In the federal government’s newly released 2006 Fuel Economy Guide, eight hybrid vehicles occupy five spots on the top ten list of fuel economy leaders. The Honda Insight (manual) and Toyota Prius are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively.

The car at the top of the 2006 fuel economy list, the Honda Insight, achieves 60/66 mpg city/highway and averages $525 in annual fuel costs (annual fuel costs are estimated assuming 15,000 miles of travel each year [55% city and 45% highway] and a gasoline fuel cost of $2.20 per gallon [regular unleaded]). In second place, the Toyota Prius comes in with 60/51 mpg city/highway and an annual fuel cost of $601.

Other hybrids making the top ten list include:

  • No. 5 – Ford Escape Hybrid 2WD (36/31 mpg city/highway, $1,000 in annual fuel costs)
  • No. 8 (three-way tie) – Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD; Mazda Tribute Hybrid 4WD; Mercury Mariner Hybrid 4WD (33/29 mpg city/highway, $1,066 in annual fuel costs)
  • No. 9 (two-way tie) – Lexus RX 400H 2WD; Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2WD (33/28 mpg city/highway, $1,099 in annual fuel costs).

Other cars ranked in the 2006 top ten list of fuel economy leaders are the diesel-powered Volkswagen New Beetle, Golf, and Jetta and the only conventional gasoline-powered vehicle, the Toyota Corolla. Diesel-powered vehicles can run on biodiesel (B5) without any vehicle modifications. The 2005 Jeep Liberty diesel comes factory-filled with biodiesel. How the diesel vehicles on the guide’s top ten list measure up can be found below:

  • No. 3 (two-way tie) – Volkswagen New Beetle; Volkswagen Golf (diesel, manual) (37/44 mpg city/highway, $769 in annual fuel costs)
  • No. 4 – Volkswagen Jetta (diesel, manual) (36/41 mpg city/highway, $809 in annual fuel costs)
  • No. 6 (two-way tie) – Volkswagen New Beetle; Volkswagen Jetta (diesel, automatic) (35/42 mpg city/highway, $809 in annual fuel costs)
  • No. 7 – Volkswagen Golf (diesel, automatic) (33/44 mpg city/highway, $830 in annual fuel costs)
2006 cover fuel economy guide

The guide’s estimates provide important information to people in the market for a new car who are concerned with fuel economy, a factor that influences a car’s annual fuel costs in addition to its emissions. According to the guide, by choosing a vehicle that achieves 25 miles per gallon (mpg) rather than 20, about 17 tons of greenhouse gases are prevented from being released into the air over the car’s lifetime.

Generated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the guide gives two different fuel economy estimates. The first considers mpg during city driving, which it defines as a vehicle being started in the morning (after being parked all night) and driven in stop-and-go rush hour traffic. The second estimate, mpg during highway driving, is defined as a mixture of rural and interstate highway driving in a warmed-up vehicle, typical of longer trips in free-flowing traffic.

As stated in the guide, fuel economy estimates are the average of test results conducted for the EPA. The vehicles are driven by professionals in a controlled laboratory setting with the results adjusted to account for differences between the laboratory conditions and real-world driving.

Most drivers achieve a fuel economy that falls within 15 percent of the city and highway estimates, according to EPA findings. This is based on a number of factors, for example, vehicle maintenance, use of air conditioning and other accessories, and weather and road conditions. Ways to improve the estimates to better reflect real-world driving are currently being evaluated, and the EPA plans to propose changes sometime next year.

Along with the benefit of owning a more environmentally friendly and efficient vehicle, purchasing a qualifying hybrid, diesel (which can run on the alternative fuel of biodiesel), or alternative fuel vehicle may make the consumer eligible for federal income tax incentives. As of January 1, 2006, these incentives may include tax deductions for qualifying gasoline-electric hybrids, diesels, compressed natural gas vehicles, and others powered by alternative fuels. DOE Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said that in January 2006, new tax credits worth thousands of dollars will be available to those buying a hybrid, electric, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The IRS has not yet determined which vehicle models will be eligible for the new tax credits or the credit amount for each vehicle.

More fuel economy estimates can be found in the online version of the 2006 Fuel Economy Guide at www.fueleconomy.gov.




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