John Waters, an ex-General Motors engineer who worked on the battery platform for the EV1, often tells stories of burning Corvettes in parking lot drag races while he worked for country’s biggest automaker. He didn’t bring a modified Mustang or another type of sports car to the race. Instead, Waters used the original GM electric vehicle — the EV1 that met its end in the early twenty-first century after a period of lease-only availability. How did Waters beat the Corvette with the dumpy EV1? His only rule was keeping the race in the parking lot. In effect, he created a race from 0-30 mph. The instant torque available to electric vehicles allowed Waters to drop the Corvette every time.
“We never lost a race,” Waters told World News in 2013. Had the race been from 0-60 or above, the Corvette and its vaunted horsepower “would have smoked us,” Waters said, but the point about easy, instant acceleration had been made to his skeptical colleagues at GM. More than a decade later, GM has produced a mini car that delivers more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia, a Mustang GT, and just about any other performance car on the road. Surprising amounts of torque in today’s electric vehicles offer appeal to those who want performance along with a car that leaves gasoline behind. Here are the seven EVs that deliver the most torque.
7. Nissan Leaf: 187 lb-ft
It is difficult to compile a list of electric vehicles without including the Nissan Leaf. Classified as a midsize car by the EPA, the Leaf gets a best-in-class 114 MPGe, ranks among the EVs with the longest driving ranges, and delivers substantial value with its MSRP of $28,980. (After rebates, that price will drop below $20K in some states.) The Leaf also offers drivers 187 pounds-feet (lb-ft) of that instant torque. Its 24 kWh battery only delivers 107 horsepower, but the Leaf can still shoot from 0-60 in under 10 seconds.
6. Honda Fit EV: 189 lb-ft
Honda’s Fit EV is not only the most efficient small wagon on U.S. wagons; it is also the second-most efficient car overall at 118 MPGe. Throw in 82 miles of electric range (among the industry’s best) and the Fit EV offers a complete package for drivers in the market for a car with zero tailpipe emissions. But this list is about power. The Honda Fit EV provides 189 lb-ft of torque right off the line and a maximum 123 horsepower. Fit EVs lease for $259 a month.
5. Kia Soul EV: 210 lb-ft
Should the Kia Soul EV hit the U.S. market ahead of Volkswagen’s E-Golf, it would become the electric vehicle with the third-longest range on American roads at 93 miles. It would also slot in among the cars with the most torque at 210 lb-ft. There should be a high demand for this car, though (as usual) the devil is in the details. The car’s pricing in Asia (approximately $39,000) may strike many as high, even if rebates can knock that figure below $30K. The Soul EV will debut in America in fall 2014, so pricing is still not set here.
4. Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive: 251 lb-ft
Mercedes needed to join the electric fray for several reasons, but it appears they have taken the usual Mercedes approach to performance. Its new B-Class Electric Drive will deliver 251 lb-ft of torque, slotting it comfortably ahead of the competition (67 lb-ft and 7 hp better than the BMW i3) while keeping in line with the price point BMW put on the i3. EV drivers can already configure and order the B-Class Electric Drive, which delivers 85 miles of range — fourth best on the market.
3. Toyota RAV4 EV: 273 lb-ft
Tesla Motors provided the battery pack that gave the Toyota RAV4 EV the second-best electric range on the road at 103 miles. Though that arrangement is going to end in the near future, EV shoppers can still pick up an electric SUV that packs 273 lb-ft of torque along with 154 hp. That torque quotient puts the RAV4 EV on par with the Tesla Roadster (285 lb-ft), one of the fastest electric vehicles ever built. The RAV4 EV can make the 0-60 sprint in under 7.0 seconds.
2. Spark EV: 400 lb-ft
Ferrari’s 458 Italia, the supercar that has won over thirty international auto awards, can produce a maximum 398 lb-ft of torque; the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe offers 332 lb-ft; and the 2015 Mustang GT model will deliver 300 lb-ft. GM’s little Chevy Spark EV produces 400 lb-ft of torque in a miniscule, unassuming package. At 119 MPGe, it is also the most efficient vehicle in the United States. The Spark EV can race 0-60 in 8.0 seconds using its power off the line.
1. Tesla Model S: 443 lb-ft
Tesla has set a new performance standard that could apply just as easily apply to gas-powered cars as electric vehicles. Its 85 kWh performance Model S produces a massive 416 hp along with 443 lb-ft of torque. With a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds, the Tesla Model S offers drivers a high volume of thrills without any tailpipe emissions. Considering it has the longest range of any electric vehicle (265 miles), it is easy to see why the Model S is in such high demand.
Its price tag remains prohibitive for most auto consumers, but the third-generation Tesla is expected to change all that by bringing the cost down below $40K without sacrificing much in range or performance. Expect the industry to shake accordingly if Tesla can pull this feat off in the coming years. Honorable mentions go to the BMW i3 and Ford Focus Electric, both of which produce a maximum 184 lb-ft of torque, leaving them just below the top seven.