There are more electric vehicles on the market today than ever before, but some of them have some annoying faults such as ridiculously low ranges, unrefined rides and interiors, or unjustifiably high prices (or even worse, a combination of all three). While tax breaks and lower operating costs can help offset the higher initial price of an electric car, it may still take years before you see any savings, and if you’re in it for the long haul, it's best to choose your vehicle wisely. To help, the expert editors at Autobytel have come up with a list of the 10 best electric cars for the money, sorted by the (mostly unscientific) metric of cost per mile of range.
10 Best Electric Cars for the Money
Photo Credit: BMW
10) BMW i3 — $44,450/114 miles (94 Ah) = $389.91/mile
The BMW i3 was recently upgraded with a larger battery that brings its total range up to 114 miles (and a model with a 2-cylinder gasoline-powered range extender is available with 97 miles of electric range and 180 miles of total range). Thanks to its 170-horsepower motor and lightweight carbon fiber body, the i3 is decently quick and handles well (for a small electric car; it’s no sports car). The i3 isn’t especially cheap (and scores the lowest in our cost per mile of range metric), but if you’re looking for a comfortable car and have a short commute, it’s worth a look. A new model is rumored to be arriving in the next year or two.
9) Kia Soul EV — $31,950 (California-only Soul EV-e)/93 miles = $343.55/mile
The Kia Soul EV makes do with a 109-horsepower electric motor, only has a range of 93 miles, and finishes second to last on our list of the 10 best electric cars for the money. That said, it's as quick as most electric vehicles, 93 miles is enough range for most commutes, and the boxy design means that the Soul EV has plenty of cargo room (just as much as the regular gasoline-powered version). The battery does reduce rear legroom somewhat, but as it’s mounted quite low, it doesn’t overly affect the Soul’s handling. The Soul is beginning to show its age, and there are probably better options out there for most people, but for some, it may be perfect.
Photo Credit: Tesla
8) Tesla Model X 100D — $98,500/295 miles = $333.89/mile
The Tesla Model X 100D is the most expensive entry on our list of the 10 best electric cars for the money, but it's also one of the few electric vehicles with available seating for seven, one of the few that can tow a trailer (up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped), and the only one with falcon wing rear doors. There’s more than enough power, and with its range of 295 miles, it should have no problem completing the school run. If you want to venture further from home, Tesla also includes 400 kWh of free annual Supercharger credits, but beware that luggage space is a bit limited (especially in the 6- and 7-seat models).
Photo Credit: Nissan
7) Nissan Leaf — $30,680/107 miles = $286.73/mile
When the Nissan Leaf was first introduced for the 2011 model year, it was one of the most advanced electric cars on the market. Since then, the Leaf has seen various battery upgrades and become the best selling electric car ever, but it is slowly being outclassed by its competition, and a new model should arrive in the next year or two. The current model features a range of 107 miles, and while the 107-horsepower electric motor is adequate, the Leaf is relatively slow (especially at higher speeds). Where the Leaf shines is inside, where there is plenty of room front and rear. Combine that with the good ride quality and you might have the ideal carpool vehicle.
Photo Credit: Tesla
6) Tesla Model S 100D — $92,500/335 miles = $276.12/mile
It might be one of the most expensive cars on our list, but the Tesla Model S 100D (and not even the more expensive, super-fast P100D that you might have heard so much about) also has more range than any other car on our list, at 335 miles. Put another way, that’s around five hours of freeway driving, or more than most people are likely to do in the average week, and Tesla also throws in 400 kWh of free annual Supercharger credits for charging while on the road. The Model S is available with seating for seven, though the rear seats are rear-facing, are accessed through the rear hatch, and eat up most of the luggage room.
Photo Credit: Ford
5) Ford Focus Electric — $29,120/115 miles = $253.22/mile
For the 2017 model year, the Ford Focus Electric gained a bigger battery and DC fast charging, both of which were required to help keep the car competitive. Total range is 115 miles, and the 143-horsepower electric motor feels quick around town (though acceleration at higher speeds can feel a bit lackluster, a trait common to many electric vehicles). The battery pack steals some of the cargo space in the rear, but otherwise the Focus Electric looks and drives almost like the gasoline-powered models, with a good ride and decent handling (and a bit less noise). The Focus Electric comes well equipped, with leather-trimmed seats and a charge cord bag being just about the only options.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
4) Hyundai Ioniq Electric — $29,500/124 miles = $237.90/mile
The new Hyundai Ioniq Electric should be arriving in dealerships soon, with 118 horsepower and 124 miles of range (and a plug-in hybrid should arrive in the fall). The Ioniq holds the honour of having the most efficient electric drivetrain on the market, meaning that it should cost less to run than any other car on the market, electric or not (the EPA estimates an annual "fuel" cost of $500). Acceleration is leisurely but competitive with other cars in the segment, the ride is good, and the Hyundai is more fun to drive than you’d probably expect. If you need an electric car with only a moderate range, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is worth a look.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
3) Volkswagen e-Golf — $29,000/125 miles = $232.00/mile
While Volkswagen has yet to release pricing information on the 2017 e-Golf (which should go on sale sometime this spring), we estimate an MSRP of around $29,000, which should make it one of the most affordable vehicles on our list of the 10 best electric cars for the money. New for the 2017 model is a larger battery that allows for a range of 125 miles and a more powerful 134-horsepower electric motor that gets the e-Golf moving nicely. The e-Golf’s electric drivetrain doesn’t steal any interior space, and it does a good job of looking, driving and riding almost exactly like a normal Golf, though without the pleasing gasoline engine note (or telltale diesel clatter).
Photo Credit: Tesla
2) Tesla Model 3 — $35,000/215 miles = $162.79/mile
The Model 3 is by far the cheapest vehicle in the Tesla lineup, and while it doesn’t provide quite the performance or range of its larger siblings, it’s still plenty quick and offers a useful 215 miles of range (as well as access to Tesla’s Supercharger charging network). Unfortunately, Model 3 production isn’t expected to ramp up until late 2017 or 2018, and Tesla has a large backlog of cars to build before they can get around to building one for you. The problem with that success is that the federal tax credit will begin to phase out once a manufacturer builds 200,000 cars, and Tesla should hit that number before the current Model 3 orders are delivered.
Photo Credit: General Motors
1) Chevrolet Bolt — $37,495/238 miles = $157.54/mile
The Chevrolet Bolt is a great value, offering 238 miles of range for a reasonable $37,495, earning it the top spot on our list of the 10 best electric cars for the money, based on our cost per mile of range metric. While it is more expensive than the cheapest cars on our list, it also offers nearly twice the range, meaning that most drivers should be able to complete their daily routine even if they forget to plug in for a day or two. The Bolt has a good compromise between a comfortable ride and decent handling, and the 200-horsepower electric motor means that it's surprisingly nippy. If this is the future of electric vehicles, we say bring it on!