Best Electric Car For The Average American

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

Ah, that mythical creature — the “average person” or “average American.” What is the best electric car for the “average American?” It depends on what you consider average, but I’ll present a few scenarios below.

1 + 1 = 2

First of all, the average number of cars per household is just above 2. Generally speaking, that means that even if the household has one short-range electric vehicle, they have another vehicle that can be used for long-distance trips.

But for regular daily use, is a short-range electric car like the Nissan LEAF (84 miles of range), BMW i3 (81 miles of range), VW e-Golf (83 miles of range), or Kia Soul EV (93 miles of range) really adequate for the average person?

Considering that ~99% of trips are under 50 miles (leaving plenty of room for buffer) and ~90% of days have a total of just ~70 miles of driving (with plenty of time between trips to charge — whether from a charging station or a typical electricity outlet), I’d say it’s a given that >70 miles of range is plenty for the average person’s regular, daily needs.

Distance-Distribution-Car-Trips Car-trip-distance-cumulative Daily-distance-car-distribution daily-distance-car-distribution_cumulative


Show Me The Money

But what about cost? Last I checked, the average price paid for a new car in the US was >$31,000. However, I think most people don’t buy cars new. Either way, though, a new Mitsubishi i-MiEV ($22,995), Smart Electric Drive ($25,000), Chevy Spark EV ($25,995), VW e-Golf ($28,995), Nissan LEAF ($29,010), or Ford Focus Electric ($29,170) fall below the average new car price… even before you subtract the $7,500 federal EV tax credit and any other incentives available in your state or city. Alternatively, a used version of one of these models (prices are really low right now) is an option for used-car buyers.

If this “average American” wanted to stretch a little bit, or simply did the math and realized they could chop the price down by $7,500 with the tax credit alone, the Kia Soul ($33,700) would be in the running. If this person was really smart and calculated in the projected gas savings, I imagine that even the Mercedes B-Class Electric ($41,450 before incentives, $33,950 after the US federal tax credit) and BMW i3 ($42,400 before incentives, $34,900 after the US federal tax credit) very easily come in below the average new car price mentioned above (~$31,000).

So, basically, any electric option on the market is as cheap or cheaper than the average new car bought in the US. If you want to focus on used cars, non-Tesla electric cars have seen higher depreciation than gasmobiles, so you can actually get better deals on used electrics right now.

Best Car Options/Features

So, now that we’ve determined that an average household can, in all likelihood, very easily have an all-electric car as one of their two cars, and also that basically all of the non-Tesla electric cars on the market are as cheap or cheaper than the average new car, of these 100% electric cars, which is the best electric car available today?

Of course, that depends on your preferences to some degree. Aesthetics is a big part of the buying decision, as are issues such as interior space and design. But when it comes to electric cars, there are a couple of things that are quite important — the size of the car’s onboard charger and whether or not the car has the capability to “fast charge” at CHAdeMO or SAE Combo fast-charging stations.

Several of the electric cars noted above lack a fast-charging option, while a couple of others have only a 3.3 kW onboard charger, which allows the car to regain only ~10 miles of charge in one hour of level-2 charging. I would cross all of these “compliance cars” off the list. Electric cars without fast-charging capability include the following:

  • Fiat 500e
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Mercedes B-Class Electric
  • Smart Electric Drive

Electric cars with fast-charging capability but with only a 3.3 kW onboard charger include:

  • Chevy Spark EV
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV

So, that leaves the:

  • BMW i3
  • Kia Soul EV
  • Nissan LEAF
  • Volkswagen e-Golf
Silver and black BMW i3 at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)
BMW i3
2015 Kia Soul EV Price
Kia Soul EV
Nissan Leafs Barcelona
Nissan LEAFs
VW e-Golf

Now, we really getting into personal preferences. The BMW i3 has quicker acceleration than any of the others here (7.1 second to 60 mph versus 11.8 seconds, 10.2 seconds, and 10.4 seconds, respectively), and also has a bit more of a “luxurious” interior. Additionally, it uses more-expensive carbon fiber, a lot of recycled materials, and some green materials like bamboo and eucalyptus that are quite nice but not as cheap as plastic. This all adds a bit of a luxury, performance, and green premium. (Note that the BMW i3 was named “World Green Car of the Year” in 2014, “2015 Green Car of the Year” by another ranking team, and is technically the most efficient car on the entire US car market.) However, it only seats four and it has less interior + storage space than the other three cars on this final list.

On the whole the Soul EV, LEAF, and e-Golf have similar specs but very different styles — check out their webpages (I just linked to them on their names there) to compare he details and aesthetics for yourself. And here’s a BMW i3 link for good measure.

Lastly (for this section), something that may be important to note is the fast-charging standard that each of these cars use, and a certain charging perk. The i3 and e-Golf use the SAE Combo fast-charging standard, while the LEAF and Soul EV use the CHAdeMO fast-charging standard. Without a doubt, CHAdeMO stations are more common these days, as they are generally installed at Nissan dealerships. Additionally, in several states, Nissan has a “No Charge to Charge” program that provides LEAF drivers with free charging. I don’t know how important these factors are to the “average” person — most people charge at home while sleeping the large majority of the time — but it’s certainly something for any electric car buyer to consider. (That said, though, the SAE Combo network will theoretically be built out to approximately the same size and usefulness as the CHAdeMO network, and there are free programs and charging stations for some people using SAE Combo chargers as well.)

Best Electric Car For The Average American

So, we are back to the original question. In my personal opinion, I think the case is well enough made that the i3 is the best electric car for the hypothetical average American (people do like luxury and performance). But if you want more space and seating, the Soul EV, LEAF, or e-Golf probably is. If you want a normal-looking car, the e-Golf is surely your best option. If you want better fast charging options, the LEAF is probably the best electric car for you.

I think you get the point… it’s very much a personal decision at this stage. And, for that matter, it’s a personal decision if fast-charging capability is important for you. If not, the Mercedes B-Class Electric could well be the best electric car offering on the table — if you’re charging at home 99% of the time, or on level-2 charging stations because that’s all that is available at your work or at other destinations you commonly frequent, fast-charging capability may not matter at all to you, and the B-Class Electric’s superior 10 kW onboard charger may be super useful.

Wait A Sec… What About Range Security?

As I already argued, the range of these cars is probably more than adequate for at least one of the average household’s two cars. But sometimes humans are very illogical. In fact, we often are. The large majority of people know very little about electric cars, and they are generally probably nervous about switching to the technology. Additionally, they could legitimately run into significant speed bumps as they get used to it — like not realizing that the “range remaining” estimate is not precise, and that they shouldn’t drive their cars down to “0 miles of charge remaining.” Also, there are times when we suddenly have to drive more than we expected — for some reason or another.

For this reason, a plug-in hybrid electric car, extended-range electric car, or range-extended electric car may be the best initial electric car for many people… maybe even the “average American.” If that is the case, then the only car from the list above that can still be considered is the BMW i3 (with the range extender, or REx, option). However, these other cars could be good or very good options:

  • Chevy Volt ($34,170, or $26,670 after the US federal tax credit)
  • Ford C-Max Energi ($31,770, or $28,010 after the US federal tax credit)
  • Ford Fusion Energi ($33,900, or $29,893 after the US federal tax credit)
  • Audi A3 Sportback e-tron ($37,900 — not clear yet how much the US federal tax credit will be for this model, but probably ~$4,000)

Again, the subjective preferences like discussed earlier come into play a great deal here, but it’s important to note that the i3 REx and Volt offer the most electric driving range, by far. Additionally, they are the only ones that don’t have a gasoline engine kick in at certain speeds, at certain rates of acceleration, and in some other unique cases. From my experience driving plug-in hybrids, I don’t think they compare with the BMW i3 REx or Chevy Volt, but I’ll leave that to individuals to decide.

Think you’re the “average American,” or have other thought to add and want to chime in about the “best electric car” in the US? Join the conversation in the comments below!


Tesla Model S vs BMW i3 vs Nissan LEAF — My Dilemma

BMW i3 Review

Nissan LEAF Review

VW e-Golf In-Depth Video Review

BMW i3 In-Depth Video Review

Electric Car Charging Capabilities — Comparison of 27 Models

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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80 thoughts on “Best Electric Car For The Average American

  • Doesn’t work for me. The Gen 2 Volt is the best! I commute daily and during the weekends, I enjoy life truly! My working commute is 60 miles round trip, and this coming winter, I’ll be hitting the slopes most weekends. During the summer, I hit the beaches. I live in Fresno. No other vehicle can deliver like the Volt. Even all of the Teslas won’t cut it for me.

    The American Dream… Work hard…. Play hard… Go anywhere…

    • If my truck dies before the (Bolt, Mod3 or next Gen. Nissan) comes out ill buy a Volt. It really is a great car. How often do you have to fill your tank up?

    • The American dream made by the South Koreans with an ICE made in Mexico?!

      • A healthy middle class and healthy economy is over rated.

      • Interesting. I wasn’t aware of how global their supply chain was for their showcase “next gen” (ok, halfway to an EV) car.

        • There is nothing wrong with that. Just wish GM was a bit more serious about EVs, not only by making great ones, but also by selling them world-wide.

          • Worldwide sales and/or simply greater sales. Even though GM seems serious we have yet to see significant sales… Yes I realize they are significant from an EV/hybrid sales perspective but still nowhere near a high volume seller.

          • Just to compare (can’t believe I am giving them credit), Toyota sold the second gen. Prius literally world-wide making it a huge success. By comparison what is GM doing with the 2016 second gen. Volt? Selling it in selective few states and declaring from the get-go that they would not make a right-hand drive version (they did with gen. 1).

          • I should retract my point that GM seems serious… I fear the Bolt will sell in just as if not more limited numbers.

            I think we are still 2 generations away from decent sales numbers. The next generation will hit that sweet spot of 200mile range (2017-2018) that will start to convert people but it will take another generation (2021-2022?) and several manufacturers coming on board to make a real difference. Then we potentially still have the problem of needing larger vehicles like trucks that are affordable EV’s…

            Sigh then another 20 years to replace the existing fleet… At least we are moving in the right direction.

          • They did with gen 1 but it didn’t sell so they gave up on Europe – for now.

          • Arguably they didn’t seriously try as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera was priced significantly higher than the Chevy Volt twin which was almost impossible to find. Then Opel and Chevy dealerships weren’t allowed to cross-service them…

            Anyway, GM can, should, and hopefully will do better sooner than later.

      • “Initially, the new engine will be made in Mexico. GM will move
        production to Flint, MI during the first year it makes the 2016 Volt.” – Autoblog

    • Marion….I live in northcentral PA where the winters are long and very cold. Heating only the seats and steering wheel just isn’t going to cut it for my freezing feet. Blasting out much-needed heat, I know, will cut my battery life. What does a shivering Volt owner do?

      • The engine comes on to warm you either by reaching a certain temp (35F, 25F or 15 F depending on model year, setting) or by the driver engaging charge hold mode. One can also precondition the car by heating the interior and battery while the Volt is still plugged in.

        Burning gas is great for making heat, not so good for propulsion.

      • That’s the cool thing about the Volt. Blast away! Range will be cut, but you will get where you need to go. A pure EV may leave you stranded.

      • Lynne, I also live in Northcentral Pa. I installed a 240 V charger to warm my Volt up before driving to work on cold mornings, which we’ve had a few of already. And I wear warm clothing for the ride. Also the eco setting really helps with range reduction.

    • Marion. Amen to that! You speak for the practical masses. Now if they can fold in the rear cupholders and take a little off the console we can get legs in the rear middle seat.

  • As a supercommuter without workplace charging, in a state with a huge charging “desert”, only a Tesla or a PHEV made sense, and there’s no way I’m spending Model S prices on any car. Looking forward to the day all my miles can be electric, but driving an lease-return CPO Volt until then.

    Use cases vary – match vehicle capabilities to yours…

    • Yes, this is a hugely subjective matter. And the Volt is definitely the #1 option for many people, imho.

  • Great summary. I like your points about 2 car households being able to own at least 1 “range limited” EV and that basically, it’s whatever meets the buyers needs the best. For my wife, it was all about looks, she didnt even care to drive it. Just wanted something that she thought looked nice…

    • Yeah, it’s really funny to do first-time test drives or discuss the matter with different people. Hugely different preferences, opinions, “needs.”

      • What’s great but probably the most frustrating is the “needs”. That’s why I’m a fan of the 1 week test drive…it forces skeptics to confront an EV in their daily lives (assuming they’re at all interested) and typically they’re blown away by what it actually is and realize the compromise isn’t that much of a compromise 🙂

        • Where can you do a 1 week test drive?!?!?

          (I give it a 50/50 shot I can sell an ev using that…)

          • That’s my personal strategy for spreading the word…when I go on trips for work or otherwise, I try to let someone borrow my leaf for the week.

          • Aww man… so there’s no formal program for this?

            Cuz I’ve been trying to convince both my brother that an EV would be perfect for him, but he’s tentative. I really think there’s fair odds if he just tried it for 1 week, he’d go for it. (He lives a ways out from his work, about 20 miles each way and no gas station along his path. Has to make a trip to town for gas – but electricity is already wired in his garage for tools…)

            (Got him checking out solar too! He got a few quotes that we’re discussing tonight)

          • Turns out BMW does offer a 3 day test drive for the i8… and Nissan offers a 4 day test drive in the UK…

            Not sure a 3 day test drive would be sufficient… they really need to be able to charge it at home 3-4 times (enough to avoid going to a gas station) to get a good feel for it. But it’s a start! (If only they’d do it in the US…)

          • So jealous of those several-day UK test drives. Test drove the Zoe and A3 e-tron in the UK before test driving any cars in the US. Was expecting to get them for a few days in the US based on the UK system. Nope….

          • Wouldn’t it be nice?

            I think the difference is, here in the US they simply haven’t committed to selling EVs. Most dealers sell them to people interested, but much prefer to sell ICE cars… Tides are changing though…

          • On second thought…it would be fantastic if dealers knew this. With 1/3 of customers willing to consider an EV and a 50/50 success rate…that would mean we could sell EVs to ~16% of buyers. Not a bad rate and all it would take would be a few loaner EVs per dealership…

          • Oh yeah… I bet if they lent out a used nissan leaf for 1 week trials (One that came in off a lease) they could probably sell it with a pretty high success rate…

            Quite nice of you to do that with your personal car – but given the trouble they’re having selling all the used Leafs as they come in from lease (and the resulting low price), I’d think someone would try it…

  • Avg 2 cars per household hides important details:

    1 car households = 34%
    2 car households = 31%
    3 car households = 35%

    Looking at this map of cars per household shows some small cities in mostly rural areas like Syracuse, NY (pop 180K) average 1 car per household while others near bigger cities avg. 2. And it is precisely these rural areas that are likely to see the biggest variation of very short trips most of the time but much longer drives to visit grandparents back on the farm on weekends.

    Since each car goes through 3 owners on average (2/3 of annual car sales are used), a pure EV at this stage cuts out a lot of potential resale customers who are not in bigger cities or not in 2-car households. This has to show up in depreciation which is part of the long term cost of ownership. And even in 2-car households, if one wants to visit relatives in one place while the other wants to go fishing, you still need extended range.

    At this point, it is still all up for grabs and very individual but I think something like the Volt is the best for average folks like me even in a two car household.

    But we really have to face the fact that half of all vehicles sold are trucks and SUVs. Arguing they don’t really need that much space is not going to convince anyone of anything. Current EVs and those coming in 2018 are simply out of the running for those buyers, and even the EREVs are too small. The model X is significantly smaller than a Honda CR-V which is a very big seller and considered a medium sized SUV.

    We have a ways to go.

    • I just followed the link in the article to the Ford web site on the C-Max Energi. I could not find the estimated all-electric range. I know I could get it by looking at or someplace but if the manufacturer doesn’t want to publish it, it tells you it isn’t anything to brag about. Some love it, and it has much more room than a Volt, but it is a baby step in terms of getting where we need to be. Most would wait for the next generation before buying it.

      C-Max Energi is rated at 20 miles on battery.

      • It’s unfortunate. Ford used to boast about the Energi’s 600+ mile range (including 21 miles electric). But the MPG estimate fiasco has made them quiet when it comes to advertising these numbers.
        The still show 95/81MPGe CIty/Hwy, but that confuses the general public, because their knowledge of “equivalent” miles per gallon is lacking.
        In reality, the all electric range of about 21 miles can be much closer to 25 in normal driving. The benefit of a PHEV is in fact, the plug, which gives the owner the ability to add miles to the range every day, thus lessening the use of gasoline all together.

    • Nice info. Thanks! 😀

      “The model X is significantly smaller than a Honda CR-V which is a very big seller and considered a medium sized SUV.”
      -Which dimensions?

      • Honda CRV: 179″ L x 72″ W x 65″ H, capacity 35.2 cu.ft.

        Tesla Model X: Length 197 in, Width 82 in, Height 64 in, total storage capacity 66 cu ft (no engine up front, 3rd row, etc)

        Looks like Mx = 18″ (1.5′) longer, 10″ wider, 1″ shorter.
        Storage capacity = much larger.

        • Where did you get the storage capacity? I used EPA figures which show different numbers.

          • Well I made a mistake too, which I’ve since corrected in my original comment. It appears the CR-V and X are roughly comparable – with an edge to the X. So we’re getting into SUV-land, but truck territory is still an unexplored area and in the US that is “hyoooge” as ‘the Donald’ might say.

      • I was mostly wrong but not entirely. I will edit my original post. That is what comes from relying on memory.

        It was from looking at the EPA specs on storage discussed here:

        For some reason, the EPA gives specs for interior space on X but not CR-V. The Honda CR-V specs are here:

        Passenger Volume is a bit larger on the CR-V (LX version) at 95.7 vs. 94 on Model X.

        Luggage volume (seat up) on the X is greater at 26 cu. ft. for X vs 16.6 for CR-V (I assume includes “frunk” on X) so total volume is 7.7 cu ft. larger on the X at 120 vs. 112.3. It would appear that the frunk is what makes the X more spacious.

        This is counter-intuitive since the X has larger exterior dimensions. I saw an X go by the other day on the road, and it is possible the curvy nature of the back cuts into interior volume. The CR-V is more of a box with a larger length jutting behind the wheels, so wheel base measurements are missing more length on the CR-V than the X.

    • “The model X is significantly smaller than a Honda CR-V”


      Uh . . . the Model X can carry 7 adults. The Honda CR-V can only carry 5.

  • It is not a pure electric car but I think the Chevy Volt would be a GREAT car for a very large number of people. I’m pure electric guy myself but a lot of people are just not ready for pure electric yet. The Chevy Volt has many advantages for people not willing to go full EV yet:
    -Can be refueled with gas and driven just like a gas car.
    -Can be charged overnight with an ordinary 110V outlet.
    -Gasoline engines mean no worries about loss of range in the cold.
    -Can handle some 94+% of commutes with no gasoline.

    GM REALLY needs to put that Voltec drivetrain in more car bodies like SUVs, crossovers, larger sedans, and even a pick-up.

    • Agreed, the 2017 volt should be a great option for a lot of people. The 2016 Volt will only be available in select States. The 2017 Volt is supposed to be available in all States starting in April/May of 2016.

    • TOTALLY agree. And I actually expect it to be the #1-selling EV in the US within a year.

    • “GM REALLY needs to put that Voltec drivetrain in more car bodies like SUVs, crossovers, larger sedans, and even a pick-up.”

      THIS for sure! I also wonder the same about Nissan – why not smack the Leaf guts into their Juke and cube? I know they have the eNV200 (at least in Japan) but c’mon. I suppose that will happen as time rolls on.

    • This. Give me a pickup and an SUV. 20+ mile electric range, 2,500 lbs towing on the truck, mid 2000s size for the SUV and halfway decent mpg when on gas and my family will take 1 of each… (assuming it’s not prohibitively expensive…)

      (I’m serious… actually looked into retrofitting one myself, and considering it, but i’d buy one tomorrow if it were there…)

  • The whole idea of “average” is pretty slippery. For many years the best selling vehicle in the US has been the Ford F-150 pickup. When I was considering purchase of a Tesla Model S, I did a detailed spreadsheet exploring the 10-year cost of ownership to a number of other gas vehicles. One big caveat was that I could only guess the residual value of the Tesla at the end of 10 years, so I assumed it to be zero for all the vehicles. The spreadsheet showed that the 10-year cost of ownership for theTesla was almost exactly the same as the F-150. I can NOT look you in the eye and seriously claim that the Tesla is a bargain. I can claim that for most people (given the way they use it), the Tesla makes as much financial sense as the best selling vehicle in America. Given the present Tesla used-car prices, I might make a case that it’s even better.

    • Great perspective. Would be super fun to do an article on that comparison. Any interest? 😀

      • Ha! Now there’s a recipe for flame bait. The main core of the argument is pretty straightforward and we can get that from the Total Cost of Ownership page at Edmunds. They list a basic F150 at about $33,000 but their calculator only projects for 5 years. Extrapolating their data to 10 years, we get oil change/filter costs of about $2000 and gasoline at $25,000. That puts the 10 year cost at about $60,000 just for those three items. My Tesla base cost was about $70,000 with a Federal tax credit and State rebate of $10,000, giving an inintial cost of $60,000. There will be no oil change costs, and my electricity comes from my solar panels so we are already in the same ballpark, but now the quibbling begins. Because of regenerative braking, I expect my Tesla brakes to last the life of the vehicle, but will that turn out to be true? Etc, etc, etc.

        • Haha, I didn’t even know about the Total Cost of Ownership page at Edmunds. 😛

          Looks like a solid story, and definitely some flame bait. 😀 Want to write it? Or want one of our writers to run with it?

          • Alas, I must remain anonymous so feel free to use this idea as you see fit. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with it.

          • OK, no worries. I’ll pitch it to writers until I have a taker. 😀

        • I don’t think you will be hauling as much in your Tesla as the F150 owner. You forgot to add the solar costs in there too.

          • And now you see why I declined to write the article. I am very aware of the opportunity costs of my solar investment – about 9 cents per kWH I produce. And have you ever noticed how the bed paint in suburban pickups is almost pristine? The second worst part of my analysis after fuel costs was the projected repair costs in year 5-10, and I used to own an F150 so it wasn’t purely theoretical. The point is that if you don’t like the original premise, you can find an unlimited number of quibbles and your post is proof of concept.

          • A Tesla Model S can carry 962 pounds.

            While this is a lot less than the theoretical payload limit for an F-150, it is far more than most F-150 buyers will ever haul.

    • The F-150 makes no financial sense for almost everyone who buys it. It is, to put it impolitely, a penis substitute. (Or, to put it politely, a “lifestyle statement”.)

  • Don’t dismiss the four cars that do not offer DC fast charging. A 6.6kW level 2 charger can provide more than 20 miles per hour of range. Maybe not ideal for long distance driving, but for daily commuting, and errand running, more than sufficient.

    • “Maybe not ideal for long distance driving” — You mean, NOT AT IDEAL.

      “but for daily commuting, and errand running, more than sufficient.” Maybe for you.

      I live in the suburbs of denver. Commute is 25 miles each way in addition to running errands = barely sufficient. That’s why the volt is the best for me.

      • If you’re driving roughly 75 mile a day (your 50 miles to get to and from work, and another 25 of running around), you can charge easily with a 6.6kW charger in the time you have available. Any of these listed cars, not limited to the DCFC cars could accommodate that.

        • Add $1000 to the price for the annoyingly overpriced “charging station” you’ll have to install, though.

    • I suppose I go the other way. We own one car with fast charging and one without. I wouldn’t call fast charging a “have to have” but it’s definitely a nice to have as it opens up more options. I wouldnt have been able to drive to lancaster without it. Or the Solar Power show in Anaheim. i would have had to rent a car/bus or whatever. For those with just one car and considering going EV, I wouldn’t do it without fast charging. Just my .02 though…

  • There is no legal parking for ‘second’ cars on city owned boulevards in some cities.
    That includes 18ft from the street’s centreline,
    Check with your local by-laws before parking a second car around a residential area.

    • In the US? US parking requirements are absurdly high (from my experience getting a master’s degree in city & regional planning). But yeah, I’m sure there are places… particularly in big cities.

  • Quick correction…the Kia Soul EV uses CHAdeMO quick charging, same as the LEAF. The article claims SAE. EVs built by Asian manufacturers use CHAdeMO (LEAF, Soul, iMiev)

    • Whoops. I made that correction in the original. Making it here now.

  • Out of the remaining BEV choices
    BMW i3
    Kia Soul EV
    Nissan LEAF
    Volkswagen e-Golf
    the VW e-Golf and Kia Soul EV are not sold nationwide. The Kia Soul EV is sold in only a few locations and the VW e-Golf is sold in CARB States (compliance car).

    The only 2 choices for the majority of States are the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. If you’re in colder climates, I recommend researching “BMW i3 winter” to get others experience on driving in snowy conditions with the BMW i3.

    • Indeed. I could line up test drives or loaner vehicles of the e-Golf or Soul EV in Florida. Definitely compliance cars.

  • OK, I think the list is generally a fair ranking of mainstream new EV choices. You quickly crossed off the “Compliafornia” models – although the Kia and VW technically still are unavailable in most places and – thankfully – you didn’t simply tell everyone to wait for the Tesla 3, as I was honestly expecting you would be doing.

    Trouble is, the “average America” household can’t afford even the lowest price mainstream EV generally available – the Leaf – as a new car, since the median American household income for 2014 was just $53, 657 . . .

    Realty check: there isn’t a lending institution that I’m aware of that would allow a married couple making this sort of money to finance ANY new car in this price range and probably well below that figure. My wife and I are above that statistical yearly income average – and I’m now a bit pleasantly surprised – by a wider margin than I would have thought before I found that link. But even we had to jump through a few hoops to get her $7K used 2007 Honda Fit last year and my upcoming used 2012 $7K Mitsu i-MiEV this year.

    Unless you have no kids on their way to or already in college and plan to move out of that nicely-appointed cardboard box out on the street corner you’ve been occupying since the housing bubble burst late last decade to actually inhabit that sub-$31K new EV, I don’t see how it’s possible. Not on a median household income of $53+K in the U.S, in 2015!

    So, I would say that the best EV for the average (median income) American household would be a USED one and, specifically, a used Leaf, since clean pre-owned examples are currently plentiful, dealers are everywhere to cover anything that does go wrong eventually and the size/form factor of the Leaf
    meets most needs. Happy hunting . . .

    . . . and even though I’m now officially a card-carrying i-MiEV fanboy, I do realize the diminutive melted electric jelly bean is not for everyone.

    • Used (2011-2012) Leafs can be had all day long for ~$10k so not too much more. Factor in the gas savings and that’s basically the same range as her fit – and newer. I was blown away when I started looking and eventually traded my Prius in for a basically new Leaf.

      • Sure. But with a kid in school 100 miles up the road, one of those cars had to be something that would do the round trip without the drama of high speed charging that may or may not be working on any given day. That infrastructure wasn’t in place on I-10 until very recently and still isn’t exactly what I would call reliable even today. A gas sipper was the only practical/affordable option for “household car number 1” in the fall/winter of 2014 and, again, the sub-$10K used price was what our income bracket dictated. Used Priuses at that time that didn’t look like high school shop science project rebuilds were all well above $12K. Absolutely no regrets that my wife chose the Fit.

        Meanwhile, I basically decided to not keep putting band-aids on my 19 year old Saturn back in the spring of 2014 and resigned to buy a used EV as soon as I could. Financial reality, again, dictated that this wasn’t going to happen for well over a year and a half (ie: right about now) and I made life work by using a bicycle as our “2nd car” all that time. There were some carefully planned busy days for both of us that involved juggling a single vehicle. A friend who lives up the street also kindly loaned us their 2nd car a couple of days when even this wouldn’t mesh.

        The wait I endured on the used EV purchase also coincided with a time period where enough 1st generation used ones were coming off their 3 year lease. The used lots were beginning to swell with them by this summer and prices dropped accordingly. I know a LOT of people here who started buying used Leafs when the ticket was
        dropping to around $14K. Most had to travel to California to get them at that price and have them shipped back. Used EV already in Arizona ready to purchase? Add $2K to $3K to the price. Maybe more.

        Even if I could afford a used EV in the spring of 2014, the prices are far lower now and the wait is going to be worth it. The same used i-MiEV I’m buying for $7K today would have been around $13K back then. Used Leafs in the spring of 2014? All $18K or above for clean examples. I know, because I’ve been carefully and regularly looking at the market since then.

        It’s hard for people who make $100K a year to appreciate what a $60K household has to do to make ends meet. I’m not trying to be arrogant by stating that, but it’s just the simple truth. The fudge factor of few thousand dollar here or a few thousand dollars there for the upper incomer that they barely give a 2nd thought to can be an absolute deal killer for the lower income one. The lower income earner is also smart enough to know that a higher purchase price item might be more affordable in daily operational cost. But if the initial purchase price of the item is too high to financially qualify for, it’s largely an academic argument.

        I’m reminded, once again, that the article is supposed to be about EV choices for the average American. Yet the irony is that NO median average income American household (~$53K) is able to afford a median price new car in 2015, EV or otherwise. I’m happy for the folks who get to go water skiing every weekend in the summer and do the mountain resort thing on their winter time off. But to pretend that that they can do all that AND finance a new car well above the median price means their incomes are so far above the statistical average, it isn’t even funny.

        • Thank you for the detailed story.

    • The average American can’t afford a new car. PERIOD.

  • For my money, the BMW i3 and the Chevy Volt are the best way to participate in a mostly electric driving experience. The BMW is the better of the two drivers, and if the i3 Rex came equipped with a 7 gallon tank I would take it over the Volt. But I choose to have only 1 car, so the Volt wins.

    • Both are impressive cars as they are, and both show an exciting future to come. I do miss my Volt, but the person driving it now loves it even more than I did and that is really great!

  • I am not american and i never been there so i don’t know how they think but looking at the analysis above it make to much sense to say that 50% of the market is nice place to the EVs, as a the second car should be small for the inside town trips which EVs can do better.
    I am ready to reduce it to 40% giving 10% to rare case for those who think to use the second car for safety reason when the big car get a defect outside the town to bring someone to repair it.

  • Why would you cross out cars without fast charging? Your own math shows most trips are well within the range of these cars. I have had two EVs in a row and 99% of my charging is at Level 1 (110 volt normal plug). Only when I need a little extra boost to squeeze in another trip do I use our Level 2 charger. Level 3…would not need it.

    I would recommend ANY electric car on the market. My personal recommendation is to look at the safety ratings of each car and determine which one you buy based on what you feel will keep your precious cargo as safe as possible. There are differences in the safety ratings of EVs.

  • Good article but I’m very surprised at the data provided for the Nissan LEAF. My car just passed 67,00 miles. I purchased the first year, (2011) Nissan LEAF and it still accelerates 0-60 in under 7 seconds every day of the week. The acceleration is definitely NOT 10.2 seconds. By 10.2 seconds I’m doing 80 + at the very least. The other thing in charge time. As many of you may know, the original LEAF came with a 3.3 kW on-board charger. Before taking delivery, I wondered about this decision but it certainly was not going to keep me from buying the car. As it turns out, the car rarely ever takes more than 3 hours to fully charge. On the rare occasion I get the range below 20 miles it can take more than that, but that is unusual. My average rate of charge has been 19 – 21 miles per hour depending on the level 2 charger I’m using. I’ve never seen the data presented in this article relative to the LEAF. I’m wondering what the source is?

  • Here is why your information is wrong My Ford Focus Electric has a 6.6KW system built into the car, you have it on list of slow charge you dont know what your talking about. on 220 volt charger, from 2 miles left to full charge 3 to 4 hours. That 17 to 18Kw to charge up. My volt with 2 miles left to full charge on 220 volt charger takes 3 and a half hours to charge 10 Kw of full charge.So which car has best charging system. Thats right Ford. I also have a Ford C-max Energi. Ford for the money has the best engineered electric cars. Hands down! Please get your fax right before you write information.

    • You’ve misunderstood some terminology. I was referring to the Focus Electric not having a DC fast-charging port, which means you basically can’t use the car for road trips — spending a few yours to charge every ~80 miles just doesn’t work. The Volt and Energi models also don’t have such ports, of course, but they can travel on gasoline, making long trips an option.

      It’s not everyone’s requirement to be able to take a road trip with your electric car, but I’m including it as one.

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