Four Normal-Looking Electric Cars Worth Considering

By · May 28, 2013

The 2013 Nissan LEAF might be the world’s best-selling electric car, but it’s hardly what you’d call a regular-looking car. In fact, with its bulbous headlights and accentuated rear, the LEAF—just like the Mitsubishi i and Toyota Prius—screams for attention as an eco-mobile.

Many electric car drivers—including myself—love the LEAF’s unconventional design. But if you want to drive an electric car that looks "normal" however, consider these four all-electric cars that might even be mistaken for their gas-powered siblings.

2013 Ford Focus EV

Ford Focus Electric

Based on the same chassis and body as Ford’s gasoline Focus family, the 2013 Ford Focus EV looks like any other Focus on the road today. Only a few subtle badges, a slightly different nose grille, and a charge port on the nearside front fender give the game away. Inside, there’s the same five-seat interior, easy-to-use display and Ford Sync system.

Availability: EV-Certified Ford Dealers across the U.S.

Price: $39,995 MRSP, before incentives.

Pros: The Focus Electric has a 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger, allowing it to fully refuel in as little as four hours using a compatible Level 2 charging station. It also has a powerful motor, developing 107 kilowatts versus the LEAF’s 80 kilowatts.

Cons: The Focus EV’s battery pack is located behind the rear seats under the load bay floor, resulting in an impractically small trunk for anyone with a young family or regular load-carrying duties. While the Ford Focus EV is nominally available nationwide, only 900 Ford dealers are certified to sell it, meaning you may find yourself searching long and hard for one if you’re out of the usual EV-friendly areas.


2013 Toyota Rav4 EV

RAV4 EV

Built around the previous-generation Toyota RAV4 Crossover SUV, the 2013 model is the most practical EV on the market today. With seating for five, plus plenty of luggage space, it is suited for everything from the daily commute to weekend getaways. Only its unique grille and EV badge reveals that it’s an electric car, although you’ll find the interior a little different to the gasoline model thanks to a Tesla-engineered console.

Availability: Selected Toyota dealers in parts of California

Price: $49,800 MSRP, before incentives. (Big manufacturer discounts available at some dealerships.)

Pros: You’ll love the Tesla-engineered battery pack, drivetrain and charging system, giving the 2013 RAV4 EV impressive performance for a crossover SUV. In addition, the 10 kilowatt on-board charger makes recharging fast at compatible Level 2 charging stations, and an EPA-approved range of 103 miles.

Cons: Aside from the cost, the Toyota RAV4 EV is only available in California, although some customers have managed to buy one to sneak out-of-state. It will only be built in limited numbers to satisfy California’s zero emissions mandate, a law requiring automakers to manufacture and produce a certain percentage of zero emission cars in California.


2013 Honda Fit EV

Fit EV

Fun, funky and just as regular-looking as the gasoline Honda Fit, the small EV is a spitting image of Honda’s clever subcompact. Available in one color—a special electric blue—the Honda Fit is a fun drive. There’s seating for five, a powerful 92 kW motor, borrowed from the Clarity FCX fuel cell car, and a neat key fob which tells you the battery's state of charge.

Availability: Select West Coast and East Coast markets

Price: $389/month (LEASE ONLY).

Pros: The Honda Fit EV gives a sporty driving experience, and a comfortable, surprisingly spacious interior. Overall, it feels far more sprightly than the LEAF, and looks more conventional too.

Cons: Even with the battery pack located under the floor, the Fit EV doesn’t have quite the same luggage capacity as the gasoline Fit. The battery pack also means no fold-up rear seats, although they fold down just fine.


2013 Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

If you like your fun in quart-sized measures, then the Fiat 500e is for you. Wearing the same stylish clothes as the gasoline Fiat 500, the electric 500e is Chrysler-Fiat’s answer to California’s zero emissions mandate. Despite Fiat’s reluctance to make the 500e in the first place, the Fiat 500e is one of the best EVs on the market today in terms of style, performance, and driving pleasure.

Availability: California only for now.

Price: $31,800 before incentives, not including delivery, or lease for $199 per month with $999 down.

Pros: The Fiat 500’s drivability is second to none, plus you’ll love being able to own an all-electric Fiat on lease for the same price as the gasoline version. In addition, rental of a gasoline car is included in the ownership package, meaning you’ll never get range anxiety on that long-distance trip.

Cons: Like the gasoine Fiat 500, the Fiat 500e is a micro-car, without much cargo room.
With limited availability, you may also find it tough to get your hands on one—at least for now.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

It's great to have options! (even if most are only in CA right now) A year and a half ago I was waiting for the Focus EV myself, as it's one of the nicer looking EVs in my price range. But I grew weary of waiting (it's still not really available in my area - closest dealer is ~100 miles away), and have been loving my Leaf (despite its looks) ever since.

· · 4 years ago

We really like our Ford Focus EV (and it is fast!). There are enough dealers here (San Francisco Bay area) to let me shop around, to find one available with color and seat material we wanted. Lease cost has come down so much that it is worth considering that instead of purchase.

· · 4 years ago

Outside of pure EVs, the Ford Fusion Energi is a plug-in electric hybrid with a 20 mile EV range, and other than badging looks just like its ICE-only counterparts.

The Ford C-Max is also available in an Energi model as a plug-in hybrid. It also has a 20mi EV range and looks just like its normal hybrid sibling - although since its only a hybrid offering the C-Max is still a little bit of an Eco-statement. Although its badging is subdued, and it really looks similar to other econo-boxes like the Fit...

Finally, while the Tesla model S is both expensive and only available as an EV - most mainstream people mistake them for Jaguars so it could also be kind of a stealth EV. ;)

· · 4 years ago

The smart ED also is based on and resembles its ICE brethren.

· · 4 years ago

Ditto what Brian Schwerdt said. These are all compliance cars not available to most people. Believe it or not, Plugincars.com contributors, there are EV enthusiasts outside the state of Californian... even in red states.

· · 4 years ago

Interesting to contrast this article with a current one from another EV web publication:

http://insideevs.com/beyond-the-numbers-the-spark-ev-is-priced-well-on-p...

The other article argues that basing an EV on an ICE car will result in fewer sales.

· · 4 years ago

The Focus EV is not a compliance car. It is available in all 50 states.

Whether it not a dealer near you has one on the lot is a different issue entirely.

However you EV enthusiasts in flyover states should talk to someone about getting some chargers. I left the west coast and found I have more public chargers in my neighborhood than a lot of whole states do... Not exactly EV friendly when the only EV charging stations are Nissan dealerships...

The rest are compliance cars.

· · 4 years ago

I have personally spoke with Fusion Energi buyers who bought it specifically because it didn't look like a "green" car, and they didn't want to be labeled "green" but still wanted an EV. So I bet in the red states "Eco cred" is a negative...

· · 4 years ago

With the Fit EV, comprehensive and collision insurance is included, which saves us about $51/mo. This little perk seems to be left out of every review. So think of it as a $339 lease, much more palatable.

· · 4 years ago

I have been concerned about the battery-powered vehicles,
best-selling electric car, I like, I hope to have a good Battery Electric Vehicles

· · 4 years ago

My wife and I bought a Ford Focus Electric a few days ago. That day we test drove the Focus Electric, a C-Max Energy, and a Fusion Energy all at the same dealer. The Fusion was hands down the best car (wow!). But the incentives on the Focus Electric were enough to make it very affordable on a lease and the documented residual value will make is a real no-brainer for us to buy the car after the lease terms are up. We keep our cars for the life of them anyway. (We have a Chevy Impala which we bought new and it just turned 250,000 miles on the odo, a wonderful car and will kept as our long distance car.) 110 volt charging is kind of a joke, we will be needing a 240 volt J1772 Level 2 a soon as we can manage it. I see that Home Depot carries them for $849.
Getting an electric car is the crown of our alternate energy endeavors which include 3.2kw of PV and a 20KW wind turbine.
Managing charging while in town has been made much easier with plugshare.com and Android app, a very cool site.

· · 4 years ago

I should add that we drove a Chevy Volt the week before. Also a very nice, and basically the same lease terms and cost as the Focus Electric. The advantages of the Focus is that is all electric and will make our 65 mile round trip commute gasoline free, to make it home every night will take care though. Also the Focus is still a Focus so other parts of the car are common with other like Foci. Another was the particular Ford dealer i bought it from was moire personable than the other, a poor reason maybe but hey we are people too.

· · 4 years ago

to John_in_Vinton: congratulations on a good choice. Have been driving our FFE for 11 months now, essentially trouble- (and maintenance-) free.
(Needed a $2 plastic piece for bumper, in stock at local Ford dealer.)

Charging: assume you have seen "Charging Stations" at top of this page.
I have also used http://www.recargo.com/ for finding such.

Range: note that several factors have big impact on distance you can drive. Speed (staying under 65 helps) and use of air heater make big difference (use seat heater instead, when you can). Air conditioner knocks about 10% off the range estimate, in our Focus.

Alternate energy: I would like to learn more about wind turbines (but expect that one would not be practical on our lot). We do get good help from PV on our roof ... but wish it could help if the local power grid is off. Unfortunately, the inverter will not run without the grid.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.