5 Highest-Mileage Cars You'll Want in 2013

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.

Fifth-greenest car: Chevrolet Volt
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.)

Fourth-greenest car: Nissan Leaf
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.

Third-greenest car: Ford C-Max Energi
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.

Second-greenest car: Ford Focus BEV
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.

No. 1 greenest car: Mitsubishi i-MiEV
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.

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