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 the BMW i3 with Range Extender that is not all-electric; it can run about 126 miles on just the electricity stored in its battery, but when the charge gets low, a gas engine kicks on to run a generator, which allows a total range of about 200 miles. “Pure” EVs—those that have just a battery—can typically run at least 100 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 at their home. The time required to recharge a fully depleted battery can be cut significantly—to about one-sixth 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 need an optional Level 3 charging port to use them.
Tesla owners have access to an exclusive network of Tesla Supercharger quick-charging stations. There are currently about 2000 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 federal tax credit of up to $7500 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.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
The electric-vehicle category could see several new entries—including offerings from start-up manufacturers such as Lucid, Nikola, and Rivian—during the 2021 calendar year, but if the past is any indication, delays are common. Complete information about most of these vehicles hadn’t been released as of this writing, and several are scheduled to debut as 2022 models. Audi is developing an e-tron GT, a rakishly styled 4-door sedan that shares its basic platform with the Porsche Taycan. BMW has shown a concept version of the i4, a midsize 4-door sedan that’s scheduled to enter production in 2021. An updated Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV crossover SUV, and the GMC Hummer EV—a crew-cab pickup with four removable roof panels and up to 1000 horsepower—are all slated to debut in 2021 as 2022 models.
An EV version of the redesigned-for-2020 Kia Soul was announced but has been pushed back to 2021 at the earliest. The Mercedes-Benz EQC compact crossover was originally scheduled to debut in calendar 2020, but it’s been pushed back to 2021. The Nissan Ariya crossover SUV is expected to go on sale in late 2021 as a 2022 model. Volkswagen says its ID.4 crossover SUV will be available in all 50 US states sometime in early 2021. Volvo’s Polestar brand introduced the Polestar 2 midsize 4-door hatchback as a 2021 model. Volvo announced that production of the all-electric XC40 Recharge subcompact crossover began on October 1, 2020, but an on-sale date was not released at that time. The BMW i8 and Volkswagen Golf EV have been discontinued.
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.
AUDI E-TRON SUV
Premium compact crossover 4-door wagon; about $66,000; 222-mile range
AUDI E-TRON SPORTBACK
Premium compact crossover 4-door hatchback; about $69,000; 218-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 200 miles
CHEVROLET BOLT EV
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $37,000; 259-mile range
HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $33,000; 170-mile range
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
MINI COOPER SE
Sporty-performance 2-door hatchback; about $30,000; 110-mile range.
Compact 4-door hatchback; about $31,000; 150- or 226-mile range
Premium Midsize 4-door hatchback; about $60,000; 233-mile range
Premium Midsize 4-door sedan; about $104,000; driving range varies from 192-203 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL 3
Premium Compact 4-door hatchback; about $38,000; driving range varies from 250-322 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL S
Premium Midsize 4-door hatchback; about $75,000; driving range varies from 348-520 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL X
Premium Midsize 4-door crossover SUV; about $80,000; driving range varies from 305-351 miles, depending on trim level
TESLA MODEL Y
Premium Compact 4-door crossover SUV; about $50,000; driving range varies from 291-316 miles, depending on trim level
VOLVO XC40 RECHARGE
Premium Subcompact 4-door crossover SUV; about $50,000; driving range 208 miles