Tesla Model 3 steals the crown of the 'most efficient EV’ from Hyundai Ioniq

Tesla typically tops the rankings in nearly every electric vehicle specs comparison. To their credit however, Hyundai has boasted the 'most efficient EV' with their all-electric Ioniq model since 2017. That's no longer the case. Recently, the Hyundai Ioniq EV was dethroned by Tesla's Model 3 Standard Range Plus with the release of each company's 2020 models, according to the latest EPA efficiency ratings.

Above Tesla Model 3 and 2019 Hyundai Ioniq electric (Sources: Tesla / Hyundai)

Hyundai just launched the new 2020 Ioniq electric car with a larger 38.3 kWh battery pack vs. the smaller 28.0 kWh pack in the 2019 model. Although this move increased the range of Hyundai's Ioniq EV from 124 miles (199.5 km) to 170 miles (273.5 km), it appears some efficiency has been lost in the transition.

On the other hand, the Tesla Model 3 has recently received a few, new over-the-air software updates which improved efficiency and range as previously reported.

What is MPGe?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives every car one chance per year to submit its efficiency ratings. In turn, the efficiency of battery electric vehicles is presented via an MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) calculation. This is due to the absence of a gasoline (or diesel) fuel tank in BEVs. Therefore, the agency set out to develop a new standard dating back to 2010.

In short, MPGe is calculated as:

The ratings are based on EPA's formula, in which 33.7 kilowatt-hours (121 megajoules) of electricity is equivalent to one (US) gallon of gasoline, and the energy consumption of each vehicle during EPA's five standard drive cycle tests simulating varying driving conditions (learn more on Wikipedia).

2019 Tesla Model 3 vs. 2019 Hyundai Ioniq electric

The following screenshots from the EPA website showcase a model year to model year comparison of the Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Ioniq in order to better understand the differences.

The 2019 Tesla Model 3 had a combined MPGe rating of 133 miles vs. the Ioniq electric's 136 miles. This can be primarily attributed to the efficiency of the Ioniq in city driving (150 MPGe). Meanwhile, Model 3's better performance on the highway is due to its optimal drag coefficient i.e. 0.22Cd vs. the Ioniq's 0.24Cd — 0.02Cd is a huge difference-maker when it comes to efficiency (and racing performance). In 2019, the EPA rated both cars to have a $4,750 worth of fuel cost savings over a 5-year ownership period.

Above: Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Ioniq electric MPGe comparison by the EPA for the 2019 model year (Source: FuelEconomy.gov)

2020 Tesla Model 3 vs. 2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV

The latest firmware updates to the Tesla Model 3 made it the winner in efficiency for 2020 as it uses 24 kWh of energy for a 100-mile commute as compared to 25 kWh in 2019 while the new 2020 Ioniq electric stays at the same 25 kWh energy consumed per 100 miles.

Improved use of energy in the 2020 Tesla Model 3 earned it a 141 MPGe (combined city/hwy) rating, a bump of +8 MPGe from the 2019 Model 3 — while the 2020 Ioniq electric lost -3 MPGe vs. its 2019 model year car dropping from 136 to 133 MPGe combined.


Above: Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Ioniq electric MPGe comparison by the EPA for the 2020 (Source: FuelEconomy.gov)

According to EPA, the 2020 Tesla Model 3 now also saves you more on fuel costs within a 5-year ownership period. How much? It turns out that $5,000 worth of fuel is saved by the Model 3 vs. Ioniq electric's equivalent of $4,750.

To be fair, there's far more to this comparison than these narrow specs identified by the EPA. When it comes to real-world car buyer preferences, who is the people's choice? Looking at 2019 EV sales sales statistics (for cars sold through September in the US) compiled by InsideEVs, Hyundai was able to sell only 391 Ioniq electric units vs. Tesla Model 3's 111,650


Written by: Iqtidar Ali. An earlier version of this article was originally published on X Auto.