Best electric cars of 2017
2017 is proving to be an important year for electric cars.
Considering that the biggest obstacles for electric car adoption are limited range and high price, an improvement in any of these two areas is a step forward. To solve the range issue – at least in part -, recently many first generation electric car models were upgraded with better batteries and even some new electric car models arrived.
Furthermore, this year is not only important for bringing new electric cars with better range, it’s also making used electric cars more affordable, now that early adopters want to upgrade.
For these two reasons, I believe that 2017 marks the beginning of a new era, when electric car adoption will start to rise at an increasingly higher pace.
Let’s see some recent and important electric cars available in 2017.
2017 Smart ForFour and ForTwo Electric Drive (ED)
The electric variants of the Smart ForFour and ForTwo are ideal for city driving. Yes, they have poor range, however they are cheaper than most electric cars and their reduced size combined with rear wheel drive make city parking real easy, even in tight spaces. Nevertheless, with a starting price – in Germany – of 21.940 € for the ForTwo ED and 22.600 € for the ForFour ED, I think that a price cut of at least 5.000 € is needed to make the electric variants mainstream. Considering the small LG Chem battery capacity (17,6 kWh) I see no reason why they cost twice as much as the gas variants… Probably Smart is planning to provide better prices for their most likely clients, the car sharing companies and not the general population…
As for the optional equipment, the Winter package (350 € in the fortwo or 580 € in the forfour) and more importantly the 22 kW fast charger (840 €) – which will only be available from autumn 2017 – are must haves.
To sum up, the electric Smarts are ideal for the city environment and car sharing services will love them, I’m sure. I can’t think of a better car (electric or not) for city driving. For general population, Smart needs to lower the price to make them more appealing. I’m sure they know it and they will do it sooner or later.
Renault Zoe (with ZE 40 battery)
It’s no secret that I love this electric supermini. Not only because it looks great and has decent real world range (200-300 km), but also because the fast Renault Chameleon internal charger (22 kW for the R90 variant or 43 kW for the Q90) is very useful, since it transforms any 3-phase 32 A CEE industrial socket into a potential “fast” charging station. This unique charging ability combined with a new 41 kWh battery help you avoid all the hassle of finding a working and available DC fast charger. DC fast chargers are expensive to buy, install and maintain, that’s why they are more scarse than simple 22 kW EVSEs. To make it worse, many times the few existing DC fast chargers are either faulty or wrongly occupied by a car that isn’t even charging. Moral of the story, it’s best not having to rely on a scarse resource, which in this case is a DC fast charger. This being said, for those few occasions when we can find an available and working DC fast charger, it would be great to have the ability to fully take advantage of it. For this reason the Renault Zoe should have a CCS (Combined Charging System) socket and the ability to reach at least a charging rate of 50 kW.
There are two other things that bother me in the Zoe, one is not having a 60/40 split rear seatback and the other is the lack of modern safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) or Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS).
Unless you live in France, you can choose to either buy or rent the battery, nevertheless Renault offers better discounts if you rent it. Even if the battery leasing makes this electric car more expensive in the long term, it also makes it a lot cheaper to buy. Furthermore, it’s now possible to have unlimited mileage for just 119 € of monthly battery rent. Unlimited mileage for a fixed price wasn’t possible before the release of the ZE 40 battery. If you have a long commute to work and currently use a gas car, you might consider exchanging it for a Renault Zoe.
To sum up, the Renault Zoe has its drawbacks, however its strong points clearly surpass them and that’s why it’s the best selling electric car in Europe. In my opinion the variant that offers the best value for the money it’s the Zoe R90 Intens.
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
The facelifted 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf had its EPA range increased from 83 to 125 miles (134 to 201 km) thanks to a battery capacity that was also increased from 24,2 to 35,8 kWh.
However, the battery capacity wasn’t the only thing to be improved, since the motor power was also increased from 85 to 100 kW and a 7,2 kW internal charger is now standard.
The efficiency also improved as we can see in the comparison below.
2016 Volkswagen e-Golf:
- Combined city/highway: 116 MPGe (18,05 kWh/100 km)
- City: 126 MPGe (16,62 kWh/100 km)
- Highway: 105 MPGe (19,94 kWh/100 km)
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
- Combined city/highway: 119 MPGe (17,6 kWh/100 km)
- City: 126 MPGe (16,62 kWh/100 km)
- Highway: 111 MPGe (18,86 kWh/100 km)
Last but not least, the new 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with the introduction of many optional safety features with the “Upgraded Driver Assistance Package”, which now includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Blind Spot Monitor Plus with Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist) and High Beam Control (Light Assist).
To sum up, this is a great car (Volkswagen Golf) that happens to have a better, but much more expensive electric variant. It will do great in Norway, however I think that the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ Electric or the 2018 Nissan Leaf are much better alternatives.
2017 Ford Focus Electric
The 2017 Ford Focus Electric got its battery capacity increased by 46 % to 33,5 kWh, which gives it a 115 miles (185 km) EPA range. The new range is on par with most recently improved electric cars, but the efficiency is still a disappointment and we can see it in the Efficiency Table (EPA).
However, efficiency isn’t the worst characteristic in this electric car. The battery takes a lot of space in the trunk.
Not to forget that the 2017 model year update finally brought DC fast charging capability via the CCS protocol, which gives it the possibility to charge from 0 to 80 % in 30 minutes.
I have mix feelings about this electric car, it looks good and has decent range but the limited trunk space and bad efficiency bring it down.
To sum up, if the limited trunk space doesn’t bother you, nor the subpar efficiency, and you can find this electric car at a good price, go ahead and get one.
2017 Hyundai IONIQ Electric
With the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ Electric we get an amazing efficiency of 136 MPGe (combined), 150 MPGe (city), 122 MPGe (highway) and a range of 124 miles (200 km). This is the electric car that proves that efficiency matters and shows us what efficiency figures we could expect from a Toyota Prius EV, if Toyota wasn’t so reluctant to make electric cars…
Just as important as more efficiency or range, this electric car has safety features that help to avoid accidents. Today’s cars without them, electric or not feel outdated. The Hyundai IONIQ gets 5-star Euro NCAP rating. However if this isn’t enough for you to choose a car with AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), you should know that cars fitted with AEB as standard have cheaper insurance premiums.
The only drawback that I can think of is its reduced visibility, mostly due to its low height design to improve aerodynamics. Having this said, as a proud efficiency junkie I think that this is one of the most important electric cars made so far.
2018 Kia Soul EV
The new 2018 Kia Soul EV, which is now on sale in South Korea, not only has more range, it’s also more efficient.
For the new 2018 model year, the battery capacity increased just 11 % from 27 to 30 kWh. Nevertheless, the range increased 22 % from 148 to 180 km in the South Korean test cycle, which is very similar to the one EPA uses in the USA and it’s very reliable.
I think that the two South Korean automakers, Kia and Hyundai offer great value for the money with their cars. Both the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ Electric and the 2018 Kia Soul EV have a generous battery warranty of 10 years/160.000 km, which expresses a lot of confidence in the battery technology.
The biggest drawback of this electric car can also be its biggest advantage. Its boxy shape is great for visibility and interior space, however the bad aerodynamics will make the efficiency suffer, especially when driving at higher speeds. Consider this electric car more suited for city than highway driving.
In terms of looks, while I’m not a fan, it does look better in real life than it does in photos. I could get used to it if I wasn’t an efficiency junkie (I really hate waste)…
To sum up, if its boxy shape and looks isn’t a problem for you, consider this electric car.
2017 BMW i3 (with 94 Ah battery)
I had already finished writing this article when I remembered that I forgot this one. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best premium electric urban car available. However, BMW needs a lot more than a 4 seater with strange doors if it wants to be an alternative to Tesla.
The BMW i3 has from the beginning what I consider to be the best battery pack available in an electric car and with the recent upgrade to the 94 Ah battery, the BMW i3 in Europe also got a very useful 3-phase 11 kW internal charger. An electric car without a 3-phase internal charger in Europe should be a crime!
To sum up, If I wanted a fun to drive electric car and didn’t cared much about price nor practicality this would be my first choice. Sadly, practicality and price matter to most of us, which make this electric car not very appealing.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV/Opel Ampera-e
This is the much awaited range champion that GM doesn’t seem much interested in selling.
I have low expectations for the 2017 model year, however GM always pushes their cars in their second model year. For this reason I think that we’ll see a much more available at dealerships 2018 model year, possibly improved with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and a heat pump to increase efficiency and range.
I believe that the 2018 Nissan Leaf – even with lower range – will be much more successful, especially because it will be more affordable and available in dealerships. Unfortunately GM prefers to sell Bolt’s plug-in hybrid cousin, the Chevrolet Volt…
Coming later this year…
Last, but not least, arriving later this year, the Tesla Model 3 and the 2018 Nissan Leaf are what I consider the most important electric cars in the near future.
Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 will not compete with other electric cars. Instead it will be the first electric car to hit ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) premium cars sales. More than others, German automakers such as BMW, Audi or Mercedes should be worried.
This electric car will set the standards on which most premium electric cars will be judged. Only other premium electric cars will be able to – at least try to – compete with the Tesla Model 3 on performance and price. It’s not possible to achieve such high performance at low price with an internal combustion engine. Performance increase is a lot cheaper when it comes from an electric powertrain.
Tesla as any other premium company is about emotions and sells what you want, not what you need, and this makes it go further. Whether Tesla likes it or not, the Model 3 does put some pressure on the Model S and X, this is why I think that Tesla will make 100 kWh batteries the minimum on the S and X soon. Let’s not forget that the Model 3 isn’t the only Tesla to get the new and more energy dense 2170 battery cells made at the Gigafactory.
As a side note, I hope that Tesla can combine performance with efficiency in the Model 3 and finally put an end to the vampire drain common in the Model S and X.
With the production scheduled to start only in July and at a limited pace, how many units will Tesla be able to deliver this year? Could the Tesla Model 3 be the most sold electric car in 2017, considering that other electric cars are still lagging? I wouldn’t bet against it…
2018 Nissan Leaf
If the Tesla Model 3 will set the standards on which most premium electric cars will be judged, the 2018 Nissan Leaf will do the same for the more affordable bunch. After its release, even the most affordable electric cars will need to have decent range, efficiency, charging rates and safety features to be considered modern.
Considering that the old Nissan Leaf was basically a “Kermit the Frog” edition in terms of looks, the facelifted Leaf will be much more pleasing to the eye.
Last but not least, the ProPILOT system’s availability in the Serena was responsible for a 50 % boost in sales, how much will it help the upcoming new 2018 Nissan Leaf?
What to expect for 2018?
For next year I expect the Tesla Model 3 to completely dominate the electric car sales charts and premium automakers will start to get worried. In the more affordable electric car front I expect great things from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and the Kia-Hyundai Group.
Also important is the fact that the electric cars with more range – yet expensive – released this year, will be the affordable used electric cars in 2018. This will help to further increase the electric car adoption by the general population, since range, price or both factors are still obstacles in 2017.
I hope that you find this roundup useful and share my optimism about overcoming electric car adoption obstacles starting this year, with new longer range electric cars and more affordable used ones.
What do you think? Which is your favorite electric car and which do you consider to be the most important in the near future?