For those still thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV), the landscape has changed considerably over the past year. Yet deciding what to buy has become more complex than ever. A Tesla was always a safe bet, offering the best range and charging network, and more aggressive pricing than ever. But its CEO Elon Musk’s behavior has turned off many, making Tesla no longer an option.
Forrtunately, there are better choices now available from a number of manufacturers. Many offer better interior and ergonomic designs in more varied body styles than the Tesla, which still uses the same 15-year old body style with minor variations between models.
While we all are looking for cars with longer ranges to reduce the need for charging on long trips, the differences among most models are not very significant. The vast majority of EVs being sold have a rated range of 210-270 miles. A few premium models can reach as high as 350 miles. But when you factor in the manufacturers’ advice to only charge to 80% and not fall below 10%, the actual range is about 150-200 miles and 250 miles, respectively. That’s about half the distance you get with an internal combustion vehicle. Also, even attaining this range is dependent on the outdoor temperature and the type of driving, whether it’s highway or local roads. These factors can reduce range by another 20%. The bottom line is choosing a new EV based on range among today’s options is probably not a major determinent.
The current range makes an EV a good option if it’s a second car, if you drive mostly within 50-100 miles of your home, or rarely drive more than 150 miles per day, and are able to charge at home. If you make long trips of 300 or 400 miles frequently, then you’re going to be inconvenienced by the 30 to 90 minutes of charging time required every couple of hundred miles.
Among the available brands of EVs, the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 offer some of most advanced technology in the $40K range, with both brands have receiving average reliability scores from Consumers Report. The Genesis GV60, built on the Hyundai/Kia platform offers similar miles (250), but adds a very high end interior with some of the most avanced technology. For example when you turn on your turn signal to change lanes, the side view mirror view is displayed on a hi-res display next to the speedometer. It also lets you enter and start your car using biometric data. But its predicted reliability is below average.
Volvo has also become an important player in the EV market and makes some of the most interesting EVs. The company is now taking orders for the EX30, an attractive compact SUV that gets 280 miles and costs about $40,000. It’s gaining quite a bit of attention for it’s performance, good looks, and thoughtful interior design.
General Motors’ Bolt is a good choice at its entry cost of $30K with a range of about 250 miles. Volkswagen also offers lower cost models such as the ID4, but has struggled with glitchy software and reliability issues.
With most of the cars getting a similar range, attention turns to the ergonomics. Some companies (like Volvo) emulate the sparse, single screen centric design of the Tesla, that puts most of the controls on the screen and reduces physical buttons to a minimum. Others add a second display in front of the driver and retain many of the conventional controls, which many prefer. It’s easier to use and doesn’t require a learning curve if you lend your car to another.
I’ve been looking for an EV for about a year, but have yet to find any affordable models that stood out other than the Genesis GV60. But it suffers from low reliability, and with so few dealers, potentially trouble ahead. The one car that really stood out was the BMW iX, a luxury SUV, with a 324 mile range, but at a huge cost of $87,000!
Consumer Report Reliability Predictions of EVs:
Above average: Nissan Ariya
Average: BMW iX, Kia EV6, Audi Q4, Suburu Solterra, Toyota b24X, Genesis GV60, Ford Mustang, Audi Q8, Tesla Model Y
Below Average: Hundyai Ioniq 5, Volkswagem ID4, Tesla Model X, Rivian R1S
Above average: Hundyai Ioniq 6
Average: BMW i4, Kia Niro EV, Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf
Below average: Lucid Air, Tesla Model S
Much below average: Mercedes EQS