Electric vehicles have been given their own category because they are typically so different—and appeal to a different audience— than regular gas-powered models in their respective segments.
More so than in any other class, the vehicles offered cover a wide range of sizes and prices. We’re keeping only to those that are regular production models, though a couple barely make that cut, and many are only sold in certain states.
Also, we’re including three that are not all-electric; they can run for several miles on just the electricity stored in their batteries, but when the charge gets low, a gas engine kicks on that turns a generator, which allows the cars to keep on going.
“Pure” EVs—those that have just a battery—can typically run at least 80 miles or so on a full charge, but most can go farther. They can easily keep up with around-town and highway-speed traffic, and in fact, the instant throttle response that is common to all electric cars can be a real boon in cut-and-thrust city driving.
Fully recharging a depleted battery on the most popular models can take nearly a day if done from a conventional 120-volt wall outlet (referred to as “Level 1” charging). But you typically wouldn’t run the battery all the way down before recharging it, so if the battery is only half discharged, it could typically be brought up to full overnight. The best way to figure it is that you get about three miles of range for every one hour of charging.
Many EV owners opt for installing a “Level 2” charger in their home. The time required to recharge a fully depleted battery can be cut to four to seven hours if you do 240-volt Level 2 charging in your garage, or if you use a public charging station. A few public charging stations have 480-volt “Level 3” chargers, which can bring most batteries from nearly depleted up to 80% charge in just 30 minutes. However, these aren’t very common yet, and most electric cars have to have an optional Level 3 charging port in order to make use of them.
One of the strongest arguments for electric cars is how cheap they are to drive. Depending on your electric rates (how much you pay per Kilowatt-hour), the electricity to run the car will probably cost only about 2 to 4 cents per mile. By contrast, a conventional car that gets 20 mpg on $4-a-gallon gas is costing 20 cents per mile. Plus there’s the convenience of being able to recharge your car in your garage rather than having to stop at a gas station, and nearly all electric cars allow you to pre-heat or pre-cool the interior before you get in.
Furthermore, there isn’t as much maintenance to do on electric cars. There’s no oil or filter to change, no radiator to flush, no belts to replace. And brakes also tend to last far longer, so that cost is usually reduced as well. The result is lower maintenance costs and fewer inconvenient trips to the dealer.
There’s one other cost consideration regarding electric cars. Currently, there is a $7500 federal tax credit that applies to all vehicles on this list; most people would be eligible to receive the credit, but you should check with your accountant to be sure that you qualify. Furthermore, some states have their own tax credits, and some municipalities offer reduced-fee parking or city stickers.
The biggest news in EVs for 2018 is the long-awaited full-production intro of the Tesla Model 3 and the redesign of the Nissan Leaf. Numerous sources report that Tesla is having issues with the ramp-up to regular production, but Model 3s are arriving in Tesla stores—although in smaller numbers than initially promised. The new Nissan Leaf gets fresh styling, plenty of new tech features, a stronger electric motor, and an estimated 150-mile driving range. The BMW i3 gets freshened styling and a performance-oriented i3s model with a higher-output electric motor and sport suspension. The Mercedes-Benz B250e and Mitsubishi i-MIEV are discontinued. For 2019, The BMW i8 is slated to get a convertible version, an updated powertrain with 369 total horsepower, and other revisions.
Because electric cars vary so much in size, price, and range, next to each entry on this list is a description. Note that prices listed are general starting figures and do not include destination or any federal or state tax incentives. Range listed is according to the EPA. Other notes follow.
Subcompact 4-door hatchback; optional range-extending 2-cylinder gas engine; about $45,000; electric-only models have a range of 114 miles, range-extended models have a combined gas/electric range of 180 miles
Premium Sporty/Performance 2-door coupe with range-extending 3-cylinder gas engine; about $144,000; pure-electric range of 15 miles, combined gas/electric range of about 330 miles
CHEVROLET BOLT EV
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $37,000; 238-mile range
Compact 4-door hatchback sedan with both electric and gas power; about $34,000; 53-mile range on electricity, up to 420 miles on electricity and gasoline
FIAT 500e (2017)
Subcompact 2-door hatchback; about $32,000; 87-mile range; limited availability (2018 model-year info unavailable as of this writing)
FORD FOCUS ELECTRIC
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $29,000; 100-mile range; limited availability
HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $30,000; 110-mile range
KIA SOUL EV
Subcompact 4-door wagon; about $32,000; 111-mile range; limited availability
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $30,000; 150-mile range
SMART FORTWO ELECTRIC DRIVE
Subcompact 2-door, 2-seat hatchback; about $24,000; 80-mile range
TESLA MODEL 3 (2017)
Premium Compact 4-door hatchback; about $35,000; driving range varies from 220-310 miles, depending on trim level (2018 model-year info unavailable as of this writing; note that Tesla revises its vehicles on an ongoing basis, and doesn’t stick to specific model-year updates as closely as other manufacturers)
TESLA MODEL S (2017)
Premium Midsize 4-door hatchback; about $70,000; driving range varies from 219-315 miles, depending on trim level (2018 model-year info unavailable as of this writing; note that Tesla revises its vehicles on an ongoing basis, and doesn’t stick to specific model-year updates as closely as other manufacturers)
TESLA MODEL X (2017)
Premium Midsize 4-door crossover SUV; about $80,000; driving range varies from 237-295 miles, depending on trim level (2018 model-year info unavailable as of this writing; note that Tesla revises its vehicles on an ongoing basis, and doesn’t stick to specific model-year updates as closely as other manufacturers)
VOLKSWAGEN e-GOLF (2017)
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $29,000; 124-mile range; limited availability (2018 model-year info unavailable as of this writing)