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Best Electric Cars: Top-Rated EVs for 2021

The Most Anticipated EVs for 2021

A hot topic of conversation these days is when we’ll reach the “tipping point” for electric vehicles. Based on total U.S. market share as of early 2021, it looks like we might be waiting for a while. Even with the runaway sales success of the Tesla Model 3, EVs currently account for roughly 2 percent of new car sales across the country.

Nonetheless, we know change is coming, and as 2021 unfolds, that momentum could start building in a big way. So what are the new electric vehicles to watch in 2021? We put our heads together and came up with the following all-star roster.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Ford Mustang Mach-E

It feels like we’ve been writing about the Mach-E forever, but the reality is that it only became available at the end of 2020, when it incidentally won our 2021 Top Rated Luxury EV award. Ford’s new entrant tops our list for 2021 because it’s the first shot over Tesla’s bow that’s relatively affordable; previous Tesla rivals took aim at the executive-grade Model S, not the volume-selling Model 3.

Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Chevrolet Bolt EUV - Coming soon

Chevy’s been talking a good game about all the EVs in its pipeline, but things are about to get real with the Bolt EUV. Whereas the original Bolt EV was held back by its oddball hatchback styling, the Bolt EUV looks to capitalize on the crossover SUV craze with more rugged looks, an elevated driving position and expanded interior space. We don’t have any photos yet, but we do have it on good authority that the Bolt EUV will debut this year.

Volkswagen ID.4

Volkswagen ID.4

A small SUV built from the ground up as an EV, the ID.4 should move Volkswagen well beyond the niche appeal of the e-Golf. Initially, the ID.4 will come with rear-wheel drive and 201 horsepower at a base price around $40,000, while a 302-hp AWD version debuts later in the year.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

Hyundai Ioniq 5

Like the Bolt EUV and the ID.4 — and the Mustang Mach-E, for that matter — the Ioniq 5 aims to take the EV mainstream by hopping on the SUV bandwagon. Utilizing Hyundai’s new Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, the Ioniq 5 should offer generous range, quick acceleration and a capacious interior to go with its eye-catching style.

Rivian R1T

Rivian R1T

Forget about SUVs for a minute; what about electric trucks? Enter the Rivian R1T, which takes pole position in the race to be the first purpose-built electric truck on the market. Occupying an in-between size class that might be called “midsize plus,” the R1T is in a class of its own when it comes to pickup-truck performance, thanks to a four-motor setup producing up to 754 horsepower. There’s also an adjustable air suspension and a projected range between 250 and 400 miles, depending on configuration.

*range tested at maximum battery charge to align with EPA estimates. Manufacturer recommends a lower battery charge level for daily use to preserve battery life.

Right now, Tesla is winning the range game. Depending on how they’re equipped, Tesla models can cart around a stunning amount of electricity. With new battery technology on the horizon, though, and more automakers joining the EV fray, Tesla may not be able to hold onto the crown forever. The models listed below are the specific versions with the best electric range.

Tesla Model S Long Range Plus — 402 miles

Equipped with a massive battery pack and lacking the extra weight of the Model X, the Tesla Model S Long Range boasts the best range of any electric car currently on the market.

Tesla Model X Long Range Plus — 371 miles

The Model X is a heavy vehicle, so even though it uses the same enormous 100-kWh battery pack as the Model S, it can’t go quite as far. Still, all that battery means the Model X easily outpaces its nearest non-Tesla competitor.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD — 353 miles

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range is lighter and more efficient than its siblings, which means this Tesla can go a longer distance per charge.

Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD — 326 miles

The Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD trails the Model 3 version due to its increased dimensions, but 326 miles is still mighty impressive.

Ford Mustang Mach-E — 305 miles

While not quite on Tesla’s level in the EPA’s eyes, the most frugal Mustang Mach-E isn’t far behind, and our real-world testing suggests the actual gap may be even narrower.

Electric Cars vs. Gas Cars

Gas-powered cars are comforting in their familiarity. With gas stations easily accessible across the country, they provide unparalleled freedom and, in some cases, a dramatic exhaust note to boot. Sadly, they also produce a lot of air pollution. EVs are an environmentally friendlier alternative and a great match for many drivers’ day-to-day needs.

Electric cars drive differently but not necessarily in a bad way. They provide instant torque, making them feel zippy around town. And with regenerative braking, drivers can practice “one-pedal driving,” in which simply lifting off the throttle pedal results in significant deceleration. Electric-car ownership means adopting new habits as a driver and owner. Luckily, one of those habits is never having to visit a gas station. If you can install a charging station at home or have access to one where you work, there’s a strong chance an electric vehicle would make a good commuter for you.

Electric Cars vs. Hybrids

Hybrids use an electric motor to assist a gasoline engine, improving fuel efficiency while maintaining the freedom of a gas-powered car. They’re more mechanically complex, but owning (and driving) a hybrid really isn’t much different from owning a traditional gas-powered car, which is definitely part of the appeal.

Plug-in hybrids can be charged up like an all-electric car and driven for a short distance on full electric power before switching over to normal hybrid operation. Most plug-in hybrids won’t go more than 20 miles or so on electricity, though. (The outgoing Chevrolet Volt is a shining exception with its electric range of 50-plus miles.) An electric car with a range extender, such as the BMW i3, is different from a hybrid in that its gas engine is only used to generate electricity and can’t drive the wheels.

Electric Vehicle Benefits

If you can access a charging station at your home or office, you can likely rely on an electric car to replace your gas car for everything but road trips. All you have to do is plug it in at either location, and it’ll charge up while you’re doing other things. Electricity is also cheaper than gas, meaning you’ll save money on energy over the life of the car. For more details, check out our “The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car.

Cars that are all-electric also have fewer moving parts that can break. Most maintenance will likely involve wear on items such as tires, brakes and windshield wipers. You’ll never have to pay for a belt job with an electric car. And there are big tax incentives available, which can help cushion the upfront cost of an electric car. If you lease, you’ll see those incentives taken out of your payments right away, saving you some paperwork.

Choosing the Right Electric Car for You

For many households, an electric car makes a lot of sense as a second vehicle. Electric cars provide a clean commuting alternative, requiring less maintenance and zero trips to the gas station. The trick will be to figure out where and when you can charge and how many miles you need to be able to drive between charges.

Make sure to check out our “9 Steps to Easier Plug-In Car Shopping” to help you take the first steps on your electric-car journey. You may be surprised to find out that an electric car could fit your lifestyle.

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