Five Electric Cars Facing Demise in 2013

By · January 07, 2013

Coda sedan

The future of the Coda sedan is bleak.

It appears there are about a dozen plug-in cars currently on the market. But looks are deceiving. Actually, after two full years since the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF went on sale, there are only five models selling in any decent volume. And despite a handful of new models expected to hit the market this year, the list of legitimate EVs and plug-in hybrids might shrink during the course of 2013.

In addition to the Volt and LEAF, there is the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Ford C-Max Energi, and the Tesla Model S. The Ford Fusion Energi, which will arrive in “early 2013,” looks like a serious product. But all the other models have been selling or leasing in quantities below about 200 units per month—the same pace expected from new EVs coming later in the year, most of which will be available only in California.

Fisker Karma

The Fisker Karma continues to face quality problems.

Attrition is not new to the plug-in market. In 2012, we witnessed the downfall of Think City and the Ford Transit Connect Electric. Sales of both models were negligible before their plugs were pulled. Even before seeing the light of day, Toyota yanked production of an all-electric minicar that it had been talking about for years. As we reported last week, Audi can’t make up its mind about EVs. And the fate of so many other concepts—from Aptera to Volvo—has either crashed, or is stuck in endless cycles of analysis by automakers.

What’s the bottom line reason that some EVs fail? The fast answer: they cost way too much for what you get. An elevated price tag for a vehicle lacking in quality, safety, space or range is symptomatic of a carmaker not having a solid business model, and/or a serious commitment to making a go of it. Based on the fundamentals, I wonder if the following cars will bite the dust in 2013 or soon after.

Mitsubishi i

Mitsubishi has soured on pure EVs, like the i minicar.

Coda Sedan: Coda’s EV has been plagued by low safety ratings and poor ride quality. Its corporate management has not been willing to acknowledge the difficulties of selling a China-sourced, bland-looking EV for nearly $40,000, prior to incentives. A series of recent layoffs, including much of the company’s sales force, means Coda could soon cease to exist as a car company, after selling only about 100 units.

Fisker Karma: Missed deadlines, bad reviews, safety recalls, problems with suppliers, and a revolving door of company leadership. As beautiful as the car looks, its lack of efficiency and quality, combined with a six-figure price tag, will make it difficult for even the most skilled executive to engineer a turnaround.

BYD E6

In 2013, BYD could acknowledge that the e6 will not go on sale in the U.S.

Mitsubishi i: Osamu Masuko, Mitsubishi’s president, admitted in October 2012 that its EV plans were not working out. “To solve this issue,” Masuko said, “our resolution is plug-in hybrids.” This change of heart about pure EVs means that the diminutive i or i-MiEV, which has been selling about 40 or 50 units per month, could be on the chopping block. What’s the point?

BYD E6: It’s been several years since BYD started showing off its all-electric E6 and F3DM plug-in hybrid, but there are still no visible signs of these Chinese plug-in cars going on sale in the U.S. Even sales in its Chinese home markets have been well below expectations. After years of delays, the company has lost credibility that it will usher in a new era of Made in China fully capable electric vehicles.

Chevy Spark EV

EV prices matter. The Chevy Spark EV, at $32,000, is way too high.

Chevrolet Spark EV: The Spark EV doesn’t go on sale in California until summer 2013, but there’s little evidence that this all-electric microcar can succeed when the Mitsubishi i, Think City, Smart Electric Drive, or Toyota iQ-EV came up short. Like the other models on the list, the price of the Spark EV is out of whack with its features and odd looks. Critics and shoppers will be quick to point out that the gas version of the Spark starts at $13,000, while the electric variant begins at $32,000 (before incentives). Fortunately, the future of the Volt and other G.M. plug-in hybrids are on more certain ground.

Comments

· TAP (not verified) · 1 year ago

You forgot Wheego LiFe, which is technically for sale but there are no signs they are selling any cars.

· George Loa (not verified) · 1 year ago

Its just affordability that is holding up the drive of EVs.
People are cautious due to economic times, and also the availability of quick charge stations or battery life span.
There is no confidence out in the public to buy a EV and be assured they wont be stuck out in the middle of no where with out a charge.
Currently the market is swamped with petrol driven cars, so there is no positve influence in the market to warrant a car buyer to purchase a EV.
What could help is a mobile charging station.
Just a thought.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Calling for the death of the Spark EV is silly. First of all, it is more stillborn since it is a low-volume compliance car.

But you are not even giving it a chance to prove itself and your comparisons are bad.

Comparing to the Mitsubishi i is unfair because the Mitz-i had a tiny battery and was goofy looking.
Comparing to the Think City is unfair because it was a 2-seater, had a plastic outside, and had a very high price.
Comparing it to the Smart Electric Drive or Toyota iQ-EV is silly since neither of those has been launched in the USA and you don't know how they would do. But neither is a far comparison since the Smart is a 2-seater (and the IQ-EV too?) and the Toyota has too small of battery.

The Spark EV certainly won't set sales records but I could see it doing a little bit less than the Leaf if given a chance.

· Spec (not verified) · 1 year ago

"EV prices matter. The Chevy Spark EV, at $32,000, is way too high."

So $32K (before tax-credit and local incentives) is "way too high" but the $35K Leaf is OK? The $39K Volt is OK? The $80K Tesla is OK? The $40K Ford Focus Electric is OK?

If the cheapest 4-seater EV with an acceptable range is "way too high" then the EV sector is doomed.

· · 1 year ago

@Spec: The short answer is "yes." The Spark- just like the Mitsubishi iMiev- is overpriced for the features and quality. At least Tesla and Nissan have made the attempt to create a "real" car that is more akin to a sedan or compact than a golf cart.

· · 1 year ago

I'm not calling for the death of the Spark. I'm simply saying that it will be very hard to sell at its price. The price of the LEAF, frankly, is too high as well--but it is just enough within an acceptable range to earn some customers. Of course, I could be completely wrong--but a subcompact four-seater with a 20-kWh battery (probably giving real-world mileage around 75 miles), and questionable looks, offered at $32,000-plus doesn't seem like a winner to me. When I think about replacing my LEAF in a year, I'll be looking for something that provides more range, style, performance (or something) at the same price or ideally a little bit less than the LEAF. I'm a strong supporter of EVs, but we should be honest about electric products that come up short.

· Warren (not verified) · 1 year ago

Actually, the competition for the Spark EV is the Fit EV. Unless Nissan really ups the range on the 2013 Leaf, the Spark will beat it on price, and range.

It is a lot closer to what I am looking for than the Leaf.

· Objective (not verified) · 1 year ago

The EV sector is doomed... to forever being a niche market.

Every EV comes up short. Tesla as much as any other.

Portable charging station? You mean like a portable generator? Honda makes several. Just carry one of them, and some gas, in the trunk of your EV, and you can always charge anywhere... as long as you don't run out of gas. Remember... you're getting something like... 100 mpgE, which means you'll go about 30 miles per gallon of generator gas.

· · 1 year ago

It is too bad that makers don't do the engineering to improve the range - the EV1 shows the way to do this. By just dropping an electric drivetrain in a standard car means the range will be limited by the aerodynamic drag.

Neil

· · 1 year ago

I would add the Honda Fit EV & the Fiat 500e to the "at risk" list too. It does not seem that their respective company leaders are committed to EVs to me. Fiat is advertising the 500e, so maybe it has a better chance. I think the Karma will stick around (albeit at low volume), if for no other reason to spur investments for the Atlantic. Maybe you are saying the Atlantic will be more of an Atlantis and sink. :)

· · 1 year ago

I don't disagree that the vehicles on your list will be gone in a year or two. But, I take exception to the reason. You say it's because:

These EVs have ".. an elevated price tag for a vehicle lacking in quality, safety, space or range."

Without any comment about how cheap gas is relatively speaking. I think if gas was priced to include external costs, low EV running costs could get consumers to think about them as an option. They would question whether or not they really need a 400 mile range, room for 7 on occasion, or the power to out accelerate some kid's souped up Honda. Not to mention most of us in the US have few alternatives to driving ... which means we can't get an EV with shorter range and use public transportation to go medium to long distances.

Though I'm not terribly surprised, I would have expected at least a mention of these factors in an article announcing the death of some struggling EV manufacturers.

· Bubba Nicholson (not verified) · 1 year ago

EV ultra-micro cars are a viable option for much of our transportation needs. My aerodynamic one person electric tricycle gets more than 1000 mpge (but just 120 miles on a charge). It's slow, it won't get above 50 without gravity assist, but it gets one from point A to B in air conditioned comfort.

· · 1 year ago

@ Brad

I would take issue with your comment about the I-Miev. Whether or not Mitsubishi do decide to scrap the car it is to date the second best selling pure electric car with over 20,000 cars sold.

Also not sure where you get your 40 cars a month total from. Unless the car has been selling for over 40 years or the world stops at the borders of the United States of America.

· · 1 year ago

@ Brad

If you are looking to replace your Leaf in a year with something that has more range, style, performance and is cheaper all I can say is GOOD LUCK!

· EVlvr (not verified) · 1 year ago

@ Brad-
Have you checked out and driven the Spark? If not then you might want to revise your thinking. Anyone who owns a Leaf and then disses the Spark for its looks needs to see a therapist. The Spark is reasonably sophisticated, has active battery management unlike the Leaf, and accelerates like a rocket. If I was running GM, I'd put all my sales effort in the West Coast - blanket it with advertising and really give it a go, position it as a hip kind of ride. As for the rest of the country, do the bare minimum. I think it will steal sales from the Leaf.

· · 1 year ago

The Coda still has some chance but they need better management and the addition of a micro range extender option like for any still short ranged electric car.

· · 1 year ago

@Dan - You say "if gas was priced to include external costs." That would certainly change everything, but the chances of even a modest increase in gas taxes are slim. So for now, car buyers mostly think about upfront purchase price rather than running costs. Even so, there are starting to be enough EVs on the market that we can compare one to another in terms of features, quality and price. The cars on my list don't stack up.

@Deckard - If I have the right data, 2012 sales of i-MiEV were 588 units in the U.S. That's 49 a month. I was thinking only about the U.S. market. You are absolutely right that I won't be able to pay less than I did for the LEAF, and expand on all EV features. I'll probably need to pay more to get an electric car with more style, performance and range.

@EVlr - I drive a LEAF. I didn't say that I like its looks. I think its awkward design is one of the main reasons it hasn't sold well. Now, take the Spark, which is about as homely, put in a battery that has 4 kWh less storage (and therefore about 15 percent less range), reduce its length by three feet, keep the price about the same, and offer it by a company that has consistently criticized pure EVs in favor of "extended range" for the past three or four years, and you can see why I question its prospects. I would be glad to be wrong about the Spark. Time will tell.

· · 1 year ago

Critics and shoppers might be quick to point out the price gap, but I'm quick to reply "TCO". Using the national averages of 24MPG, 15,000mi/year and $3.30/gallon, the cost of fuel over the (again, national average) 6 year of ownership is about $12,500. Adding this to the $13,000 base price gives a TCO of $25,500 which is awfully close to the Spark EV's price of $24,500 after incentives. Heck, since since 15,000mi/year in an EV costs about $500 in electricity, GM could advertise the Spark EV as "drive the Spark EV for two years free on the cost savings over our gas version"

· Warren (not verified) · 1 year ago

Brad,

"Now, take the Spark, which is about as homely, put in a battery that has 4 kWh less storage (and therefore about 15 percent less range)"

Wrong. The Spark, like the Fit, will have more range than your Leaf.

· · 1 year ago

@Warren - Maybe the Spark will have more range than my LEAF. Maybe it won't. I drove the Fit EV for a week, and its 20-kWh pack gave me about the same range as the LEAF's 24 kWh pack (somewhere between 70 and 90 miles, depending on how you drive.

http://www.plugincars.com/honda-fit-ev-sport-vs-eco-mode-what-it-means-r...

100 miles is not out of the question on the LEAF. I suspect the Spark will be about the same. Maybe not 15 percent less range, but not "more range" either.

Why do you believe it will have more range? And if so, how much more?

· · 1 year ago

As an i-MiEV owner, I continue to be mystified by comments from Mitsubishi executives that their "EV plans were not working out" - what "plans" would these be? To dump a $30k EV on dealer lots with zero advertising and just assume enough EV enthusiasts would seek it out to make it a hit? To this day, the most common reaction I get to folks who ask me what the heck this thing is goes something like "Mitsubishi's selling an electric? I thought only Nissan had those Leaf things." Even people I know that are curious about EVs or might consider one given their transportation needs and personal circumstances are only aware of the i-MiEV because they've seen mine. Meanwhile, everybody knows about the Volt, and nearly as many are aware of the Leaf. Whatever Mitsu's viral marketing / social networking / stealth advertising plan might have been, it obviously didn't work.

Given that the i's biggest advantage is price, they inexplicably kept delivering dolled-up SE Premium versions to reviewers, who all too often looked at the sticker and said "hmm - I could get a Leaf for this kind of money", either unaware that the ES was available for nearly $5k less or so unimpressed by the SE's appointments that they assumed the ES must be some sort of Yugo-like horror show (in fact, the ES interior is almost identical aside from color and some chrome-colored pieces of plastic).

Mitsubishi executives might be expressing disappointment, but the truth is this car seems to be on course to leave the marketplace before most potential buyers are even aware of its existence. If this wasn't some sort of "compliance" dodge, I can only conclude that the guys at MMNA just aren't very bright.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

It is crazy to call Spark EV "dead" before it even comes out.

From the spec alone, it will be the FASTEST EV on the market under $60k. That is something that NONE of the other "failed" models can say.

Also, It is a "real" car. It outperforms its $13k ICE version by a huge margin (even that ICE vesion is selling decent). Comparing to Leaf and i-Miev, it is actually cheaper. Not to mention the fact that it will beat Fiat E-500 and e-Smart or any of other compact Electric by a huge margin in real world performance.

And it sits 4 people, just like the Volt. Wth an after rebate price of $22k, it is WELL wthin the CRAPPY Prius C's price range. Prius C is designed for "city" and "short commute". Spark EV is designed for the same thing and it will "spank" Prius C in just about any performance spec.

Maybe it is time for an EV to prove that is no longer as slow as a golf cart....

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan:
No, the SparkEV is NOT cheaper than the i-MiEV. In ES trim, the i-MiEV's price is about the same, but a bit lower. The i-MiEV ES is still the least expensive EV one can buy, although we'll see where Smart's ED comes in (albeit with two less seats and no trunk!). Comments regarding the Prius C are dead on, though - already owning one Prius, I was quite interested in a smaller more economical version so I took a test drive in one before buying my i-MiEV. Very disappointed - it really is a wretched little thing.

· · 1 year ago

@Brad - when you say the cars on your list "don't stack up," I just don't see that regarding the i-MiEV. Your piece points to poor sales and weak commitment by Mitsubishi executives (we could chicken-and-egg that problem all day), which are good reasons for doubting the i-MiEV's staying power, but I don't think that means the car itself doesn't "stack up."

I test drove the Leaf and liked it. But since I insisted on Level 3 charging capability, for my purposes the Leaf SL just wasn't worth all the extra money vs. an i-MiEV ES w/QuickCharge, given that the Leaf's no more suitable for road trips than any other EV. The i-MiEV, geeky/homely as it is, was to my tastes a lot more fun to drive and had all the passenger and cargo space I wanted. Despite its low-tech look&feel, it sports EV tech with fundamental advantages, including a reliable range remaining estimator (unlike the Leaf's guess-o-meter), active thermal management (as opposed to the Leaf's battery-frying lack thereof, as some owners in AZ will attest), and a minimalist remote control fob that provides useful functions while avoiding the flakiness of CarWings.

The i-MiEV's a great value, and longer-term owners still seem to love them. If Mitsu's surrender on the EV front leaves some i-MiEVs in dealer bargain bins, I'd say snatch one up.

· Warren (not verified) · 1 year ago

Brad,

I am going by EPA range. Leaf...73 miles, Fit...82 miles. The Spark has less frontal area than the Fit, and the same size pack. GM has tweaked the aerodynamics of the electric version. I would be amazed if they haven't tested it up against the Fit EV.

· · 1 year ago

I, too, am surprised to see the upcoming Spark EV singled out here as failing before it even gets built.

What about that Fiat 500e? That one is so "compliance car," I'd be surprised if even a Californian will be able to buy one! I've heard they want $40K for that little 2-door, which is obscene, and it doesn't even have a quick charge port.

As for another defense of the Spark EV, I'll cite the liquid thermal management on the battery. There is nothing to indicate that Nissan will do this for the Leaf anytime soon and, while we can quibble over 73 vs. 82 miles per charge, the Leaf can only be quick charged once per day. If the advertising hype on the Spark EV is true, GM is claiming that it can take multiple quick charges within a 24 hour period. That makes the Spark EV a far more useful pure electric than the Leaf. (yeah, yeah, I know . . . it's all moot with a PHEV, but I digress here for the sake of wanting to live with a plain EV.)

Hypothetical but eminently realistic scenario: Tucson resident (that could be me) buys a Spark EV and drives it exclusively around town up to 358+ days per year, well within the single charge range. Easy . . . any modern EV can do that.

6 days per year would find me heading up to Eloy, 60 miles out my front door, to fly model airplanes. I would recharge within 30 minutes at the GoE3 terminal at Picacho Peak on the return trip and then head back home. That's also possible in a Leaf.

But there will that 1 day per year when I'll want to head up to Phoenix, about 100 miles away, and spend a couple of hours at Ikea. Just about any way you figure it, if I want to do the round trip like that within a single day in a relatively affordable pure EV, I'd have to quick charge at least 4 times. The Leaf can't do it or, more specifically, shouldn't do it. You would have voided the battery warranty 3 times over.

With the exception of the Tesla, the Spark EV will be the only one that can. I'll forgo the convenience of not being able to do this 200+ mile journey on a single charge one day annually and I've saved $50K on the price of the vehicle (LOTS more assemble-it-yourself furniture at Ikea.) Likewise, the extra $10 to $15 for a Volt isn't worth it for (and sue me for being such a homebody) traveling out of town so infrequently and logging so little in the way of miles when I do.

Also . . . the Montague folding bicycle (I've put far more miles this past week on it than either of our ICE cars) looks like it would fit in the tallish cargo hold of the Spark EV very nicely. Hmmm . . .

· · 1 year ago

All the compliance cars will continue - until the law changes. They don't have a choice.
- RAV4 EV
- SPARK EV
- Fiat 500e
- Fit EV
- Merc B class EV

May be I missed a few more.

What about FFE ? Sold less than 1,000 last year. Can Ford continue to produce a car in that low a volume ? Ofcourse, they need to - atleast for ZEV compliance. But they don't need to sell in non-ZEV states.

· EVlvr (not verified) · 1 year ago

Hey, EVnow, where did you hear the Spark is a compliance car? And Brad, your age is showing with what I sense a dislike for General Motors for abandonning the EV1 and defecting to the Dark Side by putting a gasoline driven generator in the Volt to make it an electric car with long range capability. Get over it, I have a Volt and it is a fabulous car for cutting oil use. Most of my driving is electric, the long driving days are electric plus gas at 40mpg. No other car money can buy aside from a Tesla comes close to matching that.

And I must say your sense of style lacks the understanding of how ugliness can be hip, or it can be unhip. The Spark is hip, it is youth. The Leaf is for nerds who live in their heads. I don't know if Chevyrolet is connected enough to figure things out, but the Spark has so much potential to catch on, they will be clueless if they don't put some effort here in California.

· Enviro Dad (not verified) · 1 year ago

I've had the pleasure of already driving the Spark EV, as I had the chance to take one out for a brief test at a media GM event in San Francisco two weeks before it debuted in Los Angeles. I have to say, that my assessment of the Spark EV and yours are different. This EV has a lot going for it, including a battery and motor that produce 400 lb/ft of torque! While you won't want to push it all the time, this is truly a fun car to drive that will have comparable range and pricing to the Leaf.

It's very easy to point out what's wrong with something...but when its still in its relative infancy, why not embrace the positives, acknowledge the negatives and commit to solving those in due course?!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Didn't see Ford Focus Electric on the list. As an owner, I'm hoping it doesn't get discontinued, but after my buying experience- dealers knowing nothing about the car, no inventory, delivery times up in the air- I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a 2014 model. Like the poster above notes with the iMiev, if Ford would spend a few bucks on advertising, this car could sell way better than it is. It's really a fun, solid car. Something like a better-looking, better-performing Leaf with better battery management, for $5-6000 more.

· · 1 year ago

My wife saw a Spark (the regular one) and instantly pronounced it "Cute!" GM has done a decent job in lowering the Cd (from 0.36 down to 0.31, I think?), and Honda has done similar things to the Fit EV. I don't know what the numbers are, though. Mitsubishi should take a serious crack at lowering the Cd of the i MiEV, which 0.35 or 0.36 depending on your source.

I don't know how GM set up coasting and regen on the Spark, but apparently Honda got this just about right on the Fit EV. Heated seats seem pretty much standard, but has anybody done direct electric heating windshield defroster yet? Ford and others had these back in the 1980's - they use about a molecule thickness of gold on the windshield and it defrosts the whole thing in a few seconds. Power plugs for heated vests would not go amiss.

There is one Leaf and two i MiEV's in my family and the i MiEV in particular is challenged in cold icy weather when you simply have to have some heat - warm coat hat and gloves are fine, but they don't clear the windows.

Another point about aerodynamics and cold weather - aero drag goes up significantly the colder the air is. Colder air is denser...and hot humid air is less dense than hot dry air - go figure. Altitude also matters.

I'm in the process of building a very low drag 5 seat electric car (I'm calling it the CarBEN EV5), but failing that, we will drive the best 4-5 seat electric car that fits my tall family. The Fit EV or the Leaf are the likely candidates at the moment.

Neil

· · 1 year ago

Uncle! You guys win. I hereby take the Spark off the list. Frankly, it's not the Spark itself that I was speaking about--but the idea of an all-electric microcar selling for twice as much as its gas variant. Based on all the comments, the Spark deserves a chance. If everybody coming to the defense of the Spark buys one, then maybe it will be a winner. Only time will tell if this specific execution of a model in a niche segment (subcompact EV) can succeed when other attempts have not sold well. I have my doubts, but can put them aside until we see a year or so worth of sales numbers.

· Stewart Bethell (not verified) · 1 year ago

As an EV lease owner (Ion), I've found these cars vey suitable for the medium journey to and from work, approx. 15 miles. The savings of approx. £280 in fuel a month, have allowed me to seek a sensible lease deal with an EV. So I’m still saving in the region of £80 PCM Even though I am now running two cars now.
But what staggers me is the lack of Enthusiasm from the Motor Dealers/ Manufacturers. In 2015 the subsidy for EV will disappear, and a massive pot of UK GOV money given to support the introduction. The EV network of charging point across the UK has slowly been rolled out with the Polar network also matching this, the infrastructure is still patchy, and coupled with the lack of support for early adopters. Is it no wonder with everyone jumping on the bang wagon calling for the death of the EV, that no one wants to become an early adopter…. We have the UK network of charging points and home charging via (polar). Now let’s see the long term savings and more EV cars on the roads, supported by their manufacturers. I’m sure no one even knows that my car is pure electric as I’m driving down the A14 at 75MPH keeping up with the flow of traffic.. “Build it and they will come” I once remember hearing in a film.. Give EV’s a chance…

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Lets be honest. Tesla, Fisker & a few other car compamies understand branding better than GM or Nissan. How about naming their cars without turning off other would-be interested customers. I don't want a Chevy Spark any more than if they called it the Chevy butterfly or Chevy rainbow. Ford C-Max sounds great, whereas Nissan leaf sounds like you have to be a treehugger to drive it. I appreciate everyone who posts that they want to get off terrorist oil. I wonder...do they want to drive a "Spark?" This is about as gender neutral as Ford's "Splash" pickup in the 90's, designed and marketed for the ladies.

Don't limit your market before the car comes to market!

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