Looking at the latest electric vehicles sales, it’s clear plug-in cars are gaining traction in the United States. Plug-in EVs are up 50 percent in 2014 after a furious 90 percent improvement in May over the segment’s 2013 numbers. The surge in demand is likely a product of increased awareness about carbon emissions as well as improved products from automakers.
Telsa proved electric cars can be sexy, long-range machines that provide thrills for drivers and comfort for passengers. To get a piece of the action and ensure their high-emissions performance cars can sell in the U.S., luxury brands from BMW to Mercedes Benz are introducing their own all-electric models in 2014. These cars only tell part of the story. Tales of a car with 1,000 miles of range and an affordable model able to cover 200 miles are headlining exciting and curoius EV stories this year. Here are seven new electric vehicles to watch.
7. Chevy Spark EV
GM’s efforts in the electric vehicle segment thus far have been a flop, but there are signs of hope following the release of the 2015 Chevy Spark. This tiny cruiser focuses on the most important aspect of EVs: fuel economy and emissions reductions. On that front, GM knocked it out of the park by delivering an EV capable of 82 miles in electric range and a best-in-U.S. 119 MPGe combined. The Spark EV’s city rating of 128 MPGe is a tue accomplishment.
For now, only drivers in Oregon and California have access to the Chevy Spark EV, which is available in limited quantities for the time being. Green car enthusiasts hope it’s only the beginning.
6. Kia Soul EV
Once the Kia Soul EVdebuts in late 2014, it will have one of the longest electric driving ranges in the United States at 92 miles. That mark is significant because Kia plans to make the U.S. its primary market for the Soul EV. A “small station wagon” with a top speed near 90 mph, the demand could be furious depending on how Kia prices this vehicle.
5. BMW i8
In terms of pure electric range, the BMW i8 is one of the worst performers on the market at 22 miles. However, any car capable of 420 lb-ft of torque and 90 MPGe is going to make waves in the auto industry — especially when it looks like a supercar. Reviewers are raving about the power and performance of the 362-hp BMW i8 that will basically create its own segment when it arrives in late 2014. It’s not a four-door sedan like the Model S but goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds like the performance Tesla. The BMW i8 will retail near $135,000.
4. Defiant Xtreme EV³
The annual April EarthFest celebration in Knoxville, Tennessee, brought out the Defiant Xtreme EV³, a truly unique offering in the electric vehicle space. Able to cover 200 miles with its largest battery pack, this three-wheeled roadster from Shockwave Motors has no equivalent on the market. Still in pre-production, the base model is expected to retail at $24,950 before tax rebates, with the largest battery pack adding another $7,000 to the sticker price.
For an EV industry that has been awaiting an affordable car capable of covering 200 miles in range, this vehicle may be the one that hold the public’s interest until Tesla and other automakers get theirs to production. The Defiant electric roadster is classified as a three-wheel motorcycle.
3. Mercedes B-Class
Whenever Mercedes enters a new segment, it’s worthy of a few headlines, and the German powerhouse’s entry into all-electric vehicles is no different. The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive packs 251 lb-ft of torque to provide thrills right off the line. It also features an electric range of 85 miles, which would put the B-Class in the top five on U.S. roads. Expected to be priced right alongside the BMW i8 ($41,450), the B-Class Electric will provide a test case for how semi-luxury EVs sell state-side.
2. Citroen C1 with Phinergy battery (1,000 mile range)
While there has only been one electric car with range over 200 miles, this Citroen has been outfitted with a lithium-ion battery by Phinergy and range extending aluminum battery by Alcoa that could push the car’s range to 1,000 miles without gasoline. Reveled at an event in Montreal in the first week of June, Alcoa and Phinergy explained how the aluminum element would serve as the vehicle’s range extender.
Air and water would “unlock the enrgy stored in aluminum” for an emissions-free boost that delivers over 700 miles more than the best Tesla Model S range. It’s one of the biggest developments to watch in the EV industry.
1. Volkwagen E-Golf
Since Volkswagen has taken so long to launch an all-electric car, it’s reasonable to assume it has something special in the E-Golf slated for a fall 2014 release. Expected to cost around $35,000 (pre-rebate) and cover up to 115 miles in electric range, the VW’s E-Golf would slot in behind Tesla as the EV with the second-best range on U.S. roads.
It would also slot in around the price point of the Nissan Leaf. Looking at the E-Golf specs (and reading the glowing reviews for Volkswagen’s EV), it’s easy to see how the 199 lb-ft of torque would make it seem superior to the Leaf and other EVs. In fact, the E-Golf will have more horsepower, more torque, and more range when compared to the Leaf.
Still, the biggest incentive may be in Volkswagen’s unique roadside assitance program. To back up its claim about electric range, VW promises to send a tow truck to pick up you and your car if you run out of charge after a trip shorter than 100 miles. Volkswagen will bring you to a fast-charging station and even pay for your cab fare if you can’t wait to get your battery charged.