These Are The Best Electric Cars You Can Buy in 2022 (That Aren’t a Tesla)

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It’s almost tax time, when a vast swath of the American middle class collects a healthy tax refund and starts browsing the internet for a new car, maybe even a new Tesla. And, because this is CleanTechnica and we hope that your next new car is electric, we thought we’d help by putting together a list of the best new electric cars you can buy in 2022.

Readers who are familiar with my bike lists already know that this is likely to be a highly subjective list, with a few different definitions of “best” thrown in throughout. That said, I’ll try to make any personal biases clear enough in the article, and we’ll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on my picks — and learn more about your picks! — in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Oh, and there’s one more twist: none of these picks will be Teslas.

What I Have Against Tesla

I can hear the questions and criticisms now, but the short, honest answer is that I have nothing against Tesla. In fact, if someone were to ask me out of the blue which electric car they should buy, the answer would almost always be whatever Tesla model is most like the other cars they’re considering. Teslas are fast, seemingly safe, technologically advanced, and relatively affordable. What’s more, the Tesla brand has built up some solid street cred. Despite a RWD (base) Tesla Model 3 carrying a $40,690 starting price tag (including potential incentives), more than one person I’ve talked to about the car have responded with a knee-jerk, “I don’t have $100,000!” That’s what the normies think these cars cost — and whether you think that goes into the “pro” or the “con” column is your business.

So, if the cars Tesla offers are safe, the shopping experience is comfortable, the cost of ownership is low, and the neighbors will be impressed, why wouldn’t you want a Tesla?

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Why You Might Not Want a Tesla

When Elon Musk posted a meme that seemed to favorably compare Adolf Hitler to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, it’s safe to say that it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Musk quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage to his image, and Tesla’s, seems like it was already done. The blowback online (and, frankly, the dubiously racist nature of the comments defending the meme), led me to write an article asking readers what it would finally take to get them to turn their backs on the Technoking of Tesla.

The ensuing comment thread has devolved pretty much into what you’d expect it to devolve into in a post-Trump America, but one comment stood out me as thoughtful, genuine, and relatable. It was written by a user who goes by Mike N., and echoes feelings I’ve heard from other friends as well. Mike N. writes, “I’ve wanted to get a Tesla to replace the Leaf I’ve been driving the last 8 years, but my wife doesn’t want to drive a Tesla because she thinks Elon is a douchebag. This is going to make it a lot harder for me to convince her otherwise, and I’m starting to question whether I even want to anymore. Tesla is a trailblazing company I sincerely hope succeeds, maybe just without its current leader.”

The bad news, of course, is that Tesla, by virtue of its excellent supercharger network, delivers what is still the objectively best charging experience of any electric car brand out there. You can’t just jump into a Chevy Bolt or Nissan LEAF, for example, and get anything approaching the quality of the Tesla charging experience.

The good news is that charging is getting better, apps like Chargeway can improve on each manufacturer’s “clever” attempts to design their own UI and built-in network bias, and the cars themselves have begun to close the gap.

Don’t believe me? Check out my picks for the best Tesla alternatives below, then let us know what you think of them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Tesla Model S Alternatives

Tesla Model S in Snow
Image courtesy of Tesla.

The one that started it all, the big Tesla Model S sedan, still looks sharp more than a decade after it was first shown to the public (that was back in March of 2009). Credit the fact that it was worlds ahead of anything else back then, and that the slight visual tweaks to the car itself have allowed the Model S to keep aging gracefully while the market adapts to it, and not the other way around.

Still, if you want to avoid that musky baggage that the Tesla brand carries around, but demand a sedan that’s big, fast, and electric, you have to ask yourself what it was that attracted you to the Model S sedan in the first place, and shop accordingly.

For the Technophile: Lucid Air Dream

Tesla Model S Alternative Lucid Air Dream
Image courtesy of Lucid.

The Lucid Air Dream Edition “Range” was the first EV to officially crack the 500-mile range number on the EPA’s testing cycle (with 520 miles, or 837 km of range), and it absolutely looked the business doing so. In the same way that the Tesla Model S looked like the future in 2009, the Lucid Air Dream looks like future in 2022.

If you’re the type of Tesla fan or gearhead who likes to talk about things like efficiency, drag coefficients, and ultra-strong, lightweight materials, the Lucid Air Dream Edition Range gives you all the bragging rights. What’s more, the car still kicks out 993 horsepower — enough to move the luxurious sedan from a standstill to 60 mph in just 2.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 168 mph (270 km/h). If you want to beat that, you’ll need to step up to a Model S Plaid … and hope that the guy in the other lane with the Lucid is willing to wait around for ten minutes while you condition your batteries for “Drag Race Mode.”

For the Would-be Racer: Mercedes-AMG EQE53

Mercedes-AMG EQE53
Image courtesy of Mercedes-AMG.

When you think of a German luxury car, you probably think of a Mercedes-Benz. Something heavy, something solid, something surprisingly nimble and powerful enough to give a classic American muscle car a good run at the drag strip. That’s a formula that now applies almost universally to Audi and BMW too, but was once the flag waived solely by Mercedes and its captive tuning firm, AMG. Today, any luxury sedan startup that wants to compete at the highest levels still sees Mercedes-Benz as its benchmark for fit, finish, and performance, and the new 677 HP Mercedes-AMG EQE53 shown above just raised that bar even further.

With that much horsepower on tap, the AMG-spec EQE can rocket to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds on its way to an electronically governed 149 mph (240 km) top speed. It’s no Plaid then, but there’s more to high-performance driving than a 0-60 time. I’d be very much surprised if the AMG loses much ground to a Model S on a proper racetrack, in other words — and even more surprised if the German car’s final fit, finish, and paint were delivered with a standard lower than Tesla’s.

Finally, you might be asking yourself why I chose the EQE and not the larger, range-topping Mercedes EQS. That’s because the EQE and the Tesla Model S are nearly identically-sized, at 197″ long and within 2″ of each other in width and height. The EQS is, simply, in another class.

Tesla Model X Alternatives

Tesla Model X
Image courtesy of Tesla.

The big SUV alternative from Tesla wowed the world with its wild-looking falcon-wing doors, and has remained somewhat popular since its launch, with new models, features, and visual tweaks keeping the biggest passenger Tesla (yet) ahead of the — well, there really isn’t any competition.

Unlike the Tesla Model S sedan, the Model X doesn’t really have any direct, “big electric SUV” competitors quite yet, but if you can’t quite bring yourself to buy the best big BEV on the market, you might want to check out these.

If You Don’t Mind Waiting: Rivian R1S

Rivian R1S
Image courtesy of Rivian.

Packed with clever features and similarly made-in-the-USA, the Amazon- and Ford-backed Rivian R1S is something of a wild card here, but is still new and rare enough to offer a lot of the early-adopter, “look at me” cachet that the Model X falcon doors provide. By all accounts, too, the Rivian platform is comfortable and capable enough to make it a practical alternative to the Model X — one that might even be superior, when it comes to off-roading.

The only real hesitation I had putting the Rivian on this list? No one has received an R1S, yet, and the company is experiencing many of the same kind of production delays that Tesla faced while it was getting off the ground a decade ago. Will that new Rivian R1S you buy in 2022 actually arrive in 2022? You might get your Cybertruck first!

If You Want it Now: Volvo XC90 Recharge

Volvo XC90 Recharge
Image courtesy of Volvo Cars.

Stop — I realize that the Volvo XC90 Recharge is not a “pure” battery-electric vehicle. That said, the XC90 is arguably the vehicle closest to the Tesla Model X in terms of size, seating capacity, and vehicle safety that you can walk onto a dealer’s lot and drive home in today.

If you’re simply not willing to wait for the competition to catch up and can’t bring yourself to buy the all-electric Tesla Model X for some reason, the 18-mile electric range of the XC90 Recharge might be enough to handle most suburban driving adventures. What’s more, Volvo’s commitment to ethical battery sourcing, heavy use of recycled and vegan materials, and general history of putting progressive social ideas into corporate practice might just be enough to offset any guilt you might feel for buying a car with an ICE in it, but whether it is or is not is for you to decide.

Tesla Model 3 & Model Y Alternatives

Image courtesy of of Tesla.

The mainstream Tesla offerings start a little bit higher than the price of an average car — which crept up past $47,000 in 2021 — but the lower fuel and maintenance costs drive the total cost of ownership on the Tesla 3 and Y below that of their ICE alternatives. As above, the Teslas also offer safety, tech, and performance, as well as access to the superior Tesla Supercharger network.

If you absolutely have to shop elsewhere, these are the best alternatives. As with the Model S, however, you have to be honest with yourself about what attracted you to the Model 3 or Model Y in the first place.

You Just Want to Drive Electric: Volkswagen ID.4

Volkswagen ID.4
Volkswagen ID.4. Image courtesy of Volkswagen.

With a reasonable starting price, efficient drivetrain, and access to the second-best electric car charging network in America, the excellent Volkswagen ID.4 is the car I’d recommend to someone who’s not willing to buy a Model 3. They’ll be getting a thoroughly modern crossover with modern convenience and safety features, as well as a nationwide dealer network if and when something goes wrong.

If there’s a con to be had here, it’s that the VW badge on the ID.4’s nose won’t impress any of the mean moms at the school drop-off, but there’s probably more than a few people reading this who’d put that in the “plus” column.

You Want an Electric Crossover That’s Safe: Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo C40 Recharge
Image by Kyle Field.

With a slant-back profile that’s visually similar to the Tesla Model Y, combined with top-notch build quality and the same Volvo commitment to progressive ideas that bumped the XC90 Recharge into contention, the all-electric Volvo C40 is an excellent alternative to the Model Y that ticks a lot of the same boxes. Even the autonomous features are good!

As for safety, if there’s one company that puts its occupants first, it’s Volvo. Expect your C40 (or its somewhat boxier XC40 sibling) to be as survivable as just about anything else on the road. Tesla included.

You Want a Model 3, Just Not a Model 3: Polestar 2

Tesla Model 3 fighter, Polestar 2
Image courtesy Polestar.

As our own Steve Hanley pointed out, the Polestar 2 just isn’t as efficient as the Tesla Model 3. That said, unless you’re one of the very, very few Americans who actually shops efficiency, the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3 turn out to be remarkably similar vehicles. They both have starting price tags in the mid-high $40K range, go between 265 and 270 miles on a full charge, and are built to be super safe.

If you want a mid-sized, capable, and sporty electric sedan that isn’t a Tesla, the award-winning Polestar 2 is probably your best alternative.

You Want an Electric Crossover That’s Fast: Kia EV6 GT

Kia EV6 GT
Image courtesy Kia.

You thought this was going to be the Porsche Taycan, didn’t you? As dynamically excellent and straight-line fast as the Taycan is, it’s really a different animal than either the Model S or Model 3 – and the same goes for its mechanical twin, the equally quick Audi RS E-Tron. The Kia EV6 GT? It’s pretty close, conceptually, to a Model Y Dual Motor Performance, and fast enough in a straight line to teach a Lamborghini Urus, Ferrari California T, Porsche 911 Targa 4, and Mercedes-AMG GT a thing or two about speed in the EV era.

As promised, I’ll never miss an opportunity to post this video. Enjoy!

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