Electric Vehicles that you can buy in the United States today

Honda Fit Electric Vehicle

As EV’s are a topic of current interest (ha!), I thought I’d take a look around the market for electric vehicles in the United States. Analysts are predicting EV sales growth of 30% per year in the US between now and the end of the decade, with 400,000 EV’s forecast to be sold there in 2020. (Just because they predict it doesn’t make it so – take note of Leaf sales).

Other reasons I’m looking at the US market:

#1 – I can read the websites without having to use a dubious online translator, and…

#2 – The US is a baseline for the car industry. Most of the name-brand passenger EV’s that are sold around the world that have a reasonable chance of longevity (with the notable and prominent exception of Renault) are being sold in the US. Because of the very competitive nature of the auto market in the US, prices there are usually lower than anywhere else in the world. So what you’re seeing here is pretty much the lowest price you’ll see for one of the EV’s anywhere that you might be able to buy them.

Note: this post only has pure EV’s in it. No gas-assisted or range-extended vehicles like the Volt or Karma. There may be some other EV’s that I’m missing, too. Feel free to let me know and I might add them in (time permitting, or if they’re particularly compelling).

When you’re done reading this, CLICK HERE for a nice big table comparing the vitals of all these cars.

As you read this, a good measure to keep in your head is that a Camry Hybrid XLE (top spec) has an MSRP of $27,500 and gets 40mpg. Most of the vehicles in this list are EPA measured at 100mpge. Also, keep in mind that most of these vehicles, if not all, will qualify for at least $7500 in rebates after the purchase.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look.

CODA Automotive

Website

The CODA website has an option where it says you can “Design Your CODA”. I tried it because I wanted to design the car so that it didn’t look like crap anymore, but it didn’t work. This is the EV for insomniacs. Can’t sleep at night? Just take out your blow-up mattress and sleep in the garage.

The car is based on an old Chinese body from Hafei with an upgraded chassis to meet US standards. It’ll go for 125 miles on its 100kW motor and takes 6 hours to charge with its dedicated in-home charger ($1,195).

CODA only sells in California at the moment but they’re looking to expand to other states and you can be on the waiting list for just $99. Or you could just… you know… wait.

The CODA EV seems to be aiming to be the Toyota Camry of the EV world. It’s reasonably priced (for an EV), it’s larger than other EV’s, it’s inoffensive (unless you call boring offensive when spending $37K)

The CODA is a frump and as you can tell, I wasn’t taken with it whilst researching this article. Thankfully, there’s a lot more than the CODA out there to pique your interest. Like the next car…..

Commuter Cars Tango T600

Website

Within any group that shares common traits amongst its population, there’s bound to be at least one madman. The Tango T600 is the madman here.

“600” refers to the kW rating of the motors. That’s over 800 horsepower. And yes, I wrote motors with an ‘s’. There’s one for each of the rear wheels. It has more torque than 6 (six!) Dodge Vipers and that torque is available all at once. It pulls a 12.5 quarter mile. The vast majority of it’s weight is only 4 inches from the ground, which is why it topped the moose test in the Automotive X prize a few years ago.

I can hear you now – “There must be a catch” – and there is.

It looks like it’s already been in a fight with a compactor, it’s basically a kit car that US customers have to buy in component form AAAAAAAAAND it costs $200,000. At least that price includes front and rear cupholders.

Ford Focus Electric

Website

Here’s a trend you can expect to see when you look through these cars – the established car companies are producing a much more polished product with better equipment than the start-ups, with the possible exception of Tesla.

This, I guess, is where the economies of scale really come into their own. Ford might only be making a relative handful of Focus EV’s each year, but they’re making thousands upon thousands of Focus interiors every year so the interior pictures of a Focus EV make the CODA look like a GAZ.

The Focus seems to have quite unremarkable performance, getting only 76 miles to the charge. It takes 4 hours from a $1500 charger to bring the car back to life. Seating is squishy for 5, more comfy for 4 and the equipment list includes no options except for that home charger unit. With such high buy-in prices on these cars, they pretty much have to come ‘loaded’.

Honda Fit EV

Website

The Honda Fit EV has only just come out and is currently only available for lease in select markets, to well qualified customers. The lease is $389 a month based on an MSRP of $37,415.

The Fit EV has a range of 82 miles and if you charge it from when the low-charge indicator light comes on (using the dedicated 240v charger) then recharge will take just three hours. If you charge it from a standard outlet at your house, it’ll take around 15 hours.

The Fit EV seats 5 (though it might get squishy). It has a good range of standard equipment including climate control, a whole bunch of airbags, telematics, 6-speaker audio with USB, Bluetooth and a kit bag of other bells and whistles. It’s not a bare bones car, though it does have a bare bones colour palette at this point, being available in any colour you want as long as it’s Reflection Blue Pearl.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Website

If there’s one thing I’m starting to hate about electric cars, it’s the naming conventions that use caps and non-caps letters. The i-MiEV is possibly the worst offender, throwing a hyphen in there for added frustration.

The Mitubishi i-MiEV (grrrrrr) SE – the one with the better equipment – costs $31,125 and that’s at the lower end of the EV price scale right now. That lower price, however, gets you less miles than the others with a 62 mile range. Charge time is a comparatively hefty 7 hours if you’ve got a 240V home charger. If you want to charge from standard US home outlet, it’ll take a staggering 22 hours!

The i-MiEV (GRRRRR!!!!) is a small car but it comes with four decent size doors and will fit four people. It has some basic modern amenities like iPod integration and climate, but some other features such as HDD Navigation are optional. Like many of the other EV’s it has varied drive modes to maximise either performance or battery range.

The cheapest EV in America does come with its limitations.

Nissan Leaf

Website

Yes indeed, you can get it in colours other than Ocean Blue.

The Nissan Leaf is the first of Carlos Ghosn’s all-in bets on electric vehicles for the global market. It’s the current poster-child for mass production all-electric transportation. The higher spec SL model costs $37,250 and the lower spec SV model is $2,000 less.

It comes with a 73 mile range and re-charges in 7 hours using the 240v home charger. Higher spec SL models also have a fast-charging port to use fast charging stations for a 30-minute fill-up.

Standard kit on the Leaf SL is impressive, with rear-camera, navigation, satellite audio, bluetooth, homelink, heated seats and a bunch of other good stuff all coming as standard. There’s also a smartphone app so that you can prepare your car for your arrival remotely (which is becoming standard amongst established manufacturers). The SL even has a solar panel for a rear spoiler.

There have been over 10,000 Leafs (Leaves?) sold so far but sales this year have stalled and that’s got people questioning whether the EV revolution will take hold or not (that link has a good Saab 96 EV story, too).

Carlos Ghosn will be sweating on the answer to that one.

Smart ED

Website

This one’s a little tricky as the Smart ED’s for 2012 were slow and poorly received. Smart themselves wouldn’t sell the vehicles. They only did leases (and at stupid prices).

There’s a new Smart ED coming for 2013, however, and it’s said to be a much better proposition. It’ll be priced at $25,000 and have a 55kW motor with unknown torque characteristics. The range is estimated to be in the 80-mile region. The car will use Tesla batteries and will likely need a special home charger to get reasonable charge time. The last Smart ED recharged in 7 hours on the specialist home charger.

Equipment levels are largely unknown, but it will feature an electric folding roof for that wind-in-your-hair and butterflies-on-your-shoulder feeling.

Smart have a hard time selling conventional vehicles in the US. Will this work? Who knows? City types will like it, I’m sure.

Tesla Model S

Website

This is the supermodel of the EV scene and I’m going to spend a little more time on it here.

Tesla have been fighting an uphill battle for years, swatting away accusations of vaporware and financial damnation to finally start building and delivering their Roadsters a few years ago (the Roadster is now ‘sold out’, which is a much more marketable way of saying they don’t build them anymore). So now, it’s the Model S’s turn.

The Model S will start at $57,400 when the base model with the 40kWh battery becomes available. The Model S’s are being delivered now, but they’re all Signature Editions with the 85kWh battery and costing more than $90K. There will be a 60kWh model, as well.

Tesla have a model range that closely resembles a regular car company’s. There will be the standard versions of the car priced between $57K and $77K. For those ones, you might have to hit the options list. There will also be a more loaded ‘Performance’ edition that comes with a lot more equipment, but for a higher price – $92,400.

That price does get you some impressive features, however. The Model S Signature ‘Performance’ Edition is a premium vehicle with what is, for EV’s, premium range and performance. The range is said to be 300 miles for this edition (at 55mph) and I shouldn’t forget to mention the 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds. Re-charging time will vary according to the configuration of your car and your home charger, but will be between 5 and 9 hours for most customers. 9 hours is a long time, but that’s for a 300 mile range. Teslas with smaller batteries can potentially charge a lot quicker. Tesla are also building a number of SuperCharging stations that customers will be able to use for a quick charge. These will give up to 150 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

That’s an impressive collection of numbers, but keep the price in mind as you marvel at them.

Keep the price in mind, too, as you hit the options list. Most of the EV’s we’ve looked at are more generic and come very well loaded. The Tesla’s a bit more in the Audi mold. The salesman will tell you that you can have a Model S for under $50K (after rebates). That’s true, but at under $50K for a 40kWh model S you’ll be paying:

  • $750 for metallic paint ($1500 for pearl)
  • $1500 for a panoramic roof
  • $3500 for 21″ wheels (too big!)
  • $1500 for leather (aha, you pay for leather on a $50K Tesla)
  • $3750 for the tech package (Xenons, homelink, powered tailgate, navigation and others)
  • $950 for upgraded audio
  • $1500 for active air suspension

….and there’s more, including the $1500 twin-charger inside the car for faster charging times, and the $1200 wall outlet to enable fast charging at home.

What you get for free with all models is a giant full colour 17-inch touchscreen in the center console – your Tesla command and control center. It shows music, navigation, climate control, internet and all sorts of other vehicle controls.

The Tesla Model S is the benchmark for premium electric vehicles. It’ll be interesting to see how offerings from BMW, Audi and Mercedes stack up when they arrive in the near future.

Toyota Rav4 EV

Website

This is actually one of the old-timers of the EV scene, tracing a history back to the days of GM’s EV1.

The Rav4 EV isn’t cheap, starting at $49,800. The SUV (or is it SEV?) has a range of 103 miles when fully charged and has the same interior dimensions as the petrol driven version, seating 5 people. Having said that, if you actually put 5 people in it, expect that driving range to shrink substantially. Recharge time is 5 hours if you’ve got the best setup at home.

The Rav4 EV is another “loaded” vehicle with no options on the spec sheet. It therefore has all the modern electronic aids and safety features.

Toyota already has a big electrified presence, particularly in the hybrid market. I’m unsure as to why the Rav4 is their chosen model for EV treatment, but it has been for some time now.

Wheego LiFe

Website

Wheego is another one of those Chinese-USA cooperatives. The Wheego LiFe is a two-seater that will remind you of a Smart Car. At nearly $33K, that’s more than 15 grand a seat, but I guess that’s not too far off the going rate for some of these electrics.

As the name of the vehicle might suggest, the Wheego LiFe uses a Lithium Iron battery to give you access to 100 miles of Whee! Go! motoring. The website uses some tricky marketing, telling you that charging to 100% takes around 5 hours if you start at 50%. And that’s using the special high-output charge connector.

The equipment list is something you’d call ‘adequate’, though not the way Rolls Royce used to use the word to describe their engine output. The only option available is air conditioning, which costs a cool $2K. Ouch.

Power output is fairly minimal. Price is pretty high. Not a promising combination.

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Remember, there’s a nice big table so that you can compare specs on all these cars – HERE.

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17 Comments

  1. Commuter Cars Tango T600? I mean, really?

    If I had to buy one of those cars, I only have two alternatives due to range: CODA and Tesla. But the Tesla is prices way out of range for a normal human being living in Sweden. The CODA… Well, I’m not sure I’ll be that enthusiastic about paying a Saab 9-3 pricetag for a car “based on an old Chinese body from Hafei with an upgraded chassis to meet US standards” and that looks like – well – a Chinese car.

  2. Thanks for putting together this list. I’m not an EV enthusiast, but I am surprised at the number of EVs available (or semi-available) here in the US.

  3. It’s interesting to see them all set down together. A bit of a mixed bag but you can see, with the remarkable exception of Tesla, that the main-stream manufacturers have an advantage in terms of existing platforms.

    I’m interested in why the Saab 9-3 is of such interest to the EV market (BAIC and NEVS). Is it because it has a light-weight design? Any ideas?

    BTW: Minor comment regarding the i-MiEV, shouldn’t you be saying:
    g-RrRR? 😉

    1. I need a like button for that comment 🙂

      The 9-3 was never known for being light weight. In fact, GM vehicles have had a weight problem for a long, long time. In 2010, Saab’s engineering guys did an extraordinary job of stripping out some weight (amongst other things) to create the low emissions 9-3 TTiD. GM said it couldn’t be done. Opel said it couldn’t be done. They did it.

      But no, weight probably isn’t a trait that attracted them to the 9-3. I suspect it was more like a Mt Everest thing – because it was there. They needed a vehicle and the company they bought had one ready to use (albeit an aged one, but anyway….)

      1. hmm.
        The range performance for the saab ePower (even saab did the capital thing!!) seems to be really god.
        In 2009-2010 they predicted a range of 200 km. What saab did here might be the reason NEVS was interested in the first place? That coupled with the jap/chi tech?

        Swade, this comment is done with a Linux laptop. Better than the Android phone, even if android OS is a Linux based one…:-D

    2. Well, at least they stated (in THAT meeting in the museum) that the 9-5 and 9-4x would have been too heavy for an electric version.

      In times of high fuel prices (i.e. in any imaginable future), reducing the mass contributes to lower consumption, and is even more important with EVs that presently need to carry the heavy batteries as well.

      But it should not be overlooked that mass (i.e. caused by metal structures, not by batteries) will have an impact on towing capacity. One of the reasons why I bought a 9-3 I was its relatively high rated towing mass of 1600 kg. I heard that the 9-5 I could be upgraded to 2000 kg. Sounds good. For a horse rider. 😉

  4. The US EPA maintains a list as well:
    http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/evnews.shtml

    It’s slightly different than yours, but that’s to be expected given that some electric cars sell in single-digit numbers.

    The old Smart ED used a Tesla power pack. The new one uses a German power pack. Torque is listed at 96 lbf·ft.

    Home chargers follow a standard, so any electric car should be able to use any charger (barring software bugs). The chargers retail around $750. Power requirements are similar to those of an electric clothes drier. Installation charges will vary depending on your house’s electrical and physical layout. You can, of course, charge from a regular 120V/15A outlet, but that’s slower and less efficient.
    Quick chargers (those that claim charging times around an hour) are probably out of the question for home installations. They draw the power of 10+ electric clothes driers.

    I said this before, but I think that the electric car market is waiting for the right car at the right price. Sales numbers look exactly like hybrid sales numbers from five years ago, if you exclude the Prius (right car/right price). Total sales could multiply by 10 overnight is someone released a family car with the range of a Tesla and the selling price of a Leaf.

    1. Thanks for the reference. I didn’t realise they had a list there. I got mine from elsewhere and then hit the manufacturer sites (very time consuming).

  5. Except for the Tesla, none of these cars have enough range. I would need 150+ miles of range to be comfortable using these cars in my urban area (Minneapolis/St. Paul). A couple of times a month, I drive from one side of the metro area to the other – say 35 miles one way, and 35 miles back home. That’s already 70 miles, plus any errands or secondary stops on the way home.

  6. I wouldn’t want to drive the Tango in a high crosswind.

    A shame about the weak performance of the Focus, because it would be very marketable if it could manage to crack 150 miles on a charge I’m sure.

    If I had the money I would buy a Tesla. And a yacht. And a private jet.

    Smart cars seem to sell well in parts of Europe. The new ED has had mixed reviews in the UK but at £11k purchase plus £55 per month to lease the battery, with loads of other incentives for putting an electric car on the road, then I suspect they are coming close to cracking this particular nut.

    The new Renault Zoe seems to be the one to beat, though. A shame for interested parties in the US that its not for sale there.

    You made a good point about the stripped-down weight of the low-emissions 1.9ttid Swade. It will be interesting to see what NEVS can do with the 9-3 in this regard.

  7. Since the Tesla Model S just brought home the MotorTrend car-of-the-year award — wonder if that will help broaden the acceptance or even legitimacy (if that’s still a question) of the electric car segment.

    Fisker was not on the list–and I do see more Karmas around the SF Bay Area right now than I do Tesla’s (including Roadsters). Strange maybe, given their stratospheric pricing.

    1. A Tesla with a range capability of 300 miles/482km, not even the range of most gas/petrol cars, STARTS at USD69,900.

      Not too likely to “…broaden the acceptance or even legitimacy…” of that vehicle anytime soon.

      1. That’s the price of a Lexus LS, or an E Class with a few options, or a Jaguar XJ or even an Escalade. None of those cars even remotely compare to the Tesla in terms of “country club cred per dollar.”

        I’m not saying that this price range that has broad appeal, but the Tesla is certainly competitively priced within its segment.

  8. A friends’ daughter and family live near San Francisco, California, and own a Nissan Leaf. Her parents were visiting a few months ago, when they decided to take a trip to the hills East of there.

    Not a long trip, but after chugging UP the hills for a while, the car had almost no battery power left. Not enough to get them back home, actually. Ooppsss.

    They quickly turned around, and thanks the Regenerative Braking, were able to produce enough juice to make it back home…just.

    No thanks…I’d rather continue burning Dinosaurs until the range, and quick recharging, capabilities of these vehicles improves greatly.

    1. The big problem here is that the companies don’t tell the whole truth on range. Combustion engines have a wide range of performance efficiency. Depending on the driving conditions, the efficiency of energy comsumption can get as low as 10%, or as high as 40% (Diesel at something like 80% full throttle). This means that some of the energy requirements are camouflaged by efficiency shifts. For example, when you double the speed, the air drag quadruples. But the car will not consume accordingly more fuel, because the efficiency will also get higher at that higher speed. Same with climbing.

      But with electric cars, the efficiency is always high. Accordingly, there will be a heavy penalty, energy comsumption wise, on every increase in speed or slope. That is something the manufactures don’t tell you. But they really mean “_up to_ x miles”.

  9. Swade, you’re forgetting the Myers Motors NmG (again with the Caps/lower case/Caps!), a 3-wheel, single seater that was previously known as the Corbin Sparrow (which at the time sold for $13,900 before that company declared bankruptcy). It currently sells for USD $29,995, has a 45-mile range, and charges with a 120v charger (approx 6-hour charge time). The “NmG” name supposedly stands for “no more gas.” This car is perhaps best known as the basis for that weird dong-shaped car in “Austin Powers: Goldmember.”
    http://www.myersmotors.com/buynow.html

    Myers Motors does have a 2-seater 3-wheeler on the drawing board (the “Duo”– for “Doesn’t Use Oil”) that actually looks pretty good if you are in to that sort of thing– it’s a sliding scale, but better looking than the Leaf at any rate. Interestingly, the base version will have a 60-mile range , yet will cost somewheres between $24,995 and $29,995– so cheaper or the same cost as the 1-seater with twice the passenger capacity and 25% greater range… it they make it that is.
    http://www.myersmotors.com/index.html

  10. I can see it now. No wonder NEVS doesn’t/didn’t want to make IC engined cars for the Swedish roads anymore.

    EV’s will give a whole new meaning to road assistance and warranty “repairs”.
    It’s going to be a hassle beyond belief and when those battery issues really start hitting the manufacturers in couple of years. Oh boy.

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