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Best electric cars for 2021

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2021 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for EVs. Long regarded as novelties with limited range and glacial recharging times, mass-market EVs have finally crossed the tipping point in the value and cost equation. Upstarts like Tesla were here early, but when everyone from Chevy to Ford, and Jaguar to Porsche, is fielding EVs, and there’s a proliferation of rapid charging networks to support them, it’s a burgeoning trend. The impressive performance numbers that humble their internal combustion counterparts are an added bonus. These are the best electrified cars and SUVs for 2021, listed in alphabetical order. 


Audi e-Tron

Price starting from $65,900, EPA-estimated range – 222 miles, 78 MPGe2021 Audi e-tronAudi e-Tron. Audi

Why We Picked It

The first large-scale production EV to come from VW’s Audi brand, the E-tron flies under the radar in a segment where broadcasting electrification is standard practice. If not for the grille and few pieces of brightwork, the EV powertrain within would remain anonymous. Power comes from a pair of electric motors, one front and one rear, for a total output of 414 pound-feet of torque, or 490 in boost mode, enough to launch it to 60 mph in a claimed 5.5 seconds. A 95.3-kWh battery is said to provide 222 miles of range, and 10 minutes on a DC public charger will net  54 miles. As an Audi, quattro all-wheel drive is standard kit, and the interior displays the brand’s trademark Teutonic style and ergonomics. The EPA pegs the combined mileage at 78 MPGe, which isn’t bad considering its medium- to full-size footprint and an interior with space for five fully formed adults.

Pros

  • New lower entry price
  • Stylish exterior of the Sportback blends form and function
  • Snappy, high-torque EV performance

Cons

  • Range is less than some competitors
  • Expensive considering the size of the battery and driving range
  • Only one powertrain configuration

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#12 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Chevrolet Bolt

Starts at $36,500, EPA-estimated range – 259 miles, 115 MPGe2021 Chevrolet Bolt EVChevrolet Bolt. Chevrolet

Why We Picked It

With high-line and exotic EVs crowding into the electrified space, it might seem a little odd that the humble Chevrolet Bolt did so well in our rankings, but that’s precisely the point. With an EPA-estimated 259 miles of range, DC fast Charging capability (GM claims 100 miles of range in 30 minutes), room for four and 56 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats folded, it hits the critical compact vehicle prerequisites at a price the average family can afford.

Spend some time with the Bolt, and you’ll that it’s also a blast to drive, many testers reporting zero-to-60 times in the mid-6 second range and sub-16-second quarter-mile runs. While those numbers are average, it’s the way the 266 pound-feet come on and launch the Bolt with surprising enthusiasm. The chassis is tight, and the way it likes to cut and run in urban traffic reminds us of the best hot hatches of just a few years ago. Still, the exterior can be a bit much for buyers who’d prefer to go through life without drawing attention to themselves.

The 2021 Bolt is priced at $37,890 (including the $995 destination fee) before state tax credits–like Tesla, GM passed the 200,000-unit sales so it can’t dangle the potential $7,500 tax credit to buyers. Those willing to wait will be pleased with the $5,000 price adjustment Chevy just made to the forthcoming 2022 version, which costs $31,995 and sports a refreshed interior. It will also go on sale alongside the all-new larger Bolt EUV, short for electric utility vehicle (think more legroom, not cargo space). It’s priced to sell at $33,995 and will also wow tech fans as it’s equipped with GM’s SuperCruise semi-autonomous driver-assistance technology that delivers the same futuristic (and fun!) driving experience as Tesla’s AutoPilot.

Pros

  • Roomy interior for such a tiny vehicle
  • Entertaining to drive for any vehicle let alone an EV
  • Long driving range

Cons

  • No native navigation system
  • Battery update limits usable storage capacity to 90%
  • Standard equipment isn’t as generous as competitive offerings

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#4 in Forbes Wheels Car Of The Year For 2021

#1 in Best Small Cars For 2021

#7 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Ford Mustang Mach-E

Starts at $43,895 EPA-estimated range – 260/270 miles

Ford Mustang Mach-EFord Mustang Mach-E. Ford

Why We Picked It

A couple of years into the Mach E’s development, Ford observed the segment was filling up fast and knew it had to do something to stand out among a crowd of crossover-shaped EVs. To do so, it leveraged one of the most treasured names in the Ford portfolio and instructed the designers to stretch out that roofline for more of a fastback shape. And though it’s related to the Mustang in name alone, it still offers an engaging driving experience as long as you’re not expecting the rumble of V8 to announce your arrival. Various front- and all-wheel-drive models are on offer, providing between 210 and 300 miles of range. Range figures for the high-performance Mustang Mach-E GT and Mach-E Performance Edition are forthcoming. Read our review here.

Pros

  • Solid real-world driving range
  • Satisfying performance
  • Intuitive technology

Cons

  • More expensive than gasoline-powered SUVs
  • Tesla still wins on driving range, efficiency
  • Public charging still lags Tesla’s Supercharger network

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#5 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Hyundai Kona Electric

Starts at $37,390 EPA-estimated range – 258 miles, 120 MPGeBest SUV Lease DealsHyundai Kona Electric. Hyundai

Why We Picked It

Hyundai’s Kona won plenty of fans when it was launched for the 2018 model year for its spunky looks and driving demeanor, and the Kona EV inherits that legacy with the benefit of an EV powertrain. Utilizing a single electric motor and a 64-kWh battery pack, the Kona squeaks out an impressive 258-mile range and earned a combined 120 MPGe from the EPA. It’s still fun to drive, though, thanks largely to the Electric motor’s 291 pound-feet of torque.

A near doppelganger of its internal combustion sibling, the Kona EV tones down the color-keyed fender flares and adds a futuristic fascia that stops just short of being gimmicky. Part of Hyundai’s mission to launch 10 or more EVs by 2022, the 2021 Kona is available in three trims, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. We’re we writing the check we’d stick with the base SEL trim for $38,330 (including $1,140 destination fee but before state or local tax credits), as the Limited and Ultimate ($42,940 and $46,540, respectively) move the Kona EV into territory occupied larger EVs with similar efficiencies. That said, the Kona EV carries the brand’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain and battery, as well as a 5-year 60,000-mile standard warranty. For some, the peace of mind is worth a few extra bucks.

Pros

  • Brimming with standard features
  • 10-year warranty is longer than competitors
  • Many available features not typically offered on subcompact SUVs

Cons

  • Limited legroom in the second row
  • Small cargo space
  • Price escalates quickly

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#8 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Porsche Taycan

Starts at $79,990, EPA-estimated range – 201 miles, 69 MPGe 

Porsche Taycan 4S

Why We Picked It

Porsche’s first all-electric production vehicle, the Taycan is worthy of the family name. Equipped with a pair of motors powering all four wheels, the Taycan comes in four peak output levels: The 4S is rated at 522 horsepower or 563 with the large battery; the Turbo is rated for 670 horsepower and the Turbo S at 750 horsepower. (Porsche reminds us that these peak figures only last for short bursts of 2.5 seconds at a time to protect the drivetrain from overheating.) Additionally, the Taycan is the first EV production car to utilize a two-speed transmission to make the most of its prodigious output. If there is a downside to all this technical brilliance—aside from the use of “turbo” on an electric vehicle— it’s the 69 MPGe rating and 201-mile range of the Taycan Turbo. Read our review here.

Pros

  • Warp speed acceleration
  • Incredibly fast charge time
  • Three years of free charging using Electrify America network

Cons

  • Driving range is shorter than some competitors
  • Dozens of options bloat the price considerably
  • Touchscreen everything may not be ideal for some drivers

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#11 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Tesla Model 3

Starts from $37,990, EPA-estimated range – 263/353 miles

2021-Tesla-Model-3-front-sideTesla Model 3. Tesla

Why We Picked It

Tesla basically restacked the order of the EV car business with the 2015 launch of its Model S sedan, but the brand remained out of reach of many consumers. The 2019 Model 3 changed that, combining much of what Telsa has learned into a smaller, less expensive model poised to compete with the influx of mid-priced EVs from established mainstream manufacturers. Featuring familial exterior styling, an all-glass roof and a modern interior it’s unique without being pretentious. 2021 brought some mild styling updates and improved range across the lineup. The base Standard Range Plus model now claims a 263-mile range, while the Long Range Model 3 has a 353-mile range, increases of 13 and 31 respectively. While the fabled $35,000 Model 3 is now firmly in the history books, you can still get a Model 3 for just under $40,000, putting it right in league with its primary competitors. Read our review here.

Pros

  • Long driving range
  • Available semi-autonomous driving capabilities
  • All but the base trim get a 11.5 kW on-board charger

Cons

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#3 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Tesla Model Y

Starts from $41,990, EPA-estimated range – 326 miles

2021 Tesla Model YTesla Model Y. Tesla

Why We Picked It

New for the 2020 model year, the Tesla Model Y shares the Model 3’s powertrain and fastback styling in a larger footprint. Projected to launch as a three-car lineup including standard range, long-range and a performance variant, the standard range was binned prematurely due to a “disappointing” 244-mile max range. On the upside, Tesla simultaneously reduced the price of the dual-motor, all-wheel drive Model Y by $3,000 to approximately $51,000. While that’s a significant price jump from the Model 3, its increase in size—ordering a third row is an option—inflict little harm on the range, the Model Y still capable of 316 miles of range on a single charge. Plus, all of the hallmark Tesla touches remain, making the Model Y the perfect middle ground for Teslarati with people and things to haul.

Pros

  • Up to 68 cubic-feet of cargo capacity
  • Available third-row for two occasional passengers
  • Robust suite of standard entertainment and advanced driver assistance tech

Cons

  • Sloping roofline leaves little headroom for optional third-row passengers
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration
  • No available federal tax credits for Tesla

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#4 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range


Toyota RAV4 Prime

Starts from $39,275, EPA-estimated range – 94 MPGe in hybrid mode, 42 miles in EV model

2021-Toyota-RAV4-Prime-heroToyota RAV4 Prime. Toyota

Why We Picked It

The Toyota RAV4 Prime is a rolling showcase for Toyota’s consumer-level hybrid technology. Although not the first time the RAV4 platform has hosted a hybrid or EV powertrain, it’s easily the most intriguing.

For starters, the RAV4 Prime is the fastest four-door vehicle in the Toyota lineup. A combined 302 horsepower from the four-cylinder gas engine and a trio of electric motors produce enough thrust to hit 60 mph in under 5.7 seconds, putting it within a second of the numbers produced by the four-cylinder Supra. (Two electric motors are on the front axle, and a third electric motor powers the rear wheels when called upon for maximum acceleration of traction; AWD is standard.) Impressive for a mild-mannered crossover that offers all the same utility and features as its gasoline-powered counterpart.

Though the “regular” RAV4 hybrid still exists, it’s not a plug-in hybrid and relies on the system to shuffle between the electric and gas motor for maximum efficiency; EV operation is limited to short, low-speed distances. The RAV4 Prime, on the other hand, has full plug-in functionality, an EV-only range of up to 42 miles, and can travel 600 miles with a full tank and fully charged batteries. Read our review here.

Pros

  • Lots of trims and drivetrain combinations
  • Multiple drive modes give it an extra boost on snow
  • Seats and dash made of durable materials to withstand dirty adventures

Cons

  • Slow off the line
  • Underwhelming drive experience in gas version
  • Base model is bare bones

Volkswagen ID.4

Starts from $39,995, EPA-estimated range – 240/249 miles

Volkswagen VW ID.4 EV newVolkswagen ID.4. Volkswagen

Why We Picked It

The 2021 VW ID.4 is a competent electric crossover that easily matches most gas-powered rivals’ performance, comfort and convenience. Its electric architecture and low-mounted battery pack improves the center-of-gravity over conventional SUVs and greatly enhances the ID.4’s driving dynamics. Unlike most current VW products, the ID.4 is rear-wheel drive, although an all-wheel drive version is on the horizon. The AWD version is expected to offer more battery power, which will have 302 horsepower and longer range. For now the ID.4 offers 201 horsepower and can travel an estimated 260 miles on a single charge. While this isn’t the vehicle to take on unpaved backroads, it is ideal for urban adventurers and families who can charge from their home or have a nearby charging station. The ID.4 excels in its ability to blend modern influences with VW’s traditional styling cues, which appeals to faithful devotees of the brand. As a bonus, ID.4 owners in the U.S. will receive three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America’s charging stations at no additional cost. Read our review here.

Pros

  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Drives better than gasoline counterparts from Toyota and Honda 
  • 260-mile range

Cons

  • Public charging stations are still challenging to find
  • Some drivers will want more buttons and dials for controls
  • All-wheel-drive version not yet available

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#6 in Best Electric Vehicles For Range

#1 in 15 Best Compact SUVs of September 2021


Methodology

The nominees and winners were selected by the Forbes Wheels Car of the Year panel, comprising four staff editors and six contributors. Our criteria included performance, safety, technology, comfort and convenience, fuel economy, design and functionality. Because each category spans the full spectrum of pricing, we selected vehicles that stand out among their peers. Vehicles eligible for nomination include any car or truck for sale or in production during 2021; some debuted during or prior to 2020.

Forbes Wheels Car of the Year Panelists

Sam Abuelsamid (contributor) is principal research analyst at consulting firm Guidehouse Insights (formerly Navigant Research) and is a frequent contributor to Forbes.com, covering innovation in the transportation sector.

Brian Armstead (contributor) is president emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association and a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.

Bill Howard (Forbes Wheels Staff) is editor of Forbes Wheels. He is the past president of the International Motor Press Association and was previously executive editor and contributing editor for Ziff-Davis’ PC Magazine and ExtremeTech.

Alex Kalogiannis (contributor) has been an automotive writer for over 10 years and in addition to bylines at outlets such as Gear Patrol, Trucks.com and SlashGear, he was previously Car section editor at Digital Trends.

Alex Kwanten (Forbes Wheels Staff) has worked in automotive, marine and aviation for over a decade and reported on buying, selling and servicing cars for multiple industry publications, including Automotive News.

Carly Schaffner (Forbes Wheels Staff) has worked in the automotive industry for over a decade in both editorial and communication roles. Before joining Forbes Wheels, she was managing editor of Trucks.com.

Chris Teague (contributor) is a freelance automotive writer focused on new vehicle reviews, industry trends and breaking news, and has an MBA with a focus on data analysis that gives him insight into some of the auto industry’s biggest companies.

Lawrence Ulrich (contributor) is an award-winning auto writer, and former chief auto critic for The New York Times, Detroit Free Press and The Drive.

John Voelcker (contributor) was editor of Green Car Reports for nine years. He now is a reporter and analyst covering advanced auto technologies and energy policy, and a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.

Andrew Wendler (Forbes Staff) grew up immersed in automotive, marine and aviation culture and spent a decade at Car and Driver as a writer and editor before joining Forbes Wheels.

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