating even the popular, 95-mpge Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. "Everybody loved it," he says.
Combined city/highway mileage: 105 mpge The 2013 Focus Battery Electric Vehicle is a new model that appears aimed directly at the popular Nissan Leaf. After all, the Ford model offers 34 more horsepower, a 3-mile longer range and 6-mpge better fuel efficiency than the 2012 Leaf. (As previously noted, Nissan hasn't released full specs for the 2013 Leaf.) "The Focus BEV is a step forward from the Leaf," Reed says, although he adds that the Ford has a smaller cargo and a much higher price. The Focus BEV starts at $39,200 -- $10,400 more than the Leaf.
Combined city/highway mileage: 112 mpge Mitsubishi's i-MiEV is technically a 2012, but the automaker is carrying it into 2013 unchanged -- with the best fuel economy of any mass-produced car on the U.S. market and one of the lowest prices for an electric. The small four-door hatchback starts at just $29,125, which is $10,000 or more below the price for all other mainstream electric cars except the recently discounted Nissan Leaf. Of course, the i-MiEV has a low price partly because the vehicle has a relatively small cabin, a 66-horsepower electric motor and just a 62-mile range between battery charges. The Mitsubishi also needs around seven hours to fully recharge at 240 volts -- about twice what it takes to juice up a Chevy Volt, Ford Focus BEV or the fastest-charging Nissan Leafs. Mitsubishi won't say whether it plans update the car later in 2013.