Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Choice & Deals Are Out There

With more electric cars entering the market, there is greater choice available for the consumer. As technology develops, and newer, better options become available, there is now real value to be had in owning an electric car.

This list considers the Top 10 Best Value battery electric cars that are on the market right now–based on the publicly announced lease prices, along with the range you get at the price. All the lease prices listed here are for 36-months, and based on the manufacturer’s price. They do not include down payments, and these costs may vary between different dealerships and locations. Deals can be had, as anyone who’s shopped EVs knows.

The range listed for each car is also based on the EPA guidelines, though these will vary in the real world depending on speed, weather and terrain (amongst other factors). While these figures are only guidelines, therefore, they offer a good indication of what you’re getting for your money.

We’ve added links to some of Clean Fleet Report’s test drives and news of the listed models.

  1. 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Lease price: $329/month, range: 238 miles

Chevrolet Bolt

Bolts top our list

Boasting the best range on this list, the Chevy Bolt is the first “affordable” car to compete with Tesla’s range. While it is more expensive than the other cars on this list, its enormous range makes the Bolt a potential game-changer for the electric car market. We like it a lot; one Clean Fleet Report writer even leased one.

  1. 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Lease price: $275/month, range: 124 miles

Available in various configurations, including traditional and plug-in hybrids, as well as electric, the Ioniq is extremely flexible. Despite its lease price and range, the Ioniq seems to have gone under the radar compared to others on this list, but is a steal at $275/month.

  1. 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Lease price: $279/month, range: 125 miles

Featuring a big range boost from the previous model, the 2017 e-Golf now has a 125-mile range compared to 83 before, and at $279/month is a bargain for a car with this range.

  1. 2017 Ford Focus Electric

Lease price: $204/month, range: 115 miles

With an increased range and lower price, the 2017 Focus Electric is a big upgrade on the previous model, and is a good value, sporty car.

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

  1. 2017 Fiat 500e

Lease price: $89/month, range: 84 miles

First in the style-stakes, the Fiat 500e is pretty much a design classic – combining retro charm with bright and quirky colours. While other cars on this list offer a superior range, none can compete with the 500e in the price-stakes.

  1. 2017 Nissan Leaf

Lease price: $199/month range: 107 miles

2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

The best selling electric car of all time, the Leaf is still the standard-bearer and is a roomy compact with a good range. With the Focus Electric outperforming it at a similar price, however, there is better value to be had in an increasingly busy market. Leaf deals may increase before the longer-range, restyled 2018 model hits dealers.

  1. 2017 Kia Soul EV

Lease price: $159/month, range: 93 miles

The Soul EV is a spacious car, with room for five passengers and plenty of cargo space. Boasting one of the lowest lease prices in the market and a decent range, this is a real bargain.

  1. 2017 BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i3

Lease price $289/month, range: 81 miles

The popular i3 is a good looking and luxurious electric car, with a competitive price for a prestige brand. WIth the 2017 range extender, the i3’s performance is boosted even further to 125 miles, for $329/month, a good price for a quality vehicle.

  1. Honda Clarity EV

Lease price: $269/month, range: 89 miles

Performing well since its release in August, the Clarity EV is a big, spacious sedan. While there are better value cars on this list in terms of range and lease price, this is still a quality vehicle.

  1. Tesla Model 3

Lease price: not released, range: 215 miles

While Tesla are having some issues with production, the Model 3 represents the manufacturer’s first foray into the affordable market. With a range matched only by the Bolt, the Model 3 is a luxurious sedan at a great price (the base MSRP is $35,000). Expect this car to shoot up the list once Tesla releases leasing details.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

A little Italian time machine taking you into the future

2016 Fiat 500e

The “e” is added on

It took only one or two miles in the 2016 Fiat 500e for it all to come back. This is what EVs are all about; zippy little electric cars that can be tossed around corners and deliver

more fun than you

expect from such a small package.

Maneuverability if the key and the Fiat 500e is king with its 90-inch wheelbase and short 140+-inch overall length. It fits where larger cars will not and exudes confidence in its ability to thread its way through congestion.

Eco-Chic on four wheels

2016 Fiat 500e, EV, electric car,

Italian aesthetics meet electric drive

The pitch from Fiat is that the 500e is “eco-chic,” which appears to be some blend of Italian aesthetics with a sustainable approach to transportation. In reality, what FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent organization) has created with major supplier help, is what is called a “compliance car.” The 500e exists to help FCA meet California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate and is only sold in California and Oregon. FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne famously claims the company loses tens of thousands of dollars on each electric car sold.

Whatever the corporate intend, the company has ended up creating a great little EV. Marketing supplies retro colors (like our car’s 1950s robin’s egg blue or the 1960s psychedelic orange that’s also available). This car is a short-cut to a corporate goal—take your smallest, lightest, cheapest gas car and convert it to electric drive.

Quirks of the Eco-Car

So the 2016 Fiat 500e is a short-cut car. You still use a key to start it (an anachronism if there ever was one for an electric). You have to wait for a “ready” light before you can go. You plug the car in behind what’s the gas filler door for the petrol version.

But living with the car makes all these quirks go away. We only had a week, but one of our colleagues had an extended loan of a 500e and came to the same conclusions we did—this is a fun little car that makes going electric easy.

The driver and passenger positions of the 500e are quite comfortable, but the rear seat nominally holds two adults, but it’s a challenge getting in and out and, when you’re in, it’s a tight fit for an

2016 Fiat 500e, storage

the hatch gives easy access to ample storage

average American male. A plus is the cargo room behind the back seat; enough for moderate grocery shopping. With the back seat folded down the rear of the car offers fairly substantial storage or hauling.

A simple choice

2016 Fiat 500e,EV,electric car,road test

The center stack is full of standard electronics

So what do you get with the 2016 Fiat 500e besides Italian small car panache and electric drive? It’s a pretty complete package, which may just be a reinforcement of FCA’s hands-off policy. The only options available or paint choices, one interior trim choice, the Sport Package (which is also basically a paint package) and a sunroof.

The standard equipment list for this four-passenger car is long, including electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring display, power door locks, remote keyless entry, hill start assist, the Uconnect 5.0 multimedia system, a five-inch touchscreen, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, GPS navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio with one-year subscription, several USB ports, a seven-inch color cluster display, power windows, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, heated front leatherette seats and a 50/50 split folding rear seats, power heated mirrors, bi-function halogen projector headlamps and fog lamps.

The powertrain

The heart of this zippy little car is a 83 kW motor that is rated at 111 horsepower and the 147 lb-ft of torque that you feel the moment you hit the accelerator. A single-speed push-button transmission provides input. The 2016 Fiat 500e uses a 24 kWhr liquid heated and cooled lithium-ion battery to store electric energy either from charging or brake regeneration. The car uses a fairly quick 6.6 kW charging system.

With that you’ll get about an 80-mile range (I topped out with a registered 87-mile range on one-charge). The official EPA numbers are 121 MPGe (that’s miles per gallon equivalent) city and 103

2016 Fiat 500e

Even the chargeport has style

highway. Those numbers really don’t mean much to the average driver. You want to know how far you can go until you have to charge up again.

2016 Fiat 500e, seats,interior

The seats are good, but could give more support

There’s enough power to keep up on the freeways, but grip is limited by the relatively tall and skinny 185/55R15 tires. Beyond that, you’ll run out of seat before you run out of cornering ability. The leatherette seats are comfortable, but don’t supply a lot of lateral support. Based on California’s average cost per kW, the EPA estimates it will cost about $600/year for the electricity to run the 500e. That compares to about $1,500/year for premium gas at current prices in California.

The 500e is stable in the wind thanks to a couple hundred pounds of batteries underneath the floor pan. The result is it’s a car that handles better than you’d expect from such a tall, small car. Those batteries are a big part of the extra 5-600 pounds the electric version of the 500 has compared to its gas-only counterpart.

Safety and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only tested the gas version of the 500. Overall, it earned four stars (out of five); frontal crash, four stars; side crash, five stars; and rollover, four stars.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not crash-tested the 500e either, but its tests of the identical (from the outside) gas-powered 500 gave it a “good” rating for all but the small front overlap test, where it was deemed “poor.”

The car includes front and rear head curtain airbags, front seat-mounted torso airbags and knee airbags for a total of seven. It doesn’t have a rearview camera, but does have rear park assist and a pedestrian warning system when traveling under 20 mph to warn walkers that the silent car is near.

My biggest safety complaint about the 2016 Fiat 500e is rear visibility—it’s terrible in the left rear—and not much better on the right side.

2016 Fiat 500e, safety

The thick “C” pillar kills rear visibility

Warranties are fairly standard for the segment:

  • Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance – Four -years/Unlimited miles

Pricing

The 2016 Fiat 500e has a base MSRP of $31,800 and adds a destination charge of $995. As tested, our model had the eSport Package, a paint and trim package that adds another $495 for an out-the-door sticker of $33,290. You can ignore those numbers, of course, because it’s a “compliance car.” Fiat’s goal is to move every one they import (from Mexico, more on that later), so deals are readily available. On the company website at the time of this writing, the company offered a $179/month lease with $1,999 down (compared to a non-subsidized prices of $431/month to buy or $227/month to lease). Even lower prices have been advertised by local dealers, taking advantage of federal, state and local incentives for the purchase of electric cars.

Conclusion: 2016 Fiat 500e

2016 Fiat 500e, EV,electric car, road tst

The 500e in its natural element–in town

The 2016 Fiat 500e is a true international car—it’s got an Italian badge on a car assembled in Mexico with a German engine (motor) and transmission and a third of its parts from South Korea. That sums up the modern auto industry. It also says more than you might want to know about the nature of cars whether electric or otherwise.

As an electric car, it’s one that we at Clean Fleet Report like a lot. If you’re running a commute of less than 60 miles each way with charging at work and wanted to use the available HOV-lane access, we couldn’t think of a more fun way to do it. On the other hand, it you were car-pooling, we’d scratch this car off your list. It is a great around-town urban vehicle, stylish enough to be noticed while practical enough to be functional.

The lease deals that we’ve seen offered in California appear to be closing some sales here. According to the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program’s (CVRP) page of statistics, more than 13,000 California’s have bought or leased a Fiat 500e since July 2013 and received a rebate from the state. Another way to look at the numbers is to slice some of the available numbers for the 2015 model year. FCA is quoted as saying it sold a little more than 25,000 of all 500 models that year in the entire U.S. According to the CVRP data, 5,621 500e owners received rebates that year in California.

We can see why they’re so popular and hope FCA sees a way to add some upgrades to the car in coming years. Maybe they could even extend the model availability beyond the little hatchback.

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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.

News: Utility Creates One-Stop EV Shopping for its Employees

News: Utility Creates One-Stop EV Shopping for its Employees

Electric Vehicle Day brings out 15 different models for test drives

Electric Vehicle Day,EVs,plug-in vehicles

PG&E employees got a chance to try out pure EVs and plug-in hybrids

If one of the 20,000 employees of the giant Northern California utility, PG&E, was interested in taking advantage of the federal, state and company incentives to buy a plug-in vehicle, a recent program gave them a chance to have some hands-on experience to figure out which vehicle they might want. A recent Electric Vehicle Day program drew representatives from almost all of the companies with pure electrics and plug-in hybrids on the market, giving employees a chance to test drive vehicles and learn more about how they work.

A PG&E spokesman said more than 1,000 employees had already taken advantage of the company’s vehicle purchase incentive program and 315 had booked appointments midday on a Friday to take a look at the more than a dozen different vehicles, either as a new buy or replacement.

Almost all EVs where there

At the Fair, in alphabetical order, were the:

Tesla was out in force, bringing eight vehicles, while other manufacturers brought one to four models to drive or display. The program was busy for its duration of almost four hours. PG&E holds several similar events each year as it encourages its employees to “walk the walk” of automotive energy consciousness.

PG&E has a plug-in truck

Electric Vehicle Day,plug-in truck,hybrid,PG&E

PG&E brought its own portable charger

PG&E also brought out one of their own electric vehicles, a modified Ford F-550 heavy-duty work truck that had been converted into a plug-in hybrid by Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated (EDI) of Dixon, CA. PG&E has added 10 of those trucks to its fleet, using them most recently when supporting communities affected by forest fires, where it was used to power evacuation camps.

The truck, which retains its powerful diesel engine to keep things charged up, is capable of supplying enough electrical power to keep the lights on in 100 homes. In addition, it has charge ports so electric vehicles can use it for Level II (240-volt) charging and also has ports to charge personal electronics. The truck itself can also plug in to recharge its battery, which is capable of exporting 120 kW of power to the grid. It’s also capable of running more than 30 miles on EV power only. The company also has deployed similar hybrids that use electric power to run auxiliary operations like buckets and booms.

In recognition of its far-flung service territory (PG&E’s area of service covers 70,000 square miles, a land area larger than all but 16 states), PG&E is in the process of changing out its CNG-

Electric Vehicle Day,Tesla,Model X,EV,

The Tesla Model X continues to draw a crowd

powered light-duty vehicles for plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Ford C-Max Energi. The company also offers charging at most of its facilities (it has installed 451 charging points at company sites according to its spokesman) for what it says is the equivalent of $1/gallon gasoline.

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Clean Fleet Report has driven and tested most of the vehicles mentioned in this article and will be updating many of those tests soon.

Road Test: Audi A3 e-tron

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Road Test: Chevrolet Volt

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Road Test: Ford Focus Electric

Road Test: Ford Fusion Energi

First Drive: Kia Soul

Road Test: Nissan Leaf

Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf

Top 10 Green Cars Named

Top 10 Green Cars Named

ACEE Organization Picks “Greenest” and “Meanest” Cars

Every year the environmental watchdogs at the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy) crunch numbers to come up with their “greenest” cars (along with a mirror image “meanest” list for those on the other end of the scale).  As has happened on past lists, the results are a grab bag of different technologies, reflecting the varied criteria the group uses to rate cars. This year ACEEE tweaked their methodology a bit and we’ll discuss that at the end. But first, here’s the list (which ends up being more than 10 vehicles for a variety of reasons). We’ve added links to our own road tests and news stories on these vehicles.

  1. Smart Fortwo ED – Electric – Convertible and coupe versions
  2. Chevrolet Spark EV – Electric
  3. Fiat 500e – Electric
  4. Toyota Prius c – Hybrid – 1.5-liter gas engine with CVT

    Toyota,Prius c,mpg,

    The smallest Prius can sneak into your heart

  5. Nissan Leaf – Electric                
  6. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid – Plug-in Hybrid  – 1.8-liter gas engine with CVT
  7. Lexus CT 200h – Hybrid – 1.8-liter gas engine with CVT
  8. Honda Civic Hybrid – Hybrid – 1.5-liter gas engine with CVT
  9. Honda Civic Natural Gas – Natural Gas – 1.8-liter natural gas engine
  10. Mitsubishi Mirage Conventional – 1.2-liter gas engine with CVT
  11. Toyota Prius Hybrid – 1.8-liter gas engine with CVT
  12. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid – Hybrid – 1.4-liter gas engine
  13. Smart Fortwo Conventional – 1.0-liter gas engine; convertible/coupe

That’s ACEEE’s list of the best, which were separated by only eight points on their 100-point scale (these models scored between 53 and 61). Note that the best any car could do on ACEEE’s tough evaluation would be a failing grade in most classes. I guess we can conclude they’re not impressed with how the choices in the automotive world stand up to their imaginary ideal.

Only small cars need apply?

The other conclusion we can make is that, in this group’s eyes and measurements, smaller is better. Half the cars on the list are subcompacts or smaller. Even though the Prius is rated as a midsize, that ranking comes mainly from its liftback configuration as the functional interior space for passengers is closer to a compact. This size car has gained popularity in recent years, but the most popular cars in the country remain midsize models.

To be fair, ACEEE also ranks the top finisher in each category of vehicles. That list of greener choices include:

The other clear conclusion is that electric is good and hybrids are a close second. Four of the top cars are electrics, one’s a plug-in hybrid and five are standard hybrids. Two conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines and a natural gas model round out the list. One problem with the list is that several of the cars are not available nationwide since they’re cars aimed at meeting California’s zero emission mandate.

Making the list & checking it twice

So how does ACEEE come up with this list? Their goal is to analyze fuel economy, tailpipe pollution and greenhouse gases. In addition, the group looks at lifecycle impacts of the car, taking into consideration criteria pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, looking at upstream emissions of the vehicle’s fuel and also manufacturing and disposal impacts. Four basic data points form the core of the ratings—tailpipe emissions, fuel economy, vehicle curb weight and battery mass and composition (for the hybrid and plug-in vehicles). Finally, they factor in an environmental damage index that tallies the gram-per-mile pollutant rate multiplied by a cents-per-gram of damage costs.

It’s a complicated formula and may only relate to the most environmentally conscious consumers. After all, what’s the difference of a point or two on a 100-point scale? The worst (meanest) vehicles on the scale are trucks, high-end luxury cars like the Rolls Royce and Lamborghini and big SUVs. A Ram 2500 4×4 with a V-8 engine came in with a score of 17 (remember the top score is was a 61, more than three times that). But trying hauling construction materials in a Smart ED. For that matter, try getting more than two people and a couple small suitcases in a Smart of any stripe.

Ford,F-150,lightweighting,EcoBoost,aluminum

We’ll watch to see if the F-150 keeps a step ahead

Now the Ford F-150 that ACEEE rates as the “greener” choice has a score of 36, which is twice the score of the Ram 2500, but again that’s comparing a half-ton 2WD pickup with a three-quarter-ton 4WD.

Lightweighting is a great move and the whole industry is pursuing it. Ford dropped 700 pounds from the F-150 for 2015 by moving to an aluminum body, lightweight steel and a smaller engine. Audi slimmed down the new Q7 SUV by a similar amount using comparable tools. But larger vehicles are almost always going to be heavier than smaller ones so to get the functionality of a full-size SUV to carry the soccer team, you’re going to give up points on the ACEEE scale. What this group gives us is another measure to look at when choosing a new, greener vehicle.

 

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