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Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Cars

Gas prices may fluctuate from day to day and week to week, but they always seem to increase year after year. That makes fuel economy a very important factor when considering buying a new car. Many consumers are realizing the usefulness of considering the most fuel efficient cars available now in their car search. Before you invest your hard earned cash on a car, consider these 10 fuel-saving options.

Most Fuel Efficient Cars FAQ

1. What is a Fuel Efficient Car?

2. How Do Hybrid and Electric Cars Work?

3. Where Can You Buy Cars?

How We Reviewed

The following products were reviewed based on the following parameters: Features, Pros & Cons, Price, Where to Buy, and Warranty. We went to many sources to gather and compare this information.

The lowest base price of the lowest end model that we reviewed was $16,975, which was the Chevy Cruze. The highest base price was for the Toyota Avalon Hybrid at $42,800. It is like comparing apples to oranges here because the Chevy Cruze is a compact sedan with minimal standard features and the Toyota Avalon is a large sedan with many standard features.

Overall Price Range of These Cars

What We Reviewed

  • Toyota Prius 3
  • Hyundai Ioniq Blue
  • Toyota Prius Prime
  • Honda Accord Hybrid
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
  • Honda Clarity PHEV
  • Kia Niro FE
  • Toyota Avalon Hybrid
  • Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
  • Chevy Cruze

comparison table

Name

IMage

MSRP

Where to Buy?

TOYOTA PRIUS 3

TOYOTA PRIUS 3

$23,475-$30,565

Hyundai Ioniq Blue

Hyundai Ioniq Blue

$22,200-$27,550

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

27,100-$33,100

Honda Accord Hybrid

HONDA ACCORD HYBRID

$23,570-$35,800

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE

23,495-$34,950

Honda Clarity PHEV

Honda Clarity PHEV

$33,400-36,600

Kia Niro FE

Kia Niro FE

$23,340-$32,000

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

$35,500-$42,800

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

$21,680-$31,020

Chevy Cruze

Chevy Cruze

$16,975-$25,920

Toyota Prius 3

TOYOTA PRIUS 3

Image Via Toyota.com

Features

Every Prius model is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense™, an advanced suite of safety technologies to help you drive with confidence. It has a comfortable modern seat design and a nice multimedia display. The suspension, body rigidity, and aerodynamics of Prius provide a smooth ride.

The Toyota Prius has been one of the most fuel efficient cars available for quite some time. It was an early entry into the market, with limited sales in the year 2000. The latest generation Prius has been improved greatly since the last generation. The Prius has always been shown to be efficient and has low operating costs. There are many different models of the Prius, including a version that offers a plug-in combination (the Toyota Prius Prime, discussed below). This particular review is of the Toyota Prius 3.

Pros

  • Comfortable handling
  • Comfortable ride
  • Straightforward touch-screen infotainment system
  • Colorful digital gauge with lots of fuel-economy information
  • Standard forward-collision warning and automatic braking
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Seats have mediocre support
  • Low stance can make it a challenge to get in and out of the vehicle
  • Noticeable tire noise

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $23,475-$30,565.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at toyota.com

Interior

The Prius has a standard 4.2-inch color dual Multi-Information Display with customizable screens. The Prius has a comfortable, smart seat design with front bucket seats. The driver’s seat has many adjustment settings with power lumbar support. You can control the audio, display, and hands-free calling from the steering wheel. 60/40 split fold-down rear seats maximize cargo space.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Prius has an aerodynamic exterior which allows it to smooth airflow, thus maximizing fuel efficiency. This also provides a smooth ride because of smart design, advanced materials, and construction techniques. The Prius 3 boasts an overall MPG of 52, a city MPG of 43, and a Highway MPG of 59.

Reliability

The Prius received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

The standard forward-collision warning and automatic braking system are great safety features. The integrated backup camera appears when you are in reverse, to help when you are parking in a tight spot or backing up. Also available is the Blind Spot Monitor system. It helps you determine when it is safe to change lanes. Additionally, there is an available Rear Cross-Traffic Alert designed to provide an audible indication to help warn you of approaching vehicles. Rain-sensing windshield wipers are also very important for safety.

Warranty

The basic warranty for the Prius 3 is 36 months/36,000 miles. It also has a 60 months/60,000 miles warranty for the Powertrain, Corrosion Perforation, and Restraint Systems. There is a 96 months/100,000 miles warranty for the Hybrid System.

Hyundai Ioniq Blue

Hyundai Ioniq Blue

Image Via hyundaiusa.com

Features

The Hyundai Ioniq has a clean, aerodynamic shape and modern styling. Additionally, it has solid engineering and advanced technology. There are a number of advanced safety features that are available. But its 52 overall MPG makes it one of the most fuel efficient cars available now.

There are three highly efficient powertrains available (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric). This review focuses on the hybrid (Blue) version.

Pros

  • Combined 139 horsepower engine
  • Available automatic braking and blind-spot warning are available
  • Standard Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Its transmission isn’t the smoothest
  • There is some delay accelerating from a standstill
  • Has unusually long stopping distances for the class of car
  • Limited back-seat space

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $22,200-$27,550.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at hyundaiusa.com

Interior

A power driver seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, and leather seating surfaces are available. Additionally, there is an available 8-inch color audio touchscreen navigation is available. The car has 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to give you flexibility.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Ioniq has an aerodynamic exterior which allows it to smooth airflow, thus maximizing fuel efficiency. This also provides a smooth ride because of smart design, advanced materials, and construction techniques. The Ioniq hybrid boasts an overall MPG of 52, a city MPG of 43, and a Highway MPG of 59.

Reliability

The Ioniq received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

There is an automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection feature available, an available blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert system, and an available Lane Keep Assist, that alerts you when you are veering into another lane of traffic.

Warranty

The basic warranty is for 5 year/60,000 miles. There is a 10 year/100,000 miles Powertrain warranty, a 7 year/unlimited Rust through warranty, and a 5 year/unlimited Roadside aid warranty. Every detail has been optimized to make it advanced and efficient.

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

Image Via ​toyota.com

Features

The Toyota Prius Prime is a plug-in Prius version. It is by far one of the most fuel efficient cars with an EPA equivalent MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent - a measure of the average distance traveled per unit of energy consumed) of 133. You are able to choose drive modes to help you select the perfect drive. Prime also has an available intelligent drive coach feature to help elevate your efficiency even further.

The Prime can usually drive about 23 miles on electricity only, but the gas engine starts up in cold weather and under full acceleration. It takes 2 hours to charge the Prime through a 240-volt connector and 5 hours on a regular 120-volt. When not running in EV mode, the Prime alternates between electric and gas power, returning 50 mpg overall.

Pros

  • Compliant ride
  • Responsive handling
  • Standard auto emergency braking
  • Standard lane-keep assist
  • Excellent fuel efficiency
  • Smooth transition between gas and electric power
  • Many standard safety and technology features

Cons

  • Holds four passengers instead of five
  • Does not have a rear wiper
  • Slow acceleration
  • Difficult available infotainment system

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $27,100-$33,100.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at toyota.com

Interior

There is a nice 11.6 inch HD multimedia display that is available. The customizable 4.2-in color dual Multi-Information Display screen provides lots of information and is steering wheel controlled. The Prime has comfortable supportive seats. The front seats feature deep bolsters for body hugging comfort. 60/40 split fold-down rear seats maximize cargo space. Heated front seats are standard in the Prime.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

Similar to the regular hybrid Prius, the Prius Prime has a compliant ride and responsive handling. It has many aerodynamic features and efficient design components, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars available now. It has an MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent - a measure of the average distance traveled per unit of energy consumed) of 133. When using the gas engine only, it has an overall MPG of 50, 38 City MPG, and 62 Highway MPG.

Reliability

The Prime received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

Toyota Safety Sense™ makes the Prime designed for safety. It includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection. This system may apply additional force using Brake Assist. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses vehicle distance control which adjusts your speed. The prime has lane departure alert with steering assist (the system may make small corrective steering inputs to keep your vehicle in its lane). Additionally, the Prime has Automatic High Beans to help you see more clearly at night, available Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, backup camera (standard),  and other features.

Warranty

The Prime comes with a basic 3 year/36,000 miles warranty, a 5 year/60,000 miles Powertrain warranty, a 5 year/unlimited Rust through warranty, and a 2 year/unlimited Roadside aid warranty.

Honda Accord Hybrid

Features

The Honda Accord Hybrid looks sporty with a lower stance and coupe-like silhouette. It is one of the most fuel efficient cars available, with 47 mpg overall without sacrificing acceleration. It has a new 192-hp engine that delivers adequate power. It also has a new and improved infotainment system which includes knobs or tuning and volume adjustment. Standard safety assistance includes Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. It has a roomy interior with dual-zone climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, and heated mirrors.

Pros

  • Sporty look
  • Good acceleration
  • Good standard safety features
  • Has a nice 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Responsive handling and a comfortable ride
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Unintuitive push-button gear selector
  • Available dual-screen system can be frustrating
  • Under hard acceleration, the engine gets noisy

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $23,570-$35,800.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at automobiles.honda.com

Interior

The Accord has nice leather trimmed seating and roomy interior and includes a 10-way power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control, as well as heated mirrors. The full-color 7-inch driver interface offers a customizable in-dash display. Its cabin includes Active Noise Cancellation™ which contributes to a quiet interior.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

There is an uplevel turbo-charged 2.0-liter engine available that brings 252 hp and a slick 10-speed automatic transmission with a push-button gear selector. The Honda Accord hybrid has an overall MPG of 47, a city MPG of 40, and a Highway MPG of 52.

Reliability

The Accord received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

In addition to Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, the Accord is equipped with the Honda Sensing® suite of safety and drive-assistive technologies. Features include a collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist system, and traffic sign recognition.

Warranty

The Honda Accord Hybrid comes with a 3 year/36,000 limited warranty, a five year/60,000 mile Powertrain warranty, and either an 8 year/100,000 or 10 year/150,000 mile warranty for Hybrid components (depending on state regulations where you purchase and register the vehicle).

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE

Image Via ​toyota.com

Features

The recently redesigned Toyota Camry Hybrid LE is one of the most fuel efficient cars available. It is a sporty looking car. Camry has a Dynamic Force Engine, which provides remarkable efficiency with a powerful and nice drive. The Camry Hybrid has a new standard feature—Apple CarPlay, which allows you to pair your compatible iPhone to provide excellent functionality. The Camry offers the impressive Toyota Safety Sense™ P safety package. This is a mid-size car, making it roomier than other choices.

Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Quiet ride
  • Standard Forward Collision Warning
  • Standard Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Larger trunk than many hybrids
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • The lower stance makes it difficult to get into and out of
  • Continuously variable transmission (CVT) is sluggish
  • Blind-spot warning is optional

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $23,495-$34,950.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at toyota.com

Interior

The Camry has 8-way power-adjustable driver’s and front passenger seats that are nicely shaped, with available leather trim. Heated front seats are available. The rear seats are also supportive and have optional rear-seat vents. The Camry has an available Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan to help you see all around you. Wi-Fi connect by Verizon turns the Camry into a hotspot almost anywhere you go.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Camry hybrid has an overall MPG of 47, a city MPG of 39, and a Highway MPG of 53, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars available. What makes it even nicer is the fact that it is a nimble and nice-looking mid-size car, roomier than many of the other models reviewed.

Reliability

The Camry Hybrid received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

In addition to the excellent Toyota Safety Sense™ P safety package, the car has an Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking available that warns you of nearby obstacles and may reduce engine power and apply the brakes under certain conditions. Also available is a Blind Spot Monitor. There are ten airbags standard on the Camry. Lastly, it includes six advanced safety features standard.

Warranty

The Camry Warranty includes a basic warranty of 3 year/36,000 miles, Powertrain warranty of 5 year/60,000 miles, Rust through warranty of 5 year/unlimited, and Roadside aid of 2 year/unlimited.

Honda Clarity PHEV

Features

The Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid model is new for 2018. It is a mid-size car that offers a quality cabin with comfortable seating, excellent fuel economy, and a good electric range (compared to other plug-in hybrids). Additionally, it offers a comfortable ride.

Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Quick charging time
  • Comfortable seating
  • Good electric range
  • Upscale for the money
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Competitors are more agile
  • Sluggish highway passing power
  • Audio controls lack knobs and buttons

Price

The 2018 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $33,400-36,600.

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at automobiles.honda.com

Interior

There is roomy seating for five. The Clarity offers a very quiet interior. There are heated front seats with power adjustments. Additionally, there is a dual-zone automatic climate control in the front. There is an 8-inch display audio touch-screen with an 8-speaker system. The car offers Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ integration, and the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Clarity body shape provides streamlined airflow, making it very efficient and quiet. It is very aerodynamic. When using gas, the Clarity gets 44 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway.

Reliability

Since this plug-in hybrid is new for 2018, we don’t have sufficient reliability data at this time.

Safety

The Clarity Electric comes with Honda Sensing®, which is a suite of safety features. The key safety features include Lane Keeping Assist System, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation System, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow.

Warranty

The basic warranty for the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is 36 months/36,000 miles. There is a 60 months/unlimited distance Corrosion perforation warranty, a 96 months/100,000 miles Hybrid electrical components warranty, a 60 months/60,000 miles Powertrain warranty, and a 36 months/36,000 miles Roadside assistance coverage.

Kia Niro FE

Kia Niro FE

Image Via ​kia.com

Features

The Kia Niro is a five-passenger car which is one of the most fuel efficient cars available. It is considered a subcompact SUV. It is quite powerful, at 139 hp. It offers an upscale, comfortable cabin and has lots of cargo space.

Pros

  • Very comfortable seats
  • Spacious interior
  • Good cargo capacity
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • High base price
  • Not very agile handling
  • Choppy ride

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $23,340-$32,000.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at kia.com

Interior

The Niro has an optional power drive seat provides nice support. The interior is stylish. The Niro offers a nice 7-inch color touch-screen display with Apple CarPly™ and Android Auto™. A premium sound system is available and you can charge your compatible smart phone on the available center-console pad.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Niro has an overall MPG of 43, a city MPG of 33, and a Highway MPG of 52, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars in its subcompact SUV class. The 139 hp at 5,700 rpm provides plenty of power. It has an aerodynamic design.

Reliability

The Niro received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

In addition to the airbags, the Niro has an Anti-lock Braking System, Vehicle Stability Management, Electronic Stability Control and other features standard. A suite of advanced safety features is available as well which includes Automatic Emergency Braking, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning.

Warranty

The Niro basic warranty is 5 year/60,000 miles, its Powertrain warranty is 10 year/100,000 miles, its Rust through warranty is 5 year/100,000 miles, and Roadside aid is 5 year/60,000 miles.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Image Via ​toyota.com

Features

The Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a large sedan. It was completely redesigned for 2019. It is very roomy and has an extremely comfortable ride. It has a 3.5-liter V6 engine providing plenty of power and the engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It is very plush and has a 9 inch easy to use touch screen.

Pros

  • Plush interior
  • Very smooth ride
  • Fancy, upscale cabin
  • Spacious seats
  • Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • High base price
  • Low stance makes it difficult to get into and out of

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $35,500-$42,800.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at toyota.com

Interior

The Avalon Hybrid has a large 9-inch multimedia touch-screen display that comes with pinch-and-zoom navigation controls that are very easy to use. It offers Apple CarPlay™ standard, and a premium sound system is available. Toyota Remote Connect allows you to control some Avalon functions from remote devices. Additionally, the Avalon has real wood and aluminum trim, and has beautiful leather heated and ventilated front seats available,

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Avalon Hybrid has an overall MPG of 42, a city MPG of 32, and a highway MPG of 52, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars in its large sedan class. It has a sleek design.

Reliability

The Avalon received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

The Avalon has the excellent Toyota Safety Sense™ P standard. This includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams. Other available safety features include adaptive cornering lights and Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan among others.

Warranty

The Avalon Hybrid basic warranty is 3 year/36,000 miles, its Powertrain warranty is 5 year/60,000 miles, its Rust through warranty is 5 year/unlimited, and Roadside aid is 2 year/unlimited.

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Features

The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is a very stylish mid-size vehicle. It has a very comfortable ride, is very quiet, and has easy-to-use controls. This hybrid uses some of the Chevrolet Volt’s technology.

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Quiet cabin
  • Very comfortable ride
  • Intuitive controls
  • Excellent fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Compromised outward visibility compared to competitors
  • Getting in and out of this vehicle can be difficult
  • Base cloth seats are not very supportive

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $21,680-$31,020.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at chevrolet.com

Interior

The Malibu Hybrid’s interior is spacious, comfortable, and quiet. There is a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat offering flexibility. There is an 8-way power driver seat and 8-inch diagonal color touch-screen display standard.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Malibu Hybrid has an overall MPG of 41, a city MPG of 33, and a Highway MPG of 49, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars in its mid-size class. It handles very nicely.

Reliability

The Malibu received solid, above average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

There are 10 airbags in the Malibu, a rear vision camera, StabiliTrak, electronic stability control system with traction control and tire pressure monitoring system.

Warranty

The Malibu Hybrid basic warranty is 3 year/36,000 miles, its Powertrain warranty is 5 year/60,000 miles, its Rust through warranty is 6 year/100,000, and Roadside aid is 5 year/60,000.

Features

The Chevrolet Cruze is a fuel efficient diesel vehicle that has many nice features available in larger vehicles, such as a very comfortable ride and a quiet interior. While it is a compact vehicle, it has many nice “bigger car” features. There is a start/stop feature that reduces fuel use during idling. The Cruze is available in a 4-Door Hatchback or a Sedan body style.

Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Quiet, spacious interior
  • Available built-in 4GLTE WiFi hotspot capability
  • Includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility
  • Lower base price than competitors
  • Rear sets are roomy for its class

Cons

  • Front seats are short on lower-back support
  • Acceleration is lackluster

Price

The 2019 Base Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $16,975-$25,920.
 

Where to Buy

Find information about where to buy this vehicle at chevrolet.com

Interior

The Cruze has front bucket seats, a Rear Vision Camera, a standard 6-way manual driver seat and a 2-way manual front passenger seat. There is a 4-speaker audio system, Bluetooth® standard, and a Built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

Performance & Fuel Efficiency

The Cruze LT Diesel has an overall MPG of 41, a city MPG of 27, and a Highway MPG of 60, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars that is not a hybrid. The Cruze can definitely compete with other compact sedans.

Reliability

The Cruze received above-average predicted reliability scores.

Safety

Standard safety features include a rearview camera, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and others. There are a number of optional safety features including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking (city), lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic detection.

Warranty

The Cruze basic warranty is 3 year/36,000 miles, its Powertrain warranty is 5 year/60,000 miles, its Rust through warranty is 5 year/100,000 miles, and Roadside aid is 5 year/60,000 miles.

The Verdict

All of the cars we reviewed are among the most efficient cars available today, so you can't go wrong there. If cost is your only consideration, then the Chevy Cruze is probably for you. It gets good gas mileage, especially for the money and the relative stability of diesel prices.

But if you prefer a more environment-friendly car or one that is large and luxurious with lots of bells and whistles, then consider the Toyota Avalon Hybrid. It is truly a beautiful vehicle. The Hyundai Ioniq, is reasonably priced and offers Apple Play™ and Android Auto™ compatibility. So if those particular features are important to you, be sure to investigate that car.

You may notice that of the 10 vehicles that we reviewed, four were made by Toyota. The Toyota Prius was first sold in the year 2000 and has had four major re-designs. Toyota was at the forefront of fuel efficiency, and they continue to improve. For an excellent vehicle for your money, the Prius will not disappoint.
 

QuantumScape signage

Why QuantumScape Could Be The Future Of Smart Cars?

The burgeoning ubiquity of electric vehicles in the United States, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere around the world is attracting the attention of technology companies, automobile manufacturers, venture capitalists, and consumers. The massive untapped market means competition in the development and mass production of the best batteries for electric vehicles will be one of the great innovations of our present chapter in history. The companies that achieve this end will have set up their businesses to succeed well beyond the foreseeable future.

Surprisingly, the United States has only one car in the race. Outside of QuantumScape, a California based company, every company with a major part to play in the coming story is Japanese or German.

The electric vehicle industry in the United States sits in a precarious position at the moment. The price and supply of fuel is not as worrisome as it was five years ago. Advancements in electric vehicle battery technology have stalled. Outside of the familiar small, hybrid models, no electric car has demonstrated an ability to send reverberations through the market. The catalyst positioned to release this deadlock is the successful production of a solid-state lithium battery. It is the only technology with significant chances of truly altering the landscape of the electric vehicle industry in the United States.

Based on their relationship to Volkswagen, QuantumScape is likely the company that will be America's most vibrant representative in the industry going forward.

 

What Is QuantumScape?

fuelling the car

QuantumScape is a battery technology company formed in 2010 as a spinoff of Stanford research and talent. The company stands out amongst other companies developing similar technologies because it is valued at more than a billion dollars despite its lack of a consistent revenue stream or a plurality of deliverable products. This discrepancy is explained largely by the company's numerous investors, including Volkswagen which recently invested $100 million in the company, and its experienced, battle-tested board of directors.

Industry Background

QuantumScape has emerged as a major player in the race to develop a more commercially viable, and hence more profitable, battery for electric cars. The company hopes to achieve a substantial breakthrough in the production of solid-state lithium batteries, a technology being monitored and invested in by a wide variety of companies from Dyson to Toyota. Since the inception of the lithium-ion battery by EXXON in the 1970s, no company or state actor has been able to successfully produce a viable solid-state lithium battery.

The development of such a battery is imperative to the advancement of electric energy, especially in cars, because current lithium battery technology is highly reactive and hence the technology is perceived by consumers to be unsafe. The currently unavailable solid-state alternative ensures more stability, safety, and consumer confidence.

QuantumScape's Long-Term Goals

Volkswagen has been working in coordination with QuantumScape since 2012 to develop a solid-state lithium battery, but their collective goal for mass-production is not projected to launch until 2025. The length of this time frame underscores the difficulty of the task. Positivity regarding progress in electric vehicles has slackened in recent years as scientists and researchers have struggled to make traditional lithium battery products more efficient.

To bridge this gap would mean irreparably changing the trajectory of the electric vehicle market in the United States. Solid-state batteries offer greater safety, faster-charging intervals, a more compact product, and most importantly greater energy density

Lithium Batteries vs. Traditional Fuel

gas station

The transition from traditional fuel to electric power in our vehicles is assured; the timeline on which this shift occurs, however, is not. Currently, advances in battery technology are insufficient to bring a vehicle to market that would inspire sufficient confidence in consumers to facilitate a large-scale transition from fuel to electric power in vehicles around the world, and especially in the United States. Constraints on a vehicle's range present the most onerous challenge for companies that develop battery technology to address in the near future.

The Stubborn Advantages of Traditional Fuel

The stasis in battery development has been met by a resurgent traditional fuel industry brought back to life by an increased supply, primarily from the United States, falling prices, and increased fuel efficiency in vehicles using traditional fuel. Furthermore, there is lingering resistance to costs in infrastructure changes necessary for the proliferation of electric vehicles. These trends have obfuscated the threats of energy insecurity and permanent environmental damage posed by the continued use of fossil fuels.


The Limited Achievements of Lithium-Ion Batteries

In reference to the electric vehicle industry, battery technology has been widely successful in disseminating products that enable consumers to buy hybrid electric vehicles at commercially viable prices and drive their electric vehicles regularly without significant impediment. Vehicles powered solely by electricity, on the other hand, are too expensive for the average consumer and come with a limited range that makes a large segment of consumers uncomfortable.

Without a wider range and a more palatable price tag, electric vehicles cannot hope to make substantial inroads in the market for family vehicles in the United States: the most significant segment of the market for any company hoping to maintain a robust presence in the United States.

Solid-State Lithium Batteries

Solid-state lithium batteries differ from lithium-ion batteries in that a lithium-ion battery requires a liquid electrolyte to facilitate movement between electrodes within the battery. A solid-state battery, like the one being developed by QuantumScape, would achieve the same movement between electrodes with a solid electrolyte. This improvement promises to improve the energy density of the battery which in turn increases the range of the vehicle being powered by the hypothetical solid-state lithium battery.

Additionally, the energy density of a solid-state battery would provide a greater tolerance to high temperatures, less reactivity to dangerous materials, and a more compact product. These advances could take the electric-only powered car from an outlier to the norm.

Best Smart Cars of the Future

electric car

Even as fuel has become more readily available, the transition to electric vehicles is a palpable facet of the modern automotive industry. The companies that bring the future of high-quality, accessible electric vehicles to consumers first will be watching their enterprises grow for untold decades. With the stakes this high, the competition is thick. BMW, Honda, Hyundai, and Nissan have all invested in solid-state lithium battery research.

For QuantumScape and their partner Volkswagen, Toyota may be the fiercest competitor. Toyota has been working with Panasonic since 2014 to develop a solid-state lithium battery, a relationship that reflects the Japanese counter to nascent Chinese competition in the industry. QuantumScape's value as a company compared to the declining market share held by Panasonic indicates Volkswagen may have the slight edge.

The e-Golf

The Golf is currently Volkswagen's best selling model and is particularly popular in European countries where the small, fuel-efficient vehicle accommodates consumers desire to save on expensive European taxes on fossil fuels. Volkswagen is eager to bring the e-Golf to the market, an all-electric iteration of its namesake powered with a solid-state lithium battery which would increase the range of the vehicle to between 700 and 750 kilometers, or roughly 450 miles.

This achievement would win a massive market share in Europe where consumers could circumnavigate fuel costs and the incumbent taxes altogether. In the United States success would be more limited. The size of the Golf precludes the vehicle from becoming a staple in the United States where consumers value room for the comfortable transport of an entire family of four, at least.

Electric Concept Cars

In an effort to cater to a global market looking for a vehicle that provides more than basic transportation without an exorbitant cost, Volkswagen is developing four fully electric cars in which the company hopes to use a solid-state lithium battery. These vehicles are all family-friendly, four-door vehicles, one of which is modeled on the classic Volkswagen Bus, and all would have comfortable interiors and driving ranges for consumers in the United States looking to make a complete transition to electric vehicles.

The e-Golf's success will be an important step in the advancement of QuantumScape's technologies and Volkswagen's market share in the United States but dominance cannot be achieved without a range of products that can be readily marketed to middle-class families who want reliable, comfortable vehicles regardless of the energy source.

Conclusion

car charge sign

QuantumScape's development of an ostensibly viable solid-state lithium battery makes the young company a likely torchbearer on the road to a complete transition to electric vehicles in the United States and around the world. Despite a tempered resurgence in the viability of traditional fuel, the popularity of electric vehicles, particularly hybrid-electric vehicles has continued to increase. Market gains have been most severely limited by stagnant improvements in battery technology. 

The most promising possibility for release from stalemate is the development of a solid-state lithium battery which would increase the energy density of the batteries used in electric vehicles, expanding their range. In collaboration with Volkswagen, QuantumScape seems poised to take a serious run at a large segment of the electric vehicle industry in competition with Toyota and their partner, Panasonic. 

car and windmill on the back

Is a Wind Powered Car an Actual Possibility?

In the relatively short history of the automobile, gas powered cars have dominated the market. The wind powered car, the solar powered car, and others have not been as successful. The internal combustion engine was invented during the industrial revolution and, since then, we’ve been using it to power lots and lots of things that keep our society going. However, what we didn’t realize when we were inventing the combustion engine over 100 years ago is that burning gasoline, which comes from fossil fuels, creates a lot harmful emissions. There is a lot of debate over the effect of emissions on the environment, but a significant percentage of scientists agree that we are polluting our air and our water by burning the amount of fossil fuels that we are burning. We may also be causing our planet to heat up, which could upset the balance of our climate. If the earth’s climate were to shift even slightly, large portions of the planet may suddenly become uninhabitable for humans. This would, understandably, be devastating.

car near the beach

Another issue we have with using cars powered by gasoline is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. We don’t have infinite oil. At some point, we are going to run out, because we are using the resource faster than we can replace it. Our society is very dependent on cars for transportation, and many modes of public transportation also currently use gasoline for power. In order to meet the growing need for transportation, we will have to find alternative means of power. We need to find ways to make things “go” that don’t use finite, non-renewable resources. This means, it’s time for us to turn to renewable resources. It’s time for us to seriously consider the wind powered car.

What Is Wind Power?

Wind power is the process of creating electricity, or powering a car, using the air flow that occurs naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. Generally, wind turbines are used to harness kinetic energy from the wind and generate power. In the wind powered car, the turbines are smaller and built into the body of the car. There are 3 types of wind energy:

Offshore Wind

turbine till

This type of wind power uses very large turbines that are placed offshore, near the continental shelf. Because they are large and far out at sea, they can generate a lot of power.

Utility-Scale Wind

Utility-Scale Wind

This uses turbines that can generate 100 kilowatts to megawatts of power. These turbines are generally used to create power for electric utilities.

Distributed or “Small” Wind

windmill

This type uses small turbines to directly power a home or a small business. They are not part of a grid.

How Does It Work?

When wind moves turbines, the blades capture kinetic energy. The action of turning the blades turns that kinetic energy into mechanical energy. The rotating blades turn a shaft connect to a gearbox. The gearbox spins a generator to make electricity.

What Does a Turbine Look Like?

pinwheel

Turbines are generally at least 250 feet tall and attached to a steel tower. A hub holds 3 blades, and the “nacelle” holds the shaft, the gearbox, the generator, and the controls. The turbines measure the wind and turn themselves into the strongest wind. The blades are pitched to capture the most energy.

How Much Wind Does It Need?

Typically, the wind must be blowing at least 6 to 9 miles per hour to generate power. If the wind speed increases above 55 miles per hour, the turbines will shut down.

How Much Power Is Produced?

In a year, a wind turbine will generally produce power about 90 percent of the time. The faster the wind, the greater the production. Production from turbines is measured in a “Capacity Factor.” If a turbine has the ability to produce 18,000 megawatt-hours, but the wind only blew hard enough to produce 8,000 megawatt-hours, then the capacity factor is 45 percent. Generally, wind farms have capacity factors higher than 40 percent and are on par with coal or natural gas plants.

Windmills vs. Wind Turbines

house and turbine

A windmill and a wind turbine are not the same thing. A windmill uses the wind to produce mechanical energy to do a specific job, like grind grain. A wind turbine turns the mechanical energy into electricity.

What Is a Wind Farm?

wind farm

A wind farm is a large group of turbines built together to generate electricity for a power plant.

How Is Wind Energy Distributed?

Once the energy is generated, it heads to the power plant and is sent to consumers as electricity in the same way as any other type of energy.

Would a Wind Powered Car Work?

Wind powered cars have already been designed and tested, and they do work. Generally, turbines are built into the outside of the car and use vents to channel air toward the turbines. Most wind powered cars also need another power source for startup and to provide longer drive times. To stay environmentally friendly, most use solar power as the alternate energy source. Some use electricity and need to be recharged at home or at a charging station. These are the pros and cons of a wind powered car:

Pros

  • Very clean energy
  • Wind is sustainable
  • Wind is free

Cons

  • Wind is unpredictable
  • Aesthetics (doesn’t always look good)
  • Might be expensive up front

The other problems with wind powered cars at this point are making them go fast enough for the highway and making sure they provide enough hours of drive time. For perpetual use, you would need a relatively sunny environment to keep the solar panels charging and enough wind to drive the turbines when in motion. There are still some design kinks to work out, as well as the need to bring the costs down. As with any new technology, the startup costs can sometimes be prohibitive. However, for the future of the planet we’re going to leave our children, we need to find solutions to these problems. As we find better ways to answer these questions, wind powered cars are definitely an option for the future.

Current Designs of Wind Powered Cars

There are a few wind powered cars on the market right now. They are not widely sold or used, but they are demonstrating great strides in technology. Here are a few examples of what’s out there in wind powered cars.

Toyota Mirai

toyota car

“Mirai” means “future” in Japanese. It is currently one of only 28 fuel cell cars on the road in the UK. Its hydrogen cells are generated by the wind power. This model is capable of 37 miles per gallon and can go about 340 miles once fully charged.

The Ventomobile

This wind powered car was built in 2008 by German students. It had a wind turbine on top and ran on 3 wheels. It isn’t very fast, but it was the first truly wind powered car.

Lotus Nemesis

Some argue that this is actually the first wind powered car. It’s a hybrid that also uses electric power. The turbine is outside the car for better results. While in motion, the turbine charges the battery, thereby producing its own electricity. This was the first vehicle to place the turbine on the outside of the vehicle. The car is the creation of Tang Zhengping, who wanted to try and reduce the emissions in China, his native country. The car can reach 90 mph and the batteries need to be recharged every 2-3 days.

Formula Zero

This is a wind powered car with 4 electric motors. Its purpose is to making racing not just about speed, but about energy efficiency and utilizing natural resources. It’s quoted to have, “The thrill of Formula One, the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing.”

Conclusion

At the rate we are using our natural resources like coal and oil, it is imperative that we find alternative fuel sources over the next century. One very viable energy source is wind power, and wind powered cars. We need transportation. We live in a global economy, and we need to be able to travel. Our goal should be to make that travel easy on the environment and our wallets. Putting funds into research for better wind powered cars is an excellent step in this direction. With a little more work, wind powered cars could be one of the future methods of transportation. Or, we may see more and more vehicles that combine wind and solar power. We will have to change our expectations slightly, as clean energy cars don’t have the same sound and feel as gasoline powered cars. We have a lot of memories and nostalgia mixed in with how we feel about our cars, especially as Americans. And we should preserve that history. The era of gasoline powered vehicles was an important step in our industrial history. However, we have to move on to more sustainable ways of getting around. By embracing wind powered cars, even with their differences, we will make a huge difference in the future of our planet.