Update on electric vehicle models in Minnesota—Spring 2018

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Fresh Energy is working toward a future where Minnesotans are driving electric cars powered by clean, renewable electricity, not oil and gas. One of the barriers to this change has been the lack of available electric cars for sale on Minnesota lots. But as auto manufacturers recognize that driving electric is the future, and Minnesota car buyers drive demand for electric car options, that is changing. Also the good news is that the sales numbers are growing steadily. Last month was the 30th consecutive month of year-over-year monthly sales gains, March plug-in electric vehicle sales ending 42 percent higher than March 2017.

There are now 25 models of plug-in vehicles available in the Midwest, some with cool new features that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. You can see the full list by visiting PlugIn Connect. The battery technology has improved quite a bit in recent years, providing much longer driving ranges and making these cars more affordable. A Federal tax credit of up to $7500 is still available for all plug-in vehicles but will start to phase out for some manufacturers at the end of this year.

If you are considering purchasing a plug-in vehicle, here are the latest electric vehicle models and features available in Midwest market.

Tesla Model 3
The long-awaited Tesla Model 3 has arrived in the Midwest. The first deliveries started trickling in during February, so new owners got to test those in real winter conditions. As we know, there are over 400,000 reservation holders and Tesla’s production ramp up has been really slow, but it sounds like the machine is starting to churn out units faster every day. The first units available are rear wheel drive with the longer-range battery (310 miles). Many reservation holders have skipped the first production and are waiting for the base battery (220 miles) or the all-wheel drive setup. This car is without a doubt the most important vehicle launch of the century, so the market is following every detail of the process. Some first drive experiences note that advanced stability control features make even the rear wheel drive Model 3 a safe winter car, and the premium sound system provides the best audio experience that some of the testers have ever experienced. If you are not a reservation holder but would like to consider Model 3 as your next car, now is the time to put the reservation money down so you get your spot in line (though the wait could be two to three years). In the meantime, you can lease a different electric car so you can enjoy driving electric while waiting for your dream car.

Nissan Leaf 2018
The world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, now has a more pleasing design and includes some cool new features and technology. When the Leaf first came to the Midwest market in 2012, it had a range of 73 miles. The 2018 model doubles that, providing 150 miles of range. The ProPilot driver assist system is bringing the first semi-autonomous driving features to the affordable vehicle segment. When you turn the ProPilot system on, it detects the lane markings and other cars, steering the car to keep it in the middle of the lane and adjusting the speed based on the other cars and traffic. It does not detect speed limits or stop signs, so the driver still needs to be alert and keep their hands on the wheel, but it makes the driving more relaxing. To boost the early sales of 2018 Leaf, Nissan and utility companies are partnering to offer a $3,000 rebate that is available for all utility company customers. Here is an Xcel Energy blog post with more information about the rebate.

Chevrolet Bolt
Even though the Bolt was introduced to the market last year, it is still the most affordable, readily available vehicle that provides over 200 miles of electric range (238 miles to be exact). This extended range is appreciated by drivers with longer commutes or who need more range flexibility. Naturally, you can also extend your daily range by stopping at a DC fast charging station, as long as you remember to buy your Bolt with the DCFC connector (never buy one without). The Bolt also provides plenty of pickup and quite sporty driving experience for the everyday driver (0-60 mph takes just 6.5 seconds).

Honda Clarity PHEV
The newly arrived Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is challenging the Chevrolet Volt, long the most popular plug-in hybrid sedan in the U.S. The Clarity provides an all-electric range of 48 miles, more than enough to cover most Americans’ daily commutes, while still having a gasoline engine for longer trips. The Clarity, which starts at $26,000 after the Federal tax credit, is bigger than its cousin the Accord, and offers Adaptive Cruise Control and electronic safety features standard.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been outselling the gasoline model in Europe, becoming the world’s bestselling plug-in crossover, and is now finally available here. A four-wheel drive plug-in electric vehicle with a price tag of under $30,000 after the Federal tax credit makes this especially enticing for fleet customers. It is also the first DC fast charging capable plug-in hybrid, and higher end trim also provides two 120 Volt power outlets so you can run your tools or camping gear from the car’s high voltage battery.

Kia Niro PHEV
The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which the Department of Energy fueleconomy.gov site classifies as “small station wagon,” is the first plug-in Kia to be sold in the Midwest region. The Niro offers an all-electric range of 26 miles before switching over to gasoline (where it gets an impressive 46 miles per gallon!), with a starting price under $24,000 after the Federal tax credit. The 26 mile range is long enough for many drivers’ daily commutes, while its 560 mile combined (electric and gasoline) range makes longer drives a breeze.

More resources
So have some fun, check out these and other plug-in electric vehicles at your local dealers, and remember to follow the proven PlugInAmerica mantra, “No Plug, No Deal.”

Here are some additional resources to further improve your vehicle shopping experience:

  • It is always hard to find a knowledgeable plug-in vehicle sales person, so check out these recommendations from the Minnesota Plug-In Vehicle Owners’ Circle: EVSalesPro.com.
  • Your utility company is happy to help you with home charging and rate-related questions. The easiest way to find your electric utility’s electric vehicle information page in Minnesota is to use the MNCharging.org portal.
  • Argone National Laboratory has just released a new tool for vehicle comparisons https://evolution.es.anl.gov/.
  • If you live in an apartment building or a condominium and wonder how to best approach your management company about this visit MultiHousingCharging.com.
  • If your roundtrip commute exceeds your dream plug-in vehicles electric range, talk with your employer to see if they could provide you charging at your workplace: WorkplaceCharging.com.
  • Even though on average over 90 percent of charging happens at home, you might still want to sometimes charge when you are out and about. Find all public charging stations at PlugShare.com.
  • For those still wondering how much cleaner cleaner and affordable electric vehicles really are, check out CarbonCounter.com.

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