Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Nissan Leaf Update: We’ve linked to the most recent tests or news of these cars, including some 2014 models.

Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with 70 to 100 mile range. 50,000 have been delivered globally. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,980. Drive it at 30 mph and you might get 140 miles; drive it at 70 mph running the air conditioner, 60 miles. LEAF Test drive. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Leaf has had its price dropped since introduction and dealers offer some attractive lease programs. Chevy VOLT

Chevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt,which has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and total range of 380 to 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. GM has a complete Voltec Propulsion System roadmap, which envisions added offerings of pure battery-electric and diesel plug-in hybrids. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt has dropped its retail pricing and typically offers very generous leases. GM has augmented the Volt with a sister model, the much more expensive Cadillac ELR, in 2014 and also introduced the diminutive, but powerful pure electric Chevy Spark EV.   ford focus electric

Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric Test Drive

Ford C-Max EnergiFord C-MAX Energi, an exciting new crossover with more room than a small SUV. The 5-seat C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the lithium battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius V. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745.  Ford C-MAX Energi   2013 Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion Energi SE is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi is a strong contender since its a midsize sedan with a good reputation for handling and reliability. According to EPA testing, the Fusion gets a combined 58 MPGe (combining its electric and gas modes). Models start at $34,700. Toyota Prius Plugin

Toyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHEV’s 15-mile. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit.  In California, Toyota Motor Corp also offers the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV. Toyota Prius Plug-in Test Drive and Review vs. the classic Liftback. Honda Fit EV

 

Honda Fit EV. 2013 Fit EV can be purchased for $36,200 or leased at a rate competitive with other EVs on the market. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. The new 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan, also available as a hybrid, which we tested.   Tesla S Sedan

Tesla Model S Sedan has delivered its first 20,000 Model S electric cars and is still going strong, now charging into overseas markets. This luxury all-electric sedan that starts at $69,900 and has an optional battery pack for $20,000 more that gives the car a 265-mile range. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 5 + 2 passenger capacity, switchable battery option, and up to triple the electric range of competitors. Tesla is now taking reservations for 2015 delivery of the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla Model S and Model X  

 

Smart Fortwo Electric is driven daily by thousands of Car2Go car sharing members in San Diego and Portland and cities around the world. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart Electric has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for dense urban areas, where its small footprint also helps with parking. The new third-generation Smart Electric has a more powerful  55kW EM-motive motor and 17.6kWh ACCUmotive lithium battery.

BMW i8 Electric Sports Coupe BMW is now selling the all-electric i3 (which also comes in a range-extended version) cars. The i3 builds on the company’s experience with the ActiveE (which featured the i3 powertrain in a 1-Series body) in San Francisco’s DriveNow car sharing program and with lease customers. In 2014, you can order the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including an aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.   Mitsubishi i

 

Mitsubishi i (official name with small “i”) is bigger and with more zip for the U.S. market compared with its Japanese-market predecessor. This pure-electric city car is selling starting at $29,125. Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5 door, will have a wheel base 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take except the Smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Mitsubishi Electric Test Drive

Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised everyone with the 500e, an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 that is in the

2013 Fiat 500e, fiat, 500e, electric car

2013 Fiat 500e

process of reintroducing the Italian automaker to America. The car surprised everyone because it was so good! While being presented to the media as a compliance car (i.e., the company would only build enough of them to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate and only sell them where credits toward that mandate would count), the early returns (including ours) lauded the car as exactly what an electric car should be – full of fun and projecting a personality commensurate with the significance of the vehicle for the environment.  

EV Forecasts and Renewable Energy

Electric car sales will triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013. This report is about freeway-speed U.S. available all-electric and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles. Accenture forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are possible by 2020, especially if oil prices rise as battery prices fall. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. More than 100 large and small competitors are fighting for share of the U.S. electric car and truck market. Some may be struggle to get significant share due to time delays and cost of safety and other regulatory approvals, delays in funding, or unpleasant surprises from a supplier. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. We’ve been impressed with the performance of the VW e-Golfs that we’ve driven over the past few years and it is due to arrive late in 2014. Mercedes is in the process of preparing a B-Class electric for sale in the U.S. Electric cars with range extended by fuel cells continue to make progress. Hyundai is building 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles and they are on sale in Southern California as of mid-2014. Mercedes has put 200 of the new F-Cell B-Class on global streets; Toyota putting 100 of its 400-mile range FCHV into fleet applications and has shown a concept of what the 2015 model will look like when it goes on sale; Honda also has shown its 2015 model in concept form and other auto companies are also moving forward with fuel cells. China could have several EV models delivered to U.S. customers in the near future from BYD or possibly other companies, but Coda’s experience trying to sell an electric version of a dated, poor quality Chinese model was not encouraging.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Electric Car Price under $32,500

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Electric Car Price under $32,500

Chevrolet Spark EV

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV will be priced at less than $32,500 and be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and added incentives in several states. Now that GM leads electric car sales in the United States with the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, it will go after urban dwellers who want a less expensive city EV. This all-electric 5-door, 4-seat, city car is less than the Nissan LEAF and more than the Mitsubishi i.

With the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet accounts for more than 50 percent of all plug-in electric vehicle sales in the United States and Spark EV builds on Chevrolet’s proven electric motor and battery development programs. When it goes on sale summer 2013, the Spark EV is expected to have among the best EV battery range in its segment and be the first electric vehicle to offer SAE Combo DC Fast Charging capability, enabling the Spark EV to reach 80-percent battery charge in just 20 minutes.

Public charge station providers, such as NRG, Blink, and AeroVironment all ready offer CHAdeMO DC Fast Charging for the LEAF and Mitsubishi i. This Chevrolet announcement will encourage them to add the SAE Combo DC Fast Charging capability to existing and new stations.

“When you engineer a technology-filled, all-electric mini car that goes from zero-to-60 mph in less than eight seconds, customers won’t miss the gas,” said Mark Reuss, president, General Motors North America. “The Volt and now the Spark EV show that Chevrolet not only knows EVs better than anyone else, we also know how to help customers get the most out of their EV experience.”

Inside the Spark EV are two reconfigurable, high-resolution, seven-inch color LCD screens, including a confidence gauge that shows the expected driving range based on driving habits and other conditions.

Hands-free Navigation and Music including Apple’s Siri

Spark EV also will keep urban drivers musically connected with Chevrolet’s exclusive MyLink radio that comes standard and safely brings smartphone-based infotainment – including apps for BringGo full-function navigation, TuneIn global internet radio, Pandora and Stitcher – into the vehicle.

Drivers with Apple iPhone 4S and newer can integrated Siri with MyLink to use the car’s voice system to integrate with Siri for navigation and entertainment. For Apple customers who are unhappy with Apple’s latest map/navigation app, Apple is planning an upgrade and Google is planning to makes its Maps app downloadable to iPhones.

In addition to previously announced markets including California and South Korea, Spark EV will also go on sale in participating dealerships throughout Oregon, Canada and other global markets. Spark EV will be eligible for coveted high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in California.

Spark EV has Advanced Electric Motor and Lithium Battery

Spark EV is powered by an advanced electric motor and battery system. It consists of a GM-designed, coaxial drive unit and electric motor that together deliver 130 hp (110 kW) and 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque for instant acceleration; and a more than 20-kWh lithium ion battery is expected to provide among the best EV range performance in its segment.

The drive unit and motor will be assembled of U.S. and globally sourced parts at GM’s White Marsh, Maryland. This is the first time a U.S. automaker has built both a complete electric motor and drive unit for a modern electric vehicle in the United States.

Spark EV’s long-life battery is designed to be safe, durable and reliable, and is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles. It consists of a 560-pound (254 kg) square lithium-ion battery pack with a volume of 133 liters, comprising 336 prismatic cells.

“The Spark EV battery has undergone more than 200,000 hours of testing in our global battery systems labs,” said Pamela Fletcher, Chevrolet executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles. “It is extremely durable and has undergone the same abuse tolerance testing as the Volt battery.”

Spark EV includes new Combo DC for 20-minute Fast Charge

I have been able to drive my Nissan LEAF beyond its normal 60 to 100 mile range, because I have used DC Fast Charge stations in my area. My LEAF has 2 separate chargers, one for Level 1 and 2, and a second for DC Fast Charge.

The Spark EV will be the first electric car to offer a Combo charger that can do all of that with a single charge port, saving money and weight.  Spark EV is the first all-electric vehicle in North America to offer optional SAE Combo DC Fast Charge capability, which can charge the battery to 80 percent of capacity in about 20 minutes. A common on-board charging receptacle accommodates all three charging platforms – DC Fast Charge, AC 240V and AC 120V.

Using a dedicated 240V outlet, Spark EV recharges in less than seven hours with a Level 2 charger. Owners can coordinate charging according to departure time or during off-peak electricity rates. They also can manage and monitor the vehicle remotely via computer at OnStar.com, or with a special Chevrolet Mobile App powered by OnStar Remote Link. The Spark EV comes with three years of standard OnStar service.

Customers who do a far amount of long-distance highway driving may prefer the larger Chevrolet Volt with 35-miles of electric range and about 380 miles of total range. They will pay about $7,000 more than the Spark EV. People with two-cars will rarely be concerned about range, even is one is all-electric like the Spark EV which is likely to shine in city environments. They’ll save a small fortune by never needing gas, finding street parking too small for big cars, and saving on maintenance. Plus, the Chevrolet Spark EV will be fun to drive.