An EV to fit your all your real needs?

The conversations surrounding electric vehicles are evolving at a pace equal to that of EV and battery technologies. Only five years ago, the matter at hand was making it to one’s destination, even if only a few kilometers away. There were strategies, compromises and much planning to do to cover only 100km in an electric car.

Only four years ago, the wife and I tackled a 450km round-trip in a Nissan LEAF. What would today require barely a day, with some downtime, necessitated 36 hours because of the car’s limited range and equally limited number of charging stations. The participants in this comparison test offer a 200- or greater kilometer range which, in conjunction with readily available Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations, make short work of most road trips.

Getting around in an electric car has never been easier and it will only become leisurelier as the months and years go by. The questions related to EVs are beginning to revolve around their versatility and their ability to conform to our daily needs. This is the main premise behind this evaluation as you can see in our related video. Along with our comments about space and comfort, we share with you some driving impressions.

Before summarizing our thoughts, we feel it’s important to note that there are no real losers in this test. For the moment, there are too few 100% EV options for us to flat out disregard or black-list any one of them. As well, most are good or better than good. We’ll see what the future holds.

In the meantime, here’s how it all went down:

3rd place

2018 Chevrolet Bolt.

Keep in mind here that Chevy’s Bolt did not lose anything. So how did it end up in last place? It did so because some of its shortcomings are too great to overlook. The first element is price. At $46,445 to start, the Bolt is eye-wateringly expensive and $10,000 more than the others.

The justification lies in the larger 60 kWh battery, more powerful 150 kw drive unit and impressive range of 383km. With 200 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque, the Bolt is exceptional performance-wise and its power is truly addictive. The biggest breakthrough with driving an EV come from the ability to one-pedal drive. In Low mode or by using the paddle located behind the steering wheel on the left, you can slow down and come to a complete stop by simply lifting your foot off the accelerator. In fact, of the three cars, it’s the simplest to operate in this manner.

Sporting the largest battery also means recharging times are the longest. At home and with a Level 2 station, a full charge requires 9.5 hours. While on the road, a Level 3 charger will top up your range by roughly 140 km in 30 minutes time.

Although the Bolt can accelerates from 0-96 km/h in 6.5 seconds, it does not help its second biggest fault: a jittery ride. Nearly all other EVs offer up smooth or plush rides. The Chevy’s dampers lack initial give, transmitting road irregularities immediately into the cabin. This is very at odds with the quietness and otherwise drama-less driving experience.

Lastly, its trunk is tiny. This is an issue for active people, small families or anyone who’s hobby requires some boot space. The upside is that the cabin, thanks to the Bolt’s tall roofline, is very roomy for tall adults. It’s great to slide baby seats in and out of but anything larger than an umbrella stroller will have to be left behind.

Charles and I both enjoyed the Bolt for its design and performance but it’s currently priced out of its own market.

2nd place

2018 Volkswagen e-Golf.

Volkswagen’s e-Golf is both Charles’ and I’s favorite of the lot. So how is it that it did not win? Its main fault is that some of its EV technology has already fallen behind the competition.

At scarcely $40 less than the Nissan LEAF at $36,355, its 35.8 kWh battery is short on storage, thus range and power. The 100 kw electric motor is good for 134-horsepower and 214 lb.-ft. of torque but the e-Golf is no match for the other two cars performance-wise. As well, unlike the LEAF and Bolt, and despite multiple drive modes, the VW will not come to a full stop even when set in its most aggressive regenerative mode.

Having said that, the e-Golf is the quickest to have you back on the road as a Level 2 full charge will supply you with 201 km of range in about 4.5 hours. If you’re travelling, an 80% charge can be achieved in 30 minutes through a Level 3 charging station.

The elements we love most about the 2018 VW e-Golf are its styling and drive. From a distance, the e-Golf is virtually indistinguishable from a regular Golf with the exception of the “C”-shaped daytime running LED lights. The cabin too is lifted from VW’s best-selling car and loaded with most high-end features. Here, the VW’s roomy interior works well when handling a baby seat and passengers. The boot is tight but an average-sized stroller, larger than the umbrella type but smaller than mine, will fit with ease.

What Volkswagen’s done is simple. They’ve taken what’s best from the Golf and transplanted it into the e-Golf. To those who fear that driving an EV is mundane, we say take a VW’s electric car for a spin. The ride is fun, dynamic and involving. Steering is responsive and the suspension’s damping is equal part comfort and handling.

You’ll more than likely love it, but sadly, you’ll not be able to take delivery of your car for up to 18 months. And this is probably what we dislike most about the e-Golf: You can’t get one no matter how bad you want it.

1st place

2018 Nissan LEAF.

Charles and I more or less saw this coming. We’d both previously driven the new LEAF and were fairly convinced it was going to take the honours. Nissan has quite the head-start on the others when it comes to EVs. The LEAF first arrived eight years ago and, in that time, the company’s learned quite a bit, and fast-forwarded its evolution.

What’s surprising about this car, and many others than Nissan produces, is that it’s not the best at anything, with perhaps one exception. The fact that it is average in every respect means that it reaches most expectations, meets most needs and delivers enough when it counts. In other words, there are no serious compromises to be made when opting for the new LEAF, among EVs.

Its 40 kWh battery is mid-pack, although Nissan promises a 60 kWh unit sooner rather than later. The same goes for its electric motor which at 110 kw (147 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. or torque) also land between the e-Golf and Bolt. Here too, Nissan is planning on more with a rumoured 160 kw motor, some serious fast-charging abilities and a range of over 360 km. This is all moot if the price is $10k over its current base price of $36,398.

For a full charge from a Level 2 charger, six hours are needed. Like the e-Golf, a Level 3 charging station will provide the LEAF with an 80% charge in 30 minutes.

The reality is the 40 kWh car provides a true real-world 242 km maximum range and better than decent acceleration which in both cases leave the VW behind. The Nissan LEAF is the plushest of the three on the road. Its ride is nearly soft but never floaty or unpleasant. It’s nowhere near as involving to drive as the VW or Chevy but the combination of quiet and comfortable is quite therapeutic.

The new LEAF’s design is far more contemporary and it certainly earns points for that. The same goes for the cabin. For the LEAF, Nissan opted for more trunk at the expense of passengers. This is the only car of the three that can handle the stroller. The baby seat fits nicely but any front passenger over 5-feet and a few inches tall might want to relocate behind the driver for more legroom. This is the 2018 Nissan LEAF’s sole setback.

In conclusion, all three of these cars merit your attention. Many were left out from this test but if you are seriously considering an EV, we also like the Kia Soul and Hyundai Ioniq. The upcoming Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro EVs are promising loads of performance and range for reasonable dollars. If you can wait, they’ll probably be worth it. By mid 2020, most carmakers will have something new available. You can bet they’ll be very good products. This is after all, the only race that really matters in the 21st Century.

The elephant in the room is the Tesla Model 3 however even if they’re quickly finding their way on our roads, there’s no such thing as an affordable Tesla…

3 COMMENTS

  1. I read that doing a long ride with the Leaf will be a bit difficult due to its inability to fast charge twice in a row. Something about this car not being equipped with a battery cooling feature, so Nissan could keep fabrication costs low.

    Are the eGolf and Bolt afflicted with the same handicap?
    Thanks!

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