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Your Best Bets for the Electric Vehicle Market in 2014

2014 electric carsBarriers to widespread electric car adoption continue to fall. LG Chem subsidiary CEO Prabhakar Patil told The Wall Street Journal last month that lithium-ion battery costs will shrink in half between now and 2020. Meanwhile, General Motors has announced plans to double standard electric car ranges to 200 miles, making the average plug-in car as free-roaming as today’s luxury Tesla Model S.

Such innovations are sparking sales in new and used cars, with combined electric and hybrid sales projected to reach 3.8 million globally by 2020 and plug-in sales expected to match those of hybrids by that time, Navigant Research predicts. As 2014 draws near, it’s time for car buyers to start looking closer at what’s on the plug-in electric vehicle (EV) market.

Price

If you’re shopping for low prices, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive leads the plug-in pack at a suggested retail price of $25,750 for the coupe and $28,750 for the convertible. It’s available to lease for as low as $1,999 down and $139 a month. This rear-engine two-seater is designed for dense urban parking. The vehicle’s 55 kW, 107 MPGe motor will travel 76 miles in the city on one charge of its 17.6 kWh battery, which takes six hours to recharge at a 240-volt station and 14 hours at a 110-volt station. The 2014 model has been spotted in testing and is expected to receive an upgrade featuring a 65kW Bosch electric motor and a lithium-ion battery unit, according to themotorreport.com.

Power and Performance

For more power and mileage, Chevrolet now offers California and Oregon residents the 2014 Spark EV 1LT for $27,495 and the Spark EV 2LT for $27,820, minus $7,500 to $10,000 in tax credits for qualified buyers. The Spark boasts a 110 kW, 119-MPGe motor, beating out the Honda Fit EV’s 118-MPGe, along with 400 pounds-feet of torque, comparable to a Hemi V-8. It gets 82 miles per charge and features a five-door hatchback design with a comfortable front-seat area and a cramped back seat— not a first choice for family seating, but it is useful for short rides.

The 2014 Spark EV is currently only available in California and Oregon. If you don’t live in one of these areas, you can still find dealers who carry its popular hybrid counterpart, the Volt.

Range and Room

BMW brings range and room to the plug-in car market in 2014 with the i3. The i3 starts at $42,275, with a 130 kW motor and an estimated electric-powered range of 80 to 100 miles per charge. MPGe details are forthcoming but expected to be competitive. For an additional $3,950, the i3 offers an optional range extender gas engine that kicks in to generate electricity after the battery drops below a specified level, extending the car’s range another 80 miles. Besides range, the i3 combines a compact five-door hatchback exterior with maximum interior space.

Joann Ackley: A Detroit native, Joann comes from a long line of automotive industry workers. She writes about cars and green vehicle technology from her home.

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