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.