DETROIT — At 118 miles per gallon, the Honda Fit electric vehicle is the most fuel-efficient in the United States. But getting that mileage isn't cheap — and it isn't always good for the environment.
Honda announced the eye-popping figure Wednesday, making the small, four-door hatchback more efficient than electric rivals like the Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. It goes on the market this summer in Oregon and California.
The electric Fit has an estimated price tag nearly twice as high as the gasoline-powered version. It would take 11 years before a driver begins saving on fuel.
With gas prices falling, the high sticker price for electric vehicles is becoming more of a barrier for American buyers. That's hurting sales of electrics.
Through May, carmakers sold just over 10,000 electric vehicles, less than 0.2 percent of U.S. car and truck sales.
That's because the numbers don't add up for the average consumer.
The electric Fit needs 28.6 kilowatt hours of electricity to go 100 miles. At the national average price of 11.6 cents per kilowatt hour, that costs $3.30.
A gas-powered automatic-transmission Fit, which gets 31 miles per gallon, needs to burn 3.2 gallons to travel 100 miles. At the national average price of $3.57 per gallon of gasoline, that's $11.52.
People drive an average of almost 13,500 miles a year, so a typical driver would spend $445 on electricity for an electric Fit over a year, and $1,552 on gasoline for a regular Fit.
Honda has valued the price of an electric Fit at $29,125 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. That's $12,210 more than the gas-powered Fit.
Customers don't want to wait for years for payback, said Geoff Pohanka, who runs 13 auto dealerships in Virginia and Maryland, including three that sell the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt electric cars.
At first, Honda will only be leasing Fit EVs in Oregon and California, for $389 per month. The subcompact can be recharged in three hours with a 240-volt charging station. A fully charged Fit EV can go 82 miles.
Leases can make sense for consumers. Carmakers can lower rates and subsidize deals in order to make a car more attractive to buyers.
Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for the car buying site TrueCar.com, said he tested an electric Chevrolet Volt, driving it less than 35 miles a day from his Los Angeles-area home to work and back. The cost of leasing it — $369 a month — is comparable to the $300 he would spend on gas.
The comparison between gas and electric cars also can vary with geography, largely because energy prices vary wildly across the country.