There’s been quite a bit of debate as to where electric cars will fit into the consumer car market in the next few years. Tesla’s recent announcement of their P85D shows that electric cars are starting to infiltrate even the ranks of performance vehicles. Although there have been a number of additions to the EV category in recent years, a lot of people still question the practicality of transitioning to a purely electric vehicle. Battery charge times and driving range on a single charge certainly leave a lot to be desired. These are legitimate concerns, but automakers are making strides in addressing them. With the addition of home charging stations, charge time drops drastically, and more public charging stations will certainly help extend the EV’s range. And of course Tesla is making waves with its 30-second-swappable batteries.
EVs are becoming more practical every year and making significant strides toward being a legitimate option for everyone, not just those looking for a city or commuter vehicle. The development of pure electric vehicles may have some serious consequences in the coming years. The practicality of the electric car isn’t quite there, but recent innovations are showing that efficient, practical EVs are on their way. The next few years should be interesting to watch as battery technology evolves, but if you’re interested in finding a good EV to buy right now, here are your options. (The good news? There are more than you might think).
10. The smart fortwo electric drive offers some good practicality in the commuter car category. Much smaller than other EVs, the smart Electric Drive offers a 55-kilowatt motor and a direct single-speed transmission. Said engine produces only 47 hp, but that’s all you can really hope for in a commuter car. The Electric Drive also comes with a “burst mode” that ups that number to a more desirable 70 hp for acceleration, but this feature hurts the effective range of the charge. The 17.6-kilowatt lithium-ion battery has a single charge range of 68 miles without the burst. The fortwo is serviceable in every sense of the word.
9. The Ford Fusion Energi is a great bet for the more conservative EV buyer. Based on Ford’s smash-hit Fusion, the Fusion Energi takes the Fusion’s striking good looks and adds an impressive hybrid powertrain with full EV option to the mix. In full electric mode, the Fusion Energi can travel about 19 miles on a charge (a full charge can be reached in about 7 hours using a standard household outlet). After that initial charge runs out, the car switches over to hybrid mode, which is good for about 44 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway, not bad for a full-size sedan. If you’re looking for a big EV with downright great looks and a sub-$35,000 price tag, seriously consider the Fusion Energi.
8. BMW launched the first of its “i” line with the 2014 BMW i3, the first all-electric vehicle produced by the German automaker. The vehicle has a very quirky look to it, a stark departure from the rest of BMW’s lineup. Boxy, compact and with a carbon-fiber plastic body, the i3 was built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. The i3 weighs in at only 2,700 pounds, which means the car has a wider range of single-charge use, an obviously important feature in electric cars. The i3’s engine consists of a synchronous electric motor that produces 170 hp and is capable of getting to 60 mph in 7 seconds. The i3 is already starting to show its age, though, with a max speed of 93 mph (anything above this speed would be too inefficient for the electric powerplant). The i3 has a range of 80-100 miles per charge. Charge time for its 240-volt battery takes about 3 hours, or 30 minutes with a Wallbox home charging station. That’s not too bad.
7. In recent years, Ford began offering an electric trim for the Focus. The Ford Focus Electric features an all-electric powertrain, including a single-speed automatic transmission and a lithium-ion battery. The all-electric drivetrain has a top speed of 84 mph, and a single-charge range of about 76 miles. In case you were wondering how that translates, that’s a fuel efficiency of about 110 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent). Owners of the Focus Electric can also purchase a 240-volt home charging station, which can charge a battery in 3 or 4 hours.
6. Fairly new to the EV scene, the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid is an impressive offering. Since going on sale in the 2013 model year, the Accord Plug-In Hybrid has offered the best of many worlds. Not only is it a large Honda sedan, famous for their bulletproof reliability and build quality, but it’s a large Honda sedan that gets 47 mpg city/46 mpg highway and is capable of going 15 miles on an electric charge alone. Those numbers are impressive, especially considering the car’s size. Honda achieves those numbers by equipping the car with low-rolling-resistance tires, regenerative brakes and loads of aluminum parts, including the hood, rear bumper and front subframe. With a starting price of just under $40k, the Accord Plug-In Hybrid is a good mid-range option for EV shoppers.
5. The Nissan Leaf remains one of the more practical all-electric cars to buy from a price standpoint. The Leaf comes equipped with an 80-kilowatt electric motor and a one-speed direct-drive transmission that produces 107 hp. Some trims have a regenerative braking system and a rechargeable 24-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack that can potentially extend the range to 84 miles on a single charge. This equates to about 113 mpg in gasoline. Overall it’s not a bad choice for someone looking to save money on gas with a 5-door subcompact.
4. The Toyota Prius Plug-in is a relatively new addition to the formidable Prius lineup. Introduced for the 2012 model year, the Prius Plug-in takes the hybrid powertrain of the regular Prius and adds to it an EV mode, capable of delivering 11 miles of all-electric driving (after 3 hours of charging via a standard household outlet). That 11 miles can add up to serious gas savings quickly if you’re using the Prius Plug-in as your daily commuter, with electric mode delivering 95 mpge. When you do switch into hybrid mode, the gas savings are still pretty impressive, with that mode boasting up to 50 mpg of fuel economy.
3. The Chevrolet Volt was a game-changer when it debuted as a 2011. What made the Volt so special was its unique powertrain. Powered by an electic engine, the current Volt is capable of driving 60 miles on a charge. Once that initial charge runs out, the electric motor continues to power the car, but a gasoline-powered generator provides the electricity to keep the electric motor spinning. Thanks to that unique setup (and fairly good battery range), the Volt is easily able to handle most daily commutes without needing the gas generator. However, if you want to head off for a weekend, the gas generator is a great option to have if you don’t want to wait the 10.5 hours it takes to fully charge the Volt using a standard 120-volt outlet. When you do charge the Volt, you’ll get back about 98 mpge using battery power, while the gas generator is good for 37 mpg. Pretty impressive for a car that starts at just above $34,000.
2. Think EVs can’t compete with traditional gasoline-powered performance cars? Think again. The BMW i8 is the latest and greatest in performance EV technology and can rocket from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. In all-electric mode, the i8 can travel up to 15 miles, with the gasoline engine kicking in after that to give the car a total range of over 370 miles. Thanks to its unique construction (the gasoline engine sits at the back, while the electric motor is wedged between the front wheels), the i8 achieves a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Making the i8 even more unique, the driver has the choice of engaging full-EV mode to make the car front-wheel drive, full-gasoline mode for a rear-wheel-drive experience or combined mode to deliver all-wheel drive. Whatever way you want to enjoy your EV, the i8 will make it happen.
1. Possibly the most industry-disrupting car to arrive in recent years, the Tesla Model S has become the prototype for future electric-car success. The Model S is a beauty to drive with its 50/50 weight distribution. The powertrain sits between the rear wheels, and the battery extends the length of the wheelbase, giving the Model S a low center of gravity. The base trim has a single-charge range of 208 miles with its 60-kilowatt battery. Capable of producing 302 hp, the Model S can jump from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 120 mph. Consumers can also purchase the 85-kWh trim or Performance trim, which up the horsepower and significantly drop the 0-60 time (the 85-kWh trim does it in 5.4 seconds, while the Performance trim makes it in 4.2). These trims also include the supercharging battery station, which greatly reduces battery charge time. The Model S shows how much potential EVs have in the consumer market.
Do you have a favorite electric car?
-jharrington and zwaller
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