Electric vehicles have reached another milestone – in Norway.
According to the Norwegian Road Traffic Information office, one-third of the 147,929 new cars sold in Norway last year ran on batteries, with Nissan’s humble Leaf (rather than the beleaguered, if stylish, Tesla Model S) the most popular all-electric in that market. Sales of electric vehicles in the country rose 40 percent in 2018 from a year earlier, according to the report.
The momentum is growing. Moody’s analysts say sales of cars with an internal combustion engine peaked in 2018. Demand for so-called ICE vehicles will start to wane in 2019, they predict. Moody’s projects the market for electric vehicles in 2019 in North America will quadruple to 1.6 percent of the total.
So if you find yourself wanting to hop behind the wheel of a full electric or hybrid – while still enjoying a luxurious ride – here’s a guide to what we think are the best of these vehicles on the market now or in the near future.
Need something sporty, small and personalized?
The car: Polestar 1
Stats: The slick, $155,000 hybrid two-door coupe has electric motors and a four-cylinder combustion engine that will produce 600 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. The range will be 93.2 miles under electric-only power; the charging time has yet to be announced.
Where it excels: With time-tested Swedish engineering and power sent to each of the rear wheels, the Polestar 1 has all the components needed – in theory – to drive like a real sports car. (Remember, so far this remains in concept form.) That, along with its hybrid drivetrain, which eliminates range anxiety, is going to be a big reason for this new brand to pull buyers from Porsche, Tesla and Audi. Plus, because each Polestar car can be configured and personalized to a high degree using the brand’s novel subscription system, it will appeal to young, affluent buyers accustomed to purchasing items that reflect their personality and style.
Notes: Polestar is the performance luxury brand of Volvo Cars, owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. While the cars aren’t available yet – production will start in mid-2019 in Chengdu, China, with deliveries beginning in early 2020 – they will be “sold” via an all-inclusive subscription model that combines automotive costs such as insurance and maintenance in a single monthly payment, unlike Tesla, which sells cars outright. Polestar North America will open its first Apple store-like retail space in New York.
Cross-shop with: Audi E-Tron GT
Need something practical for suburban life?
The car: Porsche Taycan
Stats: On a special 350-kilowatt charger, Porsche says, the Taycan will replenish a battery to 186 miles of range in less than 10 minutes. Total system output will be more than 600 horsepower. It will travel from zero to 62 mph in under 3.5 seconds. Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect it to cost less than $100,000.
Where it excels: Those wanting a highly practical electric sedan would do well to choose the Taycan. It’s been in development for years at Porsche’s plant in Stuttgart, Germany, with a focus on driving performance, range, practicality and good looks from perhaps the most trusted sports car maker in the world. If anything was a sure bet out the gate, this would be it.
Notes: This is Porsche’s first move into general production electrified cars and its first direct shot at Tesla. It will play a crucial role in parent Volkswagen AG’s lineup as the company makes more electric cars over the next eight years while streamlining operations to save billions of dollars. In theory, the Taycan is arriving at the perfect time, as Tesla consumers tire of the brand’s poor build quality, endless wait times and the latest antics from Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.
Cross-shop with: Tesla Model S
Need something to collect?
The car: Ferrari LaFerrari
Stats: The hybrid LaFerrari has a V-12 engine and an electric motor that combine for a total output of 960 hp. It can reach 124 mph in less than 7 seconds (zero to 62 in less than 3 seconds). It has a top speed of 220 mph. (Ferrari doesn’t release electric-only range for this supercar, but all reports say it’s extremely limited.)
Where it excels: The LaFerrari is good at getting attention. It’s good at making jaws drop from sports car and exotic car aficionados. It’s good for a weekend drive to the local cars and coffee meetup and for showing up in for dinner on a Friday night. And it’s good for sitting in your garage and appreciating in value.
Notes: This is the first hybrid from Ferrari. With ultralimited production, futuristic looks, an iconic heritage and insane performance, it’s a true collector’s piece. Will Ferrari ever make something 100 percent electric? Maybe. In the meantime, the LaFerrari is more than enough.
Cross-shop with: Porsche 918 Spyder
Need something for a weekend warrior lifestyle?
The car: Jaguar I-Pace
Stats: The $69,500 electric SUV has all-wheel drive and a total 394 hp and 512 pound-feet of torque. It can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, about equal to much more expensive vehicles such as the Porsche Macan E-Hybrid and entry levels of the Tesla Model X. Top speed is 124 mph and it can travel 234 miles on a full charge. A typical 50-kilowatt DC rapid charger gets it from a zero to 80 percent charge in 85 minutes.
Where it excels: The I-Pace is good for sightseeing. It has a massive panoramic roof that affords those in the back seat spectacular views. And it’s good for driving around town doing errands (there’s lots of space in the trunk for groceries), picking up the kids from practice or heading out to camp, bike, ski or hike for the weekend. Does this sound a lot like what the Taycan does? Yes, but with more room in the back.
Notes: This is the most exciting thing Jaguar has produced in years, including the sexy F-Type coupe. A low-riding, compact SUV that you might compare with everything from the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid, Audi Q5 and BMW X3 to the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the I-Pace is long and low, with handsome, modern body lines and an intuitive interior. Designed by Scot Ian Callum, a famous former Aston Martin designer, it more than holds its own against rival cars in range, performance, technology and design.
Cross-shop with: Tesla Model X
Need a motorcycle for your urban commute?
The bike: Zero FX
Stats: A full charge on a standard 110-volt household outlet takes 9 hours, or you can use Zero’s $600 hypercharger and do it in 4 ½ hours – or forget that altogether and simply swap out the battery. There are two modes: Eco and Sport. With a range of 91 miles in the city and 39 miles on the highway, Eco mode is significantly more practical. Top speed in either mode is 85 mph. Pricing starts at $8,495.
Where it excels: The Zero FX is light and easy to maneuver in city streets. Its spongy shocks and nimble steering make it fly over cobblestones and potholes; its optional interchangeable battery pack means you barely have to wait at all to access a new charge.
Notes: As the motorcycle market dwindles, with Harley-Davidson in particular struggling to attract new and younger (than its pensioner-age) buyers, electric bikes are a bright spot within the segment. Zero makes the best of them in terms of design, reliability, rideability and value.
Cross-shop with: Alta Redshift SM
Need something very fast – and roomy?
The car: Tesla Model S
Stats: It has a 2.5-second zero to 60 mph sprint time that eviscerates all contenders. Power can be difficult to quantify on all the varying levels of the Model S sedan, but the $94,000 Tesla Model S P100D hits around 590 hp. It’s officially rated with a range of 315 miles, though in real-world scenarios that dips to closer to 250 miles. With a basic garage wall outlet, charging can take as much as eight hours.
Where it excels: The Tesla Model S in Ludicrous mode is the fastest mass-production electric vehicle you can buy. Heck, it’s faster than most regular sedans you can buy. And it offers massive amounts of space for a four-door sedan, with a hatchback and cabin devoid of the center console that typically eats up space in conventional cars. If you want something immensely practical for daily living that also drives like the dickens, this one’s for you.
Notes: Tesla has a big target on its back, as Porsche, Audi and Jaguar play catch-up to the electric leader. But there’s a reason it’s winning the electric game – it was the first and the best for a long time. The Model S, when in top form, is still the best electric sedan you can buy now. As I said in the review linked above, the Model S P100D delivers an authentic, and powerful, driving experience sure to pump adrenaline through the veins of even the most discerning driver.
Cross-shop with: Porsche Panamera Hybrid
Need something flashy that won’t give you range anxiety?
The car: BMW i8
Stats: The $147,500 i8 coupe has a twin-turbo, 3-cylinder, 228 horsepower engine and a 141 hp electric motor. Total output is 369 hp, about the same as a Porsche 911 Carrera. Zero to 60 mph is 4.2 seconds; top speed is 155 mph.
Where it excels: Straight speed performance behind the wheel of the i8 is less exhilarating than it might appear from the car’s looks, but it hugs corners like a boa constrictor and stays connected to the road like a supermagnet. It’s a thrill to drive, thoughtfully designed inside and out. Those upward-opening doors will only get cooler with age.
Notes: One of the few electric sports cars available in both coupe and convertible forms, the BMW i8 is well on its way to iconic status. One of the first hybrid sports cars on the public market when it was introduced 10 years ago, it remains a good standard of excellence.
Cross-shop with: Acura NSX
Need something for solo life in the city?
The car: Fiat 500e
Stats: At $32,995, the Fiat 500e is not cheap for a small car, but it is among the cheaper electric cars you can buy. (The interior is far from luxurious – that’s not the point.) It has a total range of 84 miles, with strong efficiency ratings of 121 mpge in the city and 103 mpge on the highway. On a 110-volt charger, it takes 24 hours to get a full charge.
Where it excels: The Fiat 500e is a snap to park – in some spots you can even park it perpendicular to the curb thanks to its diminutive stature. It’s good for short-distance driving to places where you want to dash in and out for quick sundry items or errands.
Notes: This tiny (although darling) thing is not what you’d want for driving on the highway or if you’ve got to spend hours at a time in the car. The interior is cramped and awkward for anyone over 5 feet 8 inches tall. But if you’re the type to have a city house and a country house, or if you have a big apartment in New York and need something just to get around and park with ease, it’ll make a great addition to the family. (Note: As of this writing it’s sold only in select states in the U.S., including California and Oregon.)
Cross-shop with: Mini Electric concept (coming soon)
Need a sporty compact daily driver for you and a partner?
The car: Audi E-Tron GT
Stats: The 590-horsepower four-door “coupe” will have a range of 248 miles. According to Audi, its 100 kWh battery pack will have a zero to 60 mph time of 3.5 seconds and be able to charge to 80 percent battery strength in 20 minutes.
Where it excels: If Audi’s current sports line is any indication, the E-Tron GT will be ultrasmooth and quick. It’s not ideal for families, but with four doors and a small back seat, it affords enough room for a random friend or two to join on a trip, or to throw extra bags behind the front seats, without sacrificing the cool compact look or performance.
Notes: Audi’s E-Tron SUV, out later this year, spells the company’s first big push into electric vehicles for mass consumption, but the style-minded will wait for the car version. A low body, square nose, stubby rear end and graphic daytime running lights make it look ready to hustle, and it retains the cool elegance of the German brand with body-style overtones and a roofline like the new Audi A7. Inside, the seats are lined in fabric made from recycled fibers. So far, the car is still in concept form, but the production version is likely to retain most of the details from the concept. Production begins in 2021.
Cross-shop with: Tesla Model 3
Need a trustworthy family hauler?
The car: Mercedes-Benz EQC 400
Stats: The all-wheel-drive EQC 400 will have an 80 kWh battery and a dual-motor electric drivetrain with combined output of 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of immediate torque. Top speed will be 112 mph with a sprint time to 60 mph of 4.9 seconds. Total maximum driving range for the European version will be 279 miles (U.S. numbers and battery charging times have yet to be announced).
Where it excels: If this concept continues with Mercedes’ well-known and beloved devotion to offering the most progressive technology and safety systems, it’ll be the most advanced and thoughtfully practical family-suited SUV on the market.
Notes: Daimler has big plans (and more than $11 billion budgeted) to put 10 pure-electric vehicles on the road by 2022. The Mercedes EQs, which stands for “electric intelligence,” include precursors such as the discontinued the B250e, a small electric hatchback of sorts, and the EQ Silver Arrow sports car concept that Mercedes showed earlier this year in Pebble Beach, Calif. This SUV will compete against the Jaguar I-Pace SUV, the production versions of the BMW Vision iNext, and that electric e-Tron crossover from Audi. It will arrive at U.S. dealers in 2020.
Cross-shop with: BMW Vision iNext
(Contact the reporter at [email protected].)