Electric Cars

I really want to buy an electric car.  Every time I stop at the gas station and “fill-it-up”, I get an unpleasant feeling in my stomach – not from the fumes at the pump but in the thought that I’m continuing to contribute to global warming.  Yuck!

In I Get Around, I talked about the environmental benefits of choosing an efficient car, maintaining it well, and driving habits that conserve energy.  Also, trip planning, carpooling, walking, biking, and using public transportation are all effective ways of cutting our personal impact on the planet.  These are all good ideas and practices, but an electric car, that’s a real game changer – especially as we continue to move toward using more renewable sources for our electricity.

So, which electric car should I buy?  According to Edmunds (an on-line resource for automobile information), the electric car market can be segmented between “Electric Vehicles”, “Plug-In Hybrids”, and “Luxury” Electrics, Plug-In Hybrids, and SUVs.  I decided to limit my research to the non-luxury segments – so no Teslas, BMWs, Jaguars, or Volvos for me just yet.

Since I’d like to “cut-the-chord” with the gas stations, I looked at the all-electric models first.  And since this would be our primary car, and we sometimes travel long distances, the mileage range between charges became a key determining factor.   According to Edmunds, the five top rated 2019 Electric Vehicles are: (1) Hyundai Kona Electric; (2) Chevrolet Bolt EV; (3) Volkswagen E-Golf; (4) Nissan Leaf; and (5) Hyundai Ioniq Electric. 

Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona Electric is very impressive with an overall 8.2 out of 10.0 rating.  It’s not cheap ($36.9-$44.9K) but has a remarkable range of 258 miles.  Only the Tesla’s range of 240-310 miles was more.  The Kona has limited availability so if you wanted one, you might have to travel several hundred miles to test drive one.  The Chevrolet Bolt EV, a smaller hatchback vehicle with a lower price tag ($36.6K-$41K), had an impressive 238-mile range.  The Nissan Leaf ($30K-$42.5K), another hatchback, has a range of 150 miles. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric ($30.3K-$36.8K), also a hatchback, is the least expensive 4-door electric vehicle on sale today and has a driving range of 124 miles. 

But since we occasionally take long trips, and the recharging time can be several hours, none of these electric cars have a driving ranges that meets our needs.  But any of these cars would provide a reasonable option for a commuter or around town vehicle.

Chevrolet Volt

So, ruling out the all-electric models (for now), my next choice would be a plug-in hybrid.  Edmunds # 1 choice in this category was the Chevrolet Volt, realizing an 8.0 out of 10.0 rating.  Priced between $33.5K and $38.1K, the Volt has the longest all-electric range of plug-in hybrids – 53 miles.  Plenty of miles for in-town errands and commuting.  There’s an optional on-board charger which reduces charging time by half, so recharging can be accomplished in 2-3 hours.  So, while in town, I could be all electric but still have the flexibility to travel longer distances when needed.

Number 2 is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid which is a 7-passenger mini-van with an all-electric range of 33 miles and sells for $40.0K-$45.5K.

Mini Countryman

The Mini Countryman ranked # 3 and costs $36K. According to Edmunds, the exterior and interior design sets it apart from competitors.  Its materials are of higher quality than in subcompact rivals and is one of the only vehicles of its kind with a manual transmission, providing a fun driving experience.  I’ve ridden in a Mini and can attest, they are fun! It received a 7.4 out of 10.0 rating.

At # 4 is the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid which is a 5 passenger, 4-door compact hatchback and costs $25.3K-$29.3K.  It was rated 7.3/10.0 by Edmunds.  It has excellent fuel economy and decent all-electric range (29 miles electric) as well as a long warranty.

Honda Clarity

Next is the Honda Clarity, receiving 7.2 out of 10 and priced at $33.4K-$36.6K. It’s described as having a comfortable, well-appointed cabin and an all-electric driving range of 48 miles.  The Honda Clarity is also available as a “fuel cell” vehicle.  Fuel Cell versions are available only as a lease and only work for people who live or work near a hydrogen fueling station. It’s about as easy to fuel up as a traditional car and gets up to 366 miles on a tank full of hydrogen gas.  This may be the long-range vehicle of the future but currently all the refueling stations are in California, except for one in Honolulu and one in British Columbia.

The Ford Fusion Energi, ranking 6.9 out of 10.0, is a midsize sedan costing $37K. It’s well-equipped with features, quiet on the highway, featuring high-quality interior materials and offers a cabin with plenty of room for adults. 

Kia Niro

The Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid received a 6.9 out of 10.0 rating and costs $28.5-$35.2K.  It’s an SUV although the cargo volume is smaller than a typical SUV but it has high fuel economy and a respectable all-electric range.  Also, it is one of the more affordable hybrids in this segment.

And finally, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. This 5-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV received a 6.5 out of 10.0 rating and costs $35.8K-$41.5K.  It delivers plug-in SUV utility without “luxury” SUV price, offers a generous list of standard features, and can travel up to 22 miles solely on electric battery charge.

In addition to today’s options, manufacturers including Mercedes Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Jaguar, Ford, and Hyundai, have a lot of new electrics and fuel cell autos in the pipeline over the next 5 years. Vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges are being previewed. Obviously, more to follow.

My conclusions: 

  • All-electric vehicles can work for in town trips and commuting but not for longer trips – unless you’re willing to incorporate several hours per recharge on your trip. 
  • Many plug-in hybrids have enough mileage range to enable me to go all-electric all the time except longer trips. For longer trips you need the gasoline.
  • My choice for a plug-in hybrid comes down to the traditional criteria – costs, utility needs, style, and quality.
  • It’s nice that companies like Edmunds do the research to help us out as we begin our in-person inspections and test drives.
  • And if today’s options aren’t adequate, wait a year or two and don’t be surprised with all the new options….. it’s the future!

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