Electric cars offer many benefits including well-above-average environmental performance, insulation from volatile gasoline prices and, in California, coveted access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Helped by advances in battery technology, automakers have introduced a batch of exciting new electric vehicles (EVs). A 2012 roundup includes the Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf and CODA electric sedan.
With its original name of i-MiEV now shortened to a minimalist “i,” this miniature Mitsubishi earns a maximalist eRating of 273. That’s the highest score awarded by the AutoEcoRating algorithm to date.
The i began life in 2006 as a mid-engine car in the Japanese compact segment. Due to the atypical engine placement, engineers selected the i as an ideal candidate for electrification, swapping the piston engine for an electric motor and placing batteries beneath the floor.
The i bests its electron powered brethren by tipping the scales a full 800 to 1000 pounds lighter than the competition. The i’s small footprint and featherweight build enable the use of a significantly smaller lithium-ion battery and electric motor without much sacrifice in range. The downsized battery pack also helps keep costs low, given that the battery is the single most expensive component of an electric car. Combining its relatively low cost and high eRating, and counting the tax credit for which any EV qualifies, makes the Mitsubishi i the best “eco-value” on the market today.
The Ford Focus Electric, a plugged-in version of Ford’s popular compact, earns an eRating of 238. The Focus sports a liquid heating and cooling system for its battery – the only vehicle in this segment to do so. Another feature is a high-amperage charging system with twice the power rating of the 2012 Nissan’s Leaf’s built-in charging system. It allows the battery to be filled up from a 220-240 volt outlet in four hours or less.
The Focus Electric comes packaged with the MyFord Mobile smartphone app, which lets drivers to unlock doors, monitor the battery, set charging times and bring the car’s interior to a comfortable temperature before you get in. Ford’s app also allows the battery to be “preconditioned,” which prolongs battery life by using electrical energy from the wall plug to bring the battery to an ideal temperature before starting the car (people aren’t the only ones that like to be comfortable).
The Nissan Leaf reaches a level of environmental performance very close to that of the Focus Electric, earning an eRating of 233. The Leaf was the first mass-produced, all-electric vehicle to hit the market following the nearly decade-long hiatus after early, California-mandated “Zero Emission Vehicles” such as GM’s EV1 and Toyota’s RAV-4 EV briefly roamed the roads. Nissan also provides a smartphone app for the Leaf to schedule charging and set cabin temperature prior to use. The Leaf boasts an interior so quiet that special headlamp enclosures had to be used to direct air away from the side mirrors to decrease wind noise.
The CODA electric sedan earns an eRating of 180 while taking a different approach to battery range and car construction than the other models. CODA, in an effort to keep prices low, manufactures the vehicle body and battery in China, ships the components state-side, and completes final assembly in California. The CODA also has the longest range of the four vehicles scored, with an EPA estimated range of 88 miles.
Although our EV eRatings are based on national average emissions data, the pollution from power generation varies depending on the region. Therefore, the actual impact of any EV could be greater or lesser depending on where you live, as seen in the map given in our post on the topic. The relative rankings among different electric cars won’t change, however.
Consumers now have a variety of EVs from which to choose in addition to the specialized low-speed electrics available in some locations or a pricier trend-setter like the Tesla Model S. Model year 2012 offerings include road-worthy EVs ranging from the small Mitsubishi i to the Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf and CODA sedan. With planet-friendly footprints and ranges of 65 to 88 miles, an EV could be a good choice as your next eco-commuter or urban get-around.
|Make and Model||$MSRP||Specs||City / Hwy / Comb|
|Mitsubishi i||29,975||66 hp electric motor, 62 mile range||126 / 99 / 112||273|
|Ford Focus Electric||39,995||143 hp electric motor,76 mile range||110 / 99 / 105||238|
|Nissan Leaf||36,050||107 hp electric motor, 73 mile range||106 / 92 / 99||233|
|CODA Sedan||38,145||134 hp electric motor, 88 mile range||77 / 68 / 73||180|