Car shopping is involved enough, making a pick from among all the electric vehicles (EVs) out there can be an even greater challenge. This is particularly true for first-time EV buyers. There are a lot of terms to master and information to digest. We understand that there’s a degree of altruism and that many EV purchases are motivated by environmental, political or fossil-fuel concerns. However, EVs are not cheap and often cost much more than a gasoline-powered car of the same size. However, with this list, we’re not trying to determine why you should opt for an EV. Our job is simply to help you in your search for the right EV no matter why you want one—and there are some very good electric cars available today, at a variety of price points. Autotrader Executive Editor, Brian Moody, says “This is our first annual list of the best EVs and we expect the cars on this list to change dramatically over the years since the technology is still evolving. The main things to remember about electric vehicles are that, for the most part, they’re more rewarding to drive and require less maintenance than a traditional automobile. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for a new or used electric vehicle.”
To aid you in negotiating the EV-shopping minefield, the Autotrader staff put their heads together to find you the most bang for your buck among the ever-growing field of battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Today there are more than 50 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and EVs before including model variations. For this list, if it doesn’t have a plug, it wasn’t considered.
Beyond the plug-in qualifier and 2019 on-sale date, some objective factors considered included maximum range, electric-only range (for PHEVs) and price. Other factors, such as drivability and value were a bit more subjective in nature. Categories were scored on a 1-to-5 scale with 5 being the high score. We didn’t rank them from top to bottom basically because the group of considered vehicles is so diverse, consisting of PHEVs and EVs, luxury and nonluxury, as well as cars and CUVs. One day, we may have enough candidates to have a “Best Electric SUV” award but we’re not there yet.
Every pick earned a combined average score of at least 3.8 out of a possible 5. Prices include the factory delivery charge and represent the base manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the specific model listed. Some still qualify for all or a portion of the government’s $7,500 tax credit. We didn’t include that information in our decision-making process because, based on sales volume, it can change during the year. Plus, we’re entering an era where electric vehicles simply have to be great regardless of government incentives or rebates or any imagined “cool factor.” The vehicles on our list are all that good. Range estimates are the government’s and are not based on our own findings.
2020 Chevrolet Bolt Premier (EV)
Est. Total Range: 259 miles
For 2020, the Bolt gets a 21-mile increase in range. There are also two new color choices: Cayenne Orange Metallic (additional cost option) and Oasis Blue. You can get into the entry-level Bolt LT for about $4,500 less, but we went with the Premier because it provides scads of additional standard equipment like leather seating, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors and much more. It’s $4,500 well spent. The electric motor generates 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. The Bolt’s range is on par with EVs costing much more. Something that sets the Bolt apart is the fact that it feels a little quicker than other small EVs like the Nissan Leaf and it has TONS of cool tech features accessible from the very large touch screen.
2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited (PHEV)
Est. Electric-Only Range: 32 miles
Est. Total Range: 520 miles
The only minivan with electric propulsion of any kind, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid brings plug-in electric technology to the quintessential family hauler. The Limited is the totally tricked-out grade with a hands-free power lift gate and sliding doors to a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. A variation of the regular van’s 3.6-liter V6 joins two motor/generators to make 287 hp. If you’re surprised or put off by the Pacifica Hybrid’s price, check out the price of other nicely equipped minivans without a plug-in hybrid option, it’s about the same price.
2019 Honda Clarity (PHEV)
Est. Electric-Only Range: 47 miles
Est. Total Range: 340 miles
With the most electric-only range of the PHEVs on this list, the Clarity also has the distinction of having the second-shortest total range, as well. It’s a smart decision by Honda
engineers as we think most Clarity buyers will want maximum EV range combined with an overall driving range that’s about the same as a traditional gasoline-powered sedan. That’s a result of its 7-gallon gas tank. Its 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine only kicks in to supply the electric motor with the power to turn the front wheels when the battery goes dry. We chose the more affordable of the two trim levels because it comes well equipped. For another three grand, you can get leather-trimmed seating, a navigation system and a few other enhancements. Also, the Clarity is available as a fully electric car and as a hydrogen-powered car in some regions. However, the EV only version has a low 89-mile range, which is why we opted for the PHEV version.
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric SEL
Est. Total Range: 258 miles
This is the entry-level Kona Electric grade. The Kona is one of our picks because of its excellent driving dynamics that are combined with a very generous range, similar to the updated Chevy Bolt. We like the SEL as it has all the features usually found in an EV plus a surprise or two like lane-keep assist and heated outboard mirrors. Apple
CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are a dual-level cargo floor and Hyundai
Blue Link system interface. Oh, and it’s protected by one of the longest warranties in the business. The downside is the Kona EV may not be available in your state.
2019 Jaguar I-Pace HSE (EV)
Est. Total Range 234 miles
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace can gallop to 60 mph from a stop in 4.5 seconds thanks to two electric motors developing 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque. Featuring all-wheel drive, the HSE is the top grade of the three I-Pace trim levels. Boasting lots of luxury touches like leather seating, surround-sound audio system and an assortment of driver-assist/safety technologies, it brings uber luxury and electric propulsion together at a reasonable price.
2019 Kia Niro EV EX
Est. Total Range: 239 miles
The Kia Niro comes as a conventional hybrid, a PHEV and as an EV. The EV makes this list because of its better-than-average electric-only range, roomy, upscale interior, and surprisingly robust 201-hp (291 lb-ft of torque) electric motor. There’s plenty of connectivity and available driver-assist technologies. And, it netted some great third-party safety scores, too. Regardless of how it’s powered, the Kia Niro is one of our favorite small cars. The Toyota Prius Prime is a decent alternative, but it is not offered as a full EV like the Kona and the Niro are.
2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring (PHEV)
Est. Electric-Only Range: 18 miles (Lincoln estimate)
Est. Total Range: TBD
The Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring is the plug-in-hybrid version of the all-new Aviator. It pairs the twin-turbo V6 found in other Aviator models with an electric motor for a combined 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. These astonishing numbers are more in line with a high-performance sports car than a 3-row SUV. The result is a shockingly quick family SUV. A 10-speed automatic transmission delivers output to all four wheels with standard AWD. This is the ideal platform for Lincoln to show off the bulk of its connectivity and driver-assist/safety technologies. Leading the cool-feature list is the capability of linking up to four smartphones to act as your “car key.” One little note, Lincoln says the EV only has a range of 18 miles. However, on a recent drive we were getting 20-25 miles of EV range on the highway in 100+ degree temperatures—the worst kind of conditions for a battery-powered SUV like the Aviator. We think the actual EV-only range is higher but Lincoln says 18 is the official number so we’re going with that.
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL
Est. Electric-Only Range: 22 miles
Est. Total Range: 310 miles
Because of its small lineup, we don’t often get to include a Mitsubishi
model on such lists, but the Outlander PHEV is sure worth a look. The SEL is the more affordable of the Outlander PHEV trims. It comes pretty well equipped with a remote-power lift gate, heated outboard mirrors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and much more. Mitsubishi combines two electric motors (one on each axle) with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder to generate 190 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque.
2019 Nissan Leaf S Plus (EV)
Est. Total Range: 226 miles
What the Leaf Plus brings to the table over the regular Leaf is a larger battery and an estimated 76 miles of additional range. Although its total range is only slightly less than the other EVs among our picks, the S Plus costs thousands less. Only the Hyundai Kona EV comes close in price. Yet, the Leaf Plus still comes nicely equipped with automatic emergency braking, auto on/off headlights, automatic climate control, an 8-in touch screen and more. There’s good reason why Nissan
is touting the Leaf as the best-selling EV. If you want a semi budget-friendly way to get into a “no gasoline” lifestyle, the Leaf is it. If you’re familiar with the first Nissan Leaf, this new version is a big step up. The interior is nicer, there are attractive color choices and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist is a useful piece of tech as well.
2019 Porsche Panamera 4 e-hybrid Sport Turismo (PHEV)
Est. Electric-Only Range: 14 miles
Est. Total Range: 490 miles
What’s not to like about a hybrid sports car that can blast from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds? Porsche combines a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with an electric motor to produce 457 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Other than the advantages the plug-in hybrid system provides in extra oomph and fewer fuel stops, the AWD Panamera 4 e-hybrid Sport Turismo is pure Panamera. Yes, the Panamera’s electric-only driving range is quite low but that’s not really what this car is about. The juice from the electrified drivetrain helps boost the car’s acceleration to the point that it really just enhances those traits we already associate with Porsche.
2019 Tesla Model 3 Single Motor (EV)
Est. Total Range: 240 miles
You knew there had to be a Tesla
somewhere among these picks. Here it is. It’s the most affordable of Tesla’s all-electric offerings. It’s a technological beast with four USB ports, docking for two smartphones, and Autopilot with automatic emergency braking, collision warning and blind spot monitoring. You can get what Tesla calls Full Self-Driving Capability (whatever that is) for an extra $6,000. This rear-wheel-drive version delivers a top speed of 140 mph and a zero-to-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds. The Model 3 isn’t perfect but it is good-looking and a lot of fun to drive.
2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Momentum (PHEV)
Est. Electric-Only Range: 19 miles
Est. Total Range: 520 miles
The Momentum is the entry-level grade for this plug-in hybrid, but it still comes with a 12.3-in touch screen, a 10-speaker audio system, five drive modes, a power lift gate, AWD and plenty more goodies. An electric motor pairs with the turbocharged, supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine to develop 400 hp and 495 lb-ft of torque. The XC60 T8 sprints to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.9 seconds. An 8-speed automatic transmission delivers engine power to all four wheels. If you’re looking for an electrified vehicle that best combines luxury, performance and everyday versatility, the XC60 T8 is our pick.