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.
Lease price: $329/month, range: 238 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lease price: $199/month range: 107 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 Volt; 2016 Chevy Volt; News: 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV; 2014 Chevy Spark EV; Cadillac ELR.
- 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.
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?
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).
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.
- 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.
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
- Kia/Hyundai – Coming on Strong
Don’t forget the Korean plug-ins
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electric Vehicle Day brings out 15 different models for test drives
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
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-
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
Road Test: BMW i3
Road Test: Cadillac ELR
Road Test: Chevrolet Volt
Road Test: Fiat 500e
Road Test: Ford Focus Electric
Road Test: Ford Fusion Energi
First Drive: Kia Soul
Road Test: Nissan Leaf
Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf
Winners and Losers from a Half-Year of Ups and Downs
We’re in a whole new game for those looking for an alternative to gasoline-powered transportation. The first half of 2015 paints a complex picture of where the market is heading.
Hybrids, the high-mileage darlings of the 1990s, are proliferating in number of models, but sales of the segment overall are dropping. Pure electrics and plug-in hybrids are adding models and gaining market share, but working off of low numbers and not hitting a consistent mark. Diesels are outpacing the market in growth, but mainly on the strength of truck and SUV models.
The good news is the choices out there are more plentiful and better than ever—the Top 10 only skims the surface of the 95 models out there. The number of EV, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and clean
It’s all about the numbers
diesel models continues to grow. You could even argue that a high-mileage gas car may give you a better $/mile efficiency than some of the more exotic hardware and plenty of choices are available there as well. State and federal Incentives are still out there for many advanced technology models and automakers are not being shy about adding their own spiffs at the dealer level to keep moving models out of the showroom.
As usual, a tip of the hat to Jeff Cobb at hybridcars.com and Baum & Associates, who crunch the numbers each month.
Before we dive into some Top 10 lists, let’s look at the big picture. Was it a good year for our favorite vehicles? The overall auto market has done well, up 4.4 percent from a solid 2014 with sales clocking in at 8.49 million vehicles. Double that and you’re looking at an almost 17 million unit year, but second half sales don’t always work that way so we’ll need to see how things shake out. Overall, though, no one in the auto industry is complaining so far.
On the alternative side, the picture is not so smooth. Hybrids continue a slide that started last year, down 18 percent but still the volume leader among alternative technologies. Diesels flat in sales compared to last year, which also was a flat year for them (of course these sales numbers don’t include the popular heavy-duty pickups, a segment dominated by diesels). Pure electric cars are having a solid year as new models are added and some older ones drop off. Plug-in hybrids are off, but hopeful a couple refreshed models (Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius) will reinvigorate the segment. Here are the charts for January-June 2015:
Hybrids 46 models Sales=190,970 down 18% compared to 2014
Plug-in Hybrids 9 models Sales=18,509 down 36.5%
Battery Electrics 13 models Sales=35,435 up 26.3%
Diesels 27 models Sales=89,180 down 0.4%
The total tally for these four segments (throw in a couple hundred CNG Honda Civics if you’d like) is just under 335,000 or about four percent of the overall market. Fuel economy and reduced petroleum consumption appears to remain high on the agenda of a good-size group of consumers.
Our Top 10 for the year so far in sales has a familiar feel to it, but some of the players have shifted positions this time around. We’ve linked to our road tests of the vehicles where available.
Top 10 Best MPG Cars
- Toyota Prius – The Prius in its traditional form continues to lead the high-MPG world in sales, appearing to be on the way to another 100,000+ sales year, clocking in at 54,173 for the first half of the year.
- Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – A newcomer to these charts is half-ton Ram pickup, which has been a strong seller since its introduction. It ended the first half of the year with 29,658 units sold.
The smallest Prius can sneak into your heart
- Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius continues a strong performance as the quartet bearing the Prius brand (the original Prius liftback, the c, the V and the plug-in Prius) remain the most visible symbol of a fuel-economy focused automobile and have the numbers to back up their image. The c sold 18,921 vehicles in the first six months of the year.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid – The hybrid variation of the strong-selling Camry midsize sedan has always sold well and continues to hold a spot in the Top 10, selling 15,571 models during the first half of 2015.
- Toyota Prius V – Closing out four of the top five spots for Toyota is the wagon version of the Prius, reinforcing a concern for functionality along with a desire for fuel economy. The V sold 14,165 cars from January to June.
- Ford Fusion Hybrid – Ford has been charging hard into the fuel economy space and making a name for itself with EcoBoost engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. The Fusion Hybrid is the bestseller of the group, moving 12,683 units in the first half of the year.
- Tesla Model S – The big Tesla sedan continue to add U.S. sales while also expanding overseas. New variations on the full electric car, including an all-wheel drive model and some performance enhancements, appear to be keeping sales up. Tesla sold 11,900 Model S during this time frame.
- Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – The Korean automaker has moved up methodically in the rankings as the hybrid model of its strong-selling Sonata midsize sedan hit 11,838 in sales from January to June. A little further down the ranks the sister car to the Sonata, the Kia Optima Hybrid, has also been selling well.
- Volkswagen Passat TDI – VW’s midsize sedan has passed up its compact brother to take the lead in diesel segment sales. In spite of a sluggish year for VW sales and diesel as well, the Passat TDI clocked 11,746 models sold in the first half of the year.
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI – The traditional leader of the diesel segment dropped notch while still selling 11,692 units in this period. The switch of the Sportwagen model to the Golf brand may have contributed to knocking it out of its leadership position.
While we’ve called out the Top 10, we should also mention some models just bubbling under that deserve some attention, particularly as we look forward to a changing landscape where electrics and plug-in hybrids become more readily available.
Just missing the cut is the second best-selling pure electric, the Nissan Leaf, followed by a trio of hybrids—the Ford C-Max, Lexus CT200h and Honda Accord—then the best-selling plug-in hybrid,
Another newcomer to the list
the Chevy Volt, rounds out that group of five. In the next batch are the VW Golf TDI, which is surging in sales this year, the BMW i3 (available in both pure electric and range-extended electric versions) and the Ford Fusion Enegri, the plug-in version of Ford’s midsize sedan.
It would be hard to go wrong with any of the cars on this list, although you do have to factor in your individual life situation to make sure the technology fits your needs.
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The forgotten EV asks for consideration
Doesn’t it always seem to be the case? As a room, or in this case a market segment, gets crowded and starts attracting more attention and new entrants, the incumbents tend to be shuttled aside and ignored. It’s not fair, but it is a true dynamic of life and business.
Passing out of the limelight?
So consider the Ford Focus Electric. One of the early entrants in the electric car race. Dutifully vetted and tested by a company dedicated to electrifying its vehicles. Uses a solid platform that gets good marks in its fossil-fuel version. Made in the same factory as its gas-dependent cousins to reduce costs. The Focus Electric was overshadowed last year in spite of a pickup of 13 percent in sales as the new kids—the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric, VW e-Golf and Kia Soul EV all blasted past. For all its relative success, the Ford fell to 10th place in December 2014 among the growing field of battery-only models. Its consolation is that sales throughout the year kept it a solid fifth place in the segment. Of course, the segment-leading Nissan Leaf chugs along setting new sales records every month.
All the more curious is how this played out with the Focus’ plug-in hybrid brethren at Ford, the Fusion and C-Max Energi. Both of them enjoyed positive years as well, but they ended up the year strong, finished right after the Chevy Volt for the top spot in the plug-in hybrid segment, dropping only one place in their full-year sales totals.
The plug-in hybrids outsold the battery Focus by a substantial margin, so the question to Ford marketers might be—are Ford buyers even aware of the EV?
In 2014 sales Ford sold 1,964 Focus Electrics compared to 1,738 in 2013, though it only retailed 53 in December. During the first two months of 2015, the Big 3 (Tesla, Leaf, BMW i3) sold
One distinguishing feature here
thousands of cars; the mid-level newcomers (VW/MBZ) sold in the 300s; Fiat/Ford/Smart/Spark (236/230/223/205 respectively) were in the next tier, while Kia Soul (117) rounded out the Top 10. Falling off the chart—literally and figuratively, were the Mitsubishi I, Toyota RAV4 EV and Honda Fit EV.
Taking nothing away from either its hot new electric competition or its plug-in with a backup engine stablemates, the Ford Focus Electric does deserve some attention for its own sake. It’s a viable contender in this growing market and acquits itself well as an around-town cruiser.
At its core, it is Ford Focus with an electric drivetrain, a sheep in wolf’s clothing to twist a fairy tale phrase. The fairy tale aspect is apt since as good as this EV is, it is not ready to replace its gasoline-breathing twin. It’s the same old story—limited range and long charging times. Another way of looking at it that turns this on its head is the Ford Focus Electric as a stealth car. It’s good-looking, though not a stand out like its big brother Fusion, but it can pass itself off as just another Focus out for a quiet drive. The few distinguishing features, like its charge port, will never give it away if that’s your desire.
We mentioned it was quiet. Make that—it is super quiet! All EVs by their nature are quieter than gas and diesel-powered cars, but the Focus stands out among EVs as one that (counterintuitively) makes you aware of how quiet it is. We think that is part of what makes the Focus feel like a more upscale car than its gasoline twins.
The fifth door solution
One feature we liked about the Focus Electric (and it’s shared to a degree with plug-in and hybrid Ford models) is that you get plenty of feedback on both the car and how you’re managing it. Like a gentle school teacher, the Focus tells you the miles you’ve driven, how many of those were regen miles (creating by energy created from brake regeneration on stopping and slowing), a braking score (to let you know how you’re doing regenerating those brake miles), an acceleration score (designed, of course, to moderate your more aggressive driving habits) and cruising scores that reinforce smoother driving.
Those same controls with all of their wonderful information were complicated, though. For the new and part time driver they are far from intuitive, they tended to either send
A display that tells all
me thumbing through the owner’s manual or giving up all together.
The Ford Focus Electric does have aggressive regen, which helps extend its range, and has smooth power, lending itself to smooth acceleration and a good road feel. The size feels right for an electric car, which is not too small and without compromise in functionality because of its electric drive. The car has an upscale feel, which is what you might want from a compact sedan stickering at $36,990 including a $795 delivery/destination charge. The only option on our test model were leather seats at $995. Even with generous lease deals, the car poses a challenge for all but those with a fully vetted economic portfolio.
The Plug-in Dance
While the Focus came with a Monroney label that indicated it was set to deliver 105 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent, an electric car approximation based on its energy consumption) average, or 110 in the city and 99 on the highway. Of course this is based on the electric motor and doesn’t measure the range on a full charge of the battery, which is substantially less. I didn’t feel comfortable in the Focus going much beyond 60 miles on a charge, though the gauge indicated it might have another 20 miles of range. It may be me, but some electric cars are more confidence-inspiring than others when it comes to pushing the range envelope.
Part of what factored into that lack of confidence was an incident during my test week. The Focus was parking in the driveway in a cool evening. I had noted the state of charge and expected range when I drove in the night before. In the morning, I fired up the car and pulled out onto the road. A quick glance at the range told me more than two miles were lost overnight. Other than a car with a leaking gas tank, I’ve never experienced that kind of drop of fuel in a car. It’s particularly acute because in the current version of electrics, every mile is precious and to lose a couple that serendipitously just didn’t feel right.
That leads to the other truism for the Focus and other similar electric cars. For the occasional EV driver, particularly one without ready access to a home or work charging station, life with a pure battery car becomes a plug-in dance. You factor how far you have to go on a given trip, whether there’s a convenient charger near the destination, where the chargers are close to your home, who can give you a ride back from the charger after you plug in (and take you back later), and so on. As has been said, driving an EV is a wonderful experience, but it is a life-changing one as well.
The 2014 Ford Focus Electric I drove had an electric motor rated at 143 horsepower (107 kW). It also has a liquid-cooled 23 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be fully recharged on an optional
240-volt Level II charger in 3.6 hours. The five-door compact hatchback can seat five adults but is more comfortable for four. The standard feature list is pretty long and includes a premium Sony audio system with nine speakers, heated seats and a laundry list of other features.
The Focus Electric has a full complement of warranties, including:
- 8-year/100,000-mile Battery and electric components
- 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
- 5-year/60,000-mile Roadside assistance
- 3-year/36,000-mile Bumper-to-bumper
My time in the 2014 Ford Focus Electric has caused me to rethink some of my thoughts on the labeling of EVs. While the window label shows a 105 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) for the Focus, in reality the more important numbers were its full-charge range of 76 miles as measured by the EPA because that is what creates the parameters of the vehicle’s use. It also lists 32 kW-hrs
Lord of the rings
/100 miles, which could become significant as we gain more familiarity with electric vehicles.
The other important number that underscores the reason for owning an electric car is the $600 annual fuel cost (@12 cents/ kW-hr). The final number for the Focus is the current (March 2015) lease deal available. With it you can get this five-door hatchback for $236/month on a 36-month lease with $881 done (not a bad deal for a 2015 model with a $29,170 starting MSRP).
How those numbers fit into your lifestyle and budget are what are going to tell you whether the Ford Focus Electric is for you.
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