SemaConnect Blog

March 18, 2015

EVs for the ‘every man: Time for the mainstream driver to embrace affordable motoring

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The concept that electric cars save their owners a fistful of dollars is a no-brainer. After all, even with gas prices hovering around $2.50 a gallon, a mile ‘s worth of EV charge still costs a third* less than the same distance from a gas tank. In fact the EPA reckons that a driver traveling 15,000 miles a year would save $1,000 or more by plugging in to the mains, rather than hooking up to the gas pump. But you’d be forgiven for not noticing.

Much of the media-focus on EVs lasers in on the latest top-of-the-range model to be wowing the auto shows – or the undoubted feel-good vibe from driving with zero tailpipe emissions. Call it the Tesla effect. Elon Musk has been so successful in redefining the EV around ground-breaking performance (and heart-breaking looks), that electric motoring can often seem outside the price bracket of the ‘every man’.

This is a shame, as the second wave of electric motoring has recently delivered some truly affordable EVs onto the forecourt that are more than appropriate for the high school senior, entry-level employee, moms, dads and plenty of others outside of the top 2% tax bracket. Add to this a growing EV charging infrastructure nationwide, which is helping to turn the EV from electric car novelty plaything to a very functional family workhorse.

Let’s run through a list of top-rated EVs that are sure to be as attractive in the wallet as they are in the showroom. 

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Let’s start with the smallest, and quite possibly the cutest, of affordable EVs to make the cut – the Smart Electric Drive. The latest generation of this nippy two-seater has been around for a couple of years now. Not a huge seller in the US as yet, the Smart has seen several thousand unit shift in Europe. But with a sticker price of a shade over $19,5000 ($12,000 with tax credits) – and a range of nearly 70 miles – the Smart has potential to be the ultimate economy car for young urbanites across the US.

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Like the Smart ED, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV has a decent range (60 miles) and a jaw-dropping mileage equivalent (126 MPG anyone?). That, and an equally eyebrow-raising design that also has ‘quirky’ written all over it. Unlike the Smart though, the i-MiEV is a four-seater, and so could fit the bill as a first family car, electric-style. And with last year’s price slash, you can get your hands on an i-MiEV for less than $24,000 ($16,000 with incentives).

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Cool as these two micro-cars are, if you’re looking for an affordable EV that’s better suited to Mr and Mrs Average Driver, then undoubtedly the Nissan Leaf calls for your attention. It’s not just us saying so – over 70,000 of these plug-ins are now being driven across the US. The latest bottom range Leaf also finds itself firmly in the inexpensive price range –  at $21,000, once the federal incentive is taken into account.

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Lastly, and sneaking somewhat onto this list, is the Chevy Volt. While considered by many not to be a true EV (because of its relatively low range, at just 38 miles all-electric), the Volt is undoubtedly still a plug-in. And it has also managed to win a place in the heart of the nation’s every-day family drivers – nearly 74,000 Volts were sold by January of this year. With an equivalent gas mileage of just a shade under 100 MPG, each of those Volt owners are likely to save $5,000 in gas over 5 years, according to the EPA.

That’s more than enough to make its forecourt price of $26,000 (including incentives) reasonable indeed – and as good a candidate as any here for the every man’s (and woman’s) full consideration for their EV drive in 2015.

*Assuming an average US electric cost of $0.11 per kWh and an electric motor delivering 3.125 miles per kWh.
Martin Leggett is a freelance writer from the UK, who specializes in writing on the strategic impact of environmental issues. After a 10-year sojourn as an analyst at Brady plc – a Cambridge-based provider of services to commodity investment banking professionals – Martin set himself up as self-employed writer at the beginning of 2010. Since then he has written for a number of environmental websites and companies– including cutting-edge clean energy startups – and has been one of the principle journalists for green news website, The Earth Times
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