Plug-in electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars (aka electric cars) have been growing at a tremendous rate in the past few years. Just 4 years ago, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt weren’t even on the market yet. Now, there are dozens of electric car models on the market (36 in the US and Europe combined, by my count). A few years ago, you had to fit your driving style and needs to one of the few choices on the market if you wanted an electric car. Now, things are much different.
Very few people can now say “there isn’t an electric car on the market that fits my needs.” Just as a general exercise to demonstrate that, I’m going to run down some different electric car options that fit people with quite different needs. To keep this as globally relevant as possible, I’m going to focus on cars that are available on at least a few continents.
Tesla Model S: I’ll start with the most obvious. The Tesla Model S isn’t the best-selling electric car in the planet, but it is without a doubt the hottest. In fact, it may well be the hottest car of any type on the market. It is widely considered the best mass-manufactured car ever built. Unlike other 100% electric cars, it has quite a long range — about 200 miles (322 kilometers). Tesla also sets up “Supercharger” networks in its main markets, allowing owners to charge their cars for free in a relatively short time while away from home.
The issue with the Model S is simply that it isn’t cheap. But if you have the money for this car, it is a good fit for most people’s needs.
Nissan Leaf: The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in the world. It’s also a 100% electric option. But the similarities with the Model S basically stop there. The Nissan Leaf is an affordable car that comes in at a lower price than the average new car in the United States. It has five seats, is very comfortable and even high-tech, and drives wonderfully (it’s electric, after all). But it doesn’t have the extreme speed of the Model S, and its range on a full charge is 84 miles (135 kilometers), less than half the range of the Model S.
That said, an average person doesn’t need to drive over 80 miles a day. In the US, the average distance driven per day is 36.5 miles for urban-based cars and 48.6 miles for rural-based cars. In most other countries, the averages are much lower. In the UK, the average distance driven per day is about 18 miles. So, the Leaf certainly works for most people, but for people who need to drive over 80 miles in a single day on a regular basis, and who don’t have charging options at their work or other places where they will be parked for a long time, there are other electric options above and below. Nonetheless, for 95% to 99% of trips, the Leaf works fine. Actually, many Leaf owners before buying their cars planned to charge them every night, but then ended up charging them every other night.
BMW i3: The BMW i3 is another car built electric from the ground up. It sits right in between the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf in terms of price and performance. It actually has just 4 seats rather than 5, but if you want something quite luxurious with greater performance than the Nissan Leaf yet can’t afford the Tesla Model S, the i3 is a good choice.
There are actually two version of the BMW i3, the 100% electric version and the BMW i3 REx. The BMW i3 REx comes with a gasoline range extender for situations when you need to drive beyond the i3’s 80-100 miles of electric range. However, this is more of a “last option” add-on than something you’d want to use on a regular basis.
Toyota Prius Plug-in: The Toyota Prius Plug-in is the first true “plug-in hybrid” on this list. For those who need to drive very long distances on a regular basis, Toyota offers a plug-in option that can provide 100% electric driving for normal city trips and long range on a gasoline engine for those long trips. The Prius Plug-in is available around the world and builds off of Toyota’s extremely popular conventional Prius hybrid brand. The car has 5 seats and can fit most people’s needs.
Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in: If you need (or really want) a larger SUV/crossover vehicle, the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in is the first vehicle made for markets all around the world that fits that bill. Like the Prius Plug-in, the Outlander Plug-in is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that can run on electricity for a certain distance but then can run on gas if need be. Right now, the Outlander Plug-in is only available in Japan, Europe, and Australia, but it will soon be available in the US and perhaps other markets.
There are many other electric options out there that broaden your choices even much more, but these are some top multi-continental options that do a good job of showing the range of electric cars available today.