Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that electric vehicles represent the future of passenger transportation, and whether or not manufacturers are fond of this reality, government mandates in the lion’s share of countries on the planet are forcing carmakers to transition to an entirely proton-powered lineup within the next decade or so. As a direct result, quite a few major OEMs have attempted to get out in front of the challenge and establish an early foothold in this emerging market. This has lead to a growing number of all-electric offerings across practically every automotive segment, from cargo vans and delivery vehicles to super and hypercars to trucks and SUVs.
Though the idea may have sounded ridiculous only a decade or two ago, the birth of the electric SUV class has been met with an incredibly warm public reception, prompting an ever-increasing number of companies to get in on the action. Despite only five years passing since Tesla released the world’s first fully-electric SUV in 2016 with the Model X, the battery-powered sport utility vehicle market has quickly been inundated with a slew of impressive, long-range, high-performance offerings. With more models to choose from than ever before, the task of sorting through all the available options to hone in on the handful of SU-EVs that are truly worthy of your consideration can be a daunting one. So, with this in mind, we’ve pored over every available model currently on the market to bring you this guide to the best electric SUVs.
The Factors To Consider When Shopping For An Electric SUV
While there are many commonalities between buying an electric or regular modern SUV, there are in fact a handful of areas that are unique to the electron and proton-powered realm. So. if you’re unfamiliar with the world of battery-powered vehicles, we’ve pieced together this condensed guide on the seven most important areas to take into account before purchasing a fully electric SUV.
Range: Because electric cars need to be recharged and can’t be refilled in a matter of minutes like a gas-powered car, the distance they can travel before needing their batteries replenished is extremely important. As such, you’ll not only want to look at a model’s maximum range, but also the estimated range for the particular type of driving that you do most frequently, whether that be city, highway, or a combination of the two. At the moment, most electric SUVs afford 200-300-miles of autonomy on a single charge, but those numbers are always increasing as EV powertrain technology evolves.
Battery: Ultimately, an electric vehicle’s range is determined by the battery that the motor is drawing from (as well as the motor itself), though there are other important factors to consider here, too. This includes how long a battery takes to charge and what type of charging system or station the battery requires, as well as how many charging cycles can be expected before the battery’s life starts to noticeably degrade.
Motor: Just like the engine in a car, an EV’s motor is what propels the vehicle and determines its speed and acceleration — though these latter two areas are also impacted by other areas, albeit to a lesser extent, such as an EV’s curb weight and drag-coefficient. As such, it’s crucial to look into the motor setup of any electric vehicle that you’re considering. This means exploring how many motors there are, how those motors are delivering power (i.e. drive setup), and what type of motors they are — with the two most common being alternating current induction motors and permanent-magnet direct current motors.
Power: In addition to being markedly more environmentally friendly and requiring substantially less maintenance, electric vehicles — SUVs included — offer the benefit of possessing unparalleled amounts of torque, which, unlike traditional petrol-powered cars with a powerband, is unleashed instantaneously. For this reason, it’s well worth digging into an electric SUV’s torque output as well as its horsepower output, though the latter is admittedly less important here.
Technology: Very seldom is an electric SUV’s state-of-the-art powertrain the only cutting-edge piece of technology that it possesses, as the vast majority of SU-EVs boast some pretty impressive high-tech features such as lane-keep assist and auto lane-change, full auto-pilot, self-parking, and auto vehicle summoning, just to name a few. Some models can also auto-program GPS routes based on a destination that takes the vehicle’s range and necessary charging stops into account automatically.
Amenities: Just like when shopping for any other type of automobile, when buying an electric SUV you’ll want to consider the design of the cabin, its upholstery, infotainment systems, seat heating (and/or cooling), and other noteworthy features that add value or convenience to the ownership or driving experience. Tesla in particular has really run wild in this area, bestowing some of its cars with massive displays that can be used to play games or double as a crackling digital fireplace. Tesla also offers its customers access to one of its more than 25,000 Superchargers scattered across the globe along popular routes.
Manufacturer Support: When you shell out a larger amount of money on a more premium SU-EV, you’re not just paying for a nicer luxury SUV, but also for a more premium ownership experience, that includes perks such as free loaner vehicles (or Uber credits) and mobile technicians that will come to you. It’s also worth noting that some electric vehicle manufacturers require their cars to be serviced exclusively through dealerships and don’t allow customers to go to third-party shops.
Chevrolet Bolt EUV
The Chevy Bolt EUV is a mid-sized crossover SUV with a price that’s light on your wallet and a cabin that’s heavy on tech. Available with Chevy’s optional Super Cruise driver assistance feature, this model supports Apple CarPlay, boasts optional heated and ventilated seats, and is compatible with both Level 1 and Level 2 Charging. Not unlike a Tesla, the Bolt can be piloted via engine braking-style One Pedal Driving. And, while it admittedly may take a full 7-seconds for this model to go from 0-60mph, the Bolt EUV is surprisingly fast off of the line — even more so when its responsiveness and acceleration-boosting Sport Mode is activated.
Power: 200HP & 266FT-LBS
Hyundai Kona Electric SEL
Winner of a prestigious North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award, Hyundai’s Kona Electric is loaded with features and amenities that were previously reserved for high-dollar European models. This includes blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic collision warning, lane-keep assist, forward collision avoidance assist, daytime LED running lights, a 7” LCD gauge cluster, and a 7” color touchscreen as standard with connectivity to a dedicated smartphone app and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. On the performance end, the electric Kona also gets multiple power modes and a shift-by-wire system. This model is also offered in a more premium $42,000 Limited-spec, as well as a $45,600 Ultimate variant that boasts a heads-up display, smart cruise control, a 10.25” touchscreen, and ventilated seats.
Power: 201HP & 291FT-LBS
Kia Niro EV EX
Another affordable electric SUV that doesn’t skimp on tech or amenities, Kia’s Niro EV features smart cruise control with a stop-and-go function, forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, blind-spot collision warning, a cabin with a rotary shift knob with LED indicators, optional ambient lighting, an available 10.25” customizable touchscreen display, plus a driver’s seat with lumbar control as standard. Backed by a ten year, 100,000-mile best-in-class warranty, this model’s approximately $39,000 MSRP also gets you what J.D. Power has bestowed with the “Best Ownership Experience Among Mass Market Battery EVs,” though for an additional $5,500 over the base price, Kia also produces an EX Premium-spec that comes equipped with an eight-speaker (and single sub) Harman Kardon surround sound system, wireless phone charging, ventilated seats, SiriusXM and HD radio, and synthetic leather seats.
Power: 201HP & 291FT-LBS
Volkswagen’s brand new ID.4 is a bonafide electric luxury SUV with features and performance of models costing tens of thousands of dollars more. Distinguishing it from entry-level EVs is an expansive panoramic fixed glass roof, VW’s cutting-edge IQ.DRIVE driver assistance technology suite, all LED and projector lighting, VW’s Plus Nav EV enhanced map and GPS setup, and voice-activated and controlled Plus Speech EV. Inside, the ID.4’s sleek and futuristic interior gets an intuitive dash light bar and haptic feedback, 12” touchscreen, and wireless phone charging, among other highlights. Powered by an all-wheel-drive setup, the ID.4 is also started by the driver getting in the seat with the key fob in their pocket.
Power: 201HP & 229FT-LBS
Ford Mustang Mach-E
A modern-day high-performance electric crossover that takes unmistakable inspiration from Ford’s iconic 1960s muscle car, the new Mustang Mach-E offers a unique blend of practicality and exhilaration, with a roomy design that boasts ample cargo space while maintaining a low, handling-bolstering center-of-gravity. And while you really can’t go wrong with any of the four main model versions, the $64.9K GT Edition variant is unequivocally the most impressive of the lot. with lightning-fast acceleration thanks to a whopping 600ft-lbs of torque, which translates to a 3.8-second 0-60mph time — making it one of the fifteen fastest SUV models currently in production.
Power: 266HP & 428FT-LBS
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo’s XC40 Recharge is a sleek electric SUV that’s been engineered to lend itself to urban commuting duties, with a short wheelbase, nimble handling, and ultra-fast acceleration off the line. Power is delivered to an all-wheel-drive setup via a 300kW twin-electric motor configuration, and despite being intended primarily for city use, the XC40 Recharge’s more than 200-mile range, coupled with the fact its battery can receive an 80% recharge in just 40-minutes, allows the model to take on touring and other long-distance trips. Another main highlight of this Swedish-made SUV is its swanky and luxurious Scandinavian-designed interior.
Power: 402HP & 486FT-LBS
Tesla Model Y Performance
First unveiled in March of 2019, the Tesla Model Y is a luxury electric SUV that makes for a stellar daily driver, while simultaneously boosting the performance prowess of a six-figure supercar. The dual-motor all-wheel-drive vehicle puts down over 450hp and more than 470ft-lbs of torque, which enables the 4,416lb Model Y Performance-spec to clock 0-60mph runs in 3.5-seconds flat. Protected by a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, the Model Y also offers 68 cubic feet of cargo space, a 15” touchscreen display, and spacious seating for five. Tesla also produces a Long Range AWD version of the Model Y that gains an additional 23-miles of autonomy and seating for up to seven, though has markedly slower acceleration (with a 4.8-second 0-60mph time) and a lower top speed of 135mph.
Power: 456HP & 471FT-LBS
Audi e-tron Sportback
Audi’s all-new e-tron Sportback was born out of an effort to combine the elegance and class of the German brand’s four-door coupes with the space and functionality of an SUV. The result is a proton-powered high-performance crossover that comes loaded with the typical array of track-derived components found on Audi’s luxury vehicles such as adaptive air suspension, Audi’s drive mode selector, electric Quattro all-wheel drive. The Sportback-spec e-tron does top at just under 125mph, though what it lacks in top speed it makes up for in acceleration, with the crossover’s twin electric motor setup rocketing the 5,754lb machine from 0 to 60mph in 5.5-seconds — the same figure as a ’90s era Acura NSX and Aston Martin DB7.
Power: 402HP & 490FT-LBS
By borrowing a host of technology from Jaguar’s I-TYPE Formula E racer, the Coventry carmaker has managed to deliver a bonafide luxury SUV model with hair-raising performance. Paired with a 90kWh battery and an 11kw onboard charger, the I-PACE’s dual permanent magnet synchronous motors put down a whopping 394hp and 512lb-ft of torque. This model also sports a 0.29 Cd drag coefficient, active air suspension, and adaptive dynamics that adjust to real-time monitoring of road conditions 500 times every second. Configurable Dynamics also allows the driver to customize the settings for throttle response, damper stiffness, and steering weight.
Power: 394HP & 512FT-LBS
Tesla Model X Plaid
Arguably the finest electric SUV that money can currently buy, Tesla’s Model X Plaid is a benchmark-setting model with performance figures and specs that can even put some modern hypercars to shame. This means a Tri-Motor setup generating more than 1,000hp, which allows for a 5,000lb towing capacity, 2.5-second 0-60mph times, 9.9-second quarter-mile runs, and a 163mph top speed. This leading model’s roughly $120K MSRP also gets you falcon-wing doors, and a wildly advanced, AI-enabled technology suite including vehicle summoning, auto parking, and an incredibly sophisticated autopilot system. Optimized aerodynamics have also enabled Tesla’s engineers to achieve an ultra-slippery, best-in-class 0.24 Cd drag coefficient.
Power: 1,020HP & 1,050FT-LBS
The 8 Best Affordable Used Electric Cars
Interested in going electric but don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at a brand new ride at the moment? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best affordable used electric cars for more than half-a-dozen stellar proton-powered picks from as low as $5,400.
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