If price is the ONLY consideration, how do the current battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) available in the U.S. stack up?
It's important to point out that you'll be hard-pressed to find many other publications putting out lists like these for electric vehicles. There are very obvious reasons for that, but it warrants some explanation for those that are unaware. It can be time-consuming and frustrating to track down detailed pricing information, model year changes, specific state-related availability, etc. for plug-in cars.
For this reason, InsideEVs has decided that it's going to make a newfound effort to provide our readers with the most up-to-date information in the form of LISTS for your education and convenience. Remember, we constantly update our COMPARE EVs tab at the top of the home page, so all of this information is at your disposal indefinitely.
We need to spend some time pointing out a number of disclaimers. Otherwise, we're looking at hundreds of potentially negative comments saying, "Wait this car is only available in Cali," or "You can't even get this car, there's no stock," or "This is a compliance car," or "This car isn't even priced, it's only available as a lease," etc.
So, without further ado, here's our list of the cheapest BEVs, with plenty of disclaimers, so as not to upset the Feng Shui of our environment, amidst our concerted attempt to assist EV advocates in their future pursuits.
Keep in mind that all of these vehicles qualify for the $7,500 U.S. federal EV tax credit (see after-credit pricing here). However, you MUST have the tax liability in order to qualify for it (if you don't owe the feds more than $7,500, you're likely out of luck, and if you choose to lease, it's up to the manufacturer and/or dealership to determine how much, if any, rebate will be applied to your deal).
8) Chevrolet Bolt - $36,620
The Bolt EV is the most expensive car on this list, however, it's available in all U.S. states, and decent inventory assumes anyone in the U.S. should be able to get one immediately. Depending on your location, you may be able to secure a pretty good deal. Let's not forget that as far as affordable BEVs go, you can't top the Bolt EV's 238-mile range.
7) Fiat 500e - $32,995
Many call the Fiat 500e a compliance car, and that comes as no surprise since it's only available in a few CARB states, added to that fact that CEO Sergio Marchionne has asked that you please don't buy this car, or it will cause his company to lose money. With all of that aside, it's a blast to drive and relatively inexpensive. It gets an EPA-rated 84 miles of range.
6) Kia Soul EV - $32,250
The Kia Soul has claimed a plethora of awards due to its immense amount of space and versatility. It's basically a compact car that should be classified as an SUV/CUV. There are no other vehicles in its class that offer such expansive passenger and cargo volume, not to mention an industry-leading warranty and a low price tag. So, the BEV variant seems like a no-brainer, right?
Honestly, if we could buy one tomorrow with no hassle (in Michigan or Florida), it's likely that we'd partake, especially when an updated model with more range arrives. But ugh, again, it's not an option outside of California. However, we've been apprised that with a little bit of effort, you may be able to get one delivered to a dealership in your area, and there is some stock in other CARB states and even outside of such states, but it's limited and rare. The latest iteration of the Soul EV returns 111 miles of real-world range.
5) Volkswagen e-Golf - $30,495
The Volkswagen e-Golf made a name for itself in our 2017 scorecard recaps as that "jacka**" of the year, via Jay Cole! But, we all agree wholeheartedly. VW is one of the most impressive and best-selling brands across the globe. However, there's nothing positive about offering a fun-to-drive, super-popular, tried-and-true VW Golf in the EV variety, and then failing to stock it or update it. Nonetheless, if you can secure one, it's a great hot hatch at a reasonable price. But, even with the now-bigger battery, you'll only get 125 miles of range.
4) Nissan LEAF - $29,990
The all-new 2018 Nissan LEAF is really a no-brainer, and truly our top pick in terms of range, performance, passenger and cargo capacity, and price. Yes, it falls in the middle of this list, but that's not a true representation of the LEAF's quality and success. The current base LEAF will get you 151 miles of EPA range. And it is, and always has been, available nationwide.
Many of our readers and visitors continue to dog on the LEAF's lack of a thermal management system for the battery pack. That fact that it superficially degrades the battery pack is old news and not so much a reality today. We have in-house experience over years and years of use that proves otherwise.
However, it continues to plague the LEAF, but Nissan has assured us that their new battery tech accounts for this and it's really not at all what many of us have seen/listened to/observed over the years. Lesson learned (whether or not you choose to accept it): The LEAF's lack thereof shouldn't be a major factor in your buying decision. This is honestly no different from the multitude of comments about the Tesla Model 3's fit and finish issues. While there may be isolated instances, it's just not validated on a grand level.
3) Hyundai IONIQ Electric - $29,500
The Hyundai IONIQ Electric commands 124 miles of EPA-estimated electric range. It looks like a "normal" car, offers decent room for four adults, and plenty of space for cargo. Sadly, Hyundai can't keep up with demand, so inventory is generally quite low. It's also only available in California.
2) Ford Focus Electric - $29,120
The Ford Focus Electric will carry you 115 miles on a charge. It's nearly a carbon copy of its ICE stablemate, seating five with a cramped rear seat, and offering respectable cargo capacity if you opt for the hatchback. However, the Focus Electric hatch has almost 10 less cubic feet behind the rear seats than the ICE Focus, making the utility of the hatchback variant almost non-existent compared to a compact car with a trunk (it's basically the same amount of space as the ICE Focus' small trunk). Once again, this is a limited-production vehicle that's only available at dealerships in CARB states, however, you can order it nationwide and it can be serviced at most Ford dealerships.
1) smart fortwo ED - $23,800
C'mon, it's way cheap, especially when you knock off the $7,500 rebate ...
It's really not all that cheap for what you're getting. A two-seat city car with 58 miles of range and a top speed of 81 mph! You'd think Mercedes-Benz could do better. This thing should have more miles than most cars on our list. However, it is MB, and the German automaker has not proven it has a knack for popular, long-range EVs. Regardless of how we feel about it, there's definitely a place for such vehicles, and based on the criteria (cheapest BEVs), it comes out ahead of the rest and it's available nationwide, though stock is always low.
*Honorable Mention: 2017 Honda Clarity Electric - *as low as $199 per month (California and Oregon/lease only)
This is a fantastic car. The fact that's it's a Honda speaks volumes, unless, of course, you only buy American, which is increasingly challenging in this day and age. Not only did the Clarity PHEV arrive and smack down the Toyota Prius Prime in all-electric range (47! vs. 25), the only plug-in to date to even tread close to the Chevy Volt), the 89-mile BEV variant undercuts most all range rivals when price is the primary factor. At $199 per month with only about $800 down, it's hard to beat. However, again, this is essentially a city car. 89 miles of range won't be your friend if you have a long commute or plan on road-tripping.
Herein lies the rub with these type of LIST posts ...
Being that you can't get some cars nationwide, and some vehicles don't offer a reasonable range per price point, you may rank these cars differently. But, the point is, these are the cheapest BEVs on the U.S. market today, regardless of any other factors. Your job is to situate your priorities, location, tax situation, range needs, and overall brand commitment, and use this list as a reference to make the best decision going forward.
After considerable research, in terms of nationwide availability and the best bang/range for your buck, InsideEVs picks the 2018 Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Bolt. However, neither car tops our list of today's cheapest BEVs.
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