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.
The change can be attributed to a number of factors, including the proliferation in charging stations across Europe and the United States. But the biggest is the precipitous improvement in battery technologies. Simply put, they’ve gotten smaller, denser, and above all, cheaper, thanks to recent improvements in manufacturing processes.
Even the sharp drop in gas prices hasn’t slowed the rise of the electric car.
Now, the market has been flooded with affordable, practical electric cars. Here are six of the best.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Region: Indian Subcontinent
- Range: 90 miles
- Price $8,183 USD
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.
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.
- 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.
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, or people just wanting a bit of extra space.
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 (Rama) Third 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)