The most popular electric cars available today, like the Nissan Leaf, offer a driving range of between 80 and 90 miles per charge. Many consumers view this range as insufficient—even though U.S. motorists, on average, drive less than 40 miles per day.
Some of these drivers are waiting to buy or lease their first plug-in cars, because they believe an imminent breakthrough in battery technology will soon mean greater driving distances and cheaper price tags. However, a look at new all-electric and plug-in hybrid models expected in the next year or two reveals a different story: if you’re thinking about an EV, the future is already here.
The impressive list of carmakers currently offering an EV includes BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Smart and Toyota. Plug-in hybrids are available from Cadillac, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Porsche and Toyota. Yes, the list of 15 or so battery-powered cars will grow in the next couple of years—but you should expect those models to have roughly the same electric driving range, and if anything, higher price tags.
That’s because the list of upcoming EVs comes mostly from luxury brands, such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Tesla. The two exceptions are the Volkswagen E-Golf and the Kia Soul Electric. Those are welcome additions to the EV market, but the driving range offered by these cars will remain 80 to 90 miles—with prices in line with the existing models. They commonly sell in the mid-$20,000s after incentives, with leases available for around $200 a month. Those are great deals for cars that are fast, quiet, cheap to fuel, and loaded with luxury features—while providing all the range you need for nearly all your driving.
The upcoming Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, and the recently released BMW i3, simply add choices for the EV buyer, rather than transforming the market. They are stylish capable cars offering distinctive brand features—like German handling and style—for around $35,000 after incentives.
Mercedes will also add an ultra-luxurious S-Class plug-in hybrid, while BMW will put out the outrageously sporty i8 that goes 25 miles purely on electricity before using an efficient 1.5-liter engine to extend range. But these vehicles sell above the $100,000 mark. Audi will offer the more affordable A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, yet it roughly has the same specs for all-electric range.
As usual, Tesla is the exception that proves the rule. The company stands alone with its big-battery electric vehicles capable of more than 200 miles of range. The Tesla Model X SUV is expected in early 2015—although its price tag (starting around $70,000) will be just as hefty as its current offering, the Model S. Tesla is promising a smaller sedan—to compete against the BMW 3-series—although it will realistically not be available until around 2017.
So, if you are interested in dumping the pump—and enjoying all the benefits of a car that runs on cheap domestic electricity, now is the time to give it a try. As today’s EV drivers have discovered, a battery pack with 85 or more miles of range—with the growth of public EV charging infrastructure—can satisfy all your transportation needs, except for super-long-distance road trips. And the best way to encourage development of tomorrow’s longer-range EVs is to join the 200,000 or so U.S. drivers who have already made the switch.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.