Electric vehicles can be a smart choice for green-conscious car shoppers.
Electric cars have come a long way in the last few years. They can drive farther than ever on a charge. Their batteries can be topped off faster than ever, depending on the charging equipment. And, more drivers are not just choosing electric cars and hybrids, but also searching for used hybrids and EVs.
If you're thinking about making the switch, knowing where to start — or even knowing what to look for in an electric car — can feel like a challenge. Not only do you need to consider all the normal variables, including cargo space and comfort features — you also need to consider features that might be unfamiliar to you, like battery life and the range of electric cars.
Here we present the best electric cars based on sales for the first nine months of 2017. You can compare their features, trim levels, and performance specs to narrow down the list of what’s out there, and to find the right electric car for your needs.
Let’s take a look at the eight best electric cars of 2017!
Estimated MPGe1: 126 city/105 hwy (2016 eGolf)
Estimated total range1: 83 miles (2016 eGolf)
The Volkswagen e-Golf looks so similar to its non-electric namesake that you wouldn't know it's an electric vehicle. This means it has some of the advantages of a non-electric car, including the Golf’s handling plus ample space in the hatchback area for gear or groceries.
The 2016 eGolf comes in two trim levels— the SE and the SEL Premium. The SEL Premium offers advanced navigation aids, but otherwise the two models’ trim levels are similar.
According to Volkswagen, both the 2016 eGolf SE and SEL offer three adjustable driving modes to help you squeeze more range from the battery. And, there are some aftermarket chargers (compatible with some e-Golf models) available from a variety of companies that are designed to dramatically reduce charge times.
Estimated MPGe1: 126 city/99 hwy (2016 Mitsubishi i-MIEV)
Estimated total range1: 62 miles (2016 Mitsubishi i-MIEV)
This particular model comes in one baseline trim, which offers the essentials — think power windows and manually-adjustable air conditioning — but there are some nice-to-haves here too, like Bluetooth® and traction control.
According to the manufacturer, recharging using the 2014 i-MIEV’s onboard Level 2 charger takes an estimated seven hours, while recharging this model in a standard 110-volt outlet can take an estimated 22 hours.
Estimated MPGe1: 110 city/99 hwy (2015 Ford Focus Electric)
Estimated total range1: 76 miles (2015 Ford Focus Electric)
A sporty exterior and smooth ride make the 2015 Ford Focus Electric a popular pick for CarMax shoppers. This particular Focus Electric packs very bright Xenon headlights and LED tail lights for an illuminating punch at night, and heated seats and a heated steering wheel go a long way to boost driver and passenger comfort.
Other features that come on models like the 2015 Ford Focus Electric are Bluetooth, a back-up camera, and multi-zone climate control.
The large battery pack takes up some of the Ford Focus Electric's cargo space, but the rear seats do fold flat, leaving plenty of room for luggage or golf gear.
Estimated MPGe 1: 137 city/111 hwy (2014 BMW i3)
Estimated total range1: 81 miles (2014 BMW i3)
High-end auto shoppers will find a lot to like in the BMW i3, which, as we outlined in our video BMW i3 review, delivers strong acceleration and robust battery performance in a stylish package.
The 2014 BMW i3 is an all-electric vehicle, but you can also find this model year i3 with the Range Extender option, which turns it into a plug-in hybrid.
In models like the 2014 i3, shoppers can find an optional driving assistance package, which includes navigation features and cruise control, and an optional parking assist package with automated parking and front parking sensors.
In any model, trim, or year, the i3's quiet ride and ample, five-passenger cabin make this relatively luxurious electric vehicle a strong choice from a practical standpoint, too.
Estimated MPGe 1: 78 city/74 hwy (2014 Toyota RAV4 EV)
Estimated total range1: 103 miles (2014 Toyota RAV4 EV)
Even though production ceased in 2014, the RAV4 EV is nonetheless a very competent, all-around compact SUV that just so happens to be electric. Exterior styling is classy and practical; in the 2014 model, you'll get LED headlights, aerodynamic mirrors, and a distinctive grille. Inside the 2014 RAV4 EV, you’ll find heated front seats, satellite radio capability, and Bluetooth.
This electric SUV may lack a third-row seat, but there's still plenty of room for passengers, plus 74 cubic feet of cargo space in the back, in all model years, when the seats are folded down. This is a cavernous amount of space for an all-electric vehicle!
Estimated MPGe1: 122 city/108 hwy (2014 Fiat 500e)
Estimated total range1: 87 miles (2014 Fiat 500e)
For a stylish take on the electric car, consider the Fiat 500e. The electric version of the Fiat 500 comes with many of the gas version’s upgrades as standard features, so in models like the 2014 Fiat 500e, you can enjoy an Alpine® audio system with six speakers, leather steering wheel, heated seats, and keyless entry.
Inside, the 500e is color-coordinated and really sporty-looking. You can find a 2014 500e with seats, door panels, steering wheel, and dashboard that have the same color as the car’s exterior paint, which makes for a very attractive package.
While the styling is nice, the space inside is kinda tight. The rear battery compartment eats into the backseat real estate in models like the 2014 500e, so there's not a whole lot of room for passengers in the back. This two-door electric vehicle may be better for singles or couples than families, since getting in and out can be tricky. That second row of seats is a great spot for a four-legged traveling companion though, or you can fold the back seats flat for 26 cubic feet of storage space.
Estimated MPGe1: 128 city/109 hwy (2016 Chevrolet Spark EV)
Estimated total range1: 82 miles (2016 Chevrolet Spark EV)
While the Chevrolet Spark EV was discontinued in 2016, it's still a favorite pick for many used-car shoppers looking for their first electric vehicle. The 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV is a subcompact four-door EV with a smaller-than-normal backseat. Offsetting the small interior are some attractive standard features, such as Bluetooth, in-car WiFi®, and alloy wheels. The Spark's small size and light weight gives it zippy acceleration: for example, Car and Driver clocked the 2014 Spark EV’s 0-60 mph time at 7.9 seconds.
The Spark does require a long time to recharge — 20 hours via a standard 110V outlet or seven hours at a 240V outlet. There is a fast-charge option, which Chevy claims can top off the 2014 Spark EV’s battery pack to 80 percent charge in 20 minutes.
Estimated MPGe1: 129 city/102 hwy (2013 Nissan LEAF)
Estimated total range1: 75 miles (2013 Nissan LEAF)
The top-selling Nissan LEAF EV was updated for 2017, but many of our customers have found that used LEAF electric cars can be a great value. As we pointed out in our Nissan LEAF video review, this is one budget-friendly electric car, and certain model years and trims of this vehicle can often be found on our lots for less than $10,000. 2
The 2013 LEAF S, for example, offers passengers front and rear heated seats, which is a rare set-up even for gasoline-engine passenger cars. There’s Bluetooth connectivity here, too, and the option to hook up an aftermarket Level 2 charger that is designed to drastically reduce your charging times.
The LEAF comes in three trims: S, SV, and SL. If you want built-in navigation, look to SV models like the 2015 LEAF SV; for leather upholstery and LED headlights, pick an SL trim like you’ll find in the 2016 LEAF SL.
And when you’re selecting an electric vehicle, be sure to take the time to consider how you'll use the car, and how far you'll need to travel between charge-ups. You can also take a look at the results of our 2017 hybrid & electric cars survey, where we asked EV and hybrid owners how they felt about driving an electric vehicle.>
If our list of eight best electric vehicles above doesn’t spark and jolt your interest, you can research alternative fuel vehicles and see if a different vehicle is better for you. You can also check out our used electric cars for sale, as well as our selection of used hybrid vehicles.
1. Fuel economy and range figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Range will vary based on, among other things, battery age, vehicle condition, and driving conditions. Battery range may decrease with time and use. See fueleconomy.gov for details.
2. Based on prices on carmax.com. Actual prices may vary based on your selected features and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.