Four Ars staffers bought electric cars recently—here’s what we got

Our electric 2019 Kia Niro.
Enlarge / Our electric 2019 Kia Niro.

Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica

On Friday the thirteenth my spouse and I went to a Kia dealership to take supply of a Kia Niro. Taking one of many final 2019 Niros on the lot, we paid $32,900 for a automobile that lists for $41,000. Even higher, when we file our taxes subsequent spring, we’ll get a $7,500 credit score from Uncle Sam. So the after-tax price will probably be simply $25,400.

The choices for electric automobiles have gotten dramatically higher since we final went automobile purchasing in 2017. I needed to purchase an electric car again then too, however the pickings had been slim. Tesla’s Model S and Model X had been method out of our funds. My spouse declared the Chevy Bolt and Prius’s plug-in hybrids to be too humorous wanting. The Nissan Leaf was then rated at 107 miles of vary—far too little for highway journeys.

We test-drove Ford’s C-MAX plug-in hybrid in 2017, however the plug-in function appeared like an afterthought. The automobile had additional batteries stacked within the rear cargo space, leaving little room for cargo. So we settled for a Subaru Impreza with an inner combustion engine. Cost: $25,200.

When we began searching for our second automobile this August, the choices had been so much higher. There had been sufficient pure battery electric automobiles available on the market that we did not even think about plug-in hybrids. My spouse (the first driver) test-drove an electric Mini, a BMW i3, a Nissan Leaf, a Hyundai Kona, and a Kia Niro.

All of those automobiles had been obtainable for nicely below $40,000—and below $30,000 when you issue within the tax credit score.

Several components finally bought her on the Kia. It had extra inside area and longer vary than the Mini and the BMW. These weren’t must-have options since we might nonetheless use the Impreza for highway journeys, however they helped. More importantly, she discovered the Niro to have probably the most comfy and fulfilling drive of any of the cars she tried. And she was impressed by the elegant inside.

It’s a good time to purchase an electric car

Ars Technica's Jennifer Ouellette bought this lightly used 2017 BMW i3 last year.
Enlarge / Ars Technica’s Jennifer Ouellette bought this flippantly used 2017 BMW i3 final yr.

Sean Carroll

In 2017, shopping for a battery electric automobile meant making sacrifices. There weren’t many choices available on the market, and customers confronted selections between quick vary and a excessive sticker value.

Today there are numerous extra choices available on the market and so they provide dramatically higher worth for the cash. You can discover electric automobiles to fulfill a wider vary of buyer wants and at a wider vary of value factors. Electric cars are approaching value parity with typical gas-guzzlers. Once you issue within the $7,500 tax credit score, some have arguably reached it. Our Kia Niro EV does not fairly have the vary of our Subaru Impreza, however it’s a nicer automobile in each different respect. And the web price was nearly precisely the identical.

Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland additionally bought an electric car just lately. He bought a Nissan Leaf final yr. The Leaf has been available on the market for nearly a decade, and it has boasted steadily enhancing vary. Today they’re rated for between 150 and 220 miles of vary.

“The one factor that gave us pause was the vary,” Orland says. “But as soon as we truly checked out how we drive, there have been perhaps 5 journeys a yr when we had been driving greater than even 150 miles.” He and his spouse had been planning to maintain their outdated automobile—a gas-powered Toyota Camry—so they might take that on highway journeys.

He thought of the Chevy Bolt and the BMW i3. But Orland dismissed the Bolt as a result of it got poor opinions, and he wasn’t satisfied the BMW was definitely worth the larger price ticket.

“We had been searching for a comparatively low cost automobile,” Orland mentioned. “We’re not enormous automobile individuals.”

Orland says he was pleasantly stunned on the peppiness of the Leaf. His driving expertise belied the stereotype that inexpensive electric cars had been glorified golf carts. “When I’m going again to the Camry now, the dealing with and the acceleration simply appears form of sluggish,” he says.

Another Ars author, Jennifer Ouellette, bought a used 2017 BMW i3 final yr. She paid $35,000 for the electric automobile, which had been a part of a company fleet and solely had 1,700 miles on it. The $7,500 tax credit score is simply obtainable to consumers of recent cars.

Like Orland, Ouellette was initially involved concerning the quick vary of the automobile. But she realized that she and her husband would principally use it for commuting and working errands. Like Orland, in addition they had a second automobile they might take for longer journeys.

“It’s small and sporty, with nice visibility and terrific inside cabin design,” she advised me. “It handles very well, with energetic braking, and has strong acceleration.”

More choices on the excessive finish too

Eric Bangeman's 2019 Jaguar I-PACE.
Enlarge / Eric Bangeman’s 2019 Jaguar I-PACE.

Eric Bangeman / Ars Technica

Ars Technica’s Eric Bangeman fell in love with the Jaguar I-PACE after reviewing it for Ars final yr. While Orland and I principally needed cars that would get us from level A to level B at an affordable value, Bangeman was extra demanding.

“I needed one thing that was enjoyable to drive as a result of that is an essential a part of proudly owning a automobile for me,” he mentioned. He was keen to pay a premium for a terrific expertise. He finally paid $67,000 for the car with assist from a $3,000 trade-in credit score for his 2009 Toyota Prius. He got a $7,500 credit score on his taxes the subsequent yr.

Bangeman had check pushed a buddy’s Tesla Model S, however he mentioned he loved driving the Jaguar extra. “The I-Pace was the entire package deal on seems, vary, efficiency, and inside,” he advised me. In his opinion, the inside of the Model S was “not as refined.”

The I-PACE’s comparatively lengthy vary—round 230 miles—was additionally a consideration. He frequently makes weekend journeys of about 200 miles. So whereas he discovered so much to love concerning the Audi e-tron, its 200-mile vary wasn’t fairly sufficient for his wants.

Options for higher-end electric automobiles have been steadily increasing. Audi has been increasing the electric e-tron line. For prospects with cash to burn, there’s the Porsche Taycan.

And there are a lot extra battery electric automobiles coming available on the market within the US subsequent yr:

  • Ford will quickly start deliveries on its Mach-E Mustang and is engaged on an electric F-150 pickup.
  • Electric startup Rivian is aiming to ship in 2021 (Tesla’s Cybertruck in all probability will not arrive earlier than 2022).
  • Volvo’s XC-40 SUV is anticipated to be launched within the coming months.
  • Mercedes-Benz has a number of fashions on the way in which in 2021.
  • Volkswagen’s ID.4 crossover is scheduled to come back to the US market subsequent yr.
  • Startup Lucid is aiming to deliver the Lucid Air to market in 2021.

All these choices will allow extra prospects to search out one thing that matches their wants and their budgets.

That $7,500 tax credit score could not final endlessly

President-elect Joe Biden wants to boost sales of electric cars.
Enlarge / President-elect Joe Biden desires to spice up gross sales of electric cars.

SAUL LOEB/AFP through Getty Images

The federal authorities gives a $7,500 tax credit score for the primary 200,000 automobiles a producer sells. After that threshold is reached, the subsidy declines to zero over a yr.

My spouse and I did not severely think about Tesla’s Model 3 or the Chevy Bolt as a result of they’ve each already hit the 200,000-vehicle restrict and had their tax credit phased out. So whereas they’d comparable sticker costs to our different choices, the web price to us would have been a lot larger.

If the subsequent couple of years see a growth in electric car gross sales, as many automobile firms are hoping, we’ll begin to see different firms hitting the identical restrict. Official figures are laborious to search out, however one unofficial tally from a yr in the past discovered Nissan, Ford, and Toyota because the top-selling BEV makers that had been nonetheless credit-eligible.

Nissan was within the lead, with about 50,000 US car gross sales to go earlier than hitting 200,000. US gross sales of the Nissan Leaf have been anemic in 2020, so Nissan prospects could benefit from the credit score for an additional yr or two. But solely Nissan and the IRS know for certain.

The identical is true of Ford and Toyota. Both had bought greater than 100,000 automobiles by the tip of 2019. They are unlikely to achieve the 200,000 restrict in 2020 or 2021, however may achieve this quickly after that.

The backside line is that the subsequent yr or two is prone to be a golden age for purchasing electric automobiles. Consumers may have a variety of good choices, and so they’ll additionally profit from the tax credit score. There will seemingly be much more electric cars available on the market in 2022 and 2023, however by then the most well-liked automobile fashions is probably not eligible for assist from Uncle Sam.

On the opposite hand, it is potential that President-elect Joe Biden will prolong the credit score. According to his marketing campaign web site, Biden desires to “restore the total electric car tax credit score to incentivize the acquisition of those automobiles.” It’s not completely clear what which means, however it might imply making Tesla and GM automobiles eligible for the credit score once more and stopping a phase-out for different carmakers. Of course, if Republicans retain management of the Senate, Biden would seemingly need assistance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to place that into follow, so it is from a certain factor.

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