An Electric Vehicle for You?

2012 will see the introduction of a myriad of plug-in electric vehicles: sports cars, an SUV, compacts, hatchbacks, sub-compacts, and sedans.  Over the next several years, up to 40 plug-in models will be introduced.  Later this week, the California Air Resources Board will vote on improvements to strengthen the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle program that will provide automakers with the long-term certainty necessary to ensure this proliferation of vehicle choice continues.  Soon, there will be a zero emission vehicle to fit every lifestyle, budget, need, and desire.

Americans have already bought 17,000 Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts.  Not bad for the first year.  When Toyota and Honda first introduced hybrid technology in the United States in the form of the now ubiquitous Prius and Insight, their combined first year sales were 9,350.  In truth, the Leaf and Volt represent the first widely available forms of two types of plug-in technology.  The Leaf is a full battery electric vehicle with a range of between 60 and 100 miles, well in excess of the average American’s daily driving needs.  The Volt is a plug-in hybrid that goes 40 miles in all electric mode, before becoming an efficient gasoline hybrid you can drive as far as you’d like.  2012 will see the introduction of many more full battery electrics and plug-in hybrids. Here are a few, broken down by vehicle type:


  • Tesla Model S: a full battery electric sedan that promises to seat five adults plus two kids, fit a surfboard inside, go up to 300 miles on a charge, and accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds (performance model). 


  • Fisker Karma a plug-in hybrid with dual electric motors that send 403 horses and 959 lb-ft of torque to its 22 inch wheels.


  • BMW Active E: a full battery electric version of the BMW one series sports sedan.


Hatchbacks & Sedans

  • Prius Plug-in: a plug-in version of Toyota’s iconic Prius that forgoes a large battery to save on cost and weight, but with enough all-electric range for average trips, and gas-sipping efficiency for longer distances.


  • Coda: a ground-up, full battery electric midsize sedan with a 150 mile range and a body by Pininfarina.


  • Ford Focus Electric: a full battery electric version of the sporty Focus hatchback that will compete with the Leaf.


  • Ford Fusion Energi: a plug-in hybrid midsize sedan that Ford hopes will be the most efficient on the market with a predicted 100 miles-per-gallon equivalent



  • Honda Fit EV: a full battery electric version of the versatile car that has been on Car and Driver’s Ten Best Cars list for the last six years running.


  • Mitsubishi i: a full battery electric that boasts of the lowest sticker price of any currently available plug-in and the best EPA fuel economy rating of any car at 112 miles-per-gallon-equivalent.


SUVs & Minivans

  • Toyota RAV4: a larger, more advanced re-incarnation of the all-electric SUV which enthusiasts have been driving since the 1990s.


  • Ford C-Max Energi: a plug-in hybrid that is technically a minivan because of its sliding doors and third row of seats, but with visual lines that will not be confused with the Dodge Caravan’s of yesteryear.


As my colleague Simon Mui explains, if the California Air Resources Board keeps the Zero Emission Vehicle program strong, one in six cars in showrooms in 2025 will have the ability to drive emission and oil free.  Clear direction from state officials provides automakers the certainty needed to make long-term investments in the next generation of zero emission technologies.  With increased investment, comes increased consumer choice.  If one of the plug-in vehicles featured above doesn’t fit your needs, you won’t have to wait long for one that does.

About the Authors

Max Baumhefner

Attorney, Clean Vehicles and Fuels, Energy & Transportation program

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