It’s hard to believe, but we’re just about to enter the last third of our 2-year experiment with Buzz, our all-electric BMW ActiveE. At the risk of getting a little sentimental, it seems just like yesterday he was silently gliding into our garage for the first time.
So the decision is going to be upon us faster than we think about what comes next. One thing our experiment with Buzz proved to us is that having one electric car fits our lifestyle at The Aerie very well.
So — who are the leading production model EV contenders?
BMW i3: This is the car that the data from our field trial is being used to create. Due in early 2014, this “Megacity” car is supposed to have Buzz-like performance and range (80-100 miles) — actually a little better as the chassis is made from carbon-fibers and so is lighter than Buzz.
Price: $41,350 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate) + Yet-to-be-identified incentives for participating in the ActiveE field trial.
Pros: We like BMW. Buzz has beaten all expectations. Great looking interior.
Cons: “Distinctive” styling makes it looks not-so-much like a BMW.
Tesla Model S: The S has won all sorts of accolades in its short lifetime, including Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 2013. Not Electric Car of the Year — Car of the Year. Very stylish, it is the “it” car right now among the technorati. With a range that dwarfs other EVs (250-300 miles), fantastic performance, and great lines, it’s a pretty sweet ride.
Price: $88,000 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate)
Pros: Beautiful design inside and out. Eschewed “egg” shape of other EVs.
Cons: Exorbitant price. Salespeople have been dicks when I’ve asked them about the car. Car is huge and do you know how small SoCal parking spots are?
Nissan Leaf: Easily the most sold EV here in San Diego according to my non-scientific “look around while I’m driving” survey. I see a lot of Leafs (Leaves?). From what I can tell, they are solid, somewhat unremarkable vehicles, with a slightly smaller range than Buzz (~70 miles), and with a diminished driving performance.
Price: $30,000 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate)
Pros: Affordable. Well-supported by Nissan.
Cons: Fugly, even for an EV. “Meh” driving experience.
Chevy Spark-EV: The Spark is a EV retrofit of Chevy’s smallest production line-car. The max range (75 miles) is on the low-side of acceptable and does not seem to have been embraced by GM in the way that the PHEV Volt has. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Spark on the road, but I’ve seen plenty of Volts.
Price: $26,700 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate)
Cons: Teeny-tiny. Only a few thousand have been manufactured. Also a “meh” driving experience.
Ford Focus EV: Unlike the Leaf, the i3, and other EVs, Ford has opted to keep their EV looking like a car, not a “futuristic” vehicle. This was the second EV to reach the mass market after the Leaf, though hasn’t been really touted by Ford and there are rumors they are not interested in pushing it. Range and performance are Leaf-like, though the price is about five grand more.
Price: $35,000 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate)
Pros: Decent looking.
Cons: Ford rumored to lack interest in support. Like the Leaf, but more expensive.
Fiat 500e: To me, the Fiat 500e is like a juiced up version of the Chevy Spark. Reviews suggest it has good handling and has a Buzz-like range of 85-100 miles on a charge. There’s a “toy car” look that I can’t quite take seriously.
Price: $29,800 ($7500 Fed EV tax credit + $2500 CA rebate)
Pros: Feisty. Reviews suggest it’s pretty zippy.
Cons: Teeny-tiny. Fiat doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for reliability. Only sold in CA.
There are, of course, other EVs being developed — e.g., a VW Golf EV, a Mercedes Benz B-class EV, a Volvo C30 EV, and a Tesla X small SUV — but none of them are likely to be available by Spring 2014.
There are also several Plug-in Hybrid EVs that have a battery that goes short distances (typically 15-35 miles) after depletion of which, the car switches over to a gas-hybrid drive. Most notable there are the Chevy Volt and the Prius C Plug-in. Right now, we’re not really considering them as it seems to diminish the benefit of driving an EV and I wonder about the engineering of trying to make one vehicle two things.
So — there they are. Which one is your favorite? Which one do you think will be plugged into The Aerie’s charging station this time next year?