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Unless you live in a big city, chances are pretty good you’re going to need to own a car to get around. It’s a basic necessity – but it’s one that can be very bad for the environment. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of hybrid and electric cars available.

Now Is A Great Time To Buy An Electric Car

It’s fair to say that electric cars haven’t historically been very successful. You can blame low range, poor performance, and the premium prices associated with owning an ecologically-friendly motor.

But that’s not true any more.

ev-tesla

The change can be attributed to a number of factors, including the proliferation in charging stations How Electric Cars Will Overcome Charging Limits How Electric Cars Will Overcome Charging Limits Electric cars are great -- except for their range. Can electric cars overcome range technologies? Read More  across Europe and the United States. But the biggest is the precipitous improvement in battery technologies Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery tech has been growing more slowly than other technologies, and is now the long tent pole in a staggering number of industries. What will the future of battery technology be? Read More . Simply put, they’ve gotten smaller, denser, and above all, cheaper, thanks to recent improvements in manufacturing processes Goodbye Power Company: Why You May Soon Be Generating Your Own Electricity Goodbye Power Company: Why You May Soon Be Generating Your Own Electricity Solar power allows the clean generation of electricity, using a source that is guaranteed to never run out in our lifetime - the sun. But will it ever beat out the power companies? Read More .

Even the sharp drop in gas prices hasn’t slowed No, Low Gas Prices Are Not the End of the Electric Car No, Low Gas Prices Are Not the End of the Electric Car Do falling gas prices spell the end for electric cars like the Tesla Model S? Not so fast. Gas prices aren't the whole story. Read More the rise of the electric car.

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Now, the market has been flooded with affordable, practical electric cars. Here are six of the best.

Renault Twizy

  • Region: Europe
  • Range: 61 miles
  • Price $10,675 USD, with battery rental fees

You can stop wondering: that really is a car.

The Renault Twizy – available in the UK, France, Spain and the Benelux countries – doesn’t look like a traditional car. Indeed, the European Union classes it as such, calling it a “heavy quadricycle”.

Consequently, in some territories, you don’t even need a drivers license to ride it. France, for instance, only requires that the driver be over 14 and possess a road safety certificate. The legal driving age in France is 18.

In practice, the Twizy is very much a car, and it comes with all the perks: turn signals, headlights, and a steering wheel.

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Performance depends entirely on the model. For the bog-standard Twizy, range is limited to only 61 miles, and it can reach a maximum speed of about 30 miles per hour, making it ideal for city driving, and not much else.

Oh, and you have to buy the doors and the windows separately.

But what it does have going for it is price. Starting at €6,990 ($10,675 USD), plus a monthly battery rental fee of €50, the Renault Twizy is one of the cheapest electric cars available on the market right now.

But you will look ridiculous driving it.

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

  • Region: Canada, US, and Europe
  • Range: 93 miles
  • Price $25,750 USD, with battery rental fees

Smart Cars have been around for ages. Their diminutive size has lent itself favorably for city driving in cramped European metropolises, replete with their cramped, European streets.

So, it’s no surprise an electric variant has been released.

The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is available in Canada, the US, and most European countries. US pricing starts at $25,750, whilst European pricing sits somewhere around €16,000, making it comparable to some gas-powered family cars.

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Depending upon the territory you live in, you might also have to lease a battery. In Germany, that’ll set you back €50. In the US, you’re looking closer to $80 per month with their “battery assurance program”. This locks you into a 10 year contract, but is transferable, should you sell the car.

On a single charge, the Smart Fortwo ED has a range of almost 150km, at a top speed of 125km. That’s roughly the maximum speed limit for highway driving in most European countries.

It also promises a smooth ride, thanks to its single gear transmission system.

But it’s not the most spacious car you’ll ever see. Its lack of room, seats and range doesn’t lend itself to being a good family car. For that, we need to look elsewhere.

Nissan Leaf

  • Region: Worldwide
  • Range: 120 miles
  • Price $30,000, before incentives

The Nissan Leaf is perhaps the most commercially successful electric car ever produced. First launched in 2010, over 150,000 of the cars have been sold, and you don’t have to look far to see why.

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After rebates, they don’t cost much more than the typical family car. Before rebates, they’re still competitive, with the 2013 model costing only $30,000 in the united states.

Powering the Leaf is a mighty 24kWh battery, which gives the car a maximum range of 120 miles, and a maximum speed of around 90 miles per hour.

The upcoming 2016 version of the Nissan Leaf looks set to improve on the existing design, with a 25% larger battery, and a vastly improved range. Pricing, however, is yet to be announced.

Mahindra E20

  • Region: Indian Subcontinent
  • Range: 90 miles
  • Price $8,183 USD

Mah-what-dra?

You probably haven’t heard of them, but Mahindra & Mahindra are one of the largest automobile manufacturers on the planet. They’re massive, but they’re relatively unheard of in the west, largely as a consequence of them operating almost exclusively out of the Indian subcontinent.

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The cheapest Mahindra e20 model is currently available in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bermuda. There were rumblings that the car was going to launch in Western Europe in 2014, but these failed to materialize.

But if you live in India, or one of the markets where Mahindra is selling the cars, they’re worth consideration.

The car’s lithium ion battery (not too dissimilar from the battery in your cell phone) charges in five hours, and gives the e20 a range of 120km. It can also reach a top-speed of 56 km/ph.

Make no mistake, this is a city car, and it isn’t ideal for cross-country trips.

But it makes up for that by including features that are generally found in higher-end cars, like integrated GPS navigation, keyless ignition, and regenerative braking, which lets the car capture the energy lost during braking and feed it back into the battery.

Chevrolet Spark EV

  • Region: Worldwide
  • Range: 82 miles
  • Price $25,000 USD, before incentives

The Leaf’s immediate competitor is the Chevrolet Spark EV, launched in 2011.

Like the Leaf, this five-door hatchback can comfortably house a family of five, and unlike the Fortwo and Twizy, the Chevrolet Spark EV comes with a conservative aesthetic that doesn’t stand out too much.

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Range isn’t quite as good as the Nissan Leaf. According to the EPA, you can only expect to travel 82 miles (132 KM) on a fully charged battery.

But on the plus side, the Spark EV supports rapid charging, and can go from flat to 80% full in just 20 minutes.

The Chevrolet Spark EV is available for purchase in the United States, South Korea, and Canada. The 2015 model comes with a recommended US retail price of around $25,000, but when tax credits and subsidies are taken into account, it becomes closer to $15,000.

Kia Soul EV

  • Region: Worldwide
  • Range: 93 miles
  • Price $33,700 USD, before incentives

The Kia Soul EV is the first all-electric car to come from budget South Korean manufacturer.

Like the Leaf and Spark EV, the Soul has five-doors and a luxuriously capacious trunk, making it ideal for medium-sized families, those hoping to make a bit of extra cash as an Uber driver What Is Uber and Why Is It Threatening Traditional Taxi Services? What Is Uber and Why Is It Threatening Traditional Taxi Services? Uber has landed, and it's fundamentally changing inner-city transit. And some might say, not entirely for the better. Read More , or people just wanting a bit of extra space.

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Performance is pretty good too, and the Soul EV has a range of 93 miles on a full charge. Unlike the Leaf and the Spark, the Soul EV can compete with gas-powered cars when it comes to sheer velocity, with a top speed of 145 kph.

That, obviously, blows the Twizy out of the water, with its maximum speed of 45 kph.

The Soul EV will set you back $33,700 in the US and £24,995 in the UK before government subsidies and grants.

Will Your Next Car Be Electric?

Good for the environment doesn’t have to mean bad for your wallet, and these six cars are a stunning example of that. But the big question is, will you buy one? 

I want to hear about it. Drop me a comment below, and we’ll chat.

Photo Credits: Twizy with Charging Wire Out (RamaThird generation Smart ED at a Car2Go charging station in Stuttgart (Julian Herzog)Production version of the Chevrolet Spark EV exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show 2013 (Noebu)Kia Soul EV at the Geneva Motor Show 2014 (Noebu)

  1. Ron Ablang
    June 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Of the cars shown (I live in the US) I would give the Nissan Leaf the most consideration due to brand reliability and appearance. I don't know yet if it is economically feasible to get one.

  2. Chanda Gravitt
    June 19, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    As a paramedic my concern about Smart cars is how well they hold up in a crash. Not everything's about economy, certainly not my family's life nor my own. I've run a few Smart Car wrecks...no thanks.

  3. Dave Dehard
    June 19, 2015 at 1:15 am

    The first electric car to support a "Swap and Go" battery will get my $$. The company that sets up a system that allows one to pull into a 'gas/charge' station, swap a low charge battery for a full charge battery and spend time and $$ less than an equivalent gas fill up will demonstrate their cars advantages by racing across America with an equivalent gas car and publishing the costs and times required by each. An ideal "Swap and Go" system would require all manufacturers to use a standard battery and a network of 'gas'/ "Swap and Go" stations across the country.

    David D

  4. Maryon Jeane
    June 18, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    We're on our third SmartForTwo and really love it - so yah boo sucks to people too self-conscious to be comfortable, safe and quirky!

    I originally looked at Smart cars because I thought there was an electric version available here in the UK. Nearly nine years later, it's apparently about to happen, and I'm all for it. The Smart Cars are great because they are roomy, the ride is slightly elevated, and there is plenty of light - so the feeling is one of light, space and complete equality with everyone else on the road (in terms of safety, acceleration, speed, etc.). The seats are amongst the most comfortable of any car and the suspension isn't bad. Other cars feel low down, dark and uncomfortable in comparison. It's only when you turn round and reach for something that you get a slight shock at realising there are no back seats (this still happens to me, even now!).

    I've had an electric bike for years, and really love that (it's a cruiser, so also very comfortable - and I live in a rural area, so loads of bumpy roads and tracks) - electric is definitely the way to go.

  5. fcd76218
    June 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    If I were to buy an electric car, it would be a Tesla because it looks like a real car, not a pregnant roller skate and gets real car mileage.

    The Twizy, Mahindra and Fortwo look like Kozy Koupes in styling and in size.

    Was the mother of Renault Twizy a Citroen 2CV?

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