Jaguar. BMW. Audi. Deluxe brands are jumping on the bandwagon in announcing their development of electric vehicles, and mid-range manufacturers are leading the charge in making electric vehicles more accessible.
Partially thanks to the Tesla revolution, alternative automobile technology is gaining more attention. To help you stay informed, we’ve put together this guide to electric cars either currently on the market in North America or available in the very near future.
This guide focuses on Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). Most BEVs are powered by lithium-ion batteries, the same type of rechargeable battery used in smartphones and laptops. BEVs are often lighter than traditional cars since they can run off smaller engines.
BEVs have largely remained in the hands of high-income drivers, but this is slowly changing. Today’s BEVs are becoming increasingly affordable as more models are put on the market
Up until recently, BEVs have largely remained in the hands of high-income drivers, but this is slowly changing. Today’s BEVs are becoming increasingly affordable as more models are put on the market. As well, when you consider the money saved on gas, the price tag may seem more reasonable. There are also several federal and state-level tax breaks and incentives that will make your purchase easier.
When considering the specs below, it’s important to remember that each vehicle’s range per charge is based on ideal conditions, which can differ in practice due to things like extreme weather, use of air conditioning, and personal driving habits. As well, the charge times listed are for charging a battery from empty to full, so charging will likely be faster day-to-day.
This year is a turning point for BEVs: Mitsubishi discontinued it’s slow, low-range i-Miev. Volkswagen announced all its models launched from 2019 onwards will by hybrid or electric. Mercedes-Benz discontinued its only BEV but announced big plans for a futuristic SUV in 2019, and to offer electric versions of all their models by 2022. BEVs are becoming faster, with more range and more options.
All the specifications and prices below are based on 2018 models unless otherwise noted.
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVS) on the Market Today
- Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
- Fiat 500e
- Kia Soul EV
- Nissan Leaf
- BMW i3
- Ford Focus Electric
- Hyundai Ioniq EV
- Volkswagen E-Golf
- Chevrolet Bolt EV
- Tesla Model 3
- Tesla Model S
- Tesla Model X
Smart ForTwo Pure Electric Drive
Range per charge: 58 miles
Battery: 17.6 kWh lithium-ion battery
Charge time: 3 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $23,900 USD
The 2018 model of the Smart ForTwo coupe is familiar, and ideal for urban living. If you hate parallel parking, this is the car for you. However, this is not a fast car, as it takes just over 11 seconds to go from 0-60mph. The ForTwo also lacks DC rapid-charging capability. This nimble vehicle is a good fit for city-living individuals or couples who don’t carry much cargo and don’t want to spend too much on a car. The Pure is the minimalist model for the best price, but as you upgrade to the Passion or Prime coupes, there are more features available such as heated rear-view mirrors, heated seats, and a sunroof. You can also upgrade to the Passion or Prime cabriolet – who needs a big car when you have a convertible?
Features: Rear-view camera; park assist; Bluetooth capability; LED headlamps and taillamps, and two-toned paint.
Some available upgrades: Leather heated steering wheel; proximity warning function; heated rear-view mirrors; sunroof for coupe; fog lights; heated seats, and rain sensors.
Range per charge: 84 miles
Battery: 24 kWh lithium-ion
Charge time: under 4 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $32,995 USD
The Fiat 500e is another compact, mid-capability car with limited space for the passengers or cargo. The Fiat is also currently only available in California and Oregon. The Fiat lacks DC rapid-charging, but includes helpful safety features like pedestrian audio warnings. It also lacks many options for upgrades. Despite its simplicity, the Fiat is a nice car to drive for short distances.
Features: Regenerative braking*; heated front seats; audible pedestrian warning system; driver seat memory; Bluetooth capability; navigation system; fog lamps; aluminum wheels, and heated rear-view mirrors.
Some available upgrades: Sunroof; orange-trimmed wheels and orange exterior.
*Regenerative Braking refers to a vehicle’s capability to store and reuse the energy exerted by driver braking.
Kia Soul EV
Range per charge: 124 miles
Battery: 27-kWh lithium-ion polymer
Charge time: 4-5 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $33,950 USD
The Soul has ample cargo space, with just under 50 cubic-feet available with the rear seats folded down. The Soul has an estimated range of 93 miles on highways and 124 in the city.
The Soul also lags in power. For example, the Soul’s battery delivers 109 horsepower and it can accelerate 0-60mph in 9.7 seconds. By comparison, the Chevrolet Bolt delivers 200 horsepower and goes 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds.
While the Soul may be outperformed in some ways, it is still a reliable car that comes with some handy features such as a rear-view camera, which must be added on to the Bolt.
Features: Regenerative braking system; DC rapid-charging*; 8” touch screen with navigation; corresponding apps; pedestrian warning system; Bluetooth; heated rear-view mirrors; rear-view camera; push-button start and keyless entry.
Some available upgrades: Ventilated front seats; heated back seats; sunroof; a navigation system; park assist; and remote climate control.
*DC rapid-charging: select charging stations may include a 480-volt charger that can charge BEVS faster than 240-volt public or home charging stations, and much faster than standard 120-volt outlets which would take around 20 hours to charge most BEVs. All the models on this list with this capability take about 30 minutes to charge with DC rapid-charging.
Range per charge: 151 miles
Battery: 40-kWh lithium-ion
Charge time: 4-5 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $29,990 USD
One of the more affordable but higher-range electric cars, the Nissan Leaf has been one of the most popular electric cars ever sold, narrowly coming second to Tesla in 2016. The Nissan Leaf is a compact vehicle with little conveniences like fold-down seats, automatic emergency breaking, and a lit-up charging port. It also has a one-pedal driving system, allowing you to come to a complete stop simply by laying off the gas so you don’t have to switch pedals at all.
The 2018 model is a big step up from 2017, rising from a 107-mile to 151-mile range, and upgrading the 24-kWh battery to 40-kWh. Rumour has it the 2019 Leaf will have over a 200-mile range, putting it in direct competition with Tesla.
Features: Regenerative braking system; rear-view camera; Bluetooth capability; automatic emergency breaking; 5” display screen; push-button start and keyless entry; heated front seats; low-beam headlights, and a lockable charge door with inner light.
Some available upgrades: Leather seats; LED lights, Bose speakers; navigation system; all-season tires; Bose stereo; fog lights; and aluminum-alloy wheels (the Leaf otherwise comes with steel wheels).
Range per charge: 114 miles (180 miles with range extender)
Battery: 33 kWh lithium-ion
Charge time: 4.5 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $45,000 USD, $48,850 with range extender
The i3 has a unique and modern appearance, with “coach-style” doors, LED headlamps and taillamps, a short and shallow hood, and blue LED accent lights. The i3 is one of the lightest models on this list and one of the fastest, making it from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds. It also offers swanky interior options, like naturally tanned leather seats and dashboards made from eucalyptus or oak wood. The i3 is manufactured at BMW’s most sustainable plant in Germany that boasts using less energy and water during production.
The i3 has less cargo capacity and fits one less passenger than most of the other models. But with precise handling, a striking interior, and good range, the BMW is one of the more luxurious BEVs. BMW has also released the i3s, a sportier version with 180 hp.
Features: Regenerative braking system; push-start button and keyless entry; DC rapid-charging; Bluetooth capability; rain-sensing windshield wipers; navigation; rear-view camera; one pedal driving; and heated front seats.
Some available upgrades: Moonroof; leather seats and customized dash; LED headlights; heated mirrors; 20” double-spoke sports tires; social networks and connecting app compatibility; and Active Cruise Control.
Ford Focus Electric
Range per charge: 115 miles
Battery: 35-kWh lithium-ion battery
Charge time: 5.5 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $29,120 USD
This 107-kWh engine generates more horsepower than the 85-kWh Volkswagen e-Golf or the 80-kWh Leaf engines. The big appeal of the Ford is its price tag – an affordable option for those who don’t need the intense range and speed offered by Chevrolet or Tesla. Along with federal and state incentives, the Ford is an affordable option that still has more capability than a ForTwo or an i-MiEV. One of the only cons of this sprightly model is less cargo room due to the location of its battery – but it can still fit a good amount with the seats down.
Features: Regenerative braking system; DC rapid-charging; LED headlamps and taillamps; aluminum wheels; rear-view camera; push button start and keyless entry; reverse sensing system; heated front seats; leather wrapped steering wheel, and heated rear-view mirrors.
Some available upgrades: Leather seats and custom paint.
Hyundai Ioniq EV
Range per charge: 124 miles
Battery: 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer
Charge Time: 4 hours 25 minutes at 240V
Starting price: $29,500 USD
The newest Ioniq is great for techies – it has a 7-inch touch screen audio system, a corresponding app for remote climate control and automatic charging, and you can upgrade the car to include a wireless charging pad for your smartphone. The Ioniq also includes headlights that turn with the steering wheel to better illuminate road curves. Some of the interior trim and plastics are made from recycled plastics raw materials, and a portion of each Hyundai purchase goes to Hope on Wheels, Hyundai’s charity to find a cure for childhood cancer.
The many features of the Ioniq make it a good deal for the price. However, California is currently the only state where the 2018 Ioniq is available.
Features: Regenerative braking system; DC rapid-charging; LED headlamps and taillamps; rear-view camera; keyless entry and push-button start; pedestrian detection; heated front seats; heated rear-view mirrors, and smartphone integration.
Some available upgrades: Leather seating; blind spot detection; lane departure warning; sun roof; navigation with 8-inch touch screen, and wireless device charging.
Range per charge: 125 miles
Battery: 35.8-kWh lithium-ion
Charge time: 4-5 hours at 240V
Starting cost: $30,495 USD
An eco-friendly twist on a family classic. Volkswagen boasts the e-Golf is “uncomplicated.” This may be the perfect word to appeal to buyers who don’t need the pomp of a Tesla or a luxury brand – those who just want to make an affordable and environmentally-conscious decision that suits their lifestyle. Volkswagen has a corresponding smartphone app to check your battery and activate charging or climate control from a distance. You can also connect your smartphone to the display and use Google Maps instead of needing a built-in navigation system. This model includes distinctive c-shaped LED headlamps and a variety of custom colours, meaning the e-Golf is also a looker.
Features: Regenerative braking system; 8” touch-screen display; rear-view camera; collision system; remote climate control; push-button start and keyless entry; smartphone integration; LED headlamps and taillamps; heated front seats; adjustable cargo floor, and Bluetooth capability.
Some available upgrades: Leather seats; DC rapid-charging; 9” touch-screen display; navigation system; blind spot detection; park assist and lane assist.
Range per charge: 238 miles
Battery: 60-kWh lithium-ion
Charge time: 25-mile range/hour of charging at 240V (empty to full would take 9.5 hours); 90-mile range/30 minutes of charging with DC rapid-charging
Starting cost: $37,495 USD
From 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds with a 238-mile range: the Bolt lives up to its name. It’s range really makes it stand out as a performer, being double the range to almost all the previously listed models. The Bolt also outperforms those models in just about every way in terms of power and speed, and includes a bigger touchscreen display and more cargo room (up to 56.6 cubic feet). The Bolt includes handy and efficient one pedal driving.
The Bolt’s specs put it in direct competition with Tesla’s Model 3. The at-home station charges at 25 miles per hour, close to the Tesla rate of 30 miles per hour. However, all these capabilities also put the Bolt in the same price range as Tesla. If you want to add-on some of the comfort items, such as heated seats, custom colour and a few accessories, you could easily spend $40,000 USD.
Features: Regenerative braking; automatic pre-set charge times; corresponding smartphone app; aluminum wheels; 10” touch-screen display; Bluetooth capability.
Some available upgrades: Leather seats; heated front/rear seats; built-in Wi-Fi; heated steering wheel; rear-view camera; lane assist and pedestrian braking; Bose sound system; wireless device-charging, and DC rapid-charging.
Tesla Model 3
Range per charge: 220 miles (long-range model: 310 miles)
Battery: 50-kWh lithium-ion (long-range model: 75 kWh)
Charge time: 30 miles/hour at 240V, 130 miles after 30 minutes DC rapid-charging
Starting cost: 35,000 USD
The Model 3 is a lot like Elon Musk – attracting a lot of attention and a little bit of controversy. The Model 3 is making anyone’s dream of owning a Tesla a bit more feasible. Musk is shifting his focus to produce affordable vehicles in mass quantities, and the Model 3 is apparently just the beginning. Tesla is currently accepting reservations for the Model 3 and buyers are waiting 12-18 months to have their car delivered.
The Model 3 goes 0-60mph in just under six seconds running off an efficient dual-motor. The Model 3 also has both a front and rear trunk. One of the most distinctive features is a minimalist dash with a sleek 15” LED screen that sits in the centre, an innovative move that’s sure to change the future of luxury car interiors. There will be a standard version and a long-range, faster version of the Model 3.
Features: Automatic emergency braking; navigation; Bluetooth capability; on-board Wi-Fi and LTE internet connectivity; voice-activated controls.
Some available upgrades: Heated seating; wood décor; surround speakers; tinted glass roof; heated side mirrors; LED fog lamps, and 2 USB ports in back seats.
If you had your eye on the Model X or Model S, be prepared to drop over $100,000 USD. But with falcon doors and 475 km range, the higher end models certainly are worth aspiring to.
Electric Cars: Coming Soon
Keep an eye out through 2018 for the Jaguar I-Pace, the Audi e-Tron Quattro, and the Mercedes-Benz EQ Concept SUV – all models that are starting waitlists, being tested and will soon be on the market. It’s an exciting time for the electric car industry, and things will be changing at lightning speed.
The Carbon Footprint of BEVs
While electric cars may be the way of the future, that doesn’t mean purchasing a BEV is a completely green choice. Lithium-ion batteries require cobalt mining, which has been harmful to the environment and the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As well, discarding a functional car for a BEV still constitutes waste. If you are thinking of replacing your car with a BEV, consider using your current vehicle for as long as possible before making the change. The production of any vehicle requires high emissions and North Americans already purchase millions of new vehicles per year, so it can sometimes be more environmentally sound to keep your current car. You may also consider buying a used BEV.
Also consider ways of offsetting the carbon produced by manufacturing your new vehicle and the increased use of electricity. If you’re in the city, try to take advantage of the transit, bike lanes, and walking distances that urban-living provides. When you do need a new vehicle, BEVs are certainly more efficient and will easily have enough range to accommodate city life.
BEVs are helping us move away from an economy based on fossil fuels, and they will only become more convenient, efficient, and affordable as more individuals and companies make the change.