Electric models

Last reviewed: October 2010

Chevrolet Volt
late 2010

Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt
We got some early impressions of a preproduction Volt when Chevrolet brought one to our test track. GM says this four-passenger hatchback can drive up to 40 miles on electric power and estimates that it can go an additional 300 miles on its gasoline engine. The car takes about 4 hours to fully charge on a 220-volt circuit, or 8 to 10 hours on a 110-volt line. We found the Volt to be a quiet, comfortable, although somewhat heavy-feeling car that rides well and has strong acceleration. Its hatchback and folding rear seat add versatility. On the dash, touch-sensitive pads replace conventional buttons, which takes getting used to. We’ll get more insight when we buy our own car for a full test. The Volt will first be sold in California and in the cities of Austin, Texas; New York; and Washington. The price is $41,000 (before tax credits). Or it can be leased for $350 per month.
 

Ford Focus EV
2011

Ford-Focus-EV
Ford Focus EV
The Focus EV is an all-electric, four-door sedan that is based on the redesigned 2012 Focus. Prototypes have had a 23-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack that Ford says will give the car a 100-mile range and take about 6 hours to recharge with a 220-volt charger. It will compete directly with the Nissan Leaf.
 

Mini E
2011

Mini Copper
Mini E
This all-electric version of the Mini Cooper is quick, smooth, and quiet. But the huge battery pack takes up the whole backseat, turning the car into a two-seater. Lifting your foot off of the accelerator pedal activates the car’s regenerative braking system, which causes the car to begin slowing even before you touch the brake pedal; that takes getting used to. BMW is still leasing some first-generation Mini E’s as part of a special program (see My year of driving electric). But it’s already developing a replacement, which is based on the BMW 1 Series and is due out next year.
 

Nissan Leaf
December 2010

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf
The Leaf is an all-electric, five-passenger, four-door hatchback. Nissan says it will go about 100 miles between charges and will take about 8 hours to fully charge on a 220-volt circuit. The Leaf’s base price will be $33,600, including destination fee, but buyers will qualify for a $7,500 federal tax rebate. Nissan will offer leases for $349 per month. It will initially be sold in selected metro areas of Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. Nissan expects it to be available nationally by the end of 2011.
 

Tesla Roadster
on sale now

Tesla Roadster
Tesla Roadster
This is a $111,000 all-electric, two-seat sports car that’s based on the Lotus Elise and has a fiberglass body. It was first sold in 2008. Tesla claims that it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and has a range of 245 miles, thanks to its massive 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack. A full charge takes 3.5 hours on a proprietary 240-volt, 70-amp charger.

In a brief drive, we found that the Roadster lives up to its sports car credentials, with blistering acceleration and go-cart handling. But the stiff ride is jarring, the interior is pretty basic, and climbing into the narrow cockpit is awkward because you have to swing your legs over a tall, wide sill. And loud battery-cooling fans emit a constant roar behind you. Tesla is developing its $50,000-plus Model S sedan for release in 2012.