Update: Our 2013 Electric Cars in the USA article is now available.
In the market for a vehicle and thinking about buying a new electric car in 2012? Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming into their own, and 2012 is a great year to be considering one.
While Nissan and Chevrolet are the mainstream muscle making up the meat of 2011’s electric car sales, newcomers like Tesla are still surging forward, with sales of over 1500 of its revolutionary Roadster model. Strong sales of conventional luxury cars and increased consumer interest in alternative energy have given confidence to the major luxury brands to develop electric vehicles. Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Infiniti and even Rolls Royce have shown a commitment to releasing electric automobiles in 2012 and beyond.
For the rest of the population, Ford is on track for 2012 launch dates of two EVs, Mitsubishi is launching the diminutive i MiEV, Toyota pushes ahead with its EV development and the Chinese are tipped to break into the American car market with an all-electric product. Other smaller players have announced 2012 on-sale dates as well.
If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle, don’t forget to check its “MPGe.” In November of 2010 the EPA announced the MPGe — a new equivalent mileage rating based on EPA’s formula, in which 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline. Look for the new rating in reviews and on window stickers in showrooms. Please note that we define electric vehicles as ones that have a drivetrain that is only powered by its electric motor. See our 2012 Hybrid Car Lineup for vehicles with drivetrains that can be powered by a gasoline engine.
Aptera Electric Cars
The unusual airplane-like Aptera 2e has been in gestation longer than the Volt, but currently does not have a firm on-sale date. Reservations are being accepted, but company spokespersons declined to offer any further information on availability. We suspect you’ll never see this car for sale, as we’ve been reading about delays for years.
Audi Electric Cars
Audi has shown a spate of concepts, all called e-Tron, featuring all-electric drive trains. The mighty R8 sports car has been converted into an all-electric concept, which is rumored for 2012 production. Audi has declined to comment on an on-sale date, but expect a price in excess of $150,000 for this gorgeous electric sports car.
BMW Electric Cars
BMW has made a serious commitment to electric cars, and introduced the “i” sub-brand that will focus on EVs. The first fruit of the project is the i3 MCV (mega city vehicle) which arrives in 2013 as a 2014 model. Further down the road comes the i8 electric super sports car. Until then however, BMW is testing the waters with a 2012 lease program of the Active E.
Active E – The Active E electric car represents the first step towards electric mobility for the Bavarian brand. Early press releases indicate the stubby coupe should have performance on par with a European diesel 1 series (0-60 in 9.5 seconds) and a maximum range of 100 miles. Since BMW is looking for customer feedback to better develop future EVs, the Active E can only be leased. 700 will be available in select American markets, for $499 a month with $2250 down.
BYD Electric Cars
Chinese brand BYD (Build Your Dreams) is bullish on its prospects in the United States. With over 500,000 vehicles sold in China in 2010, it’s one of China’s top brands and a leading global battery producer. BYD’s success in China comes from mainly gasoline-powered cars, but they will focus exclusively on electric power in the United States, said company president Wang Chuanfu in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in January.
e6 – For 2012, the e6 electric car will be introduced in limited quantities to Southern California for test-marketing purposes. The e6 features a lithium-ion-powered 200-mile-range battery in a crossover body style and an 87 mph top speed. Initial tests suggest “sluggish” acceleration and “generic” styling. However these are of pre-production prototypes and BYD has already committed to a redesign of the car before launch. Pricing has not yet been announced.
Chevrolet Electric Cars
The biggest product news from GM in years was the the 2011 Volt. In a bold attempt to leapfrog Toyota’s dominance in hybrids, Chevrolet managed to bring to market one of the most of technologically advanced automobiles ever. The press has praised the Volt with awards including 2011 North American Car of the Year, and lauded its quality feel and livability. GM is excited about production targets, and anticipates increasing production to 60,000 units for 2012. Expect news of future Volt-derived products at the January 2012 Detroit Auto Show.
Volt – The 2012 Volt electric car continues with only a few minor trim changes. With a total range of 405 miles, and a rating of 95 MPGe city / 90MPGe highway the Volt manages to evade pure EV “range anxiety.” Nevertheless, for those who drive short distances at low speeds, the Volt manages a solid 35 miles without using a drop of gasoline. Use the plug-in capabilities and you might never have to wake the engine. MSRP before tax credit is $40,280.
Commuter Cars Electric Cars
Introduced in 2006, the Tango T600 from Commuter Cars was one of the first publicly available EVs. Designed and built in Spokane, WA the ultra-narrow Tango was conceived in response to Los Angeles traffic. While its unconventional tandem-seat body suggests a vehicle more suited for a retirement community than dicing with traffic, the company reports a 0-60 in 4 seconds and a top speed in excess of 130 mph. Heady for stuff for a car no wider than a motorcycle! While unorthodox, the exclusive ownership club includes celebrities such as George Clooney.
Tango T600 – The first Tango electric car to be available for retail sale, the T600 continues for 2012 with its uncanny mix of performance and compact dimensions. Available only as a build-it-yourself kit for a steep $108,000, the range is 40-60 miles with the standard lead-acid battery or up to 200 miles with the lithium ion pack option. Safety is a Tango hallmark, featuring a roll cage built to race car standards, a 4-point safety harness, and “four times more protective steel in each door than a typical SUV.”
Tango T100/200 – While no date has been given for these more affordable mass-produced cars, Commuter Cars is taking orders in anticipation of future demand. Stated prices are $19,000 for the T100 and $40,000 for the T200 – that is if they see the light of day.
Fisker Electric Cars
Danish born designer Henrik Fisker started his fledgling luxury brand rebodying Mercedes and BMW coupes. In a chance meeting with an electric motor manufacturing executive he re-imagined his company as a builder of gorgeous EVs and the Karma was born. The future was uncertain during the recession, but a critical government loan has kept his brand afloat – and on track for 2012 deliveries of customer cars.
Karma – The Karma electric car has been plagued with a multitude of delays, but without question it is the best-looking EV available at any price. With slinky curves draping 22” wheels, the long-wheelbase Karma strikes a pose standing still. A GM-sourced 260 hp 4-cylinder provides electric juice when the batteries are drained. With the engine off, a “stealth” mode operates the Karma in near-silence (aside from a Fisker synthesized external sound) for a range of 50 miles and up to 95 mph. “Sport” mode allows a driver to blast to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and up to 125 mph. Maximum total range is 300 miles, with federal estimates of the luxury sedan’s mileage at 82 MPGe. Very impressive for a car that might sell for its $95,000 starting price on looks alone.
Ford Electric Cars
Ford is entering the electric car game with 2 entrants for 2012, the Focus E and Transit Connect Electric. Ford has long relied on the hybrid tech it initially received in agreement with Toyota, but is now investing heavily into its own electric and plug-in-hybrid technology for future products. The big news for consumers is the Focus E, as the Transit Connect Electric is currently only being offered to fleet customers.
Focus E – The Focus E electric car is Ford’s very big splash into the still-small mainstream EV market. The new-for-2011 redesign of the Focus has already garnered much positive attention and is now seen as one of the most competitive compact cars available. The E swaps the economical 4-cylinder for a battery pack, single speed transmission and electric motor. Mileage hasn’t been released, but Ford claims a 100-mile maximum range for approximately $30,000. Intriguingly, Ford has standard fit the Focus E with navigation to help lead a driver to the closest available charging station.
Honda Electric Cars
Honda delivered the FCX Clarity electric/hydrogen fuel cell car in July of 2008 as part of a limited release lease program. The car uses hydrogen gas to power an electric motor and has a range of roughly 240 miles per tank of hydrogen. For 200 candidates in Southern California, Honda offered a $600/month 3-year lease. While the hydrogen infrastructure is still a long way off, manufacturers are working to make it a reality. Honda has promised that at the end of the FCX initial lease program, more fuel cell trial vehicles will be made available. Look for a statement from Honda later in the year regarding their plan for 2012.
Infiniti Electric Cars
As Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti has long focused on V6 and V8 powered vehicles as its bread and butter. For 2013 Infiniti has announced it will base a luxury car off the Nissan Leaf platform. No other information exists aside from a designer sketch, but expect a luxurious hatchback body style with all the features one expects from Infiniti products.
Mazda Electric Cars
It was announced January of 2011 that Mazda will have an electric version of its subcompact Mazda2 available for lease in Japan only by spring of 2012. Depending on the success of that venture, and the strength of electric car sales in the US during 2011, they may consider a limited lease here as well.
Mercedes Benz Electric Cars
Mercedes Benz has announced a partnership with Robert Bosch to develop electric motors for a new vehicle range. While Mercedes has released experimental fuel cell and pure electrics in the past, two recent concepts look likely to be the first recipients of the new technology partnership. The redesigned compact A-Class is coming to the US, with an electrified version tipped for either late 2012 or early 2013. For exotic car buyers and fans, the SLS AMG sports car has been shown in all-electric form as the SLS AMG e-cell. Mercedes expects the powerful electric vehicle to be on sale between winter 2012 and spring 2013.
Myers Motors Electric Cars
Myers Motors has been building affordable electric cars in America for several years now. Currently, their only model is the NmG but the 2-seat DUO was announced in 2009 and reservations continue to be accepted.
NmG – The funky looking Myers NmG single-seater has been on the road for several years. Manufactured in Ohio, the Myers “No More Gas” touts ability to operate as a full-occupant vehicle on HOV lanes nationwide. Range is a modest 45 miles, and performance isn’t exactly exhilarating, but for commuters looking to go green it’s a real alternative. Prices start at $29,995 for the 2012 NmG.
Mini Electric Cars
Mini offered 450 hand-selected customers a lease on the Mini E in 2008, which was extended through 2010. With that trial program over, Mini has not stated any plans for near-term electric vehicle opportunities. Mini’s parent company BMW is offering the Active e 1 series for the next range of trials.
Mitsubishi Electric Cars
Mitsubishi might not be a big player in the conventional car market beyond a few crossovers and compact sedans, but it made a very large splash in 2008 when it delivered the first i MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) to fleet customers in Japan. With 40 years of electric car experience, Mitsubishi has been preparing for an EV launch for some time. Retail sales began in April 2010 globally, and it was announced that by January of 2012 the i MiEV will be in sale in the US for $27,900 before tax credits.
i MiEV – With a U.S. range of 85 miles and a diminutive appearance, the i MiEV will be the first mainstream electric subcompact car sold here (see photo at top of page). Adventurous styling sets it apart from the crowd, while a low center of gravity and long wheel base promises a good ride. Early tests suggest that it will be a comfortable cruiser, if tighter inside than the Focus EV or Leaf. Look for dealership demo cars by fall of 2011.
Nissan Electric Cars
The biggest electric car introduction aside from the Volt was that of Nissan’s Leaf. The all-electric mid-size hatchback went on sale in November of 2010 and is offered nationwide. It has already won awards internationally, and has been proclaimed by the EPA as the most efficient vehicle ever rated by the organization of any fuel type. Nissan has recently released several concept cars based off the Leaf’s electric drive train that suggest different directions future models will go, including the ESFlow electric sports car and the racy Leaf Nismo RC. Renault is Nissan’s European partner, and has recently revealed a range of 4 pure electric automobiles for European sale starting this year, which were developed in conjunction with Project Better Place. Expect the Twizy to be offered in select North American markets under the Nissan badge by either late 2012 or early 2013.
Leaf – Nissan’s big news for the Leaf electric car continues for 2012 unchanged. MSRP for the 2011 model starts at $32,780 before tax breaks. The EPA gives the smooth handling Leaf a 99MPGe rating, but states range is only 73 miles. Nissan stands by its claim that total range is between 80-100 miles. Production of the Leaf was affected by the earthquake in Japan, but domestic supplies remain steady.
Porsche Electric Cars
Porsche recently unveiled 3 electric test versions of its Boxster sports car, and is evaluating the technology for a future product release. Range for the prototype has been stated to be 100 miles, while performance is still 100% Porsche, with 0-60 arriving in a scant 5.4 seconds. No firm on-sale dates have been released from Stuttgart, but expect a product announcement within the next 2 years.
Rolls Royce Electric Cars
The builders of the “greatest motorcars in the world” recently unveiled the 102EX (experimental) electric vehicle. While buyers of $300,000 cars aren’t concerned with fuel economy affecting their wallets, there are individuals of discerning taste who would like to join the ranks of electric car owners with a vehicle more suited to their incomes. Early road tests of the vehicle are very positive. While 2012 sales of a retail version are unlikely, expect a production electric Rolls in the near future.
Saab Electric Cars
Saab is still with us, after a tumultuous saga that nearly ended with the brand’s death in 2009. The planned fleet of 70 ePower 9-3s is under construction, and will be hitting the roads in Sweden through 2012 as mobile test subjects for future electric Saabs.
Scion Electric Cars
Toyota’s youth Scion brand has lagged as of late, yet the iQ EV microcar is still coming to bring the cheekiness back to showrooms. A compact city car, it can carry 3 adults (+1 child) in a vehicle footprint similar to the diminutive Smart. The iQ EV has been shown as a concept, and an introductory lease in Europe is planned for 2012. However the devastating effects of Japan’s earthquake have forced Toyota to scale back production so timing is now uncertain and there is no word on when, or if, it will come to the U.S. Update: Toyota has now confirmed the iQ EV will be coming to the U.S. in 2012.
Smart Electric Cars
For 2011, Smart is offering a limited 250-unit lease of its Smart Electric Drive. With a range of 84 miles and 87 MPGe it would seem a natural extension of the Smart brand. Test drives of these early lease cars has proven less than charitable however, with testers citing tortoise-like acceleration, a poor ride and unsophisticated power metering gauges. Luckily the ED is a preamble to a 2012 release of a full production model which is promised to have a 100 mile range and a new battery pack.
Tesla Electric Cars
The fledgling Silicon Valley start-up is now a legitimate auto maker, having sold 1500 Roadsters in 31 countries and opened 18 retail outlets. Founded by intrepid tech engineers, Tesla has been instrumental in the electric car revolution. Media saturation, savvy product placement and an exciting product have insured that the electric car is now entrenched in the American conscience. TeslaMotors
Roadster 2.5 – The Roadster electric car ends production in December of 2011, with the remaining models to be sold as 2012s. The $101,500 Roadster now has a range of 245 miles while providing supercar performance figures including a sprint to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. A redesigned for 2011 interior with more comfortable seats compliments the restyled exterior and upgraded power control electronics. Get it while it’s still available!
Model S Alpha – The really big news for Tesla motors is the 2012 Model S electric sedan. The Model S is a $57,400 seven-seat sedan with a hatchback (seats 5 adults plus 2 children in the rear cargo area). Range starts at 160 miles, while a 300-mile version is available for $20,000 more. Performance is a Tesla hallmark, and a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds and top speed of 120 mph have been revealed by the manufacturer. Reservations are now being accepted, with vehicles available for test-driving in early 2012 and production beginning in mid-2012.
Think Electric Cars
Norwegian manufacturer Think has produced electric cars in limited quantities since 2008. However financial troubles have led to uncertainty regarding future production.
City – The Think City electric car is available in North America, but an asking price of $36,495 for a fairly rudimentary vehicle (100 mile range and 70 mph top speed) makes it uncompetitive against the fully finished Leaf which has the might of Nissan behind it. Nevertheless, Think is still taking reservations for 2012 until further notice.
Toyota / Lexus Electric Cars
Toyota has offered the RAV4 EV since 1997 in limited quantities, mostly for testing purposes. While the manufacturer has shown several pure electric concepts since, they are committed to a launch of a full-production RAV4 EV in 2012. Thirty-five demonstration vehicles have been built for evaluation in 2011, and lessons learned will make it back into the production vehicle. In 2010 Toyota invested $50 Million in Tesla, to share technology and production capabilities. The RAV4 EV benefits from the partnership in the form of its lithium-ion battery pack. Update: Toyota has confirmed that a compact city iQ EV will be launched under their Scion brand and will reach U.S. markets in 2012.
RAV4 EV – Due for 2012, the 100-mile range of the Toyota RAV4 EV electric car will make it competitive with the majority of mainstream EVs coming next year. What will set it apart is the high seating position and cargo room of the compact crossover body. Price is likely to be high, but not given at this time. Performance is sprightly, with 60 coming up in 9 seconds flat and the cornering flat and smooth due to the low mounting of the battery pack.
Venturi Electric Cars
This small boutique manufacturer in Monaco has shipped an estimated 25 of its Venturi Fetish electric sports car since 2005. Built to order at $400,000, the Fetish will likely remain an unobtainable bauble for all but the wealthiest folks interested in a performance EV. However, Venturi just announced the creation of Venturi North America, based in Columbus, Ohio, and showcased three vehicles at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.
Volkswagen Electric Cars
Volkswagen has shown electric concepts, and is promising an EV of its upcoming Up! city car family in 2013. For now, the hot alternative fuel in Wolfsburg is diesel.
Volvo Electric Cars
Volvo has teased the electric car faithful with its C30 Electric car, due for European release in 2012. Sadly the limited run of 250 units will go only to leasing customers. A U.S. release has not been confirmed at this time.
Wheego Electric Cars
A smaller player in the electric market, Wheego has been selling limited-speed EVs for several years. Reservations are being accepted for the 2012 LiFe (formally called the Whip), and with 2011 deliveries already commenced the Wheego has gone from curiosity to market player.
LiFe – The LiFe chassis has been slowly trickling out of the Chinese factory to its final assembly point in Ontario, California. Press and owner response has been positive. The styling of the Whip seems heavily borrowed from the Smart car, and the 2-seat compact interior is also similar conceptually. Prices start at $32,995 for the 100 mile EV with a top speed of 65 mph.
Zap Electric Cars
California-based Zap Motors has struggled through development but recently announced a new venture with Jonway Auto of China. With a production start date of September 2011, the Alias trike and A380 crossover look on track for a 2012 launch date.
Alias – Similar to the Myers NmG but with room for two, the Alias is a trike, with 2 front wheels and one rear. For the asking price of $38,500, the Alias offers buyers a 100-mile range, 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, a top speed of 85 mph, and arguably the most unique styling on offer. Road tests are elusive so there isn’t much to report on whether or not the Alias will be competitive with the mainstream offerings – but it really does look cool.
A380 – The A380 is a compact crossover, similar to a RAV4. Production for the 2012 A380 is supposed to commence in June of this year, but as of this writing there wasn’t an offical green light given by the manufacturer. If production does start, expect to see the 100 mile A380 sold predominantly to fleet customers.
So there you have it, the electric car lineup in the USA for 2012.
Did we leave anything out? Did we make any mistakes? Leave a comment and let us know! And if you’ve test driven or own any of these cars, please leave your review to help others who are researching.
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About the author: Jonathan Eziquiel-Shriro is an industrial designer specializing in transportation and product design, and an automotive industry pundit with over a decade of blog and magazine experience.