So you're ready to make the jump to an emissions-free battery-electric car. Just 2 years ago, there was only one electric available from a mainstream automaker, the Nissan LEAF. Today you'll find nearly a dozen, with more and better models in the development pipeline. Which EV will best suit your needs, at a price point you can afford? We've picked our top 5 choices, with the refinement and features necessary to serve as a daily driver in a pinch, or as a money-saving dynamo as a second vehicle. Read on for driving range and efficiency specs, charge times, top features and pricing information.
Here are the Top 5 Electric Cars for 2013.
Already a fine electric car, the Nissan LEAF gets a number of upgrades for the 2013 model year to recapture our top pick award for EVs. That starts with greater driving range and efficiency, thanks to improved regenerative braking tech, better aerodynamics and subtle tweaks to the powertrain. The upscale SV and SL trims also receive an improved on-board charging system that cuts charge time in half, now 4 hours, or competitive with the other top electric cars. Also new is the entry-level LEAF S model, which is missing some upscale features but comes at a much lower price: $28,800, or $21,300 after the Federal electric car tax credit, and even under $20k in States with their own EV incentives. The other trim levels have also dropped in price significantly. 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft. of torque bring similar acceleration to the typical compact economy car. The LEAF is by far the top-selling pure electric in the U.S., and it's easy to see why.
EPA-Estimated Range (100% Charge): 84 Miles
Efficiency: 130 city/ 102 highway/116 combined MPGe
Charge Time (240V): 4 hours (SV/SL); 8 hours (S)
Ford's snappy-looking Focus Electric hatchback may slightly trail efficiency and driving range of the other top electric cars, but for your EV dollars you're getting a more comfortable car, with a spacious interior and all the refinement and advanced technology of the standard 2013 Focus. Another benefit: at well under 4 hours using a home 240-volt fast-charge station, the Ford is among the quickest-to-charge of electrics. As for power, you'll find a permanent-magnet electric traction motor making 143 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. For better or for worse, SYNC with MyFord Touch is on hand and features several EV-specific improvements that help maximize range and efficiency by informing the driver of driving habits and their effect on efficiency. And unlike the LEAF, which uses an air-cooled battery pack that may degrade over time in very hot climates, Ford's liquid-cooled system is more stable.
EPA-Estimated Range (100% Charge): 76 miles
Efficiency: 110 city/99 highway/105 combined MPGe
Charge Time (240V): 3.5 hours
In creating the Fit EV, a new model for 2013, Honda was able to keep development costs down by starting with an existing gas-powered model as a platform rather than building from the ground up. Luckily, the platform in question is one of the lightest and best-handling subcompacts on the market. Though the bulky battery pack eats into cargo capacity significantly – the Fit EV is also missing the standard model's innovative rear 'Magic Seat' – you'll still find enough space for groceries and golf clubs. The AC synchronous permanent-magnet electric motor brings 123 horsepower and 189 lb-ft. of torque, and thanks to low curb weight, the Fit EV accelerates from 0-60 mph in just 8.8 seconds, a very good figure for an electric. The Fit's EPA-rated efficiency of 118 combined mpg is the best among all electrics, which you'll notice when it's time to pay that dreaded monthly electric bill. Available only under a lease agreement, Honda's EV is limited to a few test markets for now.
EPA-Estimated Range (100% Charge): 82 miles
Efficiency: 132 city/105 highway/118 combined MPGe
Charge Time (240V): 3 hours
With compact dimensions and toy-like styling, the i-MiEV may not be as fully featured as the other top electrics, and its 62-mile driving range is the lowest among mainstream EVs. However, it's also among the least expensive at under $30k. Due to slow sales, reports continue to flood in of buyers taking home an i-MiEV at significantly less than this, placing it as low as $17k or so after Federal EV tax credits. Buyers in California, Hawaii and a few other States; which supplement the Federal credit with their own incentives; may be able to find the Mitsubishi at under $15,000 out the door, making it a true value proposition as a second car despite the limited range. The rear-wheel-drive, rear-motor 'i' makes just 66 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. of torque, leading to slow acceleration. However, efficiency is outstanding, primarily due to the car's light curb weight. As of the time of this writing, Mitsubishi is still selling the model-year 2012 car as new, with no announcement of a 2013 model. The larger, quicker and longer-range CA-MiEV is in the works and will most likely replace the 'i' sooner rather than later.
EPA-Estimated Range (100% Charge): 62 miles
Efficiency: 126 city/99 highway/112 combined MPGe
Charge Time (240V): 7 hours
Toyota's second-generation RAV4 EV, a new model for 2013, was developed in conjunction with Tesla Motors, makers of the jaw-dropping Model S electric luxury sedan. With the most cargo space among production EVs and the only electric crossover to date, the Toyota occupies a unique place in the industry. It also outperforms the other cars on this list in the all-important driving range category at 103 miles, improving its usefulness as a daily driver. EPA efficiency is lower due to a heavier platform, so you'll notice a higher electric bill than with the Nissan or Honda. Still, it sure beats paying $5 per gallon of gasoline. A powerful electric motor produces 154 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque, leading to a blistering (for an electric) 7.0-second 0-60 mph time when placed in 'Sport' mode. Like the Focus Electric, the RAV4 features an advanced suite of interior infotainment and technology, including Toyota Entune for driving-enhancing and entertainment apps, plus several EV-exclusive active and passive safety technologies. However, all of this comes at a price. At approximately $50,000 before any EV tax credits, the RAV4 is nearly as expensive as the Model S and more than $25,000 more than the base gas-powered 2013 RAV4. You would need to do a ton of driving for many years to make up the difference, but at least all those miles would be emissions-free.
EPA-Estimated Range (100% Charge): 103 miles
Efficiency: 78 city/74 highway/76 combined MPGe
Charge Time (240V): 5 hours