Range anxiety has been the rage in electric vehicle critiques for years, but studies say most available plug-in cars would get the job done 95 percent of the time. Those numbers were crunched by Columbia University scholars using data from the massive National Household Travel Survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation a few years back. In the end, they found all but 5 percent of trips made by U.S. drivers lasted under 30 miles.
Using the benchmark of 30 miles for the average trip, even the EVs with range-extending gas engines (e.g. the Chevy Volt) would cover most miles logged on electric power alone. It’s enough to make a Saudi oil magnate (or a Chevron executive) toss and turn at night. For consumers who prize range above all else, Tesla has the car that continues to reign as the vehicle capable of the longest distance on a single charge.
But what about the cost per mile of electric range? Mojomotors.com addressed that very conundrum in a recent article. In fact, Mojo went so far as to create a stat for Cost Per Mile of Range (CPMR) using the sticker price of electric vehicles (pre-rebate) divided by the number of miles the automobile could cover on a full battery charge. Here are the top eleven electric vehicles ranked by CPMR. The electric equivalent of miles per gallon (MPGe) were included for additional perspective.
11. BMW i3
At $41,350 before sifting through the options, the BMW i3 is a pricey electric vehicle in a small package. The EPA estimates it can cover 81 miles on a full charge. Using the cost per mile of range metric, it’s actually the most expensive car on the market at $503 CPMR. Then again, it’s the most efficient car on the U.S. market at 124 MPGe.
Priced well above electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and well below the Tesla Model S, the i3 basically created the premium mid-range EV segment. It was recently joined by the new Mercedes B-Class. Despite its ranking on this list, U.S. consumers were all over the BMW i3 in August 2014. Sales of the i3 nearly tripled (from 363 cars to 1,025 cars sold) in August, when the Bimmer outsold even the Toyota Prius plug-in.
10. Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive
The new Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive is not as mini as its BMW competitor, but it stacks up nearly identical in price ($41,450) and electric range. Mercedes recently set its electric range to 85 miles, which moved the electric Benz down a peg from the original Mojo list to $488 CPMR. Without the light, carbon-fiber body of the i3, the Mercedes B-Class cannot meet the same standard of efficiency. It is rated at 84 MPGe, a figure well below the larger Tesla Model S with 60 kWh battery. On the positive side of the ledger, the Mercedes B-Class electric offers 177 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque.
9. Toyota Rav4 EV
Crossovers and SUVs overtook sedans as the best selling segment on the U.S. market in 2014, but there are no all-electric options on the market other than the Toyota RAV4 EV, available only in California. Using its Tesla-sourced battery, the electric RAV4 is one of the range leaders at 103 miles on a full charge. Its hefty sticker price ($49,800) brings its CPMR to $483.
However, what’s a green-car-loving adventurous family to do? If an electric SUV is the only call to make, the RAV4 EV will have to suffice. Hence the extreme demand anticipated for the Model X that will double the RAV4′s range. Should the next Tesla even moderately deliver on its promise, it will cause a sensation.
8. Ford Focus Electric
The Ford Focus Electric is by no means a volume seller, but the Blue Oval EV came to life in August 2014 when it hit its all-time high of 264 vehicles sold in the U.S. Factoring in the pre-rebate price ($35,170) and the car’s range (76 miles), that gives consumers a value of $463 per mile of electric range. At 110 MPG3 city and 99 MPGe highway, the Focus Electric’s 105 MPGe combined makes it the most efficient compact car on the U.S. market and puts it in the eighth spot for overall automobile efficiency.
7. Honda Fit EV
Most U.S. consumers don’t have access to the Honda Fit EV, a compliance car if there ever was one. Currently offered on a three-year lease in select coastal states (e.g. California, New York, New Jersey), the entire output of the Fit EV will total 1,100 vehicles before it is phased out. Nonetheless, its range (82 miles) rated against its theoretical purchase price ($36,625) give this electric Honda a $447 cost per mile of range. Its 132 MPGe in the city rank it second to the BMW i3 among all cars on the U.S. market, while the Fit EV’s 118 MPGe combined give it the third best mileage available to American consumers. Make more, we say.
6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
It has a weird name, takes a beating in reviews, and looks like a car Nelson of the “The Simpsons” would smack with his trademark derision. Nonetheless, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the lowest priced electric vehicle on the market at $22,995 and the sixth most efficient car available to U.S. drivers at 112 MPGe combined. Mix in its 62 miles of electric range and the cost per mile comes to $371, a huge leap from the Honda Fit EV down in seventh place. This segment of mini EVs certainly gets the value factor right. After federal rebates, the i-MiEV would have an MSRP of $15,495.
5. Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Coupe
The immediate impulse may be to hop inside a Smart Electric Drive coupe and challenge a Mitsubishi i-MiEV driver in a sprint to 30 mph. Dont laugh, little electric cars actually have the torque to outrace big guns as long is the speed is below 35 mph. The Smart electric coupe is the most efficient two-seat car in the U.S. at 107 MPGe and the seventh best in mpg overall. At its purchase price of $25,000 before rebate, the 68 miles of range deliver a CPMR of $368 to edge out the i-MiEV. There’s only one way to settle the contest between these mini EVs: Take it to the parking lot for that drag race.
4. Fiat 500e
For consumers outside California and Orgeon, analysis of the Fiat 500e electric car may seem superfluous. However, this limited availability (read: compliance) vehicle does offer a decent value measuring its purchase price ($31,800) against its 87 miles of range. These figures deliver a $366 cost per mile of range. With different sport styling packages and an audible warning feature the 500e has for pedestrians, there are some nice options for consumers in its select markets. With 116 MPGe combined, the Fiat 500e is tops in the minicompact segment and fourth overall in U.S. auto efficiency.
3. Nissan Leaf
August 2014 wasn’t just a good month for the Nissan Leaf EV; it was the car’s best sales month ever, one in which it set a record for battery all-electric vehicles (3,186 units sold). Matching its purchase price ($28,980) to its 84 miles of range, the CPMR comes to $345. Leaf sales have increased 34 percent (year-over-year) through the first eight months of 2014. Its 114 MPGe makes the Leaf the most efficient midsize car on U.S. roads, and fifth in the overall mpg list. That value and practicality are clearly resonating with today’s auto consumers.
2. Chevrolet Spark EV
Like some other low-volume compliance cars on this list, the Chevy Spark EV’s chief obstacle is availability. Consumers with access to a $26,685 car (pre-rebate) that can cover 82 miles on a full charge and churn 327 lb-ft of torque would find no trouble pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, the Spark EV is only available in California and Oregon in limited quantities. At 119 MPGe combined, it is the second-most efficient car on the U.S. market. It also ranks second with a $325 cost per mile of range.
1. Tesla Model S 85 kWh
There are many reasons to consider the Tesla Model S a step above every other electric vehicle. In terms of power and speed, there is no comparison, but its safety ratings honors and unparalelled security also factor heavily into the equation. If electric range is the priority, the Model S with 85 kWh battery is the best option on the market by a long shot at 265 miles.
Even at the sky-high price of $79,900, the Model S 85 still trumps the competition in cost per mile of electric range ($305 CPMR). Its 89 MPGe rating is a reflection of the car’s size and weight, but back to the original premise for a moment. The average trip of American drivers lasts fewer than 30 miles. With 265 miles of range and a network of Superchargers scattered across the country, the old excuses for avoiding electric vehicles just don’t apply to Tesla. That’s the why the company has become such a juggernaut.