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The Best Electric Cars

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
February 28, 2013
3 min. Reading Time

There was a time in the not so distant past when the idea of an electric car was just that, an idea. With the advent of better battery technology, more efficient power management solutions, ever increasing oil prices, and concerns about the automobile’s impact on the environment, resurgence in the development of electric cars has ensued.

To alleviate the traditional drawbacks of range anxiety, limited recharging infrastructure, and additional acquisition expense (compared to internal combustion cars) government agencies are providing financial incentives to further develop electric cars and advanced battery technologies.

In short, electric cars have arrived.

What follows is our list of the best new electric cars for sale.

The Best Electric Cars: BMW ActiveE

Introduced at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, the BMW ActiveE is based on the 1 Series sports coupe. A trial run of 1,100 of the models has been produced for worldwide consumption, with 700 of them being offered in the United States. A 168 horsepower electric motor is integrated into the rear transaxle to power the BMW electric car. The ActiveE’s BMW MyRemote application for smartphones enables remote locking and unlocking, horn and headlamp activation, and incorporates a GPS-based CarFinder that allows the user to find the ActiveE within 3,300 feet. The MyRemote app also allows finds charging stations, gets range information and pre-heats or pre-cools the car to help extend the range.


The Best Electric Cars: BMW i3

The ideas gleaned from the BMW ActiveE will go into full production in 2013 in the form of the BMW i3. Initially shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, the i3 employs the same powertrain configuration employed in the ActiveE. In other words, a 168 horsepower electric motor is integrated into the rear transaxle to propel the electric car. BMW’s first mass-produced zero emissions vehicle is also the first vehicle on the market to employ carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Like the ActiveE, the i3 is expected to use BMW’s MyRemote application for smartphones to find charging stations, get range information and pre-heat or pre-cool the BMW electric car to help extend its range.


The Best Electric Cars: Ford Focus Electric

Ford’s first full production all-electric vehicle has been on sale in California, New York and New Jersey since May of 2012. With a range of 76 miles, the Ford Focus Electric is the ultimate development of the concept car introduced at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. A 130 horsepower electric motor is fed by a lithium-ion battery pack. A complete recharge takes from three to four hours using the car’s 240-volt fast charging system. A unique version of the MyFord Touch driver connect system was developed for the Focus Electric to show battery state of charge, distance to charge points, range budget and expected range margin. The feature can also be used to locate charging stations.


The Best Electric Cars: Honda Fit EV

Unveiled at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Honda Fit EV entered the market as a limited production vehicle of 1100 units over three years. The new electric car is being offered to consumers on a special three-year lease-only deal for $389 monthly. California and Oregon got the car first; availability is expected to expand to the East Coast in 2013. The 123-horsepower EV uses a lithium-ion battery pack, which can be recharged to 80 percent of its capacity within 15 minutes. Honda says the car will travel 123 miles on a single charge in the city and 76 miles on the highway. The electric Honda’s key fob enables the driver to view the battery's state of charge, begin the charging process, and activate the Fit EV’s climate control system.


The Best Electric Cars: Mitsubishi i (i-MiEV)

Mitsubishi’s innovative electric vehicle (MiEV) has been on sale in Japan since 2009. A larger version of the diminutive car was brought to the U.S. market in 2011 as the i-MiEV. The 66-horsepower five-door hatchback has a range of 62 miles on a full charge, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Recharge time is seven hours using the 240-volt fast charger. While the Mitsubishi i also offers a remote system enabling pre-activation of the car's climate control and charging timer; compared to the other cars on this list the Mitsubishi is pretty plain. That said, the Mitsubishi is also the lowest priced EV on this list of the best electric cars as well.


The Best Electric Cars: Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s eading nvironmentally friendly, ffordable, amily car (LEAF) is widely accepted to be the first practical EV on the market from a mainstream manufacturer. Its front wheels drive the 110-horsepower EV; a lithium-ion battery pack supplies power. While Nissan quotes a 100-mile range, the EPA’s tests led it to rate the Leaf at 73 miles. Unlike may other EVs; the Leaf also uses a conventional lead acid battery to power the control computer, audio system, headlights and windshield wipers.  Recharging the electric motor’s battery pack takes eight hours with the 240-volt fast charger. However, it can also be recharged to about 80 percent of its capacity in about 30 minutes. A very generous array of standard features makes the Leaf just as comfortable as it is economical.

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

The Best Electric Cars: Tesla Model S

Roundly heralded as one of the most (if not THE most) significant new car introduced for the 2013 model year, the Tesla Model S has gone from one man’s dream to a premium luxury sedan firmly ensconced in the automotive mainstream. Offered with a choice of battery packs, the Model S can be had with a range of as much of 300 miles, 230 miles, or160 miles. Designed to play in the same arena with cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, the performance version of the Model S uses a 416-horsepower electric motor to drive the rear wheels. The Base model of the electric car uses a 362-horsepower motor. Both drive the rear wheels.



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