Which Cars Belong in Ideal Plug-in Car Garage?

By · May 06, 2014

Honda Fit EV and Nissan LEAF Share Driveway

I look forward to the day when both of our cars plug in. This already happens sometimes, when I have a loaner EV (for a test drive).

Once you drive an EV, you don’t want to go back to internal combustion. There’s something addictive about the combination of torque, quiet ride, zero emissions and home refueling. So, it doesn’t take owners of a first electric car—those who have two cars in the family—much time to start thinking about a garage with two cars powered mostly, or entirely, by electrons.

But it’s still early days in the plug-in market, so finding the right one-two punch can be tricky. It means pairing up two vehicles that offer the best combination of vehicle segment, style and range.

The pricey Tesla Model S is the only EV that currently offers enough driving range (and opportunities for quick refueling) for road trips. For buyers who can afford a Tesla, it can serve as the anchor vehicle—providing the lion’s share of daily driving as well as service for longer trips. The low-production California-only Toyota RAV4 EV, a small utility with about 120 miles of range, similarly allows for regional driving, but is not suited for road trips. Meanwhile, there are a host of plug-in hybrid vehicles that mostly use electricity, but extend range with some degree of gas usage for going as far as you like.

That leaves the rest of the field of pure electric cars—commonly with a range of 80 miles or less—as daily drivers, but not well-suited for long-distance commutes or vacations.

Still, with nearly 20 plug-in models available now (or soon), there are quite a few ways to mix and match two battery-powered cars. I will outline just three broad strategies, and let readers respond with ideas for specific vehicle combos for the ultimate electric garage.

Big EV, Small EV: Assuming that one of your cars is a Model S (or some future model with similar range), your household can combine that big-battery car with an electric car with more limited range. The small efficient electric car—like a LEAF, Focus Electric or Fiat 500e—can take care of all daily commuting and errands, and the big bold Model S can stand ready for use with the national network of Superchargers. Something like the upcoming Tesla Model X SUV, with more seating capability, is even a stronger anchor car.

EV Plus Plug-in Hybrid: In 2011 and 2012, the logical combo was LEAF and Volt. The Volt offers nearly 40 miles of electric range, so nearly every day of the year can be petroleum-free. But any combination of pure electric car and plug-in hybrid can achieve a similar level of miniscule emissions and maximum convenience. Ideally, the bigger car is the plug-in hybrid (so you can stretch out and haul gear on road trips), although we have yet to see a truly spacious plug-in hybrid.

Two Small EVs Plus Occasional Car Rental (Or Car Sharing): How many times a year do you really need to haul a lot of people or stuff? On those days, go out and rent (or borrow) a minivan or pickup truck. Sure, it’s less convenient, but think about how you would be freed up to go all-electric nearly all the time. You would have the choice among about 10 capable, stylish and affordable small electrics. Choose any two.

The scenarios get even more interesting when you introduce liberal use of public transportation, carpooling and walking. And for non-purists willing to accept some degree of tailpipe emissions in your second car, the market is now filled with conventional hybrid, efficient diesel, and high-mpg gas cars that can get 40 miles per gallon or higher—a smidgen of internal combustion held in reserve strictly on an as-needed basis.

What two car combination creates the ideal electric garage for you?


· · 3 years ago

In 2011, owning both a LEAF and a Prius seemed to be the ideal choice for us, along with an older car with AWD for snow. The Volt was out of the question because it only seats four, its long-distance gas mileage was so-so, and it was comparatively expensive.

Three years later, I'm excited to see Tesla's strong execution and its build-out of a nationwide Supercharger network. The Model X, I think, would be an excellent match for my family and would replace our AWD car, leaving the Prius for backup and long-distance use when the Model X is taken. The LEAF would continue to be used for many local drives.

As the Model X will be far more expensive than any other car we've purchased, we intend to stick with our current "stable" of cars for a while longer.

· · 3 years ago

Current Roster
2012 Volt Lease expires one year :(
2004 Prius
2005 Highlander 4wd

New Lineup
2015 Leaf, Volt, BMW?, Model E (not in time)
2004 Prius it is paid for and so reliable.
2005 Highlander Sold to the highest bidder!

· · 3 years ago

> Which Cars Belong in Ideal Plug-in Car Garage?

One of each?

· · 3 years ago

The Rav 4 EV and a Leaf work for us. We trade the Leaf for the daughters Prius when we need something for 150 miles plus road trips. But that may change if the Rav ever gets upgraded for Chademo. Waiting patiently Williams:)
Lake Stevens WA.

· · 3 years ago

My driveway would be best suited for a Leaf and Outlander PHEV. The Outlander has plenty of room for our family of 4 (we currently fit just fine in a 2nd Gen Insight), plus it would tow my boat (currently I beg/borrow a truck twice a year).

Longer term, the ideal would be two full EVs, but it will be a long time before I can afford one with long enough range for me. Plus the infrastructure has a long way to go around here. There just is no quick-charging infrastructure even planned save for Tesla. And 265 miles range + the proposed superchargers would not cover 100% of the trips I have taken in the past 12 months.

· · 3 years ago

BEV plus Plug-in Hybrid for now. Primary car is a 4 seat BEV city car (currently Fit EV). The second daily driver is a larger, 20+ AER Plug-in Hybrid (C-Max Energi), but considering the Outlander PHEV. Rumored Chrysler Town and Country PHEV could replace both our C-Max and holdover Odyssey minivan, until a Tesla minivan debuts. That would be ideal.

· · 3 years ago

I signed a lease contract for an e-Golf (Delivery will be End of October), a perfect primary car would be the Golf GTE, as soon as it is availible. At least here in Germany this is the best I can afford and for the two of us completely sufficent.

· · 3 years ago

Tesla Model S + Fiat 500e. Perfect combo. My wife has a standard commute which the 500e is perfect for and I drive the Model S all over the county for work, plus it's (of course) great for road trips. Next year, we'll be replacing the 500e with the Model X, and then we'll really be set.

· · 3 years ago


I'm jealous of your access to the GTE. I would love to replace my Leaf with one when my lease is up next summer, but according to a rep at the NYIAS, it won't be coming to the states. It looks like a great package - performance and looks in an affordable PHEV package. I will definitely take a look at the e-Golf (coming here in November), but it lacks the performance and range of the GTE.

· · 3 years ago

Cb17 Say goodbye to Gas foreever!

· · 3 years ago

Leaf, vin 320
Volt, vin 679

Tesla Model S, vin 9649
2014 Volt, vin xxxx?

· · 3 years ago

Two Rav4 EV's. For long distance travel, we fly. For regional travel, it takes planning.

Since I can drive well over 100 miles one one, the only thing I need at my destination is a solid charge location (preferably with 40 amps and 250 volt minimum).

Since it was mentioned in the comments, the Rav4 EV JdeMO project is not expected to be complete with testing until 2015.

We are still shipping JESLA 40 amp portable J1772 charge cables daily that work perfectly for Rav4 EV, the Mercedes B-Class ED, and Tesla Model S owners that want to share their UMC with their other J1772 equipped cars. Of course, it works on all J1772 equipped cars.

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.