How many electric vehicles are on the market in the U.S.?
A new Electric Vehicle Guide by Sierra Club features 14 EVs and Plug-In EVs available to American consumers. That’s a significant foothold, compared with four years ago when the EV menu consisted of the Nissan Leaf and the GM Volt.
The group includes the luxury, well-reviewed Tesla S sedan, which at $60K or so is definitely not the car for the masses, and not even your father’s vehicle, unless he’s a CEO. This paradigm-busting American marvel is a blast to oogle, but few of us will be driving one.
Luckily, the new fleet of electrics also includes the less flashy but more affordable Honda Fit EV and the Mitsubishi i (the MiEV), which land between $22 and $28K after federal rebates. Factor in the gas savings, and these cars are looking more economical by the minute.
Given that many of these cars are just now emerging from the factory, you’ll have to deal with an irritating inability to make exact comparisons. The Fit, for instance, is only being leased (for $259 a month) in California and Oregon, so we couldn’t find its MRSP (Manufacturer’s Retail Sales Price) on the Sierra guide to make a direct comparison with the MiEV, which is sold for $22,475–$24,475 after the $7,500 federal rebate.
You can hop over to the U.S. government site, FuelEconomy.gov., for a side-by-side comparison of any four cars you select. There you can compare price, mileage and features. But that’s a fallible source as well. We uncovered the expected MRSP for the Fit at $36,000 (ouch, but that’s before rebates) but not for the MiEV. Oy.
What’s the difference between an EV and a Plug-In Hybrid?
OK, that’s a dumb question, but we put it in because this difference does muddy the waters. A pure electric vehicle runs on a battery. Period. It’s an EV. There’s no gasoline engine. So these cars need to get you there on battery power. Consequently, EVs have larger lithium ion batteries that take you farther (and add to the cost of the vehicle and also take up space).
Plug-in hybrids can get by with smaller batteries, but you don’t get the range and you need to supplement with gas. On the other hand, you can supplement with gas, which can be a “range anxiety” relieving feature.
Did we mention that pure EVs include the sleek, amazing, but-unattainable Tesla S?
The MiEV, Fit EV, Ford Focus EV, SmartforTwo EV, Nissan Leaf and the Fiat 500 E are all pure electrics also.
That’s a lucky seven EVs. It would be hard to shelve them all, like automakers did back in the 1990s with the first commercial EVs.
Yeah but how far can I drive before I need to recharge?
That depends on whether you’re talking about you or your car.
All-electric vehicles offer ranges of 75 (though Leaf owners say they get more) to 116 miles on a single battery charge, making them a reasonable option for most commutes. Commuters who can recharge at work are especially lucky, and that’s becoming more common. These cars also qualify for the full $7,500 federal rebate because they use no gasoline and therefore emit no pollution, as well as the highest rebates your state offers. That helps offset their higher upfront sticker, compared with conventional cars.
Plug-in hybrids don’t qualify for the full federal rebate, and they don’t go long distances on battery power alone. The Plug-In Prius, for instance, can travel only 11 miles on the battery alone. On the other hand, it offers brand’s signature gasoline engine efficiency, which yields a combined mileage of 95 MPGe (MPGe is the EPA’s way of conveying that the figure somehow accounts for both gasoline and battery miles). That’s a terrific number for anyone looking for high mileage, though it will cost you up to $37,000 if you’re fond of options, from which you can subtract a federal rebate of $2,500.
I’ve still got range anxiety, how long before the batteries are improved?
Battery life could double in 4 to 5 years, enabling a new generation of EVs to go twice as far on a charge, according to one BMW executive who offered this sunny prediction to auto writer Neil Winton of the Detroit News.
Others in the industry weren’t as optimistic, telling Winton that they expected this breakthrough to occur in maybe seven or up to 17 years from now, if then.
But who’s listening to the electric car naysayers anymore?
Let’s talk about going twice as far on a charge. That would put EVs on par with conventional gas engine cars, only they’d be cheaper to drive.
With a robust national network of charging stations (the DOE map shows 6,200 public stations right now) you could even see the Grand Canyon or Miami Beach.
And with a whole lot of us (remember your Dr. Suess) driving such vehicles, Miami Beach may even still be there to see.
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