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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

Cheapest Electric Vehicles in 2020

When mainstream electric vehicles first appeared about 10 years ago, most early adopters were drivers with short commutes. Advances in battery technology and development have expanded the appeal of electric vehicles and gradually more drivers can see themselves using an EV for errands around town, but also longer trips. EVs are available ranging from a base model vehicle to a luxury vehicle and come with price tags to match. We’ve compiled a list of the most affordable EVs on the market and also provided answers to the following questions:

Is an EV the same as a hybrid vehicle?

Electric vehicles differ from a hybrid vehicle because they operate solely on electricity stored in a battery pack. Plug-in hybrid vehicles on the other hand use both an electric motor/battery pack as well as a standard gasoline engine. Electric vehicles can cover distances up to 370 miles of range on a single charge, whereas a hybrid car may only get 20-30 miles before the gas engine takes over. Full EVs require more thought and route planning to account for charging stations, but most onboard navigation systems can help locate designated stations and alleviate some of the “range anxiety”.

Are there incentives for owning an EV?

In the United States, owning an electric car is an easy way to benefit from a federal tax credit. Many electric vehicles (and plug-in hybrids) are qualified for up to $7,500 in tax credit. What this means is that at the end of the year, if your tax bill is $7,500 or less, you will be credited that amount. Likewise, if you only owe $5,000 in taxes, only that amount will be credited to you and the remaining balance will not be offered in the form of a refund or be applied to the following year’s taxes. Needless to say, there are rules and regulations provided by the IRS as to what vehicles are eligible for the tax credit.

In addition to the federal tax credit, many states and regions have incentive programs to take advantage of. For instance, drivers in California who buy or lease a new electric vehicle can receive a $2,000 cash rebate. Accounting for the federal tax incentive, that’s almost $10,000 off the purchase price. Be sure to research federal, state, and local incentives as programs are not promised indefinitely.

NOTE: The government is currently phasing out the electric vehicle tax credits as EV sales increase (i.e. Tesla no longer benefits from federal tax credits)

What are the cheapest electric cars?

Most EVs on the road today are designed to look like conventional cars and offer better performance than gas-powered vehicles. While some EVs available still have limited range, most of them have been discontinued. That said, we have created a list of the top 10 most affordable and best-selling electric cars, ordered from cheapest to most expensive. Taking into account the $7,500 federal tax credit, most EVs included can be purchased for under $50,000.

  • 2020 Mini Cooper SE - $29,900

  • 2020 Nissan Leaf - $31,600

  • 2020 Hyundai Ioniq Electric - $33,045

  • 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV - $36,500

  • 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric - $37,190

  • 2020 Tesla Model 3 - $37,990

  • 2020 Kia Niro EV - $39,090

  • 2020 BMW i3 - $44,450

  • 2020 Jaguar I-Pace - $69,850

  • 2020 Audi e-tron - $77,400

Among the list of vehicles we have provided, we can further group them by additional attributes. The Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Chevy Bolt EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Kia Niro are what we consider standard electric vehicles. Conversely, the Mini Cooper SE, Tesla Model 3, BMW i3, Jaguar I-Pace, and Audi e-tron are considered luxury electric vehicles.

Except for the Mini electric vehicle, the luxury automaker models have more expensive pricing. The experience of both groups of EVs are also likely to differ based on the body type (e.g. hatchback, sedan, SUV) styling, infotainment options (e.g. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto), horsepower/powertrain, mileage range, and fast charging capabilities. For instance, the 2020 Jaguar I-Pace can cover about 230 miles on a single charge, whereas the base model Nissan Leaf has a range of around 150 miles.

We also put together a list of EVs to keep an eye out for. They either have or are expected to debut by the end of 2020.

  • 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

  • 2021 Mazda MX-30

  • 2021 Nissan Ariya

  • 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

  • 2021 Polestar 2

Generally speaking, EVs are cheaper to own over time due to better efficiency, reasonable prices for electricity, and minimal maintenance. To top it off, electric vehicles are easier on the environment due to lower emissions and raw materials. Before purchasing a new EV, be sure to consider all your needs and car buying factors, as well as consulting a tax professional to find out if you are eligible to take advantage of the federal tax credit on electric vehicles.

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