More so than in any other class, the vehicles offered in the electric-vehicle category 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 two (the BMW i3 with Range Extender and BMW i8) 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 up to two or even three days 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 that time could be cut to “overnight” if you only drive 40 or so miles a day and recharge every night. 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 significantly—to about one-third the time—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-percent charge in less than an hour. 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.
Tesla owners have access to an exclusive network of Tesla Supercharger quick-charging stations. There are currently about 1640 Supercharger locations worldwide, and that number is growing as Tesla builds more. Many are located adjacent to shopping centers and restaurants, which enables vehicle charging while you’re dining, running errands, or catching a movie.
One of the strongest arguments for electric cars is how affordable 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 3 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 most of the 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. However, note that the federal tax credit has been phased out for Tesla and GM: The EV tax credit was originally configured to allow manufacturers to sell up to 200,000 qualifying vehicles before the credit begins to phase out (by dropping to 50 percent of the original amount, and then later 25 percent, before being dropped entirely). Tesla and GM have reached that 200K mark, and Nissan isn’t too far behind.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2020
The electric-vehicle category is slated to grow by at least four vehicles for 2020. The Mercedes-Benz EQC is a premium compact crossover that’s about the same size as Mercedes’s GLC-Class SUV; it will have 402 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive. Mini is gearing up to launch a pure electric Mini Cooper SE version of its Hardtop two-door hatchback model. The SE will have 181 horsepower and an estimated driving range of around 150 miles. The Porsche Taycan is a ferocious 4-door sports car that boasts up to 750 horsepower; the Taycan’s driving-range figures haven’t been revealed as of this writing, but lesser-hp versions could achieve up to 250 miles. The Tesla Model Y is a forthcoming 4-door crossover version of the Model 3 compact hatchback.
The Hyundai Ioniq gets a 38.3-kWh battery in place of the previous 28.0-kWh unit, as well as interior styling updates and a redesigned dashboard. An EV version of the redesigned-for-2020 Kia Soul was announced last year, but that vehicle has now been pushed back to 2021 at the earliest. The Chevrolet Volt, Fiat 500e, and smart EQ For-two have been discontinued, and the BMW i8 is being dropped after the 2020 model year.
Other new EVs are set to arrive in the near future. Audi has shown concept versions of an Q4 e-tron compact crossover and a rakish-looking e-tron GT, which is similar to the Porsche Taycan. Other electric vehicles on the horizon include the BMW iX3, Polestar 2 (a crossover-esque 4-door sedan from Volvo’s Polestar brand), Volvo XC40 Recharge, and Volkswagen’s ID pure-EV lineup.
Vehicles in the Electric Vehicle class:
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. In most cases, the listed range is according to the EPA. Note that several of these vehicles are offered only in select states—not nationwide.
Premium compact crossover 4-door wagon; about $75,000; 204-mile range
Subcompact 4-door hatchback; optional range-extending 2-cylinder gas engine; about $45,000; electric-only models have a range of 153 miles, range-extended models have a combined gas/electric range of approximately 220 miles
Premium Sporty/Performance 2-door coupe and roadster with range-extending 3-cylinder gas engine; about $148,000; pure electric range of 18 miles, combined gas/electric range of about 330 miles
CHEVROLET BOLT EV
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $37,000; 259-mile range
HONDA CLARITY ELECTRIC
Midsize 4-door sedan; about $37,000; 89-mile range
HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $32,000; 170-mile range (est.)
HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC
Subcompact crossover 4-door wagon; about $38,000; 258-mile range
Premium compact crossover 4-door wagon; about $70,000; 234-mile range
KIA NIRO ELECTRIC
Subcompact crossover 4-door wagon; about $39,000; 239-mile range
KIA SOUL EV (2019)
Subcompact 4-door wagon; about $32,000; 111-mile range
Premium Compact crossover 4-door wagon; about $70,000; 260-mile range (est.)
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $31,000; 150- or 226-mile range
Premium Midsize 4-door sedan; about $106,000; 220-mile range (est.)
TESLA MODEL 3
Premium Compact 4-door hatchback; about $44,000; driving range varies from 240-310 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL S
Premium Midsize 4-door hatchback; about $75,000; driving range varies from 310-370 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL X
Premium Midsize 4-door crossover SUV; about $81,000; driving range varies from 250-295 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL Y
Premium Compact 4-door crossover SUV; about $49,000; driving range varies from 230-300 miles, depending on trim level
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $32,000; 125-mile range