It wasn’t too long ago that most of what we said about electric vehicles began with an “if”, as in “if I ever buy an electric vehicle…” More recently, those “if’s” have been transformed into “when’s”, turning that more tentative approach into a positive statement like “When I buy my next car, it’s going to be electric!”
The growth of electric vehicles, or EVs, has been nothing short of dramatic. The Edison Electric Institute reports that the one millionth EV hit the road in the US at the end of 2018, with California accounting for 59% of all EV registrations. Some 18.7 million EVs – or 7% of all the cars and light trucks in the country – are expected to be driving around by 2030. EEI also predicts that sales of EVs will reach 3.5 million annually by 2030, equal to 20% of the new car market.
So now that buying an EV has become a “when” question instead of an “if”, how do you decide which EV is right for you? Before you start looking into brands and styles, consider that EVs fall into two distinct categories: All Electric Vehicles, or AEVs (also referred to as Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs), and Plug-in Electric Hybrids, or PHEVs. AEVs run exclusively on the electricity that’s stored in their batteries, while PHEVs have a back-up gasoline engine in addition to their batteries. As a result, PHEVs generally have a longer driving range than AEVs. Other factors ranging from the length of your daily commute to recharging availability at your home or workplace also influence that decision. The Sierra Club offers a short quiz to help you get started.
Several automotive publications now rank EVs in terms of both their popularity and their overall quality. The makes and models on these lists may not always coincide, though, since the highest quality vehicles tend to be more expensive and thus may not produce the largest sales numbers. For example, the authoritative Kelley Blue Book lists the Tesla Model S as its top-rated model for 2019, but with a price tag approaching $80,000, the Model S had fewer sales than its little sister, the Model 3, which can be driven home for about half that cost. In fact, the Model 3 accounted for nearly two-thirds of all EV sales in the first half of 2019.
Edmunds, another respected name in the automotive industry, lists the Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and Chevrolet Bolt as its top three choices for AEVs and the Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Subaru Crosstrek for top PHEVs. Edmunds separates these models — all priced from the mid-30s to the mid-40s — from its top rated luxury models like the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-PACE, which join the Model S in the $80,000 price range. Meanwhile, U.S. News and World Report echoes Kelley Blue Book in crowning the Tesla Model S as its #1 choice, followed by the Kia Soul EV, Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Kona Electric.
When you come right down to it, shopping for an EV isn’t much different than shopping for a gasoline-powered car. You’re going to look for one that fits your sense of style, your driving habits and your pocketbook. The only question left to ask is “When are you getting started?”