Fuel-efficient petrol, hybrid and electric cars

Fed up with high petrol prices? A hybrid or electric car might be one answer.
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02.Economy and emissions

Fuel economy

In tests carried out for the Australian Green Vehicle Guide, the fuel consumption in the standard combined city/highway test cycle for the Prius was just 3.9 L/100 km, for the Civic 4.4 L/100 km.

Size-wise (not engine-wise; the point of hybrids is that they have smaller petrol engines), Toyota compares the Prius to its regular Camry, the automatic 2.5 L version of which uses 7.8 L/100 km. The closest non-hybrid Honda Civic is the manual Si sedan, which uses 6.9 L/100 km .

Petrol is not (yet) quite expensive enough to make a hybrid the accountant's vehicle of choice. At $1.50/L of petrol, and based on travelling 15,000 km/year and the above consumption figures, it'll take many years to gain back the difference in purchase prices between the base Prius and the Camry, ditto for the Honda. At potentially higher prices it would drop substantially.

It's worth noting that for all cars the standard test cycle often gives numbers that are hard to match in the real world. In real life you can probably expect the consumption to be a litre or so higher - which is also what we roughly saw on the fuel economy in cars we’ve reviewed. Drivers can monitor economy as they go, and take up the challenge of equalling the published numbers - for example, by not accelerating too hard.


All hybrids emit less greenhouse gas than most standard petrol cars. The main greenhouse gas from cars is carbon dioxide, which is directly related to the amount of fuel used. An Australian study that included the Prius and some experimental hybrids estimated a 66% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to the average Australian family car. 

The Green Vehicle Guide rates the Prius at 9 (out of 10) for greenhouse emissions and the Civic Hybrid at 8.5. As a comparison, the non-hybrid Civic rates 7, the Camry 6.5.

When it comes to electric vehicles, the big advantage for emissions-conscious drivers is the lack of emissions at the non-existent tailpipe. As noted earlier however, this assessment really depends on where the driver is sourcing their electricity for the batteries that power the engine.

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