Since the launch of the first Nissan Leaf seven years ago, electric cars have been the purview of ardent environmentalists and early adopters with enough cash to drop on pricey technology still in its infancy. But that’s about to change: Advanced powertrain technology coupled with decreasing costs is putting battery-powered cars and SUVs within reach of the average consumer—especially if tax incentives, which can offset the list price by as much as 25 percent, continue.
One by one this summer, automakers announced that they’re going electric. First Volvo declared it will offer at least one battery hybrid or fully electric version of each of its new models starting 2019. Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and Volkswagen soon followed with similar proclamations. With so many electric models being rolled out at once—not to mention the hoopla surrounding the just-arrived Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, and second-generation Leaf—how is a consumer to know which vehicles are worth the hype?
Here’s our take on a spate of electric autos slated for release over the next three years and the type of buyer they’re most likely to suit. Fun, stylish, and occasionally affordable even without subsidies, these electric vehicles—or EVs, as they’re known—have enough battery power to get you to and from work, and sometimes even enough range for a weekend road trip without any pesky recharge stops.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
The entry-level buyer
Also available as a hybrid, the Hyundai Ioniq electric vehicle debuted as an all-new model in 2017. This fall, it will come as a plug-in hybrid, which runs on a combination of battery power and gasoline. But the fully electric version—unfortunately currently only available to California residents—is the greenest of the Ioniq family. And starting at $29,500, the fully electric Ioniq is the most affordable EV on the market, too.
The five-passenger Ioniq EV can travel up to 114 miles on a fully charged battery. The car runs on a 118-horsepower electric motor mated to a single-speed transmission that produces instant torque.
The cloth-upholstered Ioniq’s interior features eco-friendly materials like lightweight recycled plastic, but buyers who prefer a more luxurious feel can upgrade to leather seats. All models come equipped with an infotainment system that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via a 7-inch touch screen, a feature not normally standard in the class.
2018 Chevrolet Bolt
The Bolt launched earlier this year as a pre-emptive strike against the forthcoming Tesla Model 3. Starting at $37,495 before federal incentives, the five-passenger crossover can achieve 238 miles of electric range—more than the Model 3’s 220.
The new EV from General Motors runs on a 200-horsepower electric motor and a 60-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack that needs nine hours to replenish. However, users can eke 90 miles of range after saddling up to a direct current fast-charging station for half an hour.
The Bolt comes with an extensive powertrain warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles to help fearful customers ease into battery-powered driving.
2018 Tesla Model 3
The recent launch of the much-anticipated Tesla Model 3 has opened the cutting-edge electric vehicle brand to the mass market. Starting at $35,000 before incentives, the sedan can travel up to 220 miles on a fully charged battery, a win for Tesla fans who can’t afford the Model S sedan or Model X SUV, which routinely top six figures after powertrain upgrades and optional features. But trust, the Model 3 will look right at home in your startup’s office parking lot.
The standard model zips from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and can travel 130 miles on a half-hour charge at a supercharging station. A long-range battery version starts at $44,000 to provide 310 miles of range. It’s even faster than the standard model, hitting 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, and has the same supercharging rate as the flagship Model S sedan: 170 miles in half an hour.
The Model 3 took nearly 400,000 reservations before its debut this summer, so you’ll see many of them on the road as the company continues to deliver them to its first customers.
2018 Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf launched in 2010 to become the best-selling electric car in history. The second-generation model, which arrives early next year, improves upon the original, with more electric range and battery power. Starting at $29,990 before incentives, the 2018 Leaf is projected to have a 150-mile range, which should be sufficient to get the average American commuter to and from work for a week without recharging.
The new Leaf will offer Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous technology (read: not quite self-driving) as an option. But the 2019 model, which Nissan says will have even higher motor output and battery capacity, could really be the one worth waiting for.
2018 Jaguar I-Pace
The British brand known for its sleek sports cars stunned the public last year with the launch of its first SUV, but the F-Pace has since become Jaguar’s bestseller. Now Jaguar is preparing to add an electric model to its lineup, the I-Pace, for 2018.
The five-passenger crossover is expected to deliver around 400 horsepower via a pair of electric motors and a 90-kilowatt battery that takes just over two hours to charge. Its range will be about 300 miles—less than its primary competitor, Tesla’s Model X—and it will be one of the quickest crossovers on the market, traveling from 0 to 60 in four seconds.
Jaguar announced in September that it plans to offer at least one hybrid or fully electric powertrain for each of the new models in its portfolio starting in 2020.
2019 MINI Electric Concept
The city slicker
MINI will begin building its second fully-electric, a three-door hatchback, in 2019. Based on the MINI Electric Concept introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show this month, the new car may be challenged by another vehicle shown in Frankfurt: Honda’s Urban EV Concept, a fully electric hatchback that received praise but hasn’t been confirmed for production in the U.S.
The company hasn’t released information on price, range, or power but says the new car will retain the “customary go-kart feeling of the MINI brand into the electric mobility age.” Previously, MINI made a foray into all-electric with its MINI E, a model produced in 2009-10 in such limited quantities that Engadget termed it “more of a rolling tech demo than anything else.” Hybrid fans can tool around in a MINI Countryman plug-in, which debuted late last year.
Electric car startup Faraday Future still needs $1 billion to bring its FF91 (called “the nine one”) supercar to life, but the company is optimistic, insisting the $160,000 car will be ready by the end of 2018.
The 1,050-horsepower car, unveiled to great fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, will shoot from 0 to 60 in an eye-popping 2.39 seconds, slightly faster than a Tesla Model S sedan in Ludicrous mode. And it boasts technology that would make Jason Bourne envious. Using a high-tech combination of screens, cameras, and modems, the crossover can download movies in seconds, park itself, and identify drivers and passengers using iris recognition.
The car has already shown its performance chops: A prototype competed at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a popular proving ground for new vehicles in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
2020 BMW X3
BMW plans to offer a dozen fully electric models by 2025 under its “i” brand line. That includes an electric version of its compact crossover, the BMW X3, set to launch in 2020. The five-passenger crossover has built a strong following among entry-level luxury buyers, young families, and suburbanites since launching in 2003 as a gasoline model. While the automaker has released few details about the X3 EV, the model’s popularity is likely to rise once the zero-emission version debuts.
2020 Volkswagen I.D. Buzz
Volkswagen pleased fans this summer when it said it will bring its all-electric, self-driving twist on the 1960s hippie van to life in 2022. Revealed as a concept at this year’s Detroit Auto Show to great fanfare, the I.D. Buzz will be able to travel up to 270 miles using its all-wheel drive system and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds.
Speed for the I.D. (Volkswagen says the name stands for “individual,” “idea,” or “iconic design”) will be electronically capped at 99 mph. The van, which seats up to eight and can be reconfigured for sleeping, will be programmed with semi-autonomous drive software, so that occupants can ride easy.