Reviews The 2021 Popular Mechanics Electric Vehicle Awards
Buying a Used Plug-In or EV? Here’s What You Need to Know
With more Canadians considering sustainability in their major purchase decisions, there’s an increasing amount of action on the used car market for electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Both EVs and PHEVs utilize a rechargeable battery and electric motor for propulsion. In the case of an EV, there’s no gasoline engine, so the vehicle is totally electric. In the case of a PHEV, the battery and electric motor join forces with a conventional gasoline engine. Both EV and PHEV models come with their own pros and cons, as well as unique second-hand buying considerations.
Electric vehicles are slowly but surely becoming more commonplace in the automotive industry. With charging infrastructure advancing faster and range anxiety being less of a worry, many drivers are making the switch from internal combustion to electric power. And more and more automakers have entered the EV arena with vehicles of all different shapes, sizes, and uses.
Our automotive editors have clocked hundreds of miles behind the wheel, evaluating the latest to find which ones were the greatest. That involved off-roading through the mountains near Breckenridge, Colorado, or blasting through the twisty mountain roads outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And there are some we had to give mention (the Ford, Tesla, Audi, and Mini Cooper), even though we haven’t gotten time behind the wheel just yet, because of the promise they present in their segments. All our evaluating led to these, the ten best EVs this year.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt: What You Need to Know
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt sits in the top half of our hybrid and electric car rankings. This roomy, feature-rich car has a capable and efficient electric powertrain, as well as agile handling. However, it also has some subpar cabin materials. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is ranked: #4 in 2017 Hybrid Cars #5 in 2017 Hatchbacks #6 in 2017 Affordable Small Cars #10 in Used Hybrid Cars $20K and up #12 in Used Hatchbacks $15K and up #19 in Used Small Cars $14K and up Is the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt a Good Used Car? The 2017 Chevy Bolt is a great choice in the hybrid and electric car class.
Ford F-150 Lightning
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Tesla Model 3
Audi RS E-Tron GT
Mini Cooper SE
Ford F-150 Lightning
Base price: $39,974 | Motor: 563 hp, 775 lb-ft | Range: 300 miles | Towing capacity: 10,000 lb | Hauling capacity: 2,000 lb
Ask anyone at Ford about the new F-150 Lightning, and the first point they’re likely to bring up regarding the new pickup is that it’s not simply an electric version of the gas F-150. Sure, it looks like the truck that’s been thefor the past 40-plus years. But, as Darren Palmer, Ford’s general manager of battery electric vehicles, put it to us when we spoke to him a few months ago, “It offers things you could never get with gas” while benefitting from its roots as a working truck. To that end, the Lightning’s 775 pound-feet of torque is the most to ever be packed into an F-150 and, because of the nature of electric drivetrains, kicks in quickly to facilitate the 0-60 time of somewhere in four seconds.
Aston Martin Vantage and DB11 wars Electric cars as successor
market launch is only from 2025, until then there is only hybrids and Phevs apart from racing cars, Aston Martin from 2030 wants to sell only electrified cars from 2030. This has already announced brand Chief Tobias Moers in March. Now the CEO announced more details that now reports Automotive News Europe. © insideevs Germany Aston Martin DB11 (Source: https://en.motor1.com/photo/2408840/db11-bieg-biturbo-v8-von-amg/) However, the British brand sets on Plug-In Hybrid (PHEVS) and hybrid.
Dual electric motors provide four-wheel drive, and there’s enough battery capacity for a 300-mile range—if you choose the extended range; the standard will get you 230 miles. As for charging, the truck will go from 15 to 100 percent in eight hours plugged into an 80-amp charger, doing the same in 41 minutes on a DC fast charger. But, notably, with the lack of an engine comes additional storage space in the form of a front trunk. And the truck’s towing capacity of 10,000 pounds is up there with all but the largest of the gas-engine F-150s. Since payload can bring down mileage, the Lightning has available scales in the bed to tell you exactly how much you’re carrying, and how it may impinge the range.
Now, much of this is new to the F-150, but it isn’t new to electric trucks in general, with the likes ofbuilding some similar features and specs into its models. (Nor is all of it un-tread ground for Ford itself; the Mustang Mach-E has a similar frunk and massive touchscreen.) The automaker’s goal here, however, is to capitalize on the F-150’s name recognition and popularity and, in the process, potentially draw more drivers to EVs. And whereas vehicles like the Rivian R1T (below) are decidedly adventure-focused, the F-150 maintains its blue-collar bent while also appealing to much of that same outdoors crowd.—Will Egensteiner
Everything You Need to Know About Charging an EV at Home
Everything You Need to Know About Charging an EV at Home . Slow and Easy: Level 1 Charging Before you break out your wallet, know that you can charge your vehicle without having to buy any extra gear, but it will be quite slow. All EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) come with a portable charging cable that plugs into a standard household outlet, letting you get some range for your vehicle without additional costs, gear, or installation. Known as Level 1 charging, this is the slowest form of recharging an EV.
Base price: $67,500 | Motor: 835 hp, 908 lb-ft | Range: 314 miles | Towing capacity: 11,000 lb
Vehicles are, at their heart, enabling. And I mean that in the best way. Whether you need transportation to Little League games for your kids and their friends, want to escape for a weekend and get a dose of #vanlife, or get your kicks from the occasional track day, the best car for you will help you do that without demanding too much. And Rivian’s R1T pickup can facilitate in many ways. Most obvious is in the adventure and off-road realms, which is where the company has more or less planted its flag with a range of modes for driving on dirt, optional accessories like a camp kitchen, and collaborating with Yakima on a rooftop tent and bars. After my time behind the wheel getting a feel for the truck during a few days in and around Breckenridge, that’s the context in which I’d be most excited to use it if I were to buy one. Befitting an electric vehicle, this pickup is essentially a giant rolling battery, more than just a means of transportation.
Atlis XT Prototype Pickup: First Look at the New Boxy Version
More details are emerging on the redesigned Atlis XT prototype pickup, Atlis Motor Vehicles’ fully electric truck. It’s not a small thing like the Pickman, and it’s not even a fullsize thing like the Rivian R1T or the Ford Lightning. It’s a rather large electric thing, more akin to consumer HD trucks, quite angular with absolutely no bubble-like softness to be found anywhere. Its abrupt, cardboard-simplistic angles and almost post-apocalyptic presence remind us of the Bollinger, another fully electric truck that may or may not ever hit the streets.
Rivian developed the R1T in a “skateboard design,” according to the press pamphlet. It’s a similar layout to what you’ll find in other EVs, with the battery cells running along the bottom of the truck’s frame, between the wheels. These cells power the four electric motors—one for each wheel, though they are linked in front and rear pairs. The front axle puts out 415 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque, while the rear delivers 420 hp and 495 ft-lb. Having these motors function this way mimics a locking differential when needed and allows for increased slip control by directing the power to the tires with the most grip and not to those that are spinning.
I did feel a little of the bulk of the truck as I was accelerating up Highway 6 over Loveland Pass. It’s a heavy vehicle (6,700 pounds), which is easy to forget in most instances. But this is still an EV, and thus has an almost stomach-churning amount of giddyup. And the way the R1T provides more power to the wheels with the most traction helps when cornering on pavement, too. The four motors facilitate exceptional torque vectoring, functioning more like an open differential in these instances.
Director of Vehicle Dynamics Max Koff mentioned that Rivian’s inspiration for the R1T’s on-road performance was a Porsche Cayan Turbo and Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon for off-roading. Whereas in the past automakers had to make compromises when developing a car if they wanted it to excel in any one or even a range of things, that’s less of the case now with the unique freedoms and flexibility that EVs afford. And it’s in that enabling balance that the R1T excels. Though it will naturally appeal more to the adventure set, it shouldn’t be intimidating (or won’t be after a few miles) for the average driver, even if the price is. But the EV tax credit will bring that down a bit, and the truck and brand already have a loyal following after those years of careful planning and development. The sold-out R1T pre-orders ship over the next several weeks, with the nearly identicalnot far behind them.—WE
Demystifying Electric Vehicles: How to Choose the Right EV
So you’re shopping for an electric vehicle (EV). If you’ve read part one of this two-part series aimed at demystifying the EV ownership experience, you got the scoop on what exactly zero-emissions vehicles are all about, and the differences between conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles. Now it’s time to explore the minutiae of electrification, including the fundamentals of EVs, how they differ from gas-powered vehicles, how to calculate energy costs, and the most important deciding factors when considering the type of EV that’s right for you.
Base price: $45,900 (~$35,000 with incentives) | Motor: 231 hp, 243 lb-ft | Range: 265 miles (unofficial Polestar estimate)
In 2017, Polestar evolved from a Volvo performance division to being a bespoke automotive startup with its, a performance-oriented hybrid. Using the joint power from its turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine, supported by three electric motors—one in the front and two in the back—the vehicle developed 619 horsepower and 739 pound-feet of torque. Limited to a production run of just 1,500 units, the inaugural runabout sported a carbon-fiber body and the longest range of any plug-in hybrid—an accolade that it maintains to this day. Despite its monolithic performance figures, the final product was a gentle giant on the road and an absolute weapon on the track.
The automaker followed that up with the sophomore Polestar 2 earlier this year. While most car companies in the EV space are caught up in the perpetual arms race of 0-60 times, the Polestar 2 actually knows what to do when it approaches a corner. And braking is a clear party piece of this car. Even after I carried a bit too much speed into some of the tighter switchbacks of Highway 475, the combined stopping power of the regenerative braking system and Brembo brakes allowed for hilarious point-and-squirt driving. The ABS calibration was excellent, letting me stamp on the brake pedal with little electronic interference.
9 Interesting New Patents from the World’s Leading Automakers
9 Interesting New Patents from the World’s Leading AutomakersPatents are like a licence of ownership for a new design, idea, or way of doing something. Anyone can file a patent, and it generally needs to show a special process, a product that provides a new way of doing something, or a technical solution to a problem. One of the biggest benefits of a patent is that it can help stop other people from using and copying an idea, at least for a period of time.
Speaking of brakes, I took a quick fancy to the regenerative braking system. Referred to by Polestar as “One-Pedal Driving,” it almost eliminates the need to use the brake pedal. As the system translates rotational energy into electricity, it will slow the vehicle down when you let off the accelerator—think of it as futuristic engine braking. For EV newbies, who might be turned away by the idea, the infotainment screen allows you to limit the strength of the regen or even turn it off altogether.
And while Polestar acknowledges that autonomous systems are far from perfect, the $3,200 Pilot Package grants access to their Pilot Assist technology and adaptive cruise control. This is a driver-in-the-loop type of system that requires you to keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times. The helping hand is only available on well-defined roads at a maximum speed of 80 mph. Despite the automaker’s caution toward referring to Pilot Assist as a driver aid instead of a magic carpet ride, it works really well.
As someone who lives for analog motoring experiences, I generally shy away from these high-tech driver aids. Having said that, the latest Polestar system is surprisingly intuitive, taking away a considerable amount of the mental bandwidth needed during highway driving. Unlike the previous autonomous systems I’ve driven, which work on paper but tend to feel like they’ve just earned their learner’s permit, Pilot Assist feels much more composed. The advanced driver-aid maintained a consistent attitude through the corners, without ping-ponging itself against the painted lines.
The base single-motor Polestar 2 is a fantastic entry point into the EV space. It has more than enough power to inspire confidence while merging onto the highway and shooting gaps around the city. And it starts at just $45,900 (approximately $35,000 with incentives); you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better car across the market at that price point.—Matt Crisara
The greatest five-cylinder cars
To celebrate the launch of the new and extremely fast Audi RS3, we name 20 of our favourite five-pot cars
Base price: $39,995 | Motor: 201 hp, 229 lb-ft | Transmission: 1-speed direct-drive | MPGe: 104 city, 89 highway, 97 combined
Volkswagen’s ID.4 is an admirable show of restraint from the German automaker. While the small SUV lacks some of the awe-inspiring tech and driving capabilities of others in its class, it’s because of that that it feels more approachable, especially to first-time EV drivers.
Take the dash. It’s blessedly uncluttered, with only a single infotainment screen for operating functions like the climate control and music, and a small screen above the steering column serves as the gauge display. The main screen is somewhat tricky to navigate, though, and we were hesitant to try changing much of anything with it while the ID.4 was in motion. But the driving is easy; one knob changes gears, and notifications like the side-alert lights are big and noticeable. The ID.4 is very gas-engine-like in its manners as well. It creeps forward when you let off the brake and coasts without a ton of regenerative braking drag. Accordingly, the car doesn’t have the zip many drivers familiar with EVs have come to expect of them. But it has enough that it made a passenger—one who’d never ridden in an electric car before—sit up a little straighter during one of our test drives. The SUV felt planted and predictable on the road—both good things in a car this size. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but available all-wheel drive adds a second motor between the front wheels. The lane-keeping assist did take some getting used to, as it ever so slightly nudged the wheel back toward the center if we strayed too far to one side of our lane. It gave the impression that the car was fighting against us, but we eventually came to appreciate it keeping us true.
Volkswagen claims that the ID.4 Pro S gets an EPA-estimated 250 miles on a full charge, but the gauge only ever told us a little more than 230 at 100 percent. And that’s less than many other cars in this class. When we took the car to a DC fast-charging station, it went from 30 percent to full in about an hour and ten minutes.
Other than that, the ID.4 has the space you’d expect in a small SUV, with a comfy second row and ample room in the trunk.
It has its downsides, but in the ID.4, VW has made an EV that could draw more drivers into the electric fold, welcoming them with a familiar feel and features while opening them up to the ever-growing potential of the category.—WE
Porsche Taycan RWD
Base price: $79,900 | Motor: 402 hp, 250 lb-ft | Range: 225 miles
With the Taycan, Porsche accomplished something at a higher level than any other car maker: creating a production electric vehicle that delivers a satisfying and exciting driving experience. Steering is responsive, accurate, and direct in ways that make you feel connected to the road despite the four-door sedan’s long wheelbase and nearly 5,000-pound weight. The left and right pedals apply braking and acceleration forces in ways that will feel natural to auto enthusiasts. And the body has lines and curves that are distinctively Porsche while also making the Taycan one of the most aerodynamic vehicles available.
This less-expensive rear-wheel drive version of the Taycan doesn’t deliver the cheek-flapping accelerations of the Turbo and all-wheel-drive models, which can propel the car from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds. Instead, the torquey thump you feel is just enough to elicit a satisfying grin. With 321 hp (402 available using its Launch Control feature) and 250 lb-ft of torque, the Taycan will hit 60 from a full stop in just under five seconds—it’s a thrilling ride whether you’re launching forward at a green light or passing on the highway. For many, that’s a reasonable trade to save $24k over the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Taycan 4s.
The $79,900 base price puts it within a few dollars of Tesla’s Model S, the benchmark for EVs. Like most acclaimed consumer-tech products, the S crushes the spec sheet: It has a quicker launch, greater range, and faster charge times than the Taycan RWD. But this one offers an unmatched driving experience. And Porsche delivers the quality you’d expect. It’s quiet, comfortable, and rattle-free. Small details, like the knurled knobs of the drive mode lever and the impressive haptics of the infotainment screen, provide excellent sensory feedback.
The Taycan also has more options than any other EV in its class. Porsche offers 17 exterior and five interior color options (though many cost extra), plus a long list of performance and comfort options. The one we recommend is the Performance Battery Plus, which boosts power by 50 hp and extends range by about 30 miles.
It’s not a perfect EV, though. The Taycan’s 225 miles range is significantly less than the Model S, and charging times are long. During our test, we got about 130 kw/hr at two different Electrify America fast chargers. That’s about half of what Porsche claims. At those speeds, filling the battery from 20 to 80 percent took about 20 to 25 minutes.
Despite the slower charging, the Taycan is still our pick for best luxury EV. Nothing else matches its ride, finish, or distinctive looks.—Lou Mazzante
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Base price: $47,600, Premium Edition | Motor: Electric AWD, 346 hp, 428 lb-ft | Range: 270 miles, AWD w/ extended battery
Whether you agree with Ford’s choice to call this a Mustang or not, it’s hard to deny the logic: Put the brand’s most exciting marque on its most exciting new vehicle. You’ll have to look inside the owner’s manual to see Ford written anywhere on this Mustang. And to be clear: this is one exciting vehicle.
The 2021 model we tested had Ford's extended-range battery option and all-wheel drive. In that configuration, you can go about 270 miles on a charge with easy driving. But it also will go from 0-60 in under 5 seconds, so you probably won't drive it that easily. Faster versions are on the way. It's got plenty of power (about 330 hp in our configuration) and decent torque, but it weighs just over 4,800 pounds making it feeling stable even as you're accelerating.It handles accurately for a heavy, quick vehicle, and the brakes are remarkably powerful, adding even more control.
The interior is as roomy as most crossovers, with plenty of head and floorspace in the rear. Plus the frunk is made of plastic and has a drain so you can use it as a cooler if you like.
Ford claims the Premium model will charge at speeds up to 150kw/h, but we typically got about 50 to 60 kh/w even at dedicated fast-charging stations.
The 15.5-inch touchscreen makes accessing vehicle settings, entertainment system, and some controls easy. And it gives you a huge screen to view backup, parking, and 360-degree vehicle cameras. The mounting point, in front of the center console isn't ideal, but not much of an issue—the screen size makes up for the poor sightlines.
The Premium Edition version we tested costs more than a comparable Tesla Model 3 (though has some extra features like AWD), takes longer to charge, and it doesn’t yet drive itself, though that may be coming in an update later this year. Yet there’s a level of refinement here, of consistently executed quality and overall driving satisfaction that makes this a fierce new EV competitor.—LM
Base price: $43,970 ($45,930 for the SL Plus as tested) | Motor: 160-kW AC synchronous electric motor 214 hp, 250 lb-ft | Range: 226 miles
Despite Tesla’s current domination of the EV marketplace, it’s important to mention that Nissan built the first affordable electric vehicle in 2010–the Leaf. Coming into the 2010 market with a starting MSRP of $32,780—$25,280 with the EV tax credit—it was propelled by a 23-kwh battery that promised 100 miles of range. Setting the stage as an affordable electric vehicle that people actually wanted to buy, the Leaf persuaded other automakers to wade further into the EV waters.
Now, EVs are often considered the benchmark when it comes to acceleration. Electric motors offer up instant torque at low speed, which generally equates to blistering 0-60 times. However, thanks to the single 160-kW motor driving the front wheels and eco-friendly tires–215/50R17 Michelin Energy Savers–that favor rolling resistance over performance, the Leaf puts down a conservative 0-60 mph at 6.7 seconds. Compared to others in its category, the Volkswagen ID.4 is slowest to 60 mph at 7.6 seconds, followed by the Kia Niro at 6.2 seconds, and the base Tesla Model 3 at 5.3 seconds. It truly shined from 30-50 mph, where the zing from the electric motor properly puts you in the back of your seat. Even for someone like me who owns a manual Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Leaf’s punchy mid-range acceleration never failed to put a smile on my face when merging onto the highway and shooting gaps around the city.
As for appearances, many electric vehicles succumb to the endless pursuit of letting others know that they’re battery-powered. We often see this with front grille deletes, wacky names, and wheels that are styled at an 11 out of 10. While there’s a time and a place for this kind of pomp and circumstance, it’s refreshing to see that Nissan aimed for the Leaf Plus to be a great automobile first and foremost.—MC
Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Base price: $49,990 ($45,960 with incentives) | Motor: Permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 221 hp, 302 lb-ft | Transmission: 1-speed direct drive | Range: 353 miles
Love them or hate them, Tesla is currently one of the industry leaders when it comes to EVs. Before we even get to talking bout the Model 3 itself, Tesla has the most expansive charging infrastructures in the market. With over 25,000 superchargers worldwide—approximately half of those being in the U.S.—the Model 3 is already ahead of the game before you get behind the wheel. Other automakers want a piece of the supercharger pie, but it doesn’t seem like Tesla wants to give up its proprietary network anytime soon.
As for the Model 3 itself, it presents an approachable vehicle for those that haven’t owned an EV before. With 353 miles of range, it’s at the top of its class when it comes to going the distance. While the range figure doesn’t make it an instant road-trip machine, it certainly eliminates the range anxiety associated with other EVs below the 300-mile mark—everyone else on the list with the exception of the F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T.
It has to be said that Tesla also set the standard for EV interiors with features like its massive one-big-tablet style infotainment screen. Aside from the command and control center, every other aspect of the cockpit is minimalism at its finest. Taking it to extremes, the latest model doesn’t even have a proper gear selector to clutter the interior. You select gears via the wiper stalk at the right side of the steering wheel—up once for reverse, down once for drive. Simple.—MC
Audi RS E-Tron GT
Base price: $140,945 | Motor: Permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 590 hp (637 hp in boost mode), 612.2 lb-ft | Transmission: Two-speed automatic at the rear axle | Range: 232 miles
Based on the same underpinnings as the Porsche Taycan, the RS E-Tron GT is predictably and ridiculously quick. With up to 637 horsepower on tap for 2.5 seconds in “boost mode,” it can catapult itself to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds—in its standard mode, the vehicle puts out 590 hp and 612.2 lb-ft of torque. And this Audi knows how to successfully make it around a corner.
Despite its curb weight of 5,139 pounds—the Taycan tips the scales at 4,568—the RS uses clever technology to hide its weight when you throw it into a turn. The optional rear-wheel steering system does the heavy lifting, turning the rear wheels opposite to the front wheels, tightening the turning radius under 30 mph. Once above 30 mph, both front and back wheels turn in the same direction, improving high-speed stability. Much like the Taycan, the vehicle also reaps the benefits of double-wishbone front suspension, allowing for better cornering stability.
Outside of performance numbers and suspension geometry, the interior of the Audi is as normal as it gets in the performance EV market. And that’s a good thing. In stark contrast to its flashy exterior, nothing inside the cockpit screams high-performance electric vehicle. Sure, it still features a 10.1-inch infotainment screen, but it has tactile buttons for the climate controls. Much like you get with the Polestar 2 above, the standard Audi also comes with 100-percent vegan interior upholstery, but leather still remains an option should you so desire.—MC
Mini Cooper SE
Base price: $29,990 (eligible for up to $7,500 tax incentive) | Motor: Permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 181 hp, 191 lb-ft | Range: 114 miles
While the Mini Cooper SE often gets a bad rap for its 114-mile range, it’s important to note that going the distance isn’t the be-all-end-all of EVs. Customers buy these silent machines for a whole host of reasons from making a statement, saving the planet, or even saving money. Starting at $29,990 before incentives—which could knock off as much as $7,500—the Mini is one of the most affordable.
Despite the electric variant being launched in 2019, electrified Minis have been around for quite a while. The Mini Coopers used in the underground scenes of the 2003 remake of The Italian Job were actually electric. After the City of Los Angeles didn’t want carbon monoxide fumes in its subway tunnels, the production team had to get radical and electrify the star cars driven by Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Jason Statham.
If the Mini Cooper wasn’t bold enough already following its time on the big screen, the electric variant knows how to stand out from the crowd with its quirky styling. The chunky four-spoke wheels are focal points of the exterior with their boxy yet minimalistic look. At the front, the SE variant gets the new front fascia seen on its piston-powered compatriots. Despite being an electric car, Mini does an excellent job of blending in the faux grille, leading to the same great aesthetics.
Thankfully, the interior of the Mini is just as fun as the exterior. The design team added details like the pretend beams of light that emit around the infotainment screen, making it look like you’re entering hyperspace. However, the six-color adjustable interior lighting system is one of the clear party pieces when it comes to the eccentric nature of the Mini Cooper SE.—MC
The greatest five-cylinder cars .
To celebrate the launch of the new and extremely fast Audi RS3, we name 20 of our favourite five-pot cars