Despite the polarizing opinions about its owner, we can credit Tesla with giving the electric car industry the boost it desperately needed.
Yes, the electric car still remains an aspiration for many due to the high initial price. And you can’t really keep it as your only means of transportation especially if there are interstate miles involved. But the recent advancements in battery technology have enabled manufacturers to make electric cars more accessible, so buying an electric car on a budget is now possible. Here are the seven cheapest electric cars you can buy in 2020.
Also note, if you’re in the market to buy an electric car, make sure you check your local dealer and government websites for incentives you might be eligible for. The federal government is offering tax credit up to $7,500 that you can claim as a part of your tax return. But there are state-level benefits as well, ranging from additional discounts to free parking.
Starting price: $45,445
We start off with the most expensive and arguably the most innovative car on the list, the BMW i3. Yes, there is a Tesla on the list and yet we call the BMW the most innovative. That’s due to its body is made out of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), a concept introduced in 2013 that carmakers still shy away from. In addition, the car also uses recycled materials extensively during the manufacturing process to reduce its environmental impact.
The i3 comes in two distinct versions, the i3 and the i3s, and both are available with and without range extenders. It makes 168 hp of max power and 184 lb-ft of peak torque in the i3 and 181 hp and 199 lb-ft in the i3s. Both are rear-drive only. The range extender is a 647 cc twin-cylinder engine that never powers the wheels directly but helps charge the battery.
SEE ALSO: 2019 BMW i3 REx Review
On a full charge, both the i3 and i3s will be good for 153 miles. With the range extender, the range increases to 200 miles. Interestingly, the i3 only comes with a 42 kWh battery pack. But thanks to being so lightweight (around 3,000 lb without occupants), it can go a lot further. Plus, being light also translates to lesser inertia, which doesn’t require massive brakes or extra wide tires, thereby keeping the mechanicals simple, easier to repair, and the body rust free.
In the cabin you get things like three-stage heated front seats as standard along with an automatic climate control system, fully adjustable steering, and eDrive system with Apple CarPlay as standard. It also gets adaptive cruise control and automatic collision notification. A standard wall-mounted charger for your home can charge the battery up to 80 percent in less than five hours. If you use public fast chargers, the same percentage takes about 40 minutes.
Kia Niro EV
Starting Price: $40,290
The combination of “second-most expensive” and “Kia” don’t really sound right together. But in this instant they are, as the Kia Niro EV is the second-most expensive electric car on the list. Don’t furrow your brow as it is far from the most expensive in the market. Unlike the 2018 MY car, the Niro now utilizes a single powertrain: the 201 hp, 291 lb-ft electric motor with a 64 kWh battery pack.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Kia Niro EV Review
Thanks to the large battery, it can do 239 miles on a single full charge but takes about 9.5 hours to charge from a power wall socket. Use a DC fast charger however and the task takes 90 minutes. In the cabin, you get climate control as standard along with an eight-inch touch-screen infotainment screen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Other standard features include 10-way power-adjustable driver’s perch and driver assistance systems like collision mitigation, blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and lane following assist. Upgrading to the EX Premium ($45,585) trim fetches you heated and ventilated front seats, a powered moonroof, a 10.25-inch touchscreen system and a wireless charger. All features except the touchscreen are available as options on the EX trim.
Hyundai Kona Electric
Starting Price: $38,330
Although the Hyundai Kona shares its platform and powertrain with the Kia Niro EV, it is cheaper by almost $2,000. The Kona is slightly smaller compared to the Niro however, but that isn’t necessarily an awful thing. Despite the same 201 hp motor paired to a 64kWh battery pack, the Kona can do 258 miles on a single charge compared to the 239-mile range of the Niro. The equipment distribution for the two cars is similar too. But where the Niro is available in two trims, the Kona comes with three.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Review
The base SEL trim is on the spartan side but yet offers automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard on a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Although there is no power adjustable driver’s seat or a moonroof, you do get the safety suite including the forward collision avoidance and blind-spot detection. The moonroof and eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat is available on the Limited trim ($43,240). Features like ventilated front seats, a 10,25-inch touchscreen system, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display are available on the top Ultimate trim ($46,540) only.
Tesla Model 3
Starting price: $37,990
A Tesla for less than $40,000 should be too good to be true and even if it is legit, it should have some caveat, no? We thought so too, but actually going through the builder on Tesla’s website proves otherwise.
What you see is what you get here. The Model 3 is the most affordable Tesla and yes, if you want the “Full Self-Driving Capability”—which isn’t an accurate name, we’re must remind—you have to shell out an extra $7,000. But in the base Standard Plus trim you get power-adjustable front seats, heated seats front and rear, and the Autopilot system. The Model 3 has a 250-mile range on a full-charge and finding a supercharger in and around the bigger cities is rarely a problem in the US. Plus, it is pretty good to drive as well. From that standpoint, the Model 3 comes across as a balanced package as it not only looks cool but drives well and offers great convenience equipment as well. Yes, the cabin does look like it was robbed but minimalism has always been a part of Tesla’s appeal.
SEE ALSO: 2018 Tesla Model 3 Review
The Long Range version ($46,990) claims 322-mile range on a full charge while the Performance trim ($54,990) is, well, built for performance and comes with a dual-motor setup and AWD.
However, buying a Tesla is a leap of faith. Being a relatively new carmaker, its reliability and quality record isn’t flawless. And the Model 3 was prone to problems soon after purchase. But Tesla has claimed that it has made significant improvements to the Model 3. Plus, Tesla also has a return policy which states that you can return the vehicle for a full refund if it is no more than 1,000 miles old and doesn’t have abnormal wear and tear. The company offers a comprehensive warranty as well.
Starting Price: $37,890
Chevrolet’s sole electric offering received a significant update to its range for the 2020 model year. The battery pack is up to 66 kWh and the Bolt now offers 259 miles on a full charge which is significantly more than the Niro and about nine miles more than the Standard Plus Model 3 trim. It makes 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque which should be adequate for both city traffic and short highway hauls as well. The only challenge is the recharging which without a level 3 DC charger can take up to six hours to recuperate completely from an empty battery. But you need a 240-volt level 2 charger for that too.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review
Chevrolet offers the Bolt in two trims, LT and Premier. Both get climate control and a 10.2-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. But keeping up with the Chevrolet tradition, many driver assistance systems standard on its competition are optional on the Bolt. That includes auto-emergency braking, forward collision alert, pedestrian detection, and lane-keep assist. The rear traffic alert and rear park assist are standard on the Premier and optional on the LT trim.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Starting Price: $34,020
Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric is the affordable electric hatch from Hyundai that is almost strictly a city car owing to its smaller 38.3 kWh battery and a maximum range of 170 miles. The electric motor makes 134 hp of max power and 218 lb-ft of peak torque. The Ioniq Electric is available in two trims, SE and Limited. The equipment distribution is similar to that on the Kona but unlike the Kona, Ioniq gets a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen system as standard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard and so is the automatic climate control and heated front seats. Only the driver’s perch is power-adjustable on the Ioniq and on the Limited trim only.
SEE ALSO: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Review
Other features limited to the top trim is the blind-spot detection system, highway drive assist, power moonroof, and the 10.25-inch infotainment system. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance, and lane-keeping assist are all standard.
Starting Price: $32,525
The Nissan Leaf is the only car on the list that predates Tesla’s entry into the mainstream markets. It debuted in its current form back in 2018 with a significantly bigger battery pack, more power, and range. The updates made the Nissan Leaf relevant again and today it is the most affordable electric car you can buy.
It is available in two versions. One comes with a 40 kWh battery pack and makes 147 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain comes with the S ($32,525) and SV ($40,675) trims and is good for 149 miles on a full charge. The other comes with a 62 kWh battery pack and can do 226 miles on a single charge. It also makes 214 hp and 250 lb-ft which is significantly more than the 40 kWh version.
SEE ALSO:2019 Nissan Leaf Plus Review
The second powertrain is available with the S Plus ($39,125), SV Plus($40,675), and SL Plus ($44,825) trims. In terms of features too, the Nissan Leaf is quite well-equipped. It gets blind-spot detection as standard along with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The 360-degree surround camera view though is reserved for the SL Plus only. And though SL Plus gets the ProPilot assist as standard, it is available as part of the Technology Package. As for the infotainment, an 8.0-inch system is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You do miss the moonroof entirely though.
Mini Cooper SE
Starting Price: $29,900 (estimated)
To say that BMW is treading lightly in the all-electric car market would be putting it mildly. After the revolutionary i3 failed to take off and the i8 hybrid was only moderately successful, BMW has taken the once-bitten-twice-shy approach with MINI. The Cooper SE will feature the same powertrain as the i3 and offer just 110 miles per full charge which is half of what you get from its competitors. One thing is certain: it will stick to the city limits. It will likely come with all convenience and safety features as standard but will not be your sole mode of transportation. What it is, is a funky looking city runabout car that will help you pose yet be environmentally responsible.
Kia Soul EV
Starting price: $38,100 (estimated)
The Kia Soul EV is already on sale in Canada and is available in two trims. The lower trim employs a smaller battery pack that only offers 155 miles on a full charge and makes 134 hp. The other powertrain is the same as on the Niro and makes 201hp and offers 243 miles of range on a full charge. Also, it is hooked up to a 64 kWh battery pack. In the US however, it will probably be available with the higher range version only.
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