I want to get an electric SUV that I will use primarily for distance driving. I’m interested in the Toyota RAV4 Prime and also EVs such as the new Nissan Ariya.
I read recently that plug-in hybrids may not be the best choice for me since I’d use up the electric capacity fairly quickly on the highways and spend most of the time using the gas engine. So why pay extra for two power sources? Does this mean that I should focus my search on fully electric vehicles? – David
Richardson: At last! Somebody who just comes out and states that he wants to buy an electric vehicle without us having to suggest it, or wonder if he has a place to charge it.
Gentile: Or worse, when we don’t suggest an EV and all the Tesla devotees write comments below to criticize our ignorance.
Richardson: Well, off the top, David, don’t be in a hurry for a Toyota RAV4 Prime unless you live in Quebec. That’s where the biggest provincial EV subsidies are now, and that’s where all the Primes are going. Toyota is still catching up with production after COVID-19 precautions forced its Ontario assembly plants to shut down last year.
Gentile: And don’t ask us about vehicles like the Nissan Ariya. It’s not even in production yet. We can’t give recommendations for vehicles we haven’t driven.
Richardson: That also rules out the Tesla Model X SUV, for me anyway, which I’ve not driven. Tesla people love it, but it’s at least twice the price of a RAV4 Prime.
Gentile: I’ve driven the Model X and I admit, I’m a fan. Instant acceleration, funky falcon wing doors, a long electric range, cool technology, and ample space inside. But, you’re right, it ain’t cheap.
Richardson: The Model X does look to be really cool, but it starts at $125,000 and it’s probably too big for David anyway. The Model Y is smaller and less costly at $70,000, but I think that’s still too rich for what he’s looking for. So, Tesla, thanks but no thanks.
Gentile: Agree. Luckily, there are more new electric contenders, from Volvo and Volkswagen, and new players, like Polestar, taking on Tesla to take a slice of the electric pie.
Richardson: David says he wants his car for primarily “distance driving,” whatever that means, so we can agree now that his all-electric choices should travel 400-500 kilometres before needing a recharge. Cold winter temperatures will drop that distance considerably, though.
Gentile: Not just the cold weather, but turning on the windshield wiper blades or the heating and air conditioning system will also deplete the battery. But I agree – the longer the range, the better for David.
Richardson: He’s not really asking us to recommend a model, though. He wants to know if he’s better off with an all-electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) for driving longer distances. I guess it depends on his priorities.
Gentile: And he should know many of these PHEVs only travel a short range on electric power alone, typically 20 to 60 km maximum, before the gas engine kicks in. Sure, it’ll ease range anxiety, but honestly I find sometimes it’s pointless to plug in for such a short distance of electric travel.
Richardson: It makes sense when most of your driving is around town and you probably travel less than those 60 km in a day. I just drove a Toyota Prius Prime PHEV for a week, and it cost me $11 in gas to travel 400 km. For longer all-electric driving, you need the much bigger battery of an extended-range EV, but that’s a waste of costly materials if it’s not regularly used.
Gentile: And a waste of money because they cost big bucks.
Richardson: However, if David is going to routinely use most of the range of a large battery, and he’s got a way to charge the car conveniently, then I’m sure that’s his best choice. It really comes down to whether he can fast-charge easily, so he’s not hanging around for hours at a commercial charging station.
Gentile: So what are you thinking for David? Any favourites you have in mind?
Richardson: The Chevrolet Bolt and the slightly larger Nissan Leaf are two obvious and affordable choices. Both have extended-range batteries as an option, and both have been around for a while, to work out the bugs.
Gentile: And the Chevy Bolt gets redone for 2022. It will come out this summer in two versions: an all-electric hatchback and also a larger EUV, or electric utility vehicle, which looks very cool. With that, David could probably also get a good deal on the outgoing Bolt; it has a range of up to 417 kilometres and costs just under $45,000. That means it qualifies for $5,000 in federal EV rebates in addition to provincial EV rebates in Quebec and B.C.
Richardson: That “EUV” designation is just a marketing gimmick. It’s a regular Chevy Bolt in every way, except it’s 10 cm longer for a bit of extra leg space and cargo room.
Gentile: Marketing gimmick or not, I’d go with the extra space in the EUV. Ten centimetres longer translates into more legroom for passengers.
Richardson: Works for me. A bit more space will make it more comfortable for those longer distances. And while he’s at it, he should take a look at the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro EVs. They both go the distance and he might prefer their style.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at firstname.lastname@example.org and use ‘What car’ as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.