Top 10 Best Electric Cars You Can Buy in 2016

After Tesla started production of the Model X crossover, the outfit headed by Elon Musk stepped up the EV game for everyone. But the Model X isn’t as revolutionary and forward-thinking as the Model S was when it was introduced in 2012. The Tesla Model 3 will be the game-changing electric vehicle that will push the envelope of what we expect from a battery-powered electric vehicle.
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Photo: Edited by autoevolution
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On March 31, Tesla Motors will unveil the Model 3 at a private event in Los Angeles, California. Less than 800 people will be offered rides in pre-production prototypes of the Model 3. The question is, why is the Model 3 such an important addition to the EV genre? The explanation is terribly simple, to be honest.

Thanks to a starting price of $35,000 before incentives and a range of more than 200 miles (322 kilometers), the Tesla Model 3 hits two sweet spots. One - it is priced specifically for mass-market adoption considering that a similarly-sized BMW 3 Series sedan starts at $33,150 sans destination. Two - over 200 miles of range translates into no range anxiety woes for first-time electric vehicle buyers.

“What about the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt?” The thing with the Bolt is that it is too small, too expensive, and the golden bowtie doesn’t appeal as much as the Tesla badge. However, those amongst us in the market for a battery-powered electric vehicle have a long time to wait for the Model 3 to start series production. As such, what can the eco-conscious crowd drive instead, at least until the Model 3 arrives?

I am sorry to burst the eco-friendly bubble, but the best option you have as an overall package starts at $70,000 and it is a full-size luxury sedan. Nevertheless, it is the car that paved the way for the latest breed of electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt and it is the best option you have right now.

autoevolution’s guide to the best electric cars on sale today features nine more nameplates, including two European-spec models that made the list not because we didn’t want to upset our readers from across the pond, but because they’re genuinely interesting EVs with a bragging right or two. Let’s kick off:

2016 Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S
Photo: Tesla
You’ve seen it coming and I applaud you for that. The best electric vehicle readily available is the Tesla Model S, albeit not the entry-level variant with rear-wheel-drive and 70 kWh of juice. $88,000 before incentives will buy you the 90D.

It’s the upper-midrange offering of the Model S family and it promises the most range you can have on an electric vehicle: 288 miles (463 kilometers) on a full charge, which is roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Viva Las Vegas.

Like any other Tesla, the Model S in 90D form comes with an 8-year/infinite-mile battery and drive unit warranty. What more could you possibly want from an all-electric vehicle? Only time and advancements in battery technology will tell.

2016 Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf
Photo: Nissan
As an overall package, the Nissan Leaf plays second fiddle to the Model S. Since deliveries have started at the end of calendar year 2010, the frog-like Leaf went to become the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. By December 2015, the Japanese manufacturer moved more than 200,000 units. Need I say any more?

OK then. How about a suggested retail price of $29,010 before incentives? On second thought, don’t go for the entry-level 2016 Nissan Leaf S because the 84-mile (135 kilometers) range isn’t something to write home about. The Leaf SV ($34,200), on the other hand, makes a little more sense thanks to a bigger battery.

107 miles (172 kilometers) might not sound like a lot and indeed, this is the greatest drawback of the lovable Leaf. That hasn’t stopped most Leaf buyers to choose it over anything else for small-distance commuting or driving in the city.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt
Photo: Chevrolet
The Bolt may have been introduced before the Model 3, but the joke will be on Chevrolet. $37,500 before incentives is way out of most people’s league. I’m sorry, dearest Chevrolet, but one of two things will have to give sooner or later.

It’s either the bean counters lower the price of the Bolt or you up the ante to 300 miles (482 kilometers) of range, not “more than 200 miles (322 kilometers).” Oh, and another thing. The Bolt is too small, even when compared to the Leaf.

Wheelbase, length, width, it doesn’t matter because the Bolt is, at the end of the day, a subcompact. The Leaf, on the other hand, is compact-sized. As for the Tesla Model 3, the direct and cheaper rival of the Chevrolet Bolt is classified as being a compact executive car. Talk among yourselves, but Chevy can do better.

2016 BMW i3

BMW i3
Photo: BMW
For the type of customer looking for premium quality in an electric vehicle, the BMW i3 fits the bill. Better still, it’s a surprisingly practical machine for its size and it offers just a little bit of sporting panache typical for the Bavarian car manufacturer.

Don’t go for the REx variant, though, because the range extender spoils the i3, as my colleague points out in his review. Put simply, the engine that acts as a range extender makes the i3 slower, less environmentally-friendly, and more expensive.

Speaking of the BMW i3 REx as an overall package, the second generation of the Chevrolet Volt eats it for dinner. Mind you, the range extender-less BMW i3 is slated to get an update that will include a larger battery pack by the end of 2016.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen e\-Golf
Photo: Volkswagen
Volkswagen’s image may forever be associated with the Dieselgate fiasco, but that doesn’t mean the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer doesn’t know how to make an EV. Case in point - the VW e-Golf. Yours from $28,995 before the federal tax credit.

It looks like any other Golf. It drives like any other Golf. It’s roomy and it is nicely equipped from the get-go. What more could you want from an EV that makes trees smile and also saves the polar ice cap? If it were my money, a little bit more range.

Despite the fact that a full charge offers up to 83 miles (133 kilometers), the e-Golf is a solid proposition for an all-electric daily driver. Don’t worry, though. It’s not like Volkswagen is the only German manufacturer that could use better battery tech.

2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e

Mercedes\-Benz B250e
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
$41,450 for 87 miles (140 kilometers) of range. This is a ridiculous proposition at first, second, and third glance. But then again, no other sub-$40,000 electric car comes close to the 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e as far as refinement is concerned.

Price-wise, it undercuts the BMW i3. Regarding range, it offers 6 miles more range than the Bavarian competitor, which isn’t exactly a noticeable difference in real-world performance. The thing with the B250e is that, at the end of the day, it’s an EV that offers a premium feel you get from internal combustion-engined Mercs.

Other than the MPV-like practicality, another great thing about the B250e is that it sprints to 30 mph (48 km/h) in 2.7 seconds. In other words, it's quite a quick car provided that you drive it in the city. Outside of it would be downright foolish.

2016 Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EV
Photo: Kia
Priced at $31,950 including a DC Fast Charge port, the Kia Soul EV is a cool excuse for going green. The EPA-estimated 93-mile (150 km) range isn’t shabby, especially for those who commute from the suburbs to the core of the urban jungle.

The best thing about the Soul EV is that it is closely related to the standard model in a similar manner the e-Golf is to the Golf. And yes, it’s so funky and it’s generously equipped from the get-go so that even the geekiest of buyers will be enthralled by the prospect of owning and driving a Soul EV on a daily basis.

Mind you, some compromises were made by Kia when it morphed the Soul into an electric vehicle. I’ll give you an example - less legroom for the rear passengers. Top tip: get around this issue by angling the seat squabs upwards.

2016 Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric
Photo: Ford
The electric version of the Ford Focus is the car with the least range on this list. More specifically, an EPA-rated 76 miles (122 kilometers) on each full charge. I’m not attracted by that, though, but that’s not the selling point of this hatchback.

What makes the Ford Focus Electric an attractive EV is that its exterior and interior design don’t scream “Look at me! I’m so green that the polar bears wave when they see me rolling.” It’s perfectly understated and I appreciate that a lot.

What’s more, the Focus Electric retains the driving fun of the regular model and the two-level load floor. The best thing, though, is that the 2016 Ford Focus Electric is about as fully-loaded as the conventional Focus gets in Titanium spec.

2016 Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe
Photo: Renault
For the Europeans in the market for a battery-powered means of transportation, I urge you not to make the mistake of buying an electric scooter. Instead, give the Renault Zoe a try. It’s a genuinely praiseworthy car with planet-saving credentials.

According to the NEDC cycle, the French supermini can travel up to 150 miles (240 kilometers). I’m not buying that nor did the autoevolution member who tested the Zoe. Instead, I trust Renault’s “real-world range” of 105 miles (170 kilometers).

For all intents and purposes, the Zoe is the best France has to offer in terms of electric mobility. Including the rebate offered by the French government, the Zoe is €16,100 ($18,095 at current exchange rates). Too bad it’s not available in the U.S.

2016 Bollore Bluecar

Bollore Bluecar
Photo: Autolib' France
This thing is the least known electric vehicle that made the list, but it is one of, if not the most interesting featured in this story. BlueIndy, an EV sharing scheme in Indianapolis, is the only way to drive this little French runabout in the United States.

The lithium metal polymer battery that juices up the Bollore Bluecar is good for up to 160 miles (250 kilometers) if driven exclusively in the city. It is equipped with a supercapacitor. It’s got seating for four souls. What more could you want from it?

An exterior designed by a man at Pininfarina who penned the Ferrari California? It’s got that too. I can’t quite understand why the Bluecar isn’t more popular in its home market. On top of that, I think that the manufacturer makes a terrible mistake by not selling it to the general public in the United States of America.

Later edit: The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric is a promising EV.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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