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A new batch of electric cars is joining the big names on the market such as the Nissan Leaf. So we thought it was time to catch up on the EV scene and see how the new entrants stack up. More electric cars are coming, too, including the two-seaters Mini E, Smart ForTwo, and Audi E-tron, and four- and five-seaters Scion iQ EV, Volkswagen E-Up and E-Golf, and a Cadillac ELR version of the Volt.
Tesla Model S
Range: 265 miles
The EPA rates the Model S passenger car, the newest offering from Elon Musk's EV company, at 89 mpge. And thanks to an enormous battery pack, the Model S is expected to make 265 miles on a charge. So far, the company says it has 7000 reservations.
Related: Our test drive of the Tesla Model S
Range: 88 miles
Built by a small California company using a Chinese-made version of a Japanese Mitsubishi Lancer as a platform, the Coda runs on a unique lithium-phosphate battery instead of the more common lithium-ion. EPA rates the Coda as a subcompact, though the four-door sedan will carry five people. Those who've gotten the chance to drive one have generally come away with a good impression of the EV, which gets brisk acceleration from its 134-hp electric motor.
Ford Focus EV
Range: 76 miles
The Ford Focus EV will be offered only in California, New York, and New Jersey as it is slowly released to the public. But during our drive, we found the Focus EV to be quick and quieter than a gasoline-powered model on the road. One big plus for the electric Focus is its high-capacity 240-volt onboard charger, which lets you top off the battery in less than 4 hours.
Honda Fit EV
Range: 123 miles
We just got our first drive in the electric version of a car we really like, the Honda Fit. We expect the five-seat Fit EV to be rated as the longest-range passenger EV—the automaker says you'll get 123 miles on a charge. Honda is rolling out the vehicle conservatively; it will be sold only in California and Oregon later this year, and, like the Toyota RAV4 EV, it will have a small production run: just 1100 cars for the next three years.
Range: 62 miles
The bubble-shaped subcompact i-Miev is a dedicated electric car design (not a gasoline car converted to run on batteries) with its motor in the rear driving the rear wheels. The bad: It's the slowest accelerating electric we've driven, getting to 60 mph in about 15 seconds. The good: Despite the pokey acceleration, it feels lively on the road while getting a score of 112 mpge from the EPA. And it's much less expensive than a Nissan Leaf or a Ford Focus EV.
Ford/Azure Dynamics Transit Connect EV
Range: 56 miles
Price: $58,000 (est.)
Available as a small panel van or a passenger wagon, the electric version of Ford's heavy-duty front-drive tall wagon can carry up to 1000 pounds of cargo, so it's aimed at customers who need utility. The Transit Connect EV delivers that utility, but with a range just north of 50 miles and an efficiency of just 62 mpge. For comparison, a passenger car like the Ford Focus EV is rated at 105 mpge.
Range: 73 miles
The biggest name of the all-electric offerings currently on the mark, the Leaf is now available in 30 states, and Nissan has sold 27,000 of them worldwide as of April. The standard-bearer is roomier inside than the Focus EV or even Chevy's hybrid Volt. The EPA rates its efficiency at 99 mpge, which means it makes good use of its battery capacity, although it requires more time to charge than the Focus.
Range: 100 miles (est.)
Wheego has sold less than 40 of the tiny Smart ForTwo-size LiFe in the past year, though that's not unusual in the low-volume world of EVs (Ford sold just 10 of its Focus EVs in the first three months of 2012.) The two-seater LiFe is a product of Wheego's build-to-order assembly strategy, where each car ships without drivelines from China and is finished in Atlanta. The company also sells a low-speed golf-cart-style electric vehicle called the Whip, though the LiFe is the more powerful of the two.
Toyota RAV4 EV
Range: 80 miles
The second iteration of a Toyota RAV4 EV (which is intended for consumers, as the first-gen was for commercial and government clients) is expected to be on the road in late autumn, and to have some zip when it arrives. Toyota says the large Tesla-sourced battery pack will accelerate the car to 60 mph in just 7 seconds when it's in sport mode, while in normal driving mode, the RAV4 EV will still get to 60 in 8.6 seconds. The EV version of the RAV4 is only available as a front-driver, not a four-wheeler. Toyota expects to build 2600 RAV4 EVs over the next three years in its Ontario plant.