The automotive world is increasingly moving towards making more EVs, which, somewhat ironically, makes picking the best electric cars harder than ever. Where once electric cars were the outliers of the car world, with the likes of Tesla seemingly the machinations of a billionaire, they are now a staple of some of the largest car brands around; Nissan, VW, Porsche, Audi, and more all have electric vehicles.
And with the move towards only zero-emission vehicles as early as 2030 for some car makers, we're on the cusp of seeing a surge of EVs available, from simple urban runabouts to performance EVs.
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But in the here and now there are plenty of impressive EVs to choose from. Tesla has been impressing buyers with EV performance for years and there are electric luxury sedans, exotic supercars, compact commuters, and even pickup trucks coming this year.
Moreover, home charging stations have dropped in price from thousands of dollars to do-it-yourself models costing $600. It all represents solid progress on the electrification front.
In fact, as a sign of how far electric vehicle technology has progressed, all but two of the models in this year's best-of list are pure electrics or BEVs (battery electric vehicles). Here, then, are the best electric cars in 2021.
Every car company in the world seems to be gunning for Tesla, but its Model 3 remains one of the best electric cars available, with excellent range, features, and a price that demonstrates that Teslas aren't just for the 1-percenters. Indeed, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 may still be the best mass-market electric car out there. The Model 3 can go up to 263 miles on a single charge (with the standard battery), and while this car is stubbier and plumper than Tesla's Model S, it's about half the price.
While critics point out that Tesla continues to overstate the technical abilities of its driver-assist AutoPilot feature, we think it's still worthwhile, within limits. Software updates offer continual improvements, but if you want more range and better handling AWD, pricing on the Model 3 starts at $45,490.
Polestar is the independent performance car company founded by Volvo. As such, it benefits from the safety technology of its founders while remaining free to push the envelope of engineering and EVs. The Polestar 2 is the first pure-electric 5-door from the company and it's not only attractive, it's also a safety system leader.
The Polestar 2 is driven by two electric motors, front and rear axles, and a battery pack that delivers an EPA rated 233 miles of travel on a single charge. That's less than some others, like the Tesla 3, but not terrible. Polestar does one-up Tesla by delivering a more advanced infotainment system founded on Google's Android Auto platform (one of the first on the market). It also has niceties like self-cleaning headlights and a butt-kicking sound system from Harmon Kardon.
More important is the fact that the Polestar 2 comes standard with Volvo's Pilot as well as some unique features, which makes the combination of driver assistance and safety systems one of the best we've ever seen. For example, this vehicle features a run-off mitigation suspension system to reduce injuries in an off-road accident and post impact braking to assist when the driver is temporarily incapacitated in the midst of an accident. There's also Volvo's top-notch emergency braking system and pedestrian detection system. Of course, there's blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane centering — all standard.
Plus, Polestar is now expanding the Polestar 2 range to include three new variants, including a cheaper two-wheel drive, single-motor model. This will sell for £39,900 in the U.K and while U.S. pricing has yet to be revealed, that’s around $54,000.
Ford's EV Mustang has officially arrived, and while it may be a Mustang in name only, it's still bound to win over converts for its styling and solid mix of technology and performance.
With raised front fenders and wide haunches, Ford has definitely put a lot of thought into the Mach-E's design. For example, the front trunk, or frunk, has a plastic liner that can easily be cleaned in case you want to use it for serving post-pandemic tailgating potluck dishes.
Inside, there's also plenty of tech to keep drivers happy. A 15.5-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dash for the infotainment system, and it supports Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto — something lacking from Tesla's vehicles, much to the annoyance of owners. Boosting the luxury feel here is the inclusion of a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Does the Mustang Mach-E best a Tesla X in range or acceleration? No, but it costs almost $25,000 less, which is why it’s one of the best electric cars for the money.
What's more, Ford recently announced a new Mustang Mach-E GT version that boosts power from 346 hp to 460 hp and can cover the 0-60 in 3.8 seconds (3.5 secs for the Performance Edition). The price for that extra oomph? The new models will set you back $59,900 and $64,900 respectively.
Read our full Ford Mustang Mach-E review
While not the fastest or most exciting EV out there, the VW ID.4 has proven itself to be a worthy purchase — in a stylish and subdued way. So you have a solid SUV pick, with a comfortable ride and autonomous driver assistance that is on par with other lower-priced electric vehicles.
The ID.4 also offers plenty of space for passengers and cargo, but without causing any discomfort in the process. It also makes for a solid getting around car, even if the ID.4 itself won't be turning any heads of passer's by. But with all that wrapped up into an affordable package, there's not much more you do need.
Read our full VW ID.4 review
While not the most spectacular EV on the market, the Nissan Leaf is an ideal car for people new to EVs, or who simply don't want to spend a lot of money. The 2022 model of the car is even more appealing in that respect, since its starting price is just $27,400 — and that's before you take federal and state incentives into account.
The Leaf also offers a roomy interior with plenty of hi-tech options, including the semi-autonomous ProPilot driver assistance software, and the 'ePedal' that offers a one-pedal driving mode for those that want it. It also supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
There are downsides, mainly the fact that the cheaper 40 kWh battery models only offer 149 miles of EPA range. Likewise the Leaf includes a CHAdeMO rapid charger, rather than the CCS favored by every other automaker that isn't Tesla. But if you're looking for an EV that doesn't need to be too big, and you have a tight budget, this is one to consider.
MORE: Nissan Leaf vs. Mini Electric: Which is the best EV under $30,000?
California-based Lucid is aiming to compete directly with Tesla, and its first model out of the gate promises to be a stunner. The Lucid Air Dream Edition is supposed to appear this spring. It's the company's top-of-the-line model with all-wheel drive, 1,080 horsepower, and a drag coefficient of 0.21, making it the world's most aerodynamic luxury car. Now you know why it's called the Air.
To match its slipstream hull, Lucid has carved out a sleek interior, including a curved 34-inch touchscreen in front of the driver that responds to Alexa commands. It also will have forward-looking technology, such as built-in lidar, which is necessary to achieve fully autonomous driving. It joins Rivian in putting the sensors into the car in anticipation of the software to enable a full self-driving mode. When that will be available has yet to be determined.
Also of interest in the EV space, Lucid says it will support its vehicles by eventually offering a bi-directional home charging station that enables the Air to supply temporary power to a house in a power outage or be used to ease the sting of a brown out. Whether Lucid can deliver on these promises remains to be seen, but we should note that it already has experience supplying batteries to the Formula E electric car racing series. It's certainly an intriguing addition to the best electric cars space.
An icon of excess, the Hummer was loved and loathed for its too-wide-to-fit-in-a-lane stance and its in-your-face off-road attitude when it was discontinued in 2010. This year, it's back in a pure-electric version.
The first version, the EV Edition1 is a pickup truck with three electric motors (one up front, two in the rear) that will generate 1000 horsepower and with launch control that will catapult this beast from 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Compare that to the popular Ford F150 that takes 6.2 to get there. GM is also equipping the first EV Hummers with a full-on off-road package that includes skid plates and rock sliders to keep you from gouging the bottom of the truck, plus washable underbody cameras. The adaptive air suspension will include an "Extract Mode" that can raise the body over half a foot to get out of trouble.
When you're back on the highway, the new Hummer will include what is the closest tech you'll get to self-driving vehicle today — GM's Super Cruise hands-off feature. To keep you informed of what's happening inside and what's left of the truck's impressive 350-mile range, there will be 13.4-inch center touchscreen and 12.3-inch gauge cluster. Next year, the Hummer will come in an SUV model as well. In the meantime, the Hummer EV Edition1 promises to satisfy drivers' craving a big, bad pickup truck in an EV model.
The Tesla Model Y may not be as cheap as the Model 3 or as powerful as the Model X, but it does manage to mix affordability and storage space into an attractive-looking package. With 76 cubic feet of space, up to 326 miles of range, space for up to seven people, and access to Tesla's 250kW Supercharger network.
On top of this the Model Y gets to enjoy all the benefits of Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance software. You get all the basics including automatic steering, acceleration, and brake control, thrown in with the car as standard. The more advanced Full Self Driving (which isn't actually autonomous) is also available for a one-off payment of $10,00 or $199 a month.
So if you want all the benefits of a spacious Tesla, but are priced out of the Model X, this might be the EV for you.
The Porsche Taycan can still lay claim to several firsts. It was the first production EV with a two-speed transmission to boost acceleration. It was also the first production EV with an 800-volt system, which cuts down recharge times. And, of course, it's the first pure-electric production Porsche.
One of the best electric cars, this Porsche sedan boasts supercar features including neck-snapping acceleration, carbon-ceramic brake rotors, active anti-roll bars, air springs, and high-speed rear-wheel steering. And those slots on the front are front brake air ducts that close at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. New for 2021 is a head up display, SiriusXM satellite radio, and the ability to receive over-the-air software updates.
With the Porsche handling and emblem come some Porsche prices. While the base model tops out at a few grand over $100K the Turbo S — the one you really want — starts at $185,000.
While it may not be the longest range EV you can buy, there's still plenty of reasons to be interested in the Audi e-tron. Most of all the fact it offers 402 horsepower, 4,000 lbs of towing capacity, and can hit that sweet 60mph mark in just 5.5 seconds. All in that hefty SUV design.
What's more Audi hasn't cheaped out where tech is concerned. Not only does the e-tron offer a dual-screen infotainment system, it also supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon's Alexa, so there's something for everyone — unless you're using Bixby for some god-forsaken reason.
So if you're looking for something with plenty of tech, and a stylish look only an Audi can offer, this is worth looking into. Just ignore the fact that it's more expensive than a Tesla Model Y, which travels over 300 miles on a single charge