All charged up: Top 5 Electric Vehicles 2018
Choosing an automobile is usually a straightforward decision. People know the size and power of the vehicle they want, its fuel use and storage capacity. Today, there are more choices in electronic components than in the type and size of vehicle: Ford Motor Company will soon eliminate four passenger car models, leaving only two.
Car companies make claims about their products that are backed up by testing and real-life use. Other claims are just that and have not been proven through long-term use. For these and other reasons, deciding on a motor vehicle takes some faith in past performance of the vehicles and the makers.
Making comparisons between motor vehicles is especially difficult when the products are new and different. The latest electric vehicles are still a mystery to many consumers. People have bought hybrid vehicles for many years, but few have experience with all-electric vehicles. Hybrids are still the vehicle of choice by a wide margin because people still feel more comfortable with hundreds of miles of fuel in a tank. However, all-electric cars are coming on strong and will get more popular as they are developed for longer driving times per charge.
We will look at reviews, claims/tests and actual driving experiences to describe the top five all-electric vehicles (EV) in production.
Fueling: number one concern?
Let’s first discuss the most important features that customers want in these vehicles. It is understood that many people buy electric vehicles for what they do not want: the pollution and expense from fossil fuels. When they decide to purchase an EV, the questions about benefits lead to an examination of features just as they would with a gasoline or hybrid vehicle.
Perhaps the biggest concern for new owners will be about batteries.
- How far will the car go on a charge?
- How long will charging take?
- How expensive will it be to charge at home?
- Will it charge quickly at home?
- Are there highway or local charging stations for me?
- How safe are the batteries?
- How long do batteries last?
More American drivers want an electric vehicle and fewer worry about a range problem, according to this report. (1) The same is true for China and Europe, according to other statistics available throughout the industry. Because of this, more electric vehicles are reaching the market every year. Let’s look at eight cars that are meant for families and middle-income people in general. We will then look at the top five as closely as possible (we will focus on 2017 models available at this writing, and add the top five sellers in China, which has a restrictive market).
One item unique to electric vehicles is the braking system. Regenerative braking in electrics is the use of a drag mechanism on the drivetrain that sends current back into the battery. Cars with this feature will be in our top five list. Real-life driving shows there is a technique to making this work well, but it helps put current into the battery and saves mechanical brakes.
“Of course, regen braking systems don’t turn your car into a perpetual motion machine. There are mechanical losses in the systems, and the regenerative systems share the braking load in most cars with traditional brakes. Most regen systems will not fully bring the car to a stop – the mechanical brakes take care of the last few miles per hour.”
Also, one-pedal driving in EVs works to brake the vehicle once the driver gets used to it. Most EVs use several methods to stop or slow down that involve braking but using the drive pedal more efficiently is a method unique to this type of automobile. Our top five will feature this, too.
In no particular order, the cars for in-depth review are:
- Hyundai Ioniq Electric 29,500 114 miles
- Chevrolet Bolt 36,620 238 miles
- Ford Focus Electric 29,120 115 miles
- Nissan Leaf 29,990 115 miles
- BMW i3 42,400 114 miles
- Kia Soul EV 32,250 91 miles
- Tesla Model 3 35,000 220 miles
- Honda Clarity Electric (California and Oregon, USA only)
The Hyundai Ioniq is all things middle-of-the-road. It sits in the center of the price range for mid-size electric cars at $29,500. It also is in the center at 114 miles per charge. However, Hyundai vehicles are near the top of the quality list. The fit, finish, accessories and longevity of Hyundai vehicles has gone up every year for the last two decades.
Reviews for the Ioniq include statements like, “This car is meant to blend in,” once again putting it right in the middle of driving monotony. (2) Yet it is stylish and sleek. It has a conventional interior design and regular seating.
The Chevrolet Bolt leads the pack in the mileage category. It offers a range of 238 miles per charge. This mileage is admittedly under optimum conditions, but it outlasts others nearly two-to-one. The Bolt is small but reviews show it has better than average power.
The interior is average but there is a good number of standard features. (3) Acceleration is average. Bolt is also ranked at the top for safety features.
The Ford Focus Electric has an improved range from previous years but not as much as the Bolt. (4) This car charges faster that previous models but has a lot of added battery weight and bulk that limits interior space. The Focus has average range and power of the eight listed cars. DC fast charging is new for this model year.
The interior is average with several standard offerings and the handling during regenerative braking is improved, according to this review.
The Nissan Leaf has a long and storied past as a leader in EV performance. It has an average price and above-average range and offers quick charging for about 90 miles of travel. The Leaf has a standard, average interior according to reports. (5) This vehicle has superior power and acceleration especially in areas with a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Brake power and maneuvering is above average.
BMW’s i3 is an expensive model in this group but offers some above-average automotive accessories including a gasoline engine range extender that adds about $4,000 to the bill, turning this into a hybrid. A new charger will fully charge in four-and-a-half hours while acceleration is fast at 0-60 mph in seven seconds. It has navigation, parking control and a new interior. (6)
Kia’s Soul EV came to the market with more interior space than most EVs. Its range is standard and its price is down the middle of this small-car genre. Soul EV availability is still limited in its fourth year. It has standard fast charge, including a 240-volt at-home option that can charge in five hours. “The company offers several home charging station options. As for DC fast charging, the battery can be recharged to 80 percent of capacity from empty in as little as 33 minutes at a 50-kw CHAdeMO fast charger.” (7)
Tesla’s Model 3 is by far the most discussed EV now being sold. Its price is above average but so is its range at 220 miles. Tesla’s difficulty in getting these built and shipped has dominated the news, but the car is a showpiece of the possibilities of battery-driven travel. The interior is dominated by a large computer screen and little else. (8)
The car is sleek and fast. It includes such items as an three-way adjustable steering rack for resistance and the Autopilot, called the “most sophisticated driving aid yet conceived.”
The top five
Now, we place them arbitrarily in the top five order, last first:
5. Kia Soul EV
4. Nissan Leaf
3. Hyundai Ioniq
2. Chevrolet Bolt
1. Tesla Model 3
With all the facts in and the power items tested, the Tesla Model 3 cannot be overtaken. Its production problems aside, the car is the top passenger electric vehicle until someone does more style mixed with hardware and power.
The Bolt wins in range, affordability and amenities.
The Ioniq hits directly in the middle, the place it was aimed toward and hit.
The Soul and Leaf, one a newcomer and one a long-term seller, round out the core five EVs on the marke today.
A word about the restricted market in China: These five cars are the best sellers in that country and their popularity is growing, reaching 3.3 percent of vehicle sales. These are EVs and hybrids.
- Beijing Auto EC 180
- Geely ZhiDou D2
- BYD Song DM
- Chery eQ
- BYD E