- 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range (Overall Winner)
- 2020 Kia Niro EV
- 2020 Tesla Model 3 Long Range
- 2020 Tesla Model X Long Range
- 2020 Jaguar I-Pace
- 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric
- 2020 Tesla Model Y
- 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
- 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus
- Models to watch for 2021
- Other things to consider – is an EV actually more eco-friendly?
Got range anxiety? If you’re looking for an electric vehicle with more than 200 or even 300 miles of range on pure electric, you’re in luck. There’s never been a better choice for SUVs, sedans, hatchbacks, and zippy little two-doors that can traverse the land for hundreds of miles between charges. And some of these EVs barely break the $30k mark!
Let’s take a look at the electric cars with the longest pure electric range for 2020, with an eye on their other eco-credentials. And, if you’re thinking of installing an EV charger at home, we’ve got you covered for the best EV chargers too. You can read about our unique research process here.
A quick word on range ratings before we jump in. I’ve put this list together using the new WLTP standard. This standard came into force in the European Union in late 2017 and after fall 2018 only WLTP-rated cars could be sold in Europe. So, what is WLTP?
Short for Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, WLTP is a fuel efficiency rating for all petrol, diesel, electric, and hybrid cars. It replaced the NEDC regulations which are largely discredited as being easily manipulated by car manufacturers to inflate performance statistics. The WLTP doesn’t rely on laboratory tests alone. Instead, it factors in real-world testing under various conditions.
The WLTP is designed to give a far more accurate picture of how a car performs on the open road. In many cases, ranges dropped by around 20% when switching from the NEDC to WLTP method.
Don’t be surprised, then, if two reviews of the same car give different ranges; one may be NEDC and one WLTP. Since April, 2020, EU advertisements for cars have begun using WLTP figures. By 2021, the WLTP is expected to replace NEDC ranges across advertising in the EU. Whether the US follows suit remains to be seen.
OK, to the cars!
2020 Tesla Model S Long Range (Overall Winner)
375-mile range (WLTP)
The Model S is a 5-passenger sportback that is sleek and roomy, with space for up to 63.3 cubic feet of cargo. It has a minimalist interior but a giant 17-inch screen with vehicle controls. This car is lightning fast, has Autopilot driver assist, and those passenger spaces are a good size to fit real adults.
Charge time is around 12 hours at 240 Volts, for the 100 kWh lithium ion battery. The EPA fuel economy equivalent is 111 mile per gallon for city and highway combined. The increased range is largely thanks to some changes in the car’s drive unit, with updated rolled out in late April, 2020. And, of course, you get access to the Tesla Supercharger network of EV chargers.
Tesla are apparently planning to release a Model S Long Range Plus with a 391 mile range soon, so if you’re willing to wait and keen to edge close to the 400 mile range mark, keep your foot on the brake a bit longer.
Finally, Tesla released the company’s first environmental impact report last year, in 2019, demonstrating that they’re beginning to take the business of being green seriously. For too long, Tesla and other EV manufacturers have coasted on the ‘clean’ image of electric vehicles, without regard for some of the other issues bedeviling car manufacturing and EV manufacturing in particular. (More on these considerations below.)
Impressively, Tesla have remediated several heavily polluted brownfield sites and turned them into vibrant factories producing EVs, solar arrays, and other technologies. Their Fremont Factory was certified as a “Zero Waste” facility in 2016 and in 2017 diverted over 93% of waste from landfills to recycling or to a waste-to-energy facility.
I’m in no way arguing that Tesla is a ‘green’ company, but they’re arguably doing more for the environment and for green infrastructure development than some countries’ governments.
2020 Kia Niro EV
282-mile range (WLTP)
If paying more than $50k for an EV is out of the question, but you want a car with a long range on a single charge, the Kia Niro is where it’s at. This 5-passenger EV might not win any awards for its looks, but it has a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 7-year standard warranty, an excellent range of safety and tech features, and boasts a range of 282 miles, and all at half the price of a Tesla Model S or Model X.
Or, looked at another way, if you’re willing to forego just 10 miles of range, you could save yourself more than $30,000 and buy the Niro instead of the Jaguar I-Pace.
The Kia Niro is zippy and agile, offers a range of trim options, and the flagship First Edition has radar cruise control and wireless phone charging as well as Lane Follow Assist.
The 64 kWh lithium ion battery charges up in 9.5 hours at 240 V, and the Niro gets 112 MPGe, with 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque. The Kia Niro’s top speed is 104 MPH.
The only downside of the Kia Niro is its popularity. In some places, the Niro sold out almost instantly, with a long wait list getting even longer.
In terms of CSR and environmental responsibility, Kia take this more seriously than most car manufacturers, having run its own environmental audit to ensure compliance with the requirements for ISO 14001 since 2004. ISO 14001 is an international standard that specifies requirements for an environmental management system (EMS), and all Kia Motors’ domestic and overseas worksites are ISO 14001-certified. This involves annual re-certification of their adherence to environmental laws and regulations and assessment of pollution prevention efforts.
Since the early 2000s, Kia have taken robust steps to minimize the environmental impact of their production processes. Their ethos that waste materials aren’t a disposal problem but a wasted resource for the company. They don’t provide much concrete data on their efforts, speaking largely in generalities, but they do note that they aim to be zero-waste at all production sites, with one already achieving that target and three others hovering at 1% waste.
2020 Tesla Model 3 Long Range
348-mile range (WLTP)
The Tesla Model 3 Long Range was the bestselling compact luxury car in America in 2019, and for good reason. It is sleek and simple, the smallest of the Tesla cars, making it a great choice for daily city driving, and the least expensive. It is also fun on the open road and, thanks to the 348 mile range, ideal for weekend getaways and longer road trips. This means that the Tesla Model 3 Long Range offers the most bang for your buck in terms of mileage, at barely $10k more than the Kia Niro that only offers 282 miles range.
The 75 kWh lithium ion battery takes around 10 hours for a full charge at 240 Volts, and the EPA fuel economy equiva;ent is 130 MPGe for city and highway combined. Top speed is 145 MPH and the Tesla Model 3 Long Range can go from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds.
There are no dials behind the steering wheel of this model, nor the portrait touchscreen familiar from other Teslas. Instead, the Model 3 has a central landscape display with sat-nav, wiper controls, and everything else controlled by touch screen. This sounds horrifying to me but, like most innovations, once you get used to it you’ll wonder why most others cars have so many buttons and switches and whistles all over the place.
The Model 3 can be fitted with the Autopilot system like the S and X models, and this EV can also access the Supercharger network of stations, although you’ll have to pay to plug in. There’s also a Performance version of the Model 3, which is zippier, accelerating from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. The Performance Model 3 only has a range of 329 miles though.
2020 Tesla Model X Long Range
315-mile range (WLTP)
The Tesla Model X Long Range goes from 0-60 MPH in less than 3 seconds, can carry 7 people, and has a range of 315 miles on a full charge. The X has a huge panoramic windscreen that makes it feel like there’s nothing between you and the open road. So, if you’ve a penchant for big skies and feeling free, the Model X Long Range may well be for you.
It takes just 10 hours to charge the 100 kWh lithium ion battery using a 240 Volt outlet, and the Model X has a fuel economy of 96 MGPe (city and highway combined). Get ready to launch away from stop lights, with the Model X reaching 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds from a standstill.
The Model X is arguably over-engineered, with this Tesla SUV using the same battery and electric motors, and the same chassis as the zippier models, but with a far larger body on top. And, of course, this one boasts the vertically opening ‘falcon-wing’ rear passenger doors (which respond to music, because… why not?). The Model X also has the central touchscreen, Autopilot system, and Supercharger network access.
The Model X is a little heavier than the other Teslas, but if 315 miles isn’t far enough, Tesla have previewed a 351 mile range for the forthcoming Model X Long Range Plus model. There’s also the Model X Performance model that gives 300 miles on a charge, can reach 155 MPH on the flat, and goes from 0-60 in 2.7 seconds.
2020 Jaguar I-Pace
292-mile range (WLTP)
If Teslas aren’t your thing, consider the Jaguar I-Pace, which raced onto the scene to win the 2019 World Car of the Year. With a range of 292 miles on a single charge, and 512 lb-fot of torque, this compact crossover is reportedly super fun to drive (Jaguar, send me a test model!) and looks fantastic on the open road and city alike. In terms of appearance, this is no typical SUV, but the I-Pace can off-road with the best of them.
And, after a day or two of playing around, the Jaguar I-Pace takes 12.9 hours for a full charge at 240 V for the 90 kWh lithium ion battery. It boasts 394 horsepower and 76 MPGe.
Jaguar’s I-Pace upped the bar for electric SUVs. And they didn’t even bother launching a hybrid EV first. The company put everything into the I-Pace and it shows. This small SUV can reach 62 MPH in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 124 MPH.
Inside the I-Pace, Jaguar haven’t totally jettisoned regular physical dials and controls like Tesla. Instead, there’s a combination of these and a touch screen, similar to that of recent Range Rovers. In some ways, this combination system seems more intuitive, with the infotainment easy to navigate and normal car controls requiring little adaptation from standard driving habits.
In terms of corporate social responsibility and environmental policies, Jaguar UK seemed to make a bit of a start toward sustainability around 2012 and released their one and only Environmental Report for 2014/15. The links to these no longer work and there’s been little in terms of comprehensive company-wide reporting since then. I’ve reached out to ask if they intend to release any further reports or data.
Jaguar have, however, shared a lot of information at their global company website. This includes information on how they use around 75% recycled aluminum in their vehicle alloys, and employ a closed loop system as much as possible. Indeed, they seem to have embraced the idea of the circular economy, with a “take, make, waste” mindset. They’ve even worked with local carpenters in India to turn wooden pallets from their Pune factory into school desks.
Jaguar have also partnered with a German chemical company, BASF, to recover plastics from domestic household waste and transform these into new plastic components, specifically the front-end carrier in the Jaguar I-Pace prototype.
2020 Hyundai Kona Electric
279-mile range (WLTP)
The gas-powered Hyundai Kona is well-loved for its value, good looks, and versatility, and the Kona EV is no different, just more eco-friendly. As a subcompact SUV, the Kona boasts a range of 279 miles on a full charge and offers the same 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque as the Kia Niro.
Indeed, the Kona and the Niro are similar in many ways, with a full charge of the 64 kWh lithium ion battery taking 9.5 hours at 240 V. Strangely, the Kona is said to have better fuel economy according to the EPA, getting 120 MPGe compared to the Niro’s 112 MPGe. It also has a similar top speed of 103.8 MPH and reaches 62 MPH in 7.8 seconds.
The Hyundai Kona Electric is available in SEL, Limited and Ultimate models, with the latter two featuring a very useful battery warmer. This helps speed up battery-charging times in cold weather. This feature also boasts a Winter Mode that “minimizes batter-power losses due to low winter temperatures.” So, if your EV is going to be sitting outside in cold weather, and you’re worried about your range dropping precipitously, the Kona is a great choice.
The 2020 Kona Electric Ultimate models have also benefited from an upgrade to the 2019 infotainment systems. These models now come with a “floating” 10.3-inch touchscreen system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) releases annual sustainability reports, with the latest (2019) report noting their plans to “make a large-scale investment by 2030 in FCEVs,” and to “take the lead in realizing a hydrogen society.” FCEVs are fuel cell electric vehicles, i.e. vehicles run on hydrogen. These vehicles emit no pollutants and Hyundai are heavily investing in them as the vehicles of the future.
In 2018, Hyundai won the Green Fleet Award for Electric Vehicle Manufacturer of the Year, and the Nexo, Hyundai’s next-generation FCEV made with eco-friendly materials and advanced technologies received the highest grade in the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP). Hyundai have also begun incorporating and refining solar technology in their vehicles, with the 2020 Sonata Hybrid already sporting a solar roof to generate its own power, adding up to 700 ‘free’ miles each year. The Sonata Hybrid is currently the only vehicle for sale in the US with a solar roof that can power the traction battery rather than just accessories.
2020 Tesla Model Y
242-mile range (WLTP)
The Tesla Model Y is like a scaled-down version of the Model X, without the falcon-wing doors, but with a panoramic glass roof. There are two bucket-type seats for the driver and front passenger (like in the Model 3), and there’s plenty of room in the rest of the deceptively spacious 7-passenger car.
If you’re looking for some flexible cargo room, the Model Y may be right for you. The three seats in the second row fold down to provide more room for transporting unwieldy items.
The Model Y goes from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 12 MPH. It takes 10 hours to charge the 75 kWh lithium ion polymer battery, and the Model Y has an EPA fuel economy of 121 MPGe and a range of 242 miles.
2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
240 miles (WLTP)
The Chevrolet Bolt EV was the first EV to achieve more than 230 miles per charge, and while NEDC ratings put the latest Bolt up at 259 miles range, the WLTP remains 240 miles. Still, this is nothing to sneeze at, and the Bolt remains quick, agile, responsive, and a great runabout for the city and decent, if a bit cramped, companion for longer road-trips.
The Chevrolet Bolt kicks out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, charges in 10 hours at 240 V, and has a 60 kWh lithium ion battery. It’ll get you 118 MPGe.
The Bolt is a fun, modern, hatchback with aluminum roof rails and a fun color range. There’s a 360-degree backup camera and a sensor for blind spot assist, and the car’s low waistline and tall roof offers fantastic visibility. If you’re always peering nervously out of tight parking spots and narrow driveways, you’re going to love the Bolt’s almost panoramic view.
The Bolt feels a little bit geeky too, with some quirks you’ll either love or hate. The interior décor is a tad asymmetrical, for instance, and the dash more speckled than chic. Oh, and there’s a strange little regenerative brake booster paddle to the left of the steering wheel. If you press this, the motor turns into an alternator and helps recharge your EV battery, and you’ll not waste deceleration energy on wearing out your brake pads. As an eco-friendly feature, it’s minor, but helpful. And if your daily commute means hours stuck in traffic with fits and starts of accelerating and braking, your Bolt may rarely need a full charge!
Chevrolet (GM) is also a fairly green company overall. Sure, they manufacture gas-guzzling machines that belch out noxious greenhouse gases, but they have a goal of running all their manufacturing facilities with 100% renewable power by 2050. In 2018, 20% of their global electricity needs were met by renewable energy.
General Motors/Chevrolet currently has 152 facilities worldwide that operate without sending any waste to landfills. GM has also been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America for 4 consecutive years. They have also committed to sourcing sustainable natural rubber for tires, to help reduce deforestation and its effects on climate change.
And, interestingly, GM is the first and currently only automaker with a female CEO, and the only member of the Fortune 20 to be led by a CEO and have a female CFO.
2020 Nissan Leaf Plus
239-mile range (WLTP)
The Nissan Leaf has been around for a decade, predating even the Tesla Model S, and Nissan have made a whole host of updates since the launch in 2010. The latest Nissan Leaf has a whopping 239 mile range compared to the initial 168 miles and the battery is now 62 kWh compared to just 40 kWh. The Leaf Plus has a sleek design, more spacious interior than the standard Leaf, and ProPilot Assist for semiautonomous driving.
The Leaf takes about 11.5 hours to charge at 240 V, offers 214 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and has an EPA MPGe of 108. This zippy little car can’t beat a Jaguar but can still make it to 62 MPH in just 7.2 seconds. There’s also a one-pedal driving option for experienced EV drivers, where the e-pedal set-up uses strong regenerative braking that feels more intuitive than in many other EVs.
The Flagship e+ Tekna has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which you can access via an 8-inch touchscreen. There’s also a TomTom powered nav system. And, my personal favorite setting, naturally, is the ECO mode, where all the bells and whistles are dialed back and you can squeeze every drop of juice out of the battery.
As one of the most affordable EVs around, the Nissan Leaf is great value for money. It was the first EV to sell more than 400,000 worldwide, but it’s still under the magic number of 200,000 unit sales in the US, meaning you can still qualify for tax rebates and incentives under the current program.
As for corporate responsibility, Nissan reveal a wealth of data at their website, including volumes of wastewater and waste materials produced through manufacturing in Japan, the US, Europe and elsewhere. They are clearly taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, largely because this makes economic sense thanks to cost efficiencies in recycling and reusing scrap materials and accessing government incentives.
Having begun conducting full life cycle assessments for all their vehicles, Nissan claim that the Leaf results in approximately 32% lower CO2 emissions during its lifecycle. They have also been committed to avoiding the use of conflict minerals since 2013.
Models to watch for 2021
If I may, I’m going to permit myself an honorable mention for the car I wish I could have held out for (and, frankly, afforded) in 2019 when in the market for an AWD SUV. The Volvo XC40 is expected to launch in North America in late 2020, which is just a bit too late for my needs, sadly. I definitely have my eye on one of these for when my current vehicle conks out though.
The XC40 gets just 200 miles per charge right now, but it’s a delight, especially if you’re looking for a compact SUV with some clout. As much as I love my third-hand Subaru Forester, I’d sure love to take the XC40 Recharge for a spin up some of the backroads here in the Pacific Northwest.
The XC40 has two electric motors, providing some serious hustle. Together, they offer 402 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque. You can zip up to 62 MPH in just 4.9 seconds, and feel firmly in control, thanks to AWD and Volvo’s solid safety record.
Other touches I love include the floor mats made from recycled materials, and the over-the-air updates keep the infotainment and other systems up to date (rivalling Tesla’s updates!). And Volvo offer a refund on electricity for a year! You’ll also have to introduce the word ‘frunk’ to your vocabulary, with the XC40 boasting a front trunk for extra cargo space.
Volvo have committed to unveiling a fully electric vehicle every year through 2025, but the XC40 is their first offering and an impressive one at that. Every Volvo model in the XC range has a Recharge option, i.e. a plug-in variant, from the smaller XC40 SUV to the huge XC90 SUV and the XC60 series. Volvo are the only car maker with a plug-in version of their range.
If you’ve had your eye on the Mercedes-Benz EQC since it launched in Europe last year, you’ll no doubt be disappointed at the announcement that the company has pushed back the US and Canada debut to 2021. This luxury SUV EV takes all the classic style elements of a Mercedes, as well as the reliability, and creates a refined, comfortable driving experience that will no doubt lure in some EV sceptics.
With a range of 259 miles per charge, and a price tag of $68,895, the EQC is one to watch out for, with Mercedes-Benz citing massive ongoing demand in Europe as the reason for the delay on bringing this beauty to the North American market.
Sono Motors is a Munich-based company aiming to build an urban hatchback covered in solar cells. So far, solar roofs are the only real offerings in the solar powered car field, but the Sono Sion will have solar cells on all the car’s panels, totaling 248, meaning that at least one of the panels should be generating solar power whenever the sun is up.
The Sion could produce enough solar power to cover an average of 10 miles driving each day, or more in sunny spots. But development is still in early stages, with prototypes expected to be released in fall 2020 in Europe, the first vehicles slated for production by the end of 2021 and official production and delivery of the first Sona Sions in early 2022.
Other things to consider – is an EV actually more eco-friendly?
An electric car is always more eco-friendly than one with a gas combustion engine, right? Not necessarily. The overall carbon footprint of an EV is actually quite similar to that of a conventional car with a combustion engine, according to a 2011 study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) in Heidelberg. This is regardless of size. And, rather alarmingly, the complex batteries in EVs mean it takes more energy to produce an EV than it does a gas motor car.
Then, of course, depending on where you live and how you charge your EV, you may simply be switching on-road emissions to off-road (at the power plant) emissions.
So, how can you make your EV genuinely greener? Well, you could consider looking for a used EV that meets your needs, rather than buying new. You can also think about how to charge your EV. Maybe there’s a greener utility company you can switch to at home, and an EV charger you can install to make charging a breeze and eco-friendly. Or, consider rigging up a solar array, wind turbine, or microhydro system to power your EV and your home!
One other way to keep your impact low is to choose an EV with a battery only as big as you’ll actually need. So, despite the focus of this article, range isn’t everything when it comes to an EV. If you’re a city driver with no plans to go on longer road trips, consider a cheaper model with a smaller battery, such as the Nissan Leaf or the Chevrolet Bolt.
A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics concluded that each kWh of battery capacity accounts for 125 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. So, the Tesla Model S Long Range’s 100 kWh lithium ion battery requires 12,500 kg or nearly 14 tons of CO2, while a Chevrolet Bolt and its 60 kWh battery uses up just under 7 tons CO2 and still provides 240 miles of range.
Another study, this time by the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute found that EV batteries involved some 150 to 200 kg of CO2 per kilogram. This would mean nearly 28 tons of CO2 for the Tesla Model S Long Range and over 13 tons for the Chevrolet Bolt.
Batteries also require rare earth minerals such as neodymium, as well as copper and cobalt. These minerals are typically mined in China and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with human rights violations and major ecological and environmental impacts often associated with such mining operations.
So, again, if your current car is a real clunker and you absolutely need to upgrade, consider an EV. Go for the smallest battery that will meet your needs and check out used EVs before considering a new vehicle. Oh, and install a solar array ASAP!