News: BMW to Announce All-electric 3-Series as Tesla Competition Grows

News: BMW to Announce All-electric 3-Series as Tesla Competition Grows

Planned to Compete with Tesla Model 3

It’s no secret that Tesla is a leader in luxury electric vehicles and is looking to compete directly with the European auto giants. Until recently, it seemed that BMW was not overly concerned with this start-up competition from across the pond.

BMW 330e

BMW knows how to plug in

The Bavarian attitude may be changing. According to a report in Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, BMW plans to unveil an all new, fully electric, version of its flagship 3-Series at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

This report comes as Tesla has just begun deliveries of its new, highly anticipated, Model 3; a direct competitor for BMW’s 3-Series. Tesla claims to have deposits for almost 400,000 units and its hopes to reach annual production in close to those numbers within a year. In comparison, BMW sold just over 70,000 of its 3-Series variants (which include a plug-in hybrid) last year in the U.S.

Details Sketchy

BMW 530e

BMW has the hardware to go head-to-head with Tesla

The 3-Series EV should have a range of 400 km (248 miles), according to Handelsblatt, but these numbers likely come from the optimistic NEDC test cycle. An EPA estimate would most likely put 3-Sseries EV range at around 200-215 miles; almost exactly the same as the Model 3’s estimated range.

Pretty much all numbers concerning the BMW 3-Series EV are still conjecture, and no dates have yet been confirmed, but if true BMW’s new electric offering could enter the U.S. as early as 2019.

If it does, it will be interesting to see if BMW can compete with the Model 3’s $35,000 starting price point, as the current BMW 330e plug-in hybrid starts at around $44,000.

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Top 10 Electric Cars

Top 10 Electric Cars

 

2017 Is Here: Here Are the Top 10 Electric Car Companies

We update this list regularly because the market is changing so quickly. The new models we’ve driven have caused us to rethink the Top 10.

Picking the Top 10 electric car makers now involves making some choices as the number of vehicles available increases. Plug-ins are trending in key markets around the country, although much of the action remains focused in California and other West Coast states. By the end of 2016 the total number of plug-in vehicles (that’s pure battery electrics and plug-in hybrids) sold this year topped 150,000. It’s a year of exponential growth with the expectation this 2017 will be another just like it. We think we’ll see many more miles driven on electrons this year.

This list is subjective and weighted toward functionality with an emphasis on fun, but also factors in sales numbers. Enjoy! Let us know what you think.

  1. Our New Favorites — the Volkswagen e-Golf & Audi A3 e-tron

These little electric rocket ships have now been on the market long enough to establish a good coterie of adherents. While the Golf holds down the 5th spot in pure electric car sales for 2015, we put it at number one for several reasons.

2016,Audi,e-tron,A3,plug-in hybrid

Audi expands its plug-in options

German engineering – das electric

First, it’s a Golf, which is a great small car package. Its cousin, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Audi A3, is a similar delight to drive and has been holding its own in that market segment.

The Volkswagen e-Golf is very maneuverable, bringing all of the good suspension work of the seventh generation Golf into an electric car. The packaging of the Golf is another plus. It’s got a decent-size interior with room for five (in a pinch, or four comfortable adults) plus storage behind the hatch in back. While the move to electric drive in an existing platform hasn’t allowed Volkswagen the opportunity to really optimize for the new powertrain, we have no complaints about the standard Golf layout. Then there’s performance: it’s fast, as most electrics are, smart with different regen levels and driving settings, and handles like all the other gas and diesel Golfs, which is to say—great! And the $33,450 e-Golf has been joined by a distant cousin, the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which we recently tested and came away very pleased with what we found. VW has made it clear more plug-ins are coming. We’ve driven recent versions of the e-Golf and everything we said in 2014 still holds true. Road Test: 2014 VW e-Golf. First Drive: 2015 e-Golf. Road Test: 2016 Audi A3 e-tron.

     2.   Tesla – the 4,800-pound Gorilla

Tesla is described as disruptive technology, but in reality the company has done what auto companies have done for a little more than a century—build great cars and match them up with owners who appreciate them. The Model S is the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S. for 2016, followed by the Model X. Almost two-thirds of the battery electric cars sold in the U.S. had Tesla badges on them. We recently spent some time in a brand-new ludicrously loaded Model X P100D and can verify the appeal of the cars.

The roomy Model S luxury sedan starts at about $66,000 with four battery pack configurations, but now offers five all-wheel drive version that feature even faster acceleration, topping out with the P100D model. Production of the Roadster, the company’s initial product, ended after deliveries totaling 2,500. The Model S electric range goes from a nominal 219 miles to 331 miles per charge in its big battery configurations.

Tesla Model X

X marks the spot of Tesla’s expansion

Tesla helped former shareholder Toyota to bring back the Toyota RAV4 EV, an electric SUV and also aided its other OEM shareholder, Daimler (which also has since divested its Tesla shares), with the Smart ED and B-Class Electric.

Now known as simply Tesla (not Tesla Motors since its merger with Elon Musk’s Solar City), has booked more than 350,000 reservations for its upcoming Model 3, its affordable ($35,000) smaller model due to start production in 2017. Tesla continues to battle with auto dealers in many states as it tries to establish a direct-sales model, although founder Musk has admitted his sales plan may not work when they move to the more mass-market Model 3, which he hopes to sell in volumes of up to 500,000 per year. Tesla News, Tesla News & More Tesla News. First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X P100D.

  1. Chevrolet Bolt/Volt – One-Two Punch in the Electric Gut

General Motors has done something remarkable, enough so that we were tempted to jump them up to the top of this chart. They have done two major things to deserve the attention they’re getting. First was to introduce the second generation Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car (which gets tossed in with plug-in hybrids even though its system really takes a different approach). It followed the new Volt with the all-electric 238-mile range Bolt this year.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT

Bolts jolts the market with 200+ miles of range and an affordable price

Beating Tesla to the market with the Bolt was quite a coup, particularly with a car as well-executed as this EV is. And that takes nothing away from the redesigned Volt hatchback that has 50+ miles of electric range and more than 400 miles per gasoline fill-up range in its second generation.

The Bolt is priced at $37,495 before various rebates and incentives kick in while the Volt has a starting price of about $34,490, but also is eligible for federal and state incentives. Sales of the Bolt just started in December, but we predict it will likely be the best-selling in 2017. If the Volt continues it reign atop the PHEV group that would be quite a two-fer for Chevy and GM.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in this car and think it’s a keeper. It’s won more than a few accolades. The versatility to drive around town and potentially commute as an electric car (Chevy has documented that most drivers will go more than 1,000 miles between fill-ups), coupled with the ability to take longer trips relying on the gasoline “range extender” makes it a great choice for a one-car household.

Also at GM, but phasing out are the all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV; it’s a fun city car with 80-mile range between charges. Sales are tapering off for the Cadillac ELR, which uses a plug-in hybrid drive system similar to the Volt, as it goes out of production.

With all of its Bolt/Volt news, rumors keep circulating that GM may expand its offering to include other brands. It will introduce a Cadillac CT6 PHEV in spring 2017, but more models may be in the offing.

Here are some of our road tests/news stories on GM plug-ins—First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt; News: First Bolt Owner; Road Tests: 2017 Chevy Volt2016 Chevy Volt; News: 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV; 2014 Chevy Spark EVCadillac ELR.

  1. Nissan Leaf – the Standard Bearer

Nissan is the sales leader of affordable pure electric cars and is staying the course in its commitment to this technology. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reiterated recently that his company will support electric drive while also offering plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric cars and hybrid-electric models.

2016 Nissan Leaf

Leaf led the way and promises more changes soon

The company’s flagship car is the Leaf, a five-door, five-seat hatchback that is the right size and range for many who drive around 100 miles daily. Nissan makes the Leaf and its batteries in Tennessee for the U.S. market and bumped up the range this last year. It is promising a 200+ mile range version soon. Used Leafs are now coming off lease and onto the market, presenting another option for eco-buyers.

The Leaf was refreshed in 2016 with a larger (30 kWh) battery pack and longer range. We tested it twice and liked the extra miles. Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf; Test #2.

     5.  BMW – the Ultimate Electric Driving Machine?

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW starts adding plugs throughout its lineup

BMW has charged into the electric car space with two strong contenders—the hot-selling i3 and the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar. We’ve driven both and are impressed by both, as are many others.

The i3 (which actually comes in two versions—a pure battery electric and a ranged-extended EV) is the fourth best-selling plug-in car in the U.S. in 2016, behind only the two Teslas and the Leaf.  The i8 is no slouch, either, sitting solidly in the Top 10 plug-in hybrids. Not bad for a car that lists for $136,500. The i3 starts at $42,400. Like most manufacturers, BMW has begun to launch more plug-in models, including the 2016 X5 xDrive40e that we tested, and plug-in versions of the 3-Series and 7-Series. Road Test: 2014 BMW i3. First Drive: 2015 BMW i8.

     6.  Ford – Variety Is Their Spice of Life

Ford has made a commitment to fuel efficiency that starts with their widely used EcoBoost engines (basically smaller turbocharged direct-injection engines that can replace larger non-turbo port-injection powerplants). Ford has a trio of plug-in vehicles that are the tip of the spear for its environmental efforts. They start with the full-electric Ford Focus and two plug-in hybrids, the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi (both of which also come in a plain-Jane hybrid version).

2016 Ford Focus Electric, EV

Ford offers and expansive range of plug-ins, including the Focus Electric

Sales have been steady, but the Fusion Energi in particular had a great year and the pair were the second and third best-selling models in the PHEV sales behind the Volt. They sacrifice some trunk space for the added batteries (compared to the hybrid models), but deliver solid performance and enough for 21 miles of electric-only driving (which is being bumped up slightly in 2017). Ford is adding a hybrid version of the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the F-150 pickup as well.

But that’s not all. Ford is also pushing strongly into the mobility space while also using its electrified vehicles like the Fusion as the test-bed for its autonomous vehicle projects. It’s recent smart mobility projects included adding a crowd-sourced shuttle service, Chariot, and an e-bike sharing program.

Road Test: 2016 Ford Focus Electric. Road Test: 2016 Ford Fusion Energi. First Drive: Ford C-Max.

  1. Toyota – Big in Hybrids; Betting on Fuel Cells & Electrics

Toyota, passing nine million hybrid sales worldwide at mid-2016, has dabbled in both plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, but then seemed focused on fuel cell electric cars, which uses hydrogen to produce electricity on board and power the electric motors.

2017 Prius Prime

The Prius Prime becomes Toyota’s leader with a plug

Toyota’s Prius Plug-In Hybrid has been renamed the Prius Prime and is more distinguished from the standard Prius than in the past. The new model has a longer EV range than its predecessor. Toyota has had some sales success, and has noe promised a new push into electric vehicles. Clean Fleet Report tested the original model, comparing it with the better-known non-plug-in version.

Toyota also offered a limited model in California: the only all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV, with an advertised 150-mile electric range (produced with some help from Tesla, in which Toyota was a shareholder) and earlier did a limited EV run of its minicar, the iQ. Now on the market is the Mirai, a fuel-cell sedan with a 350-mile range and a $57,000 price tag (it delivered more than 1,000 Mirais in 2016). Toyota offers 12 hybrid models (Toyota & Lexus) with similar electric motors and advanced battery packs, sometimes shared with its electric cars. We’ve tested most of those. First Drive: 2013 RAV4 EV. Road Test: Plug-In Prius and Prius Liftback.  First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. First Drive: Toyota iQ

 

  1. Kia/Hyundai – Coming on Strong

Don’t forget the Korean plug-ins

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

There’s a new badge in town

Kia has its Soul EV on the market and its making its presence know. We’ve had a chance to test it. Along with its parent company Hyundai, Kia is scheduled to launch two plug-in hybrids (the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima)  and a Hyundai Ioniq sub-brand that, like the Ford Fusion, will have a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, but also will add a pure electric model. We covered the introduction. In addition, the ambitious company already has launched the Kia Niro dedicated hybrid, which impressed us as well. Hyundai has been leasing its Tucson fuel cell electric vehicles in Southern California for several years now. Road Test: 2015 Kia Soul EV; Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata PHEV.

 

  1. Daimler Begins an Electric Onslaught

In America only with electric motors

Daimler is the automotive giant that owns Mercedes-Benz and Smart and also was a Tesla stockholder. While it has had two pure EVs on the market for a while, this year it added three plug-in hybrids—the C350We, GLE 550e and S550 Plug-in.

2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e

Daimler leads with a B250e, but promises many more electrics

The two-seat Smart ED has been selling in small numbers (many to the company’s Car2Go car-sharing subsidiary). The Smart ED minicar went through three generations and we’ve driven the latest version, but only with the gas engine. Mercedes has two versions of its subcompact B-Class, a pure electric with 87 miles of range that we recently had a chance to drive and a fuel cell electric vehicle with a more than 300 miles of range, the only versions of that car available in the U.S. The electric B-Class and Smart ED are at the bottom of the sales list for 2016, selling less than 1,300 units between the two models. The company has announced a massive investment in electric drive vehicles so the expectation is that every year more plug-ins will be coming to the market. The next generation fuel cell car also should surface soon. First Drive: First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e; Smart Fortwo ED.

  1. Fiat – Small, But a Mighty Fine, Fun EV

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is selling the Fiat 500e somewhat reluctantly, but don’t let that turn you away. Even though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne famously claims the company

2016 Fiat 500e, safety

The Fiat 500e is full of fun

loses $14,000 on every $32,780 500e it sells, they do need to sell quite a few of them to meet California’s ZEV (zero emission vehicle) mandate so take advantage while you can.

It’s a fun all-electric city car. We thought it was the most fun car of the EV bunch until the e-Golf came out and trumped it both in functionality and fun.  Very affordable (sub-$100/month) lease deals have been available for this spunky EV in California (its main market). It manages to carry through the Italian charm and personality found in its gas models. The major drawback, which could be an advantage in an urban location, is the small size of the vehicle. As a two-door with a small back seat, its capability of carrying four adults is limited. Road Test: Fiat 500e.

The Rest

That’s the Top 10, but the good news is there are even more models on the market and some have come and gone already. Coda Automotive, with its warmed-over Chinese sedan, has departed, but Fisker (now Karma) Automotive has revived its high-end plug-in hybrid under new Chinese ownership.

Honda sold a limited number of its Fit EVs and similarly stopped selling the Accord Plug-in Hybrid. Like Toyota and Hyundai, it is focusing on Clarity fuel cell electrics as its main EV strategy going forward, but could return to a pure EV and PHEV depending on market trends.  It continues to promote ideas like an integrated car and home energy system that would depend on a plug-in car.

Volvo has just started selling its plug-in hybrid version of the XC90 SUV, though numbers are expected to remain low. We tested it recently and came away very impressed. Volvo has indicated more plug-in models will follow.

Mitsubishi still offers the i (formerly i-MiEV), though the company skipped the 2015 model year, but the 2016 we tested wasn’t much different than earlier models. The i fits into tight parking spaces and tight electric car buyer budgets, starting at about $29,000. It’s a very Japanese model five-door, four-passenger hatchback. The i has an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Although it’s been modified for the US market it still feels very much like the Japanese-market original, which is to say, less substantial than many of its competitors. Mitsubishi also reiterated its intent to bring a plug-in version of its popular Outlander SUV to the U.S. this coming year (as has been promised for several years).

Then there’s Porsche (another VW affiliate) with its plug-in Panamera sedan, Cayenne SUV and 918 sports car also in the market. Other companies have teased plug-ins, but we’ll wait until we see hardware before

A plug-in Porsche

adding them to any list.

California and seven other states reaffirmed their goal to have 3.3 million electric cars (including plug-in hybrids and fuel cells) on the road by 2025. The numbers are basically accounted for in the ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandate that the states have in place, but rely on a steep ramp up of sales after 2020. Based on sales reports, more than 500,000 plug-in vehicles have been sold in the U.S. since the Tesla roadster was introduced in 2008. More than half of them were in California.

There is a lot of innovation from around the world that did not make this Top 10 List, which focuses on the current U.S. market. Please bookmark this Top 10 List and check back as we update. Exciting new electric cars are being driven on the U.S. streets and freeways. Nissan is an early mover with battery-electric cars, now eclipsed by Tesla and General Motors has led the way with plug-in hybrids, but competition is heating up and new models due during the next year or two could dramatically alter the field. The winner will be the customer.

Related stories you might enjoy:

How Long Will It Take To Convert The U.S. Fleet To Electric?

Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Road Test: 2014 Chevy Volt

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buyer’s Guide: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or 2016 EV?

Buyer’s Guide: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or 2016 EV?

Looking at the choice between current and coming electric cars

We have owned electric cars since 2011. My wife and I loved our 2011 Nissan Leaf and now love our 2016 Chevrolet Volt. We were our dealer’s first delivery of a LEAF and our dealer’s first delivery of the 2016 Volt. Now that there are choices with over 200-mile range, we’re tempted to order either the new Tesla Model 3 or the Chevrolet Bolt.

Option 1: 2018 Tesla Model 3

Tesla,Model 3,reveal,EV, electric car

All (well, some) was revealed–and 300,000+ signed up

In the first 24 hours, 180,000 people made refundable deposits of $1,000 to reserve the new Tesla Model 3. Within a few days there were more than 325,000 reservations and the list continues to grow. Reserve one today and you will likely wait three years for delivery. For many, the wait will be worth it. For others, there are other excellent electric car choices that may better meet needs: driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you can plug-in the car daily.

The Tesla Model 3 has a base price of $35,000 for an electric car with 215 mile-range, yet retains many of the features of an $80,000 Model S. The new Model 3 will be a compact sedan about the size of a BMW 3-Series instead of the 20 percent larger Model S, which is closer to the size of a BMW 7-Series.

I deliberately call the car a 2018 Tesla Model 3, because you won’t get one in 2017. You can reserve the car now, get more details soon, and test drive some day. Although first delivers of the Tesla 3 are targeted for late 2017, there are 300,000 people ahead of you and Tesla has a history of being late with new models. Delivery priorities likely will be existing Tesla owners, more expensive models, and then your queue location.

Today, Tesla has more 3,600 Superchargers and more than 3,600 destination chargers, allowing owners to fully charge in 30 to 60 minutes for free. Many are located near restaurants and Starbucks. By the time you get delivery of the Model 3, Tesla will triple its Supercharger locations. Tesla altered its description of the Model 3’s Supercharger connection from initially describing it as having access to the network to being capable of access to the network, which looks like Model 3 owners may find that coming as an upcharge on the base price. Like other EVs, Tesla 3s can also use the tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, many parking lots and public spaces. Using apps like Google Maps or Plug Share, they are easy to find.

Starting at $35,000, the Tesla Model 3 will come standard with Supercharging capability and Autopilot self-driving technology, according to Elon Musk. Some consider Tesla to have the safest cars on the road. Musk initially assured that the Model 3 will have 5-star safety ratings in every category, but then changed that promise being “designed to achieve” that rating, a much safer promise for a car still two years from production.

The Tax Break–That May Not Be There

Just as I have received $7,500 off my taxes for buying an electric car, you have the potential to bring your Tesla cost down to $27,500 and lower in the many states that add incentives. Six months after an automaker has a cumulative 200,000 customers claim tax credits, the credits phase out. FYI, Tesla hit 100,000 units of global sales (most in the U.S.) in December 2015 and aims to ramp up Model X production during 2016, though first quarter deliveries were below expectations. By the time you can get delivery of the Model 3, the Tesla credits will likely be gone.

Although Tesla has provided few details about the Model 3, industry speculation is extensive:

  • There will be several versions of the Model 3.
  • The base model will have a battery about 50 percent bigger than the Nissan Leaf, but perhaps half the 90 kWh of the high-end Model S versions.
  • Being smaller and lighter, the 215-mile range will be achievable under many driving conditions. Like all electric cars, range will be reduced by driving speed, hills and cold weather.

Do you have a place at home or work to plug-in your vehicle? My former condo neighbor returned from a two-week trip to find her Tesla’s battery pack permanently dead. She had failed to leave the Tesla plugged in, which is recommended to keep the battery pack’s thousands of cells balanced. In my years of owning a Nissan Leaf and a Chevrolet Volt, I have been able to leave the cars unplugged for three weeks, and then start them with no hassle. Like most modern EVs, they use large-form automotive lithium cells.

In the months ahead, Tesla needs to provide detailed specs for charging the Model 3. If you don’t have regular access to an electric outlet, discuss the issue with Tesla, and get the answer in writing. For you, a Bolt, Volt, Leaf or even a Prius may be better choices.

Tesla,Model 3,interior

The uni-dash appears

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pricey version of the Model 3 with a 300-mile range, besting the 270-mile Model S. More expensive versions of the Model 3 are also likely to include AWD, advanced safety features, valet parking, premium interior and exterior, much like was shown on the demo models shown at the reveal.

The Tesla Model 3 is likely to be an amazing car for $35,000, even if tax incentives are gone. Many buyers are likely to pay $40,000 to $60,000 to get the range and options that they desire.

Even if you don’t order a Tesla, you have to admire their innovation. Continually updating software, including Autopilot, makes their cars safer and better. Many of their owners charge with solar energy, some with grid power, but none with petroleum (assuming they aren’t using diesel generators for their electricity). More than 300,000 deposits for the new Model 3 is a wake-up call to every executive at GM, Toyota, Ford, VW and the rest.

Option 2: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

With a 200-mile minimum electric range, the new Chevrolet Bolt has almost identical range to the entry level Tesla 3. The Bolt will have a 60 kWh battery pack. The Bolt has a base price of

2017,GM,Chevrolet bolt,Chevy,Bolt,EV,electric car

The Chevy Bolt EV hits the ground first

$37,500. If you order one later this year, you are likely to take delivery of the Bolt two years sooner than the Tesla 3.

The Bolt is a stylish crossover, similar to a sport SUV. With a liftback, you should be able to lower the back seats and put a couple of bicycles inside as I do in my Volt. With Tesla you would likely need a third-party bike rack. But with both front and rear trunks, the Tesla 3 will meet most cargo needs.

GM has sold more than 90,000 plug-in vehicles at this point, so, if you order a Bolt, you would likely have a good chance to receive a $7,500 IRS credit, making the entry Bolt at least $5,000 less expensive than the Tesla 3 after federal and state incentives.

I paid an extra $5,000 for the advanced driver safety (ADAS) features in our Chevrolet Volt, which uses radar and two high-resolution cameras to give us a back-up camera, lane keep assist, forward collision and pedestrian alerts with automatic braking, and side blind spot alerts. The new Bolt will be even better with four cameras to support all those safety features plus 360-degree surround vision. While the new Bolt will lack Tesla’s self-driving abilities, it will be impressively safe.

Charging on the Level

2017 Chevrolet Bolt,Chevy,EV,interior,infotainment

A more conventional interior

Tesla’s network of Superchargers will be greater than the network of DC fast chargers available for Bolts (DC fast charge may be optional; that hasn’t been announced), but tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, parking lots and public spaces are available for all plug-in vehicles. Both Tesla and Chevrolet are claiming a range increase of 25 miles for each hour of Level 2 charging, much faster than I see with my 2016 Volt.

Tesla also has the advantage with over-the-air software updates; just as the apps on your phone update themselves, a Tesla network updates automatically to keep getting smarter and better. With my Chevrolet, I have been promised Android Auto for a year, yet every time I call the dealer to make an appointment to upgrade, they are still waiting for a DVD from the factory.

When you finally get a chance to test drive both the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, you may decide that you prefer the Tesla 15-inch touchscreen and drive-by-wire, or you may prefer the Bolt’s 10-inch touchscreen and traditional instrument panel. You are likely to prefer both over your present car and most alternatives on the market.

Although Tesla has a head start of more than 300,000 reservations, Chevrolet dealers should start delivering the Bolt a year sooner than the first Tesla 3 and two years sooner than most since GM has a long track record of mass-producing vehicles, something that still presents Tesla with a steep learning curve.

Option 3: Get a Plug-in Electric Today

The Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are the two best selling electric cars starting below $35,000 with deliveries today.

With our 2016 Chevrolet Volt, we have driven more than its rated 53-mile electric range. When driving locally, we fill-up less than once a month. We have driven 500 miles to see family without worrying about finding charging spots, because the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that also includes a nine-gallon gas tank to give us 420-mile total range.

Some friends are surprised that we sold our electric Nissan Leaf and replaced it with a Volt plug-in hybrid. We are no longer driving pure electric and feel a bit guilty when adding gasoline. Although we experienced occasional range anxiety, my wife and I drove the Leaf for three and a half years without ever running empty.

We switched to the Volt because we went from two cars to one. In fact, we now have one Volt and two electric bicycles. Living in San Francisco, it all works. We can walk to grocery stores and restaurants. If the walk is too long, we can bike or take nearby transit. If we are in a hurry, Uber and Lyft are omnipresent.

If you need one car to meet all your needs, including a fair amount of long distance, you might prefer a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt. If you have no place to charge, the Toyota Prius or one of the other 36 non plug-in hybrids might be even better.

Leaf/Volt Experience

2016,Chevrolet,Chevy,Volt,plug-in hybrid

Two bikes or two people in back; a plus for the Volt

The Leaf worked beautifully during the three-and-a-half years that we drove it. We purchased the Leaf for $33,000, took advantage of tax credits, and sold it on Craigslist (in four days) for $12,700. Ownership cost us $225 per month, plus an average of $35 monthly to keep it charged.

The 2016 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,000 for a complete electric car with the same 24-kWh battery that served us well for 3.5 years. For $34,200, you can now get the Leaf SV with a 32-kWh battery for a 107-mile range. On a flat road driving 40 mph, you might go 140 miles; on a freeway with heater and headlights on, you might have a range of 80 miles. For most, especially those with work and public space charging, this is more than enough range.

What we learned is that if you share two cars, one can be electric with far less range than offered from Tesla and the Bolt. If you are in a household with two or more vehicles, you can be driving great electric cars today.

You can now order plug-in cars from almost all automakers. There are some interesting choices from Audi, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota, VW and others. We’ve reviewed most of them on this site. Tesla, Nissan and Chevrolet are the sales leaders. Customers evaluate, test drive, and make good choices in all-electric and plug-in hybrids.

You may want to eagerly await a beautifully designed 200-mile electric range cars like the Tesla Model 3 or Chevrolet Bolt. Speaking as a five-year plug-in car driver, do not forget to consider the practical issues like your driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you have a place to charge the electric car. For many, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf and their counterparts are ideal, affordable, and you can drive one today.

More than one million electric cars have been sold worldwide in the past five years and a third of them are in the U.S. With one announcement, another 300,000 have lined-up to get outstanding performance, styling and safety. Electric cars have an enormous future. Are you in?

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The Top 5 Plug-in Cars To Buy This Year

The Top 5 Plug-in Cars To Buy This Year

It’s a New Year and the Hardware Is Looking Great

Contributed by Sam Wright

Are you worried about the size of your carbon footprint? Here are the Top 5 plug-in cars that you can buy this year.

BMW i8

The BMW i8 is not the kind of car that is affordable for most people. It’s a pretty expensive car, in fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an amazing car for anyone who can afford to buy

2015,BMW,i8

It looks like it can fly

one. It has a 22-mile electric-only range, but you wouldn’t think it was an electric car to look at it. It looks like the most stylish and impressive BMW car you’ve ever seen. With a slick, streamlined body, and an ability to go from 0 to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds, the i8 is a very impressive vehicle.

Audi A3 e-tron

Of all the plug-in hybrids on the market today, this one is certainly among the most convincing. And being convincing is a big deal when you’re trying to convince people to switch from an ordinary fuel-burning car to a plug-in hybrid. It’s a car that looks like a classic family hatchback that offers assurance and reliability. They are clearly trying to target drivers with families. And the fact that the car is full of all the latest technology will help sales as well. That it’s a plug-in hybrid is just an extra positive.

Toyota Prius Plug-in

The Prius has been associated with low emissions driving for quite some time. But each time Toyota brings out a new version of the car, they continue to show that they can improve on the formula. If you’re in England, visit Inchcape Toyota to find out how much it cost to buy one. Toyota should have a new version of their plug-in model out this year.

Volkswagen e-Golf

2015 Volkswagen,VW,e-Golf,electric car

The e-Golf will get you there

The Volkswagen e-Golf is not a great deal different from the Audi A3 e-tron. They offer a lot of the same things since they’re based on the same platform. But the e-Golf is a pure electric while the e-tron also carries a internal combustion engine. The VW is a slightly cheaper solution to your plug-in needs. If you want to get to where you need to go in an efficient way, give it a try.

Mercedes-Benz C350e

Mercedes-Benz is continuing to push out the new hybrid technology. The very best and latest one they have produced is the Mercedes-Benz C350e. The car looks great, and it drives even better. In fact, many people have said that the hybrid engine makes the classic Mercedes driving experience even better than it was before. You get a smooth ride, and you can keep your running costs low at the same time. What more could a driver want from their car?

It’s looks like it’s going to be a great year to plug in and drive off.

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