There are several affordable electric cars you can drive now, which are not named Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, eSmart, or eMini Cooper. These plug-in EV models have been driving under the radar and deserve a look. In alphabetical order, Coda, THINK and Wheego.
Most of us drive less than 75 miles a day, so an EV is a cost-effective second car, especially with federal tax credits up to $7,500, plus additional state and local incentives. Those can be as much as an additional $5,000, such as through California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. Another bonus is that EVs qualify for HOV lane access nearly everywhere.
I have test driven every one of these vehicles, except the Think, and been impressed by their performance, safety and technology.
Coda is a full-size five-passenger sedan, comparable in size, price and handling to the Chevrolet Volt, with similar ‘creature features’, including touch screen navigation and satellite-ready radio. Coda has a range of 90-120 miles, top speed of 80 mph, and recharges in six hours or less on 220v. Coda also is offering a traditional three year/36,000 mile vehicle warranty and a generous 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty. Unlike other EV companies which publish the price before rebates and tax credits, Coda publishes only the $37,400 cost after tax savings. Coda delivered its first vehicles to owners in California in March 2012.
THINK calls itself the world’s leading dedicated electric vehicle maker, since it does not produce hybrids or plug-in hybrids, only electrics. Based in Norway, THINK models have driven more than 35 million zero-emission miles in Europe and Asia since 1999. THINK has opened a factory in Elkhart, Indiana, to produce vehicles for North America, powered by lithium ion batteries also manufactured in Indiana. THINK City has a 100 mile range on a single charge and a top speed of 70 mph. It is a four-seater subcompact, approximately the same size as the Smart. It is on sale now to corporate fleets, and goes on sale to consumers later this year. THINK thinks the price will be around $34,000 before incentives.
Wheego was founded by an internet millionaire who decided mate his software expertise to unibody construction. The Wheego FSV – the initials stand for full speed vehicle – has passed federal crash testing requirements, which means you can drive it on the interstate. The FSV has a 100-mile range and a top speed of 70mph. It is powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, which are lighter weight and less expensive than the lithium ion cells that help power full hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Mercedes-Benz S400 sedans. Although the chassis is made in China, 75% of the parts are made in the USA, and the vehicle is assembled in Ontario, California. Founder Mike McQuarry told me recently his goal is to sell a ‘couple of thousand’ Wheegos, and promises delivery no longer than eight weeks from order and deposit. He also plans to build factories in the Midwest and East to save distribution costs. The FSV costs $32,995 before tax credits.
Electric cars aren’t for everybody, but are a viable option for many of us who drive less than a battery charge a day.
Click here to read more electric car articles by ecoXplorer editor Evelyn Kanter.