Electric Dreams: 11 Cars Worthy of a Look in 2014

Source: Suntech Power Holding

Electric vehicles may be hitting their stride. As drivers continue to see the benefits and automakers continue to improve on them, it’s likely that electric vehicles will only continue to gain in popularity.

Up until a year or two ago, the options for electric cars were exceptionally limited. Now, however, buyers have a wide range available to them, from the compact Nissan (NSANY.PK) Leaf to the mighty Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S. Here are the 11 different cars that are — or will be — available in the U.S. this year.

The following cars are purely electric, not plug-in hybrids. We decided to omit the latter, as there are enough of them on the market to warrant their own article. Therefore, you won’t find the Chevy (NYSE:GM) Volt, Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius plug-in, or the Ford (NYSE:F) Energi cars in these rankings, even though they have electric-only capabilities.

Additionally, some vehicles are only available in select markets, while others can be found nationwide. The mileage is measured in miles per gallon equivalent; you can read more on how that compares to conventional metrics here.

Since we here at Wall St. Cheat Sheet haven’t driven the vehicles in question ourselves, we turned to the automotive expertise of Edmunds.com for some insight as to the pros and cons of each vehicle. The following are ranked alphabetically.

BMWi3Driving

1. BMW i3

Base price: $42,275 (includes destination)

Fuel economy: 125 mpge combined

Pros and cons: The BMW i3 is BMW’s first foray into the electric car market, and it is radically different from the rest of the company’s line. Edmunds noted that the i3 is compact and lightweight, seats four (presumably rather comfortably), boasts strong acceleration and crisp handling and performance, and even offers a notably refined ride at high speeds. However, the range is fairly limited without the extender — which runs on gas — and then there are the polarizing looks that set the i3 apart from other offerings completely.

Options to splurge on: If range is a concern, the range extender version (about $4,000 more) should be a good investment. Other than that, no further options have been disclosed save for rim choices and paint options. The i3 should be hitting dealers sometime this spring.

Chevrolet Spark EV

2. Chevrolet Spark EV

Base price: $26,685

Fuel economy: 119 mpge combined

Pros and cons: Edmunds commended the Spark EV’senergetic” acceleration, its “eager” handling, and decent range relative to some other electric vehicles in its segment — about 82 miles on a full charge. It also packs a body-tenderizing 400 pound-feet of torque. Additionally, Edmunds enjoyed the ”cheerful” interior design. However, the Spark EV is relegated strictly to the California and Oregon markets, and it reportedly takes a long time to recharge, even when hooked up a 240-volt charger.

Options to splurge on: The base Spark EV comes pretty well equipped, with fog lights, a USB port, and keyless entry. Upgrading to the 2LT trim (about $500 over base), though, will add pewter leatherette heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a DC Fast Charger.

Fiat500e

3. Fiat 500e

Base price: $31,800

Fuel economy: 116 mpge combined

Pros and cons: Edmunds called the Fiat‘s (FIATY.PK) cruising range — about 100 miles in the city — “impressive” (and for a car its size, it really is), and also noted that it has quicker acceleration than the base gasoline-powered 500. It noted that the vehicle fun to drive, easy to park, and quite stylish for an electric car. On the downside, the battery pack and its components “consume valuable rear legroom and cargo space,” according to Edmunds, while the front is cramped in the headroom area with the sunroof. Sales are limited to California.

Options to splurge on: The only offerings for the 500e are some alternative wheel options, but if you’re going to change up the rims, put down for the ESport Package ($495), which adds cast aluminum wheels, black-trimmed lights, and orange mirror caps — it doesn’t sound like much, but it looks a whole lot cooler.

2013_ford_focus-electric

4. Ford Focus Electric

Base price: $35,170

Fuel economy: 105 mpge combined

Pros and cons: Edmunds has not reviewed the Focus Electric separately from the conventional model, but Green Car Reports was able to fill in. The layout is very similar to the gasoline model, so Focus owners will find the electric version quite familiar. Driving-wise, Green Car Reports found it to be solid, smooth, and sporty.” It’s available in select states, but not just on the West Coast. With 143 horsepower, it’s more powerful than others in the EV class, but that translates into lower range, which is rated for about 76 miles. It’s also more expensive than other EVs in its segment.

Options to splurge on: Ford does not offer extraneous options for the Focus Electric, though it comes rather well equipped as standard.

Honda Fit EV

5.Honda Fit EV

Base price: Lease only, $259 per month for three years.

Fuel economy: 118 mpge combined

Pros and cons: For the 2013 model, Edmunds found the Honda’s (NYSE:HMC) range (about 82 miles) to be “excellent”; that was complemented by a spacious backseat, plenty of cargo capacity when the rear seats are folded, and excellent visibility. However, with the seats up, the cargo space is diminished; the braking performance was dubbed “subpar,” and the Fit EV is a lease-only agreement with availability limited to California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island. 

Options to splurge on: Honda does not offer additional options for the Fit EV.

Mitsubishi 2012 MiEV

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Base price: $22,995

Fuel economy: 112 mpge combined

Pros and cons: In its review of the 2012 model (the 2014 edition has yet to be reviewed), Edmunds complimented the MiEV for its ”excellent all-electric efficiency,” a good price, “crisp” acceleration, and its quiet cabin. However, it does have a shorter range than its peers — it’s been claimed for 80-100, but the cars have had trouble reaching that figure, per Edmunds. Also, as quiet as the interior is, the auto publication says it feels cheap, and it offers limited cargo capacity for a hatchback, with limited in-cabin storage. We hope that at least some of these issues were resolved over the last two years.

Options to splurge on: Options have not been disclosed for the 2014 model year.

Nissan Leaf

7. Nissan Leaf

Base price: $28,800

Fuel economy: 115 mpge combined

Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the Leaf’s spacious and quiet cabin, its “ample” features, the fact that — as one of the first mass-market EVs — the Leaf is “established in terms of reliability and availability,” and that it has a pretty affordable base price. However, Edmunds wasn’t so keen on the Leaf’s “limited cruising range” and “mediocre” performance.

Options to splurge on: There is only one package for the Nissan Leaf S — the base model — and that’s the charging package ($1,300), which cuts the full charging time for the Leaf from about eight hours down to four. It also includes a rear-view camera, so that’s a plus.

SmartForTwoElectricDrive

8. Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Base price: $25,000

Fuel economy: 107 mpge combined

Pros and cons: Green Car Reports says that “if you’re still smitten with the design and styling of the Smart Fortwo, you’re probably going to be happier with the version that never needs a gas station.” It’s easy to drive and responsive; it’s a small car, so the anemic 74 horsepower should be sufficient. It can also be quite affordable — like sub-$20K affordable — after the tax credits take effect. However, it’s a tiny car, with limited cargo room, and it’s not very aerodynamic, which could hurt the already limited range (68 miles) on the highway.

Options to splurge on: We would opt for the heated seats ($240) if you’re in the right climate, and the center console storage ($30). Chances are the Smart will be used largely for local city driving, so the cruise control package and navigation would be crucial in this case.

Tesla Model S Red

9. Tesla Model S

Base price: $69,900

Fuel economy: 95 mpge

Pros and cons: Edmunds lauded the Tesla’s excellent battery range, its “sleek” styling, and commended the high level of performance from all the models. It has lots of cargo space, an available seven-passenger configuration, and is supported by Tesla’s supercharger infrastructure, which allows owners free charging. For cons, Edmunds notes that the Tesla’s reliability isn’t known yet, and it “lacks the convenience and familiarity of similarly priced luxury sedans.”

Options to splurge on: If you have kids — more than one, especially — the rear-facing seats ($2,500) would be a good call. There are also fog lamps ($500) and the subzero weather package ($750), which includes washer nozzle heaters, three-zone rear seat warmers, and wiper blade defrosters, if the climate requires it. Naturally, the Supercharger enabling option ($2,000) would be a good bet — consider it a onetime payment for fuel.

Model X Front

10. Tesla Model X

Base price: Currently unknown, but expected to be around $70,000.

Fuel economy: Unknown, but based on the Model S specs, expect a figure around 95 mpge from the 60kWh battery option.

Pros and cons: The Tesla Model X, expected out this fall, is the crossover to wait for if you want something truly different. In true Tesla style, it’s completely electric; it features falcon-wing doors that lift up and an all-wheel drive option that will make it the first production electric car to run on all fours; and it also has Tesla’s trademark 17-inch touchscreen center console. It has the usual EV drawbacks, though: limited range coupled with potentially long recharging times.

Options worth splurging on: It might come to the detriment of range, but the all-wheel drive model might be too good to pass up. If the Model X comes with the Model S-type options, then we’d spring for those, as well.

Der neue Volkswagen e-Golf

11. Volkswagen e-Golf

Base price: Unknown

Fuel economy: Also unknown

Pros and cons: Not a whole lot is known about the e-Golf, as it isn’t expected until later on this year. We do know that it will use a 115-horsepower electric motor and boast a range of about 118 miles, putting it toward the top for the small EV segment.

Options to splurge on: The options for the e-Golf haven’t yet been disclosed.

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