If you’ve been waiting for hybrid vehicles to enter the mainstream before you consider buying one, your time may have come. More and more, automakers are coming out with products that minimize reliance on gasoline and give you a real choice. Whether you’re comfortable driving a tiny egg-shaped object or want something a lot more attractive and practical, you can find an electric or hybrid vehicle to suit you. Here are some EVs you can look forward to seeing in showrooms soon.
Some of the electric and plug-in vehicles we’re anticipating have yet to be formally announced, so let’s start with the ones we know about for sure.
• General Motors will unveil its upcoming extended-range Cadillac ELR at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That car is expected to enter production by late 2013.
• This summer, GM will launch its first all-electric car for the U.S. market with the Chevrolet Spark EV. GM has kept mum about specifics but says the battery can reach 80 percent of full charge in twenty minutes using a supercharger and charges in less than seven hours using a 240-volt outlet. GM also says the car will be priced under $25,000 after federal tax incentives, though no exact numbers have been released. Like many of its electric brethren, the Spark EV will start out in limited markets, making its debut in California and Oregon.
• In the spring, Fiat will add an all-electric version of its only U.S. product, the 500. Cleverly dubbed the 500e, this minicar made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show—logical, since the 500e will only be available in California at first. It is expected to get about eighty miles of range from a single battery charge. Chrysler says the 500e will get 116 MPGe in the city and 100 MPGe on the highway. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.
• The Honda Accord Plug-in, coming in January 2013, was recently unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show with some very impressive fuel economy numbers—a combined 115 MPGe. The Accord Plug-in will run buyers $40,570 including destination, and will be available only in California and New York at first.
• If teeny-tiny is more your speed, Scion will release an all-electric version of its tiny iQ for 2013, but those cars will be limited to use in car-sharing programs.
• Smart is launching the new generation of its electric Fortwo model this spring (previous generations had very limited releases). The updated all-electric car has a sixty-eight-mile range and claims to be the cheapest electric car on the market, priced at $25,000 before federal tax incentives.
• BMW has created a new subbrand for its electric projects, although none have left concept form just yet. The i3 and i8 have made the rounds at the 2011 Frankfurt and Los Angeles auto shows and the 2012 Auto China, Geneva, Los Angeles, and Paris shows, drawing attention with their decidedly futuristic looks. The i3 concept is a small, sporty-looking coupe, while the i8 Spyder eschews practicality altogether, promising a true performance automobile that none of us will ever be able to afford. BMW plans to introduce the cars sometime in 2013 and 2014.
• Several other carmakers are planning to enter the electric-car game soon. Audi is developing its A3 E-tron, a plug-in version of the A3, for an eventual U.S. release. Mercedes-Benz displayed an electrified B-Class concept at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, and Mercedes says it will launch a fully electric compact car in 2014. Mitsubishi is planning to add to its electric lineup with an Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, which is expected to reach the U.S. market sometime in 2014. The Outlander Plug-in will almost certainly be the first plug-in crossover, which could go a long way toward making plug-ins more feasible for families. Volkswagen has suggested that its E-Golf, currently being tested in very small numbers in the United States, might make an appearance in model year 2014.
And of course, you can always buy one of the old standbys. The Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and C-Max Energi,Mitsubishi i, and Nissan Leaf are still for sale, and all are nearly unchanged from their original launch models – although vegans may be outraged that the earth-friendly Leaf now offers an optional leather interior.
There has been lots of talk about the impact of hybrid and electric vehicles on the market. There is no definitive answer to that question—yet. One thing is certain, though: the landscape has changed, and alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to proliferate. Someday soon, there may be one in your driveway.