10 Best Electric Cars −


100% Electric Vehicles Tesla Model S Trunk

Published on May 30th, 2015 | by Zach

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10 Best Electric Cars

May 30th, 2015 by
 

Similar to what I did yesterday with my post on the “10 best hybrid cars” on the market, this article is a rundown of what I think are the “10 best electric cars” on the market — weighted by “value for the money.” Naturally, it’s very hard to rank cars across classes and types, as well as to rank cars based on subjective factors, but I’m taking a shot at it based on all that I’ve learned and experienced in the past several years of covering electric cars for a living.

If you want a look at the ranking in absolute terms (not weighted by “value for the money”), you can more or less just run down the list of fully electric cars on the market by price, but I think that’s sort of obvious….

So, on to the cars. And I guess I should clarify here that I am only considering fully electric cars with a starting price under $100,000. (Prices = MSRP and after the US federal tax credit, except in cases where the car is not available in the United States.)

10. Fiat 500e ($32,300 | $24,800)

fiat 500e

No doubt about it, the Fiat 500e is a cute car. It has also gotten good results for its performance — it is actually one of the quickest electric cars to 30 mph. Interestingly, this great electric car is hated by the head of Fiat… don’t ask. Nonetheless, a couple of years after he told people that he’d rather they not buy the car, it has been brought to more markets (more states) in the US. Clearly, buyers are liking it and it is in good demand. I can only imagine what its future had been if Fiat had been behind it the way Nissan is behind the LEAF. Anyhow, if you don’t mind buying from Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat 500e looks like a great option.

9. Ford Focus Electric ($29,170 | $21,670)

Ford-Focus-Electric_03

After dropping the price quite a bit, the Ford Focus Electric actually became a pretty solid buy. It seats 5 comfortably, has 76 miles (122 km) of range on a full charge, and gets a stellar 105 MPGe. It’s a good-looking car, if I do say so myself, and if you are interesting in blending in rather than standing out, it’s a very common model body. The price is actually just a tad higher than the top-selling Nissan LEAF, and if you’re a big Ford fan, it may be your best option on the list.

8. Kia Soul EV ($33,700 | $26,200)

Kia-Soul-EV

I think the Kia Soul EV, if Kia decides to really make it available and produce it in quantity, could become a top-selling electric vehicle in the US and globally. It offers a good amount of space, a stylish design, 93 miles of electric driving range, voice command navigation, parking assist, and a host of other features. The hot new kid on the block has a respectable 105 MPGe. Reportedly, Soul EV demand has really surprised Kia and the company is increasing production.

See a good Kia Soul review series on Gas2:

2015 Kia Soul EV Review: Delivery And Day One

Kia Soul EV Test Drive, Pt. 2: Fast Charging And Driving Far

2015 Kia Soul EV Final Thoughts: Or, I Miss Regenerative Braking

7. VW e-Golf ($33,450 | $25,950)

volkswagen-e-golf

For ~$4,000 more, however, you could land a Volkswagen e-Golf. The e-Golf also seats 5 comfortably, has 83 miles (134 km) of range, and gets an even better 116 MPGe. The e-Golf reportedly offers quite a nice drive, and there’s a sportier option you can upgrade to if you want to squeeze a bit more fun out of your car. The e-Golf also offers heated front seats, a 7.2kW onboard charger, and a decent rearview camera. One of the e-Golf’s more unique features is various levels of regenerative braking, so you can have the car fit your preferences, and also your changing needs on different days in different environments.

For a detailed review of the e-Golf, including how it compares to some other cars on this list, I highly recommend: Volkswagon e-Golf In-Depth Review (Video).

6. Chevy Spark EV ($25,995 | $18,495)

chevy spark electric drive

The Chevy Spark EV is not the snazziest car on this list, but it is almost the cheapest. At its current price, well below the average for a new car in the US (especially if you throw in the tax credit!), it is certainly a good option for anyone aiming to keep their purchase (after incentives) below $20,000… and just around $16,000 in California! The Spark EV is reportedly very peppy (it’s ahead of almost all other EVs to 60 mph), and is a better buy than its gasoline sibling according to Consumer Reports. Keep in mind that it only seats 4, but its small size also helps it to land an impressive 119 MPGe. It also comes with a solid 82 miles (132 km) of range, which should be plenty for most drivers on just about any given day of the year. The Spark EV has become a top-selling electric car in the US as GM has increased production and availability.


 

5. Renault Zoe (£13,443)

Renault Zoe

It was a little difficult to slip this one into the list since it’s not available in the US, but it’s clearly a top option based on year after year of strong sales in Europe. The Renault Zoe is somewhat of a cousin of the Nissan LEAF, and you can tell that the people behind it were also serious about advancing the EV revolution. It’s super affordable, yet comfortable, stylish, and has all of the things most of us need in a car. It seats 5 and has 130 miles or 210 kilometers of range (based on European testing, which is much more generous/unrealistic than US testing). It’s a really solid buy for the price, and I think it’s even hard for the LEAF to compete with it.

3/4. BMW i3 ($42,400 | $34,900) & Mercedes B-Class Electric ($41,450 | $33,950)

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Mercedes B-Class Electric

The BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric are both on the higher end of the price spectrum here, but they are still about half the price of a Tesla Model S. As an owner of a BMW i3 who I recently met said, it’s half the price but not half the car. I’ve driven the BMW i3 and really loved it, not nearly like I loved the Tesla P85D, but that’s a given. But I haven’t yet driven the Mercedes B-Class Electric. I’ve seen comparisons where the B-Class Electric was much preferred, and I’ve seen comparisons where the i3 was preferred. So, until I have a chance to try out the B-Class Electric, I’m putting it down as a tie.

For the price, I think both cars offer a lot for the owner. They offer a super smooth drive, a lot of space, excellent efficiency (though, the i3 is much better at 124 MPGe compared to 84 MPGe), and almost the same range (81 miles and 84 miles, respectively). Of course, you have a certain level of class with a BMW or Mercedes that you don’t have with most of the other cars on this list. I’m considering an i3 for my family, but I’m certainly eager to try out the B-Class Electric.

2. Nissan LEAF ($29,010 | $21,510)

Nissan Leafs Barcelona

When it comes to value for the money, I think the Nissan LEAF is an obvious top contender. The LEAF is the best-selling electric car in history globally, in the US, in Europe, and in Japan. It is a really solid vehicle for a great price. Some of the other cars on this list can compete, depending on your taste, but it’s clear that the LEAF is hard to compete with.

The LEAF offers 84 miles (135 km) of range, 114 MPGe, a fairly roomy and comfortable interior, 5 seats, and decent acceleration (boosted, as all of these cars are to some degree or another, by the instant torque of its electric motor). With a price just over $20,000 after the US federal tax credit and under $20,000 in California with the ZEV rebate, it’s one to consider if you’re on the market for an affordable electric car.

Of course, to learn more, I’d recommend my in-depth Nissan LEAF review.

1. Tesla Model S ($75,000 | $67,500)

Tesla Green 2 Tesla Green 4 Tesla Green 7 thumb_IMG_4145_1024

Tesla Model S Trunk

Despite its price, on any list of best electric cars, or any list of best cars for that matter, I think you have to put the Tesla Model S #1. It’s in a different league. It’s the best car ever mass manufactured. It has insane performance (literally, I guess), long range completely on electricity, great efficiency, handling like a sports car despite being super spacious, is the safest car ever mass manufactured, has a wicked infotainment/tech package, is sleek and pretty, and converts car haters to… well, Tesla lovers. Throw in the Supercharger network and you’re almost on another planet (almost — please stay on Earth, Elon!). Even at $75,000 or $100,000, I think this car is a steal.

There’s much more to say. If you are interested, there are countless articles and videos out there about the Tesla Model S, but I’d of course recommend my own: Tesla P85D Test Drive & Reactions (5 Original Videos).

Note: I don’t feel nearly as confident about the order of this list as I did the 10 best hybrid cars list. In fact, I changed the order several times while writing it. Such is the challenge when evaluating and comparing all of these great options, which come in at very different price points.


 

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Maxwell Erickson

    Great list! I do have one thing to note: did you consider the RAV4 EV when making the list? Or was it not applicable because it’s no longer sold?

    • I didn’t really consider it since it’s no longer sold and was only in a very limited market anyway. But I’ve heard good things about it.

  • Rosana Francescato

    Great list — I guess the Smart doesn’t cut it? I’d love to drive electric when I can afford it, but admit I’ve grown accustomed to easy parking in the city with my Smart Car.

    • Yeah, it’s not my favorite…. I’m sure the size gets addictive. 😀 I much preferred the Renault Twizy, but that’s only in Europe (and sometimes on eBay) and the 2nd seat is behind, which may not always be nice… But as this CleanTechnica reader notes, he much prefers his smart electric drive to his previous, decked out Camaro: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/09/10/sold-camaro-bought-electric-car/

  • vorten

    Fantastic list. I love the sly post first time driving experience interviews. A dealer in San Francisco was leasing the Fiat 500e for very little money down.

    • I’d really love to drive a 500e. Have heard great things about, and have always thought that design is cute.

      • Robert Pollock

        Typically, the Italian designers do it like no others, they have a unique style sense. But then the car fails the practical tests. Too slow, battery too small, storage trunk area the smallest of any car, few options. My Spark runs circles around them.

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    • Robert Pollock

      The Fiat is the worst of the group. Chryco put an electric drive into a regular Fiat, that’s been made as an econobox since horses and carriages.
      I’ve been driving the Spark EV for over two years. It’s a basic econobox too, but it’s the cheapest, most reliable, most fun to drive car I’ve (or my wife) has ever had, no contest. We both love it, her MB SLK stays under a cover now.
      Very soon steel cars won’t be competitive, that should shake out a bunch.
      The Spark charges to 79 or 80 miles for the last few months, it lowers a little during winter. Best was 103 miles once. For around Coachella Valley, (30 miles from one end, Salton Sea to the other, Palm Springs, it’s perfect.

  • fred

    Zach, Great list, but I can’t figure out why the Focus Electric is often perceived as below the Leaf. Focus has a MUCH better suspension, tires, and handling (a.k.a. truly fun to drive vs. get from A to B), liquid cooled battery (better battery longevity and range in wide temperature weather), in addition to all the nice things you said. Plus, the cost is almost dead-on equal to Leaf. I think the Focus is oft underrated as electric cars out there. Maybe good marketing and perception management on Nissan’s part? And must agree on Model S. Thanks!

    • No argument there. I’ve seen complaints about the Focus Electric’s luggage space, but agree that it may well be the most underrated. I think it’s due partially to Ford dropping the price late in the game and not promoting/supporting the car much at all.

    • SparkEV

      Ford Focus doesn’t have fast charge. Combined with (much) lower range, it’s not a viable contender IMO. But if Ford puts in smaller battery, longer range, quicker 0-60 time, and fast charge, it could be nice. But the, same could be said about many other EV.

  • SparkEV

    If cost is no object, I guess Tesla takes the top spot. But Mercedes B class which doesn’t even have fast charging port to be better than SparkEV? I think your list is highly flawed. If you take post subsidy cost into account for comparison of various metrics such as range and performance, SparkEV does better than all. Since most EV buyers take full subsidy, that’s more realistic cost than MSRP.

    Below is my ranking of only DCFC capable cars. Is it more objective for using formula and numbers? You decide.

    http://sparkev.blogspot.com/2015/09/ev-ranking.html

    • I’ve seen a strong argument that the B-Class Electric’s 10 kW Level 2 charging is more valuable than DC Fast Charging. Up to the individual. I’d choose DC Fast Charging, but would also depend on my living situation & needs.

      • SparkEV

        How would 10kW be more valuable than DCFC? Are 10kW public L2 widespread? I thought most (all?) public L2 top out at 6.6kW, and some greedy businesses limit to 3.3kW; they get state subsidy to put in charger, then limit power to reduce paying for electricity (bastards!)

        I helped a new B-class at public charger. When she found out that she charges L2 (6.6kW) vs my el-cheapo SparkEV at 45kW, she wanted to drive to Mercedes dealer to get the fast charge installed. At the time, I didn’t know it’s not an option, neither did she. I think I’m doing public service by not recommending non-DCFC cars.

        Of course, the story would be different if there’s no DCFC stations nearby. But then, I don’t think pure BEV is good without DCFC.

        • My understanding was that it’s only the onboard chargers limiting to 6.6/3.3 kW. But maybe I’m wrong.

          I agree that I wouldn’t choose a car without DCFC.

          • SparkEV

            Wow, do I know more about this than Zach?!?! 🙂

            EVSE has signaling to tell it what voltage and current are available to EV on-board charger. One can take 6.6kW charger and tweak the signaling to have EV only consume 3.3kW.

            I posted this else where, but I read that electric companies charge quadruple for demand fee for 60A additional (for 10kW) compared to 30A additional (6.6kW). That would make 10kW public L2 to be rare. I think all the ones I’ve seen are only 6.6kW.

          • I learned much of what I know from readers. One thing here, another there, etc. Have learned several things from you already. I just saw your reply to Ted about this. I’m very curious to see his response and hopefully learn more.

            I wonder if this is just a California thing. Know it is more advanced in its electricity pricing. Definitely something to investigate.

          • neroden

            Sun Country Highway makes a point of putting in high-kW AC charging stations… but that’s Canada and the electric companies probably have different policies there.

  • jstack6

    Good list but an important issue is the LEAF battery pack can’t take the heat. It’s the only EV that loses capacity of 5-15% a year in the heat. It has no cooling. So a word of caution don’t buy the LEAF if you live in Arizona, Southern California, Texas Georgia of Florida. It’s best to lease most electrics so you are not stuck if the battery loses capacity or value as new lower cost ,higher range,faster charging etc EVs come out.

  • neroden

    Time to do this again? New cars are out.

  • Jeffrey Montgomery

    My favorite electric car is the new BMW i3. The acceleration is spectacular. And I heard that we can go 80 miles in the Eco+ mode.

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