7 Best Electric Cars for 2021
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Once an accessory for the wealthy meant for quick trips around town, some of the best electric cars could now be obtained for less than $40,000 and are capable of traveling hundreds of miles on a single charge. That’s a slightly higher upfront cost than the average gasoline-powered car, but there’s research suggesting that electric vehicles (EVs) may wind up being cheaper in the long run. Whether you’re looking for a luxury SUV or a fast get-around-town coupe, there’s likely an EV option to suit. Here are our seven top picks for 2021.
|Best electric vehicles|
|Model||Score||Miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe)|
|Jaguar I-PACE||4.60||76 MPGe combined|
|Chevrolet Bolt||4.53||118 MPGe combined|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||4.55||120 MPGe combined|
|Tesla Model 3||4.45||113 MPGe combined|
|Kia Niro EV||4.40||112 MPGe combined|
|Hyundai Ioniq Electric||4.38||133 MPGe combined|
|MINI Cooper SE Hardtop 2 Door Electric||Honorary Mention||108 MPGe combined|
How we chose the best electric cars
We evaluated 17 of the available electric vehicles on the market with seven rising to the top according to how well they performed in expert and consumer reviews from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds. We also considered each EV’s starting Manufactured Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), capabilities and features. Prices do not include any available federal tax credits, which could further reduce the price.
- $69,850 starting MSRP
This electrified Jaguar SUV has the lowest MPGe on our list, but for a powerful SUV, it puts up solid numbers with 234 miles of total range on a single charge. The Tesla Model X is capable of greater range (360 miles) but also has a higher price, starting just below $90,000. The I-PACE goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds using the technology Jaguar derived from its I-TYPE race car. That means 394 horsepower and 512 foot-pounds of torque for the I-PACE. It takes 12.6 hours to fully recharge and power this big cat using a 240-volt (240V) charger. A supercharger can recharge 80% of the battery capacity in about 45 minutes. The 2020 I-Pace is a good choice for those looking for a luxury all-wheel-drive EV — it won three World Car titles, something no car model has done before.
- $36,620 starting MSRP
The 2020 Bolt gets one of the best mileage ratings on this list at one of the lowest prices. The base model comes with a 10.2-inch touch screen, high-definition rearview camera and both Apple and Android smartphone compatibility. Cons are that active safety features are not standard and longer road trips in the EV may not be comfortable — reviewers have noted the overall small size of the car and the lack of seat padding. A 2021 Bolt is available on Chevy lots but lacking major changes and considering the longer track record for the 2020, we focused on the previous year’s model. The Bolt may soon get a bevy of EV siblings — parent company General Motors plans to sell only electric cars by 2035.
2020 Hyundai Kona Electric
- $37,190 starting MSRP
Before we jump into the details, it’s important to say the 2020 Kona EV is only available in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. If you live in this neck of the woods, there’s a lot to like about the EV variant of the popular subcompact SUV. It gets 258 miles of range and 120 MPGe with fast acceleration and responsive controls, according to reviewers. They note that it’s not the fastest EV on the market, but thanks to the low center of weight provided by the battery, the car takes turns well, making for a zippy driving experience. Charging time off a 240V outlet is nine hours, 35 minutes. and a super charger provides 80% charge in 54 minutes. Faster times are possible if you choose one of the top two trims with a battery-warmer system that helps the car achieve full driving range in cold weather A 2021 Kona is available, but with few changes and more reviews on the previous year’s model, we stuck with the 2020 version.
Tesla Model 3
- $37,990 starting MSRP
The best-selling EV on the market since its introduction in 2017, the Tesla Model 3 sedan offers all-wheel drive, solid range (220 to 325 miles, depending on trim) and mileage between 113 and 134 MPGe. With the help of a supercharger, charge times can be as short as 15 minutes to achieve up to 180 miles of range, comparable to the time it takes to pump gas. Perhaps the most polarizing aspect of the Model 3 is its modern, minimalist interior design. The stark style can spark love at first sight, but has left some reviewers with the feeling that the EV is “un-car-like,” especially given its lack of gauge clusters. Everything is displayed on the car’s center touch screen. To decide whether this style suits you, you could arrange a no-contact Tesla test drive.
Kia Niro EV
- $39,090 starting MSRP
The electric version of this crossover vehicle, not to be confused with its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sibling, offers 112 MPGe and 239 miles of total range. One of the biggest advantages of a Kia is its 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The 2020 Niro EV includes standard features like an 8-inch touch screen, upgraded digital cluster and active safety features such as lane-keep assist and emergency braking with pedestrian detection. It takes about an hour to achieve an 80% charge from a supercharger and about 10 hours for a 100% charge from a 240V household outlet. The Niro emerged as EV owners’ top-rated electric car among mass-market brands in a J.D. Power study. As of press time, a 2021 version had not yet been released.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
- $33,045 starting MSRP
Like Kia, Hyundais offer a 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, as well as the same offer for its electric battery. Add to that the lowest starting price on our list and this is an EV that offers great value for the price. The 2020 Ioniq Electric recoups a full charge from a 240V outlet in six hours and five minutes, the fastest of any car on this list. A super charger can provide 80% charge within 54 minutes. A full charge offers a 170-mile range with 133 MPGe, the latter of which is also the highest of any base model on this list. However, it may be difficult to find an Ioniq EV in your area. One consolation might be the fact that the popular hatchback also comes as a hybrid or PHEV. We explain the differences, below.
Honorable mention: MINI Cooper SE Hardtop 2 Door Electric
- $29,900 starting MSRP
Because this model is MINI’s first foray into mass-produced EVs, it could qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, in addition to state and local incentives, which could greatly decrease its already low starting price. (More on tax incentives in a minute.) All of that and it’s one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s top 10 models for fuel efficiency. The 2021 and 2020 models both get 108 MPGe and have 110 miles of total range. While this range isn’t as impressive as that of competitors, this hatchback could work well for two-car households that also have a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle meant for road trips.
Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV — what’s the difference?
An electric vehicle is exactly what it sounds like, a vehicle that depends solely on electricity for its “fuel.” What can be confusing is the fact that an EV plugs into a power outlet or charging station just like a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The difference is that the PHEV retains a gasoline-powered engine. An EV has no such backup, but battery improvements and expanded public charging stations have reduced so-called “range anxiety.” A traditional hybrid has an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery charged through regenerative braking — there’s no plugging in a “regular” hybrid.
Which one is right for you?
If you’re considering an electric vehicle, a good place to start is by looking at how and where you use your vehicle. For first-time EV owners, you’ll have to consider things like your daily commute and activities, your access to home or public charging and whether you frequently make long trips.
How to finance the best electric cars
Though there are more electric cars than ever to choose from, the upfront cost is generally higher than that of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. Federal tax credits could help: EV buyers may be eligible for up to $7,500 in credits but it depends on the vehicle’s manufacturer. Without guarantee of federal or state credits, it’s even more important to shop around for an auto loan like you would for the car itself.
While many people finance through the dealership without researching other lenders, doing so can put you at a disadvantage. Dealers can — and often do — raise your APR and make a profit off your loan, not just your car. By contrast, getting your own financing through a credit union, bank or online lender gives you more power at the negotiating table. You could fill out a single form at LendingTree and receive up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders at once, depending on your creditworthiness.