They say change is good, and we agree, but it isn’t always easy to do. While the warm winds of change– or cold winds, depending on your point of view – are upon us, we still have a long ways to go before electric cars and vehicles (EVs) begin to make up a sizeable market share around the world — but it is happening. If you’re excited about electric cars and alternative fuel technology, then no doubt this a good thing. If not, well, you don’t really need to worry because gasoline-powered cars aren’t going anywhere soon.
It’s an exciting time for auto enthusiasts, which is why we have rounded up all the electric cars currently on the market or coming out this year — including both plug-in hybrids and all-electrics — to help you suss-out which one might be best for you. We’ve also taken the liberty of providing (when we can) where these EVs will initially be available, when they’re coming out, and how much these green-wheelin’ wonders are likely to set you back.
Plug-in hybrid electric cars
Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Toyota’s Prius Plug-in hybrid is based on Toyota’s third-generation body design and is in many ways similar to the standard Prius liftback you’ve already seen chugging along your local roads. The EPA rates the plug-in Prius’ all-electric range at 11 miles. Its ‘blended’ overall range — or the combined range of its electric motor and 1.8-liter gasoline 4-cylinder engine — will allow you to travel a total of 540 miles driven before needing to top off. That translates roughly to 51 city/49 highway/50 combined mpg estimates. Because the plug-in Prius utilizes a relatively small 4.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, recharge times are substantially shorter, with the Prius plug-in needing roughly three hours at 120 volts or one and half hours at 240 volts.
Pricing for the Prius plug-in hybrid begins at $32,750 including destination charges and is currently available in fourteen states: California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, with a full national rollout planned for 2013.
It’s no secret that the Chevrolet Volt has had its fair share of issues: from a NHTSA safety inquiry, to almost endless scrutiny from the pontificating politicos, the Volt has had to juggle an ongoing barrage of criticism from the media, while at the same time enjoying a healthy amount of plaudits from within the industry. One thing the Volt has begrudgingly been unable to shake, though, is its princely price; a cool $40,000 to be exact. But if you can get beyond the cash you’ll need to splash in order to drive the Volt home, you’re in for a treat.
The Volt, like the Prius plug-in, is an extended-range plug-in hybrid. It features both a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as well as a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers its electric motor, which is capable of producing roughly 149-hp and 273-lb-ft of torque. The Volt’s all-electric range comes in around 35 miles in total, while its overall range will fetch around 379 miles. Like all the cars on this list it’s important to remember that mileage will vary depending on how you drive. The Chevrolet Volt is available to purchase nationwide, with GM offering various leasing options for qualified customers.
If you’re seeking a more sporty experience draped in top shelf luxury and all the requisite accoutrement one would expect from a $100,000 plug-in hybrid, then look no further than the Fisker Karma. While Fisker’s maiden offering to the automotive world has turned heads for all the wrong reasons, the car itself is easily capable of turning heads for all the right reasons as well.
Like the Volt, the Karma is also a plug-in hybrid, which utilizes both a gasoline engine and an electric motor. The electric makeup of Karma consists of two 120 kW electric motors that derive power from a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery, and the Karma’s engine is a 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder capable of producing 260-hp. Its top speed maxes out at 125 mph and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Official all-electric range for the Karma rests at 32 miles, while the total overall range comes in at 230 miles. In addition to a host of “green” features like an eco-friendly interior, the Karma also makes use of a solar paneled roof which aids in the recharging of its lithium-ion batteries and can provide an additional four to five miles of driving a week (assuming it’s sunny). For those with the coin, the Fisker Karma is available now nationwide.
All Electric cars
The Leaf leads the electric pack with the honorable distinction of being the first mass-produced all-electric vehicle to hit the market when it debuted back in 2010. While cars like the Chevy Volt, Prius-Plug-in, and Fisker Karma all incorporate gasoline engines in additional to electric motors, the Nissan Leaf forgoes gasoline altogether and operates exclusively on its 80 kW electric motor, which is powered by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery and produces zero tail pipe emissions in the process. Range statistics for the Leaf vary greatly depending on how you drive it, and whether you’re using features such as climate control, but according to official figures from the EPA the total range on a fully charged battery is 73 miles. Our time with the Leaf confirmed that to be pretty accurate.
The Nissan Leaf starts at $35,200 and is available nationwide both to purchase and lease. For a full breakdown of the Leaf, check out our 2012 Nissan Leaf review.
The Mitsubishi i-MIEV, which stands for “Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle,” or “i” for short, is another all-electric, battery powered vehicle. While the Mitsubishi i has yet to become as ubiquitous as the Nissan Leaf, it has one-upped its Japanese counterpart by becoming the most fuel efficient EPA certified vehicle in the US with an equivalent 126 mpg in the city, 99 mpg on the highway, and a combined fuel economy of 112 MPGe. However, because the Mitsubishi utilizes a smaller battery pack than the Nissan Leaf, its total 62 mile range is bested by the Leaf’s 73 mile range.
On top of being the most fuel efficient electric car on the market, the Mitsubishi “i” also has the distinction of being the cheapest. The entry-level ES trim starts at $29,125 the SE trim at $31,125, and the SE Premium version is priced at $33,915 that includes DC fast charging, an HDD navigation system and improved entertainment and audio options. Availability for the all-electric Mitsubishi has been limited to a few initial states including Oregon, Hawaii, and California with nationwide availability expected at certified dealers by the end of June 2012.
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S is a full-size battery electric Sedan from Tesla Automotive, which is perhaps just as well known for its enigmatic CEO — PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk — as its sporty and luxurious electric cars. The base version of the Model S features a total electric range of 160 miles from a 42 kWh lithium-ion battery, and a top speed of 110 mph. Starting price for the standard Model S is set at $56,500, while subsequent battery upgrades to 60 kWh and 85 kWh, which can increase total driving range to 230 miles and 300 miles respectively — will see that figure jump to over $100,000. Performance measurements seem rather impressive with the Signature Performance version of the Model S able to hit 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 130 mph.
Unlike most of the electric cars slates to hit the market, the Model S will not be limited to certain roll-out states. Instead, deliveries for the car is set to begin in June, with Tesla confirming more than 10,000 reservations already placed.
Ford Focus Electric
Ford has entered unfamiliar territory with the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. As its name clearly suggests, the newly remodeled Focus features an all-electric powertrain, forgoes a gasoline engine, and represents Ford’s first full-production, all-electric passenger vehicle. Until recently, Ford has remained on the fringes of the EV scene, but not anymore. The Focus Electric aims to change that all that, earning Ford a place among other major automakers pioneering the green car scene.
The Focus Electric is powered by a 100 kW electric motor and uses a 23 kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, which is said to deliver an EPA certified (and Leaf beating) all-electric range of 76 miles and a combined fuel economy equivalent to 105 MPGe. Highway fuel economy reaches 99 MPGe, while city driving returns an improved 110 MPGe. The Focus Electric also features Ford’s latest on-board entertainment and navigation options, including a unique version of MyFord Touch, which — similar to the Nissan Leaf’s smartphone application – allows drivers to charge and control their Focus remotely via MyFord Mobile.
Honda Fit EV
The Honda Fit EV shares the same platform as its gasoline guzzling compact counterpart. Honda’s first production all-electric is also said to use a motor derived from the company’s FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Official specifications regarding the Fit EV are still rather limited, but Honda says it will have an all-electric range of 70-100 miles and a top speed of 90 mph.
The Fit EV will feature three distinct drive modes: econ, normal, and sport. According to Honda, “econ” mode will extend the overall driving range by as much as 17 percent, while sport mode will allow the Fit EV to imitate the acceleration of a 2.0-liter gasoline engine. Rather impressive considering the Fit EV will employ a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 92 kW electric motor. Official EPA figures regarding range are unavailable, but Honda places the Fit EV’s city range at 123 MPGe with combined miles per gallon equivalent of 76 miles.
Availability for the Fit is limited to California and Oregon, while Honda says it will only produce 1,100 examples over the first three years. Access to the Fit EV will also be limited to leasing programs with a per month payment of $399for three years, based on $36,625 MSRP.
The Coda sedan is a four-door electric car built by Coda Automotive, but unless you live in the Sunshine state, don’t expect to see it on your local roads just yet. However, if you call California home, then count yourself lucky because your electric car list has expanded by one.
Coda’s all-electric sedan utilizes a 31 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery system and delivers an official EPA combined fuel economy of 77 MPGe for city driving, and 68 MPGe on highways. It’s combined energy consumptions sits at 46 kWh, making it the highest among all electric cars currently available, and is capable of reaching an electronically limited top speed of 85 mph. While most electric cars tend to have that “look” which easily distinguishes them from the pack, Coda has opted to travel a different route, choosing instead a decidedly austere design that will either please, bore, or place you in a state of ambivalence.
Retail price for the 31 kWh battery starts at $37,250. Coda also offers a version of its sedan bundled with a 35 kWh battery pack that is expected to fetch 25 miles of additional range, which is priced at just below $40,000.
Toyota RAV4 EV
You might not realize it, but the 2012 RAV4 EV will be the second incarnation of the compact crossover SUV. Toyota originally produced the first iteration of all-electric Rav 4’s from 1997 to 2002 when it met an early demise. But rather than shamble from the scrap yard like a zombie, Toyota employed the help of Tesla Motors in developing the RAV4 EV’s all-new electric battery pack and motor. According to Toyota, the second-gen RAV4 EV will feature a total range of 100 miles on a single charge of its 41.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. Top speed for Toyota’s electric SUV tops out at 85 mph, and includes two driving modes: normal and “sport mode,” which is said to provide some added punch to the car’s overall performance and increase top speed to 100 mph, albeit at the cost of battery efficiency.
Toyota has priced the RAV4 EV just under $50,000 and will begin to selling the car summer 2012 in California with only 2600 examples planned for production. Toyota has indicated it will eventually sell the RAV4 EV outside of California, but any official details have yet to be released. If you’re thinking of going green, but require more space than what’s typically on offer, the RAV4 EV just might be your best bet.