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All Charged Up

Electric cars are ready for prime time



In spite of the recent—and temporary—dip in fuel prices, electric vehicles are becoming a more frequent sight on our local roads. Increased charging infrastructure and new models from a wide range of manufacturers are bringing new buyers into the electrified fold. The new vehicles run the gamut from affordable city cars to tech-heavy sports cars. 

Even if you don’t burn gas, generating electricity uses some sort of fuel. In Connecticut, 97 percent of electricity is generated by clean burning natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, or biomass sources. To put that in perspective, with a 40-mile drive, a gas-engine car will generate 45.56 pounds of CO2 while an all-electric car will generate 6.76 pounds. New York State is even better, with only 6.46 pounds generated due to a high usage of hydroelectric generated energy.

Electric cars are not for everyone, but considering the average driver goes less than 30 miles per day, an electric vehicle could be a great option even for those who worry about range anxiety. 

Here are some models available now.

Nissan LEAF
The LEAF is the bestselling all-electric car on the planet. In less than four years, LEAFs (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car) have traveled up over 1 billion kilometers. And with good reason. The car can go up to 100 miles between charges, has a quiet, roomy cabin. Starting at $29,000—rebates can reduce the price of most electric cars by $7,500. 

BMW i3
BMW’s all-electric carbon-fiber machine looks unlike anything else in its fleet. The unique exterior is a bit polarizing but the interior design is a winner—with a bamboo-looking dashboard and two-tone leatherette-cloth seats. It has full rear seating, accessed through a half-size rear-opening door. With the range extender version, you can go up to 150 miles. Starting at $41,350.

Tesla Model S
The Model S is a brilliantly designed all-electric luxury sedan featuring numerous innovations and a range of up to 300 miles. The huge touch screen interface is easy to operate and the car’s performance is in sports car territory. A new AWD twin motor version will do zero to 60 in an outstanding 3.2 seconds. With their proprietary Supercharger stations, you can drive to California without gas. Starting at $71,000 before rebates.

Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid; Cayenne S E-Hybrid
Building off their already excellent hybrid platform, the folks in Stuttgart have added plug-in capability and more power. While Porsche’s system has an electric only range of just 22 miles, E-Charge offers the ability to recharge the battery with a gas engine. Panamera starting at $96,000.

Porsche 918 Spyder 
Porsche’s $845,000 hypercar is the ultimate expression of the plug-in hybrid and of any car for that matter. With a combined gas and electric output of 887 horsepower, the 918 goes from zero to 60 in 2.2 seconds (OMG).

Volkswagen e-Golf
VW’s first all-electric vehicle is based upon the excellent new Golf platform and has a range of 83 miles on a charge. The e-Golf is affordable and practical with over 52 cubic feet of cargo space. Starting at $35,000

BMW i8
The plug-in hybrid i8 sports car features a futuristic yet beautiful two-door exterior with scissor doors. The electric engine drives the front wheels while a turbocharged three-cylinder gas engine drives the rears. And the carbon-fiber i8 has the braking and handling chops to back up the promise of its sexy sculpted flanks. Starting at $136,000.

Chevy Volt/Cadillac  ELR
The plug-in hybrid twins from GM are well-engineered and deliver an electric-only range of about 35 miles, at which point the gas engine kicks in. Volt starts at $26,685; ELR at $75,000. 

Audi e-tron
The e-tron plug-in hybrid is based upon Audi’s all-new A3 hatchback, starting at $29,900.

Ford
The blue-oval folks offer a wide range of electrics from the all-electric Focus to my favorite, the Fusion Energi Titanium, from $30,000.

Mercedes B-Class
The new Benz is all-electric and boasts a range up to 115 miles and features the quality expected on a vehicle wearing the three-pointed star. Starts at $34,000.

Chevrolet Bolt
GM recently unveiled the Bolt concept, promising a 200-mile range and a $30,000 price tag. An electric car for the masses due in two years.

PLUGGED IN
Jonathan Taylor
Why a LEAF? It appealed to my gadget-freak personality: purely electric, it is mechanically simpler than a plug-in hybrid.
Your everyday car? I use it on 95 percent of trips—it is not a good snow car.
Where do you charge it? With the charger in my garage. When I drive into NYC, I charge it in a parking garage.  
Cost to drive? It’s roughly five cents per mile, compared to about 12 cents for a 25 mpg car. There are no maintenance costs.

Glen and Joanna Kutler
Why the i3? We love the futuristic look, and it’s a blast to drive. 
Everyday car? For Joanna. She drives about 40 miles a day.
Where do you charge it? We have a 220-volt station. Also at the Ridgefield Playhouse and Town Hall. 
Cost to drive? We spent about $3,300 to fuel a Honda Pilot per year. The cost of charging and maintaining the i3 is minimal.  
Biggest shortcoming? No super-fast charging stations in the area and few EV mechanics—luckily, BMW of Ridgefield is close.    

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