Truth be told, I own an all-electric car. No, it’s not my primary source of transportation…and it’s pretty entry level…but it has helped me form some personal opinion on our electric future.
First and foremost, I believe that electric cars are going end up as definitive model alternatives in a manufacturer’s fleet. Car makers will have conventional coupes, sedans, convertibles, sport utilities, crossovers, pickups, hybrids and… electrics. The industry is pretty much evolving that way now. I don’t think the gasoline engine is going away, so sorry…the electric will evolve into an acquired taste for special applications. Like scooting around the shoreline, which is what I do with mine.
Electric cars come to market with two compelling parameters…operating range and price. Technically, it’s really a very simple premise. Put in a bigger battery and you’ll go further, put in a bigger motor and you’ll go faster. At a price.
The good news is that the electric market is now beginning to mature with viable alternatives between my modest, glorified golf cart and a six-fiqure Tesla.
One is the Mini Cooper SE Electric, which is built off the reinvented Mini 2-door Hardtop. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the SE’s charge seems to be…let’s have fun! They call it “An electric race car that has go-cart handling,” with sub-7 second 0 to 60 mph times. I’m surprised that description got by the lawyers…
Anyway, combined with the Mini’s now traditional design playfulness, the Electric gets amped up as quite an energetic ride. The company claims an estimated range of 110 miles at full charge, but 95 is about the most I saw…which left me with a bit of range anxiety, at times. The powertrain is actually from the BMW i3, because the German automaker owns the British brand.
Mini further promotes its Electric as an alternative with simplified upkeep, for those who not only want to avoid gas stations, but oil changes, too. Along with an 8-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty. In-use, Mini’s have been known to be a bit demanding when it comes to maintenance.
As you’d expect, the Mini Electric is fully-featured, and available in three trim ranges. The entry-level Signature Edition at $29,900, which does include such niceties as Navigation and Heated Front Seats. The Signature Plus adds a Panoramic Moonroof, Harman-Kardon Sound System and more for $33,900. Finally, how about the $36,900 Iconic edition with Park Assist, a Heads-Up Display and the like?
All in all, the Mini is very well positioned price-wise and the company has obviously been quite aggressive when it comes to cost to try and get them out on the road…to the advantage of the buyer. Be aware that there is one quirk with the car. Like many an electric, it has regenerative braking to help it charge on deceleration. But…it’s so aggressive in its standard operating mode (though it can be switched lower) that it’ll put the car behind you in your trunk when you take your foot off the accelerator. Not good…
Then there’s Chevy’s answer to the electric car conundrum. Tall, and almost crossover-like in stature, the Bolt’s claim to fame is it’s 259-mile range on full charge. That proved to be quite accommodating out in the real world, and opened up a whole host of day-to-day options for me when compared to the Mini. Most significantly, I didn’t have to plug it back in and recharge as soon as I got home from an errand. I could take it out again.
Combined with its practical and spacious, upright dimensions the Chevy has been described as the electric for the weekday commute to the weekend escape. The Bolt LT starts at $36,620, while the Premier is $41,020. It, too, also offers an 8-year, 100,000-mile battery Warranty.
Obviously, the Chevy is the more practical choice. Though it still is fun to drive, it’s no Mini. Being a Chevrolet, it’s obviously more attuned to the mass market than the Mini and with four doors, it’s more family friendly. It’s also achieved NHTSA’s 5-Star Overall Vehicle Safety Score.
As you’d expect, the Bolt offers all the latest connectivity opportunities, and like any electric, is quite engaging to drive. With range indication, regen performance, charge settings, etc. The Chevy’s more my style.
Finally, when it comes to an electric car, do check with federal, state and local authorities for the latest energy subsidies and credits. And the dealer, too, for current incentives. Because they’re in charge…
A resident of East Haddam, Steven Rossi is an automotive engineer turned marketing communicator. With some 25 years in the industry, including three tours of duty in Detroit, he serves as Senior Columnist for Antique Automobile magazine, and his work has also appeared in Collectible Automobile and The New York Times. He holds 21 International Speed and World Automotive Endurance Records.