The most fuel-efficient automaker in the US sells no hybrids or plugins

Mazda has greatly improved fuel efficiency across its US lineup of vehicles through refinements to its internal-combustion engines alone. 

Jason Lee/Reuters/File
A customer looks at a Mazda 5 mini van at a showroom in Beijing. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named Mazda its top carmaker for fuel efficiency for the third consecutive year.

The most fuel-efficient automaker in the U.S. doesn't sell a single hybrid car, let alone battery-electric cars or plug-in hybrids.

In fact, it currently doesn't have any vehicles with electrified powertrains in its whole U.S. lineup.

That's because the company in question is Mazda, which is notably improving efficiency across its lineup through refinements to internal-combustion engines alone.

And that strategy is apparently enough: In its most recent Light Duty Fuel Economy Trends report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Mazda as its top carmaker for fuel efficiency for the third consecutive year.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The EPA report can be found here.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A number of readers have commented that Tesla Motors, which makes only electric cars, makes the most energy-efficient vehicles in the world. That is true, but this article is about fuel efficiency, not energy efficiency. Electricity is not a fuel.]

For the 2014 model year--the most recent year with available data--Mazda achieved a fleet average of 29.4 mpg.

It also averaged carbon-dioxide emissions of 328 grams per mile across its fleet.

Mazda works toward fuel-economy gains through its SkyActiv powertrains, which rely solely on tuning and some technical tricks to boost efficiency.

Mostly naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engines, they've also allowed Mazda to largely phase out larger engines.

Even the upcoming 2016 CX-9 three-row crossover will be offered only with a four-cylinder engine--a new 2.5-liter turbocharged unit.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Mazda CX-3: First Drive Of 31-MPG Small Sporty Crossover

The fact that Mazda's lineup doesn't include any large trucks or high-performancecars to drag down its average helps as well.

Avoiding more complex electrified powertrains has allow engineers to realize efficiency gains without stretching the resources of what is still a fairly small car company.

But Mazda may eventually have to add a plug-in hybrid or battery-electric model to its lineup to meet stricter emissions standards.

The carmaker is part of a second tier of manufacturers that will be required to comply with California's zero-emission vehicle mandate, beginning in 2018.

That means Mazda will have to sell a certain number of cars defined as "zero emission" in California to maintain compliance.

The Japanese firm and several other carmakers successfully lobbied to change the rules so that plug-in hybrids--in addition to battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell cars--can be counted toward the sales goal.

Mazda recently signed a technical agreement with Toyota, which will likely supply powertrain components for future hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

It briefly sold small numbers of Tribute Hybrid SUVs (rebadged hybrid Escapes) when it was part of Ford. And it now sells a Mazda 3 hybrid only in Japan, whose domestic tax policies heavily skew its car market toward hybrids.

At the same time, Mazda president Masamichi Kogai has said the carmaker is aiming for a 30-percent efficiency improvement for its next-generation SkyActiv engines, which should appear around 2018.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to The most fuel-efficient automaker in the US sells no hybrids or plugins
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today