While traditional gasoline-based cars will continue to dominate the scene for years to come, the good news is you no longer need to spend a small fortune to get into the electric car game.

The electric market continues to expand with a number of newer players like Tesla helping lead the way. Of course familiar automotive brands are also getting in on the action, and thankfully options from companies like Kia and Chevy are generally going to cost you a heck of a lot less.

So what is “the best electric car?” It might seem like a straightforward question. It is, on the face of things. But there are so many caveats here it could take us all day to get through them.

The truth is that electric cars are so diverse that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all s0lution. You need to find what is the best electric car for you.

So ask yourself:

  • Do you need the best electric car range?
  • Do you want the fastest electric car?
  • Do you want the best electric car lease deal?
  • Do you want a budget electric car?
  • Do you need a fast charging electric car?

If you’re confused by the market, we’re here to help you make your decision. In this post we run through the best full electric cars on the market that you can buy right now. Before we get there though, you need to ask yourself — is an electric car a good fit for you?

Is an electric car right for me?

So if you’ve comee to this guide, you’re likely at least thinking about getting an electric car. Or maybe you’re just daydreaming about the day you can truly afford one. However, before you really start planning a purchase, there’s some questions you can ask yourself to figure out if an electric car makes sense for you.

A fully electric car might be worthy of your consideration if you can answer yes to the majority of these questions:

  • Do you live in a highly populated area where most things that matter to you are within a reasonable distance?
  • Do you have access to a power socket for overnight charging?
  • Are there enough charging stations locally available, or if not — is your range going to be short enough that you can rely on just charging at home?
  • Do you have a secondary car that runs on gas for longer journeys, or are willing to rent a car for situations like this?
  • Are you able to afford the cost of a full electric car? Prices typically start at $30k+. 

If you can answer yes to pretty much all of these questions, an electric car could be a good fit. But what if you need something with a longer range, or maybe a cheaper price tag? That’s where hybrids come into play. You should consider a hybrid (including possibly a plug-in hybrid if you:

  • Want or need to make longer journeys regularly.
  • You don’t have dependable access to charging ports in your area.
  • You simply want a ‘backup’ plan for if you run out of battery — in this cas, a small gas engine that can take over.
  • You’re looking for a more affordable option. Hybrids often run as cheap as $20k, though there are models that can cost much more.

If you still want an electric vehicle in your life but a full electric car doesn’t make sense due to pricing or range concerns, we highly recommend considering either a hybrid car or an electric bike. 

Charging – finding a local station, or installing a better solution

If you are going with an all electric car you’ll need a reliable way to charge up. There are a number of factors to consider here, including how much you’ll be traveling each day. Regardless, we highly recommend you have 240-volt plug installed in your garage. For those in the US market, many electric cars can use a standard household plug (120V) but it’s not a great idea, considering charging up a battery from near-dead could take as long as 20 hours depending on your car’s battery size.

A 240-volt plug on a 13 amp socket will still take around 6-10 hours in most cases, but installing a 240-volt plug is cheap and easy yet improves charge times dramatically.

Need even better charging performance? You can but a High Performance Charger setup that can charge up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes, but this will require professional installation and a costly charger — we are talking around a thousand or more in some cases. Then again, if you are willing to invest $30k+ in a full electric car, what is another $1000?

Lastly, it’s important to know what local charging options are available to you when driving around your neighboring communities. A great resource for this is PlugShare – which provides a map of all nearby electric chargers in the area you specify. 

Best all-electric cars you can buy

Okay, now you’re ready to do some shopping. Here’s a look at some of the best electric cars you can buy. 

BMW i3

BMW i3, the fashionable electric city car

BMW has redefined the small car genre with the i3 and there’s plenty more to come from this line of carbon-fiber/aluminium bodied machines.

A range of 81 miles is the limiting factor, although you can order your i3 with a range extender engine that turns it into more usable transport with a 150-mile range. In 2017, the i3 will have a range of 114 miles without petrol power.

It charges in 3 hours on a 220-volt outlet and with a rear-drive set-up it should be fun. Intrusive electronics and a 2600lb kerbweight mean it isn’t quite the pure driving machine that built BMW’s reputation.

It is, however, a premium city car that means people can enjoy zero emissions without slumming it. It’s a lifestyle statement and a fashion accessory, as much as a usable car, but the world still loves a designer label.

There are neat tricks on the i3, including regenerative braking that means you can leave the brake pedal alone if you plan your drive. It will also hit 60mph in 6.5s, which in the confines of the city is all you are likely to need.

It isn’t the total package, but it’s a good first attempt from BMW and a clear sign of what is to come.

BMW i3 key specs

  • Range: 125 miles (201 km)
  • Battery: 35.8 kWh
  • Top speed: 93 mph (165 km/h)
  • Torque: 214 lb-ft (290 Nm)
  • Power: 134 hp (100 kW)
  • Weight: 3,391 lb (1,538 kg)

BMW i3 price

  • $42,275

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 is the entry-level EV that is all set carry the weight of Elon Musk’s zero emissions campaign on its shoulders.

The Tesla Model 3 release date was set for the second half of 2017 and while some units have been making their way to customers, Tesla is definitely off to a slow a start. Anyone who reserves the Model 3 now can expect a delivery in a year to 18 months.

It still boasts the novelty factor. Tesla stuck to his lithium-ion guns when the mainstream motoring world wrote him off as a nut. Now, with the help of the Tesla Gigafactory and the growing momentum of EV motoring, Tesla finds itself at the head of the pack. The Model 3 is a massive step for the company and electric cars in general. It’s the first plug-in EV to go to battle in the highly competitive field that includes established masters like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C Class and Jaguar XE.

The Tesla Model 3 may be off to a rough start, but consumer interest continues to grow. Which isn’t really surprising, given that it easily outshines all of its similarly-priced competition. If Tesla can quickly sort out their production concerns, it will once again find itself a front runner in the budget EV market as well.

Tesla Model 3 specs

  • Range: 220 miles (350 km)
  • Battery: 50 kWh
  • Top speed: 130 mph (210 km/h)
  • Torque: 317 lb-ft (430 Nm)
  • Power: 258 hp (192 kW)
  • Weight: 3,549 lb (1,610 kg)

Tesla Model 3 price

  • $35,000

 

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Like Honda and Toyota, Hyundai proclaimed the superiority of hydrogen fuel cell technology over battery-powered EVs, and the Korean manufacturer put its money where its mouth was with the hydrogen-powered Ioniq.

Hyundai hedged its bets however with hybrid and full-electric variants of the Ioniq. The latter is available for under $30,000 right now, and we think it will do much better than its hydrogen-powered counterpart.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric looks…regular, and you’ll have to decide how you personally feel about that. It offers around 110 miles of range, which is under half what competitors like the Bolt EV boast. This is not, by any means, a flashy car, but it has solid range, a decent feature set, it drives really well, and it’s already on the market. If only Hyundai would make up its mind and put some marketing dollars behind it. Check it out, you might like it!

Hyundai Ioniq Electric key specs

  • Range: 108 miles (175 km)
  • Battery: 28 kWh
  • Top speed: 102 mph (165 km/h)
  • Torque: 44 lb-ft (295 Nm)
  • Power: 120 hp (88 kW)
  • Weight: 3,130 lb (1420 kg)

Hyundai Ioniq Electric price

  • $29,500

Chevy Bolt

GM will actually beat Tesla to the punch with a truly mass market electric car that can crack 200 miles between charges. We may still have to wait for the Model 3, but the pure electric Bolt is ready to roll off the production line now.

Yes, the company that killed the electric car, according to one high-profile documentary, could be about to take the lead in the EV race.

That’s because the Bolt isn’t meant to be a revolution, it’s an actual car that people can use. It’s the workhorse PC compared to the iPads on offer at Tesla. It’s elegant, but it’s functional and it will consign range anxiety to history. That’s the critical part.

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Also, this car is categorically going to be on the road on time. While Tesla has had trouble hitting production targets in the past, GM is a corporate juggernaut that understands product development cycles.

In another ironic twist of fate, the company that went bankrupt in 2009 and was held up as a shining example of American failure in the financial crisis could be the safe bet for cautious customers. Not everybody has bought into Elon Musk and the stock market never seems sure if the Tony Stark of the EV world is going to reign supreme or fall flat on his face.

That can be a big factor for the car buying public, because who will service your car if the company goes pop in a few months’ time?

GM has had its dark days and it’s going to be here. So will the Chevy Bolt and, while it might not be the most exciting EV on the market, it’s going to be one of the best for a good long while.

Chevrolet Bolt EV specs

  • Range: 238 miles (383 km)
  • Battery: 60 kWh
  • Top speed: 90 mph (145 km/h)
  • Torque: 266 lb-ft (361 Nm)
  • Power: 200 hp (200 kW)
  • Weight: 3,583 lb (1,625 kg)

Chevrolet Bolt EV price

  • $37,495 ($29,995 after tax credit) 

Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul, a stylish and fun EV

Korean company Kia has managed to inject some, well, soul into the EV sector with this cute, diminutive SUV that has won legions of fans around the world.

It’s no rival for the Tesla Model X, but then that’s the point. It’s like an overgrown toy car with its clean, simple lines and the connector at the front with the sliding plate where the grille once was. It offers a fresh look at automotive design, its instantly recognizable and it’s a package that just works.

Kia has always appealed to the budget conscious buyer, but the Soul EV is a departure.

The base model, the EV-e, is only available in California, the rest of the country has to pay $2000 more for the standard EV. It is still relatively cheap and it offers some of the best electric car lease deals you can find with a $199 monthly payment after the initial balloon.

It’s roomy, well equipped for the price bracket and offers the traditional Kia values of economy and solid construction.

It offers a 93-mile range between charges and comes with a fast charge DC port, but the Soul won’t win many awards for truly groundbreaking innovation. What it has done is create a zero emissions car that people actually want to drive. That’s good enough for us.

Kia Soul specs

  • Range: 93 miles (150 km)
  • Battery: 27 kWh
  • Top speed: 90 mph (145 km/h)
  • Torque: 210 lb-ft (285 Nm)
  • Power: 109 hp (81 kW)
  • Weight: 3,254 lb (1,476 kg)

Kia Soul price

  • $32, 250 

Volkswagen e-Golf

VW eGolf, a solid electric hatchback

The Volkswagen Golf is the second best-selling car in the world. Just a fraction of the hatchbacks that roll off the line are electric, but then this is a new adventure for VW and its smart business to start with a perennial favorite.

There’s nothing spectacular about the e-Golf, but then that’s why it could sell in big numbers. It’s just an electric version of a machine that has conquered the world.

You get 199lb ft of torque, 83 miles of range and that legendary VW build quality. It comes with three power maps and three levels of regenerative braking, too. In certain states you can get a $179 a month lease deal after the initial payment, which is less than some spend on gas.

For that you get an 85mph top speed, a 0-60mph time of 9.4s and a touchscreen infotainment screen. Audi’s e-tron range will offer a premium version, but the VW will be the volume seller that drives the VW group’s zero emissions movement. Now it just needs more range.

Volkswagen e-Golf key specs

  • Range: 125 miles (201 km)
  • Battery: 35.8 kWh
  • Top speed: 93 mph (165 km/h)
  • Torque: 214 lb-ft (290 Nm)
  • Power: 134 hp (100 kW)
  • Weight: 3,391 lb (1,538 kg)

Volkswagen e-Golf price

  • $30,495

Tesla Model S

We’re struggling to think of a better all-round electric car than the Tesla Model S and it makes the rest of the motoring world look a little stone-aged right now. It’s just that good.

The likes of Mercedes, BMW and Audi are struggling to catch up and this battery-powered leviathan even dominated serious sportscars on the dragstrip.

It comes with a premium price tag, but then it’s a premium product and Tesla will soon have the Model 3 for the masses. The Model S is a fast, luxurious sedan with a 312-mile range and a serious lick of speed.

Inside, the Model S is a breath of fresh air with clean lines, no discernible instruments and a touchscreen that gives the driver instant access to the whole car. Add the likes of Autopilot, which is a brave step forward towards autonomous cars, and it’s easy to see why the Tesla Model S has stolen this particular show.

The P90D is the one you really want if you’re out to shame the neighbours. It’s a Tesla Model S turned up to 11 with an 90kWh battery, it costs $119,200 and it comes with the infamous ‘Ludicrous mode’ that means it can leave established sportscars trailing in its wake.

If money is no object and you need a brilliant all-round electric car to use on a daily basis, the Tesla Model S is as good as it gets.

Tesla Model S 90D key specs

  • Range: 294 miles (473 km)
  • Battery: 90 kWh
  • Top speed: 155 mph (250 km/h)
  • Torque: 485 lb-ft (658 Nm)
  • Power: 518 hp (386 kW)
  • Weight: 4,938 lb (2,240 kg)

Tesla Model S price

  • $71,200-$119,200

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X, the ultimate electric SUV

It has seating for seven, gullwing doors and, in P90D spec, it can slay supercars in a straight line. What’s not to love about the Tesla Model X?

This might be Elon Musk’s greatest effort yet. It’s a futuristic design, it has a supremely low drag co-efficient and those doors that open with a button on the fob will simply never get old.

Inside, there are three rows of seats and you basically get a minibus crowbarred into the wheelbase of a crossover SUV. With the largest 90kWh battery pack fitted, it has 250 miles of range. That is enough to get between Supercharger stations in vast swathes of the civilized world these days.

Don’t forget that Tesla had to create the infrastructure, not just the car, and the scale of this achievement is simply towering. The fact that Elon Musk managed to create a selection of killer cars along the way is close to a modern day miracle.

The high-speed ‘Ludicrous Option’ is a $10,000 upgrade and it comes with a special 1500-amp fuse. That means the Model X ploughs all 713lb ft of torque through the wheels and you get a launch control function that means this 5594lb whale can hit 60mph in 3.2s, 100mph in 8.3s and 120mph in 13s.

It’s an irrational package that basically defies physics. We should celebrate the sheer insanity and salute one of the most groundbreaking cars on the road today.

Tesla Model X specs

  • Range: 236 miles (381 km)
  • Battery: 35.8 kWh
  • Top speed: 93 mph (165 km/h)
  • Torque: 713 lb-ft (966 Nm)
  • Power: 328 hp (245 kW)
  • Weight: 5,181 lb (2,350 kg)

Tesla Model X price

  • $81,200-$132,000
 
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