Best Green Cars in 2015
Electric cars aren’t only green; they’re also a ton of fun to drive. The growing market includes dozens of models, with new ones joining the club every year. We’ve rounded up some of the new battery-electric cars that will hit the U.S. market in 2015/16. Our list just covers battery electrics rather than conventional hybrids or fuel-cell vehicles (which aren’t exactly in the same league).
Prices noted below do not include electric vehicle incentives like the $7,500 federal tax credit, the $2,500 California ZEV rebate, or other state or local incentives. Be sure to check to find out which incentives are available in your area, to get the lowest available price.
Tesla Model X
Definitely the hottest green car coming to market in 2015, the Tesla Model X is the all-electric SUV/crossover that follows the world-renowned Tesla Model S, an all-electric sedan widely considered the best mass-manufactured car ever. The new Model X is supposed to feature more than 200 miles of range, falcon-wing doors, seating for up to seven adults, all-wheel drive, and breathtaking acceleration (the Tesla Model X P85 can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds, faster than any sedan in history and faster than many super cars).
In September 2014, there were already about 20,000 reservations for the Model X and new monthly reservations were growing. The vehicle is expected to be like no other. The only real downside: It won’t be cheap. An early price estimate suggests the car will start around $60,000, but that figure may well go up by the time the vehicle hits the market. It’s not very clear when the Model X will be available – it has been delayed four times, most recently at the end of last year. It is now scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2015.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Another SUV/crossover, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV isn’t an all-electric vehicle but rather a plug-in hybrid. Thus, its electric-only range and efficiency are compromised a bit, but it gets greater range than it would otherwise.
The Outlander PHEV has been on the market for quite some time in Europe and Japan (its home country), where it’s been selling very well. So far in 2014, it is the top-selling electric vehicle in Europe. Attractive and utilitarian, the vehicle includes all-wheel drive, seats up to five adults, and has an electric-only range of more than 30 miles (according to the U.K. rating). Mitsubishi promotes it as a “no compromise” vehicle. The downside of the vehicle, for those wanting to be as green as possible, is that it switches to gasoline (or diesel) when the limited electric range runs out. And being such a large vehicle, efficiency is reduced. In other words, it’s not the greenest car on this list, but it offers its own advantages.
BMW X5 eDrive
The BMW X5 eDrive is a plug-in hybrid electric version of the BMW X5, the brand’s midsize luxury SUV. A release date hasn’t been announced, but the X5 eDrive is expected sometime in 2015.
The X5 eDrive includes all-wheel drive as well as innovative EfficientDynamics drive technology. Its all-electric range is about 19 miles, not even two-thirds of the Outlander PHEV, but its efficiency is still “unrivaled among vehicles in this class,” according to BMW. The X5 eDrive is also expected to be quite fast despite its large size, with the ability to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than seven seconds. It’s not going to compete with the Model X in that regard, but that’s still quick for an SUV.
One of the most exciting features of the X5 eDrive is its EfficientDynamics drive technology. The X5 eDrive is intelligent enough to prepare the vehicle for upcoming changes in gradient, traffic, and road design in order to improve efficiency. It uses sensors, a navigation system, and radar to help. The technology takes into account speed limits, corners, the start of built-up areas, traffic circles, turnoffs, and highway exits. The X5 eDrive also pays attention to each driver’s driving style and provides tips for more efficient travel, and will also recommend the most fuel-efficient route to your destination. Furthermore, the X5 eDrive can pay attention to vehicles nearby and decelerate on its own in the case of a potential crash.
Despite its large size, modest battery, and all-electric range, the X5 eDrive is still more efficient than a Toyota Prius or any other non-electric car on the market. The downsides to the X5 eDrive are the limited electric range and, most likely, a high price tag.
Audi A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 e-tron is Audi’s highly anticipated first electric offering. It is a plug-in hybrid electric car with 204 horsepower, 258 pound-foot of torque, and 18 miles of all-electric range. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than eight seconds. The Audi A3 e-tron also offers quite a lot of cargo space, 40 cubic feet.
Edmunds notes the A3 e-tron has excellent handling: “In our quick Audi e-tron test-drive, we found that the plug-in hybrid delivers the best balance and handling of the A3 range.” The only con Edmunds mentions is the noise level: “Stock tires coupled with quiet electric operation allow more road noise into the cabin.” If superb fuel efficiency is the goal, the A3 e-tron doesn’t compare to an all-electric vehicle. Its 18 miles of all-electric range is less than a typical all-electric car’s 75 to 200-plus miles of range. What you get in return is greater total range before refueling (about 550 miles).
Audi has not yet announced pricing and a release date, but the A3 e-tron is supposed to hit the U.S. market sometime in 2015.
Kia Soul EV
Technically, the Kia Soul EV has arrived in the U.S., but it is only available in California right now. In 2015, it should be available to several other U.S. markets.
The Kia Soul EV starts at $33,700, placing it the affordable class. With EV incentives taken, it is much cheaper than the average new car purchased in the U.S. Compared to the vehicles mentioned above, this is a big advantage of the Kia Soul EV. However, the car comes with fewer bells and whistles. Still, the Kia Soul EV is quite spacious and comfortable.
The Soul EV offers a respectable 93 miles of range – more than most all-electric vehicles and the best in its class – and it has a combined miles-per-gallon equivalency (MPGe) of 105. On the highway, the Soul is rated at 92 MPGe, while it gets 120 MPGe in the city.
The Kia Soul EV isn’t the most luxurious or speedy electric vehicle on the market, but it is a hip, affordable, and highly efficient option with good range.
2016 Chevy Volt
A heavily updated version of the popular Chevy Volt (an extended-range electric vehicle) is scheduled for 2015. Not much is known about the upcoming Volt, but it’s supposed to have a bit more electric-only range than the current one, as well as a different body style.
The current Volt, which was the highest-selling electric car in the U.S. market for a couple of years, gets 38 miles of all-electric range (a lot for a car that isn’t fully electric) as well as a 98 MPGe rating on the battery and 37 MPG on gas. The Volt is known for great drive quality, as it has the most satisfied car owners in the U.S. One of the biggest downsides is that the Volt only seats four people. It also has limited trunk space.
The current Volt sells for $34,345 before incentives. That’s a fair price, considering what the car offers.
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