When I built our eco-friendly, energy-efficient home in Denver, it was with the intention of adding solar and buying an electric car. At the time there were only a few fully electric vehicles on the market. The Tesla X was a dream both in features and in price (about $120K at the time). We settled on a used Fiat 500e brought in from California. It is so cute, peppy, and fun to drive. With snow tires, it functions well in Denver all year. I love my electric Fiat!
Then, I met the limit of this sassy, easy maintenance ride when I decided to go for a winter hike in the foothills, after a school drop off. With the heat on and a steady uphill climb the driving range rapidly declined. I turned the heat off a couple of times to conserve energy but the windows fogged so that strategy didn’t last long. I arrived at the parking lot with 16 miles of range… and 23 miles back to my house. As a now experienced electric car driver, I knew I’d gain miles back down the hill so I wasn’t (too) worried.
After a fantastic sunny hike through the white frosted trees with my hiking buddy Olive, I successfully drove the 23 miles home. I pulled into the garage with 22 miles range remaining. Electric car math: 16-23=22. However, my little Fiat was not happy about this number and put this in in the yellow zone. This is when I realized it was time to explore cars with a longer driving range.
I set up test drives for vehicles with all-wheel drive (AWD), at least 200-mile driving ranges, and space for our 60lb labrador mix in the way back (she needs to be contained or she nervously moves her way to the passenger seat and tries to pass for a lap dog). Cars that meet these criteria cost about $60K (give or take around $5K). If you have more to spend (go you!), there are more expensive brands (hello porsche and jaguar).
These are the 6 models I looked at, in the order I looked at them.
volvo xc40 recharge
* chinese company, made in belgium
* suv / sav style
* additional “frunk” space
* smooth and quiet drive
* “hey google” to adjust car settings or use navigation
* car can no longer be ordered, you wait for whatever the dealer gets or get on a list to buy a canceled order
* german car, made in germany
* no “frunk”
* back seats are tall (too tall)
* not as quiet or smooth as volvo or audi
* 3 years of unlimited charging
* order online and wait months for a car to arrive
hyundai ioniq 5
* south korean company, made in south korea and indonesia
* no model to test drive (we sat in one that was ordered and being picked up the next day)
* coupe style
* minimalist interior, similar to tesla
* additional “frunk” space
* purse/bag space in middle console
* driver’s seat goes up but does not tip forward
* very angular and masculine exterior
* good trunk space but not much height for a dog
* order and wait months for car to arrive
audi q4 e-tron
* owned by vw, a german company, made in belgium
* suv style
* small “frunk”
* super quiet and smooth
* sluggish acceleration
* dash was too high, reducing visibility
* a usa company, made in usa and/or china
* seven-seat option
* has a “frunk”
* minimalist, uncluttered interior
* amazing visibility
* back seats can lean back slightly
* super cool features
* pushing scroll ball in the steering wheel to voice command car settings and navigation
* room for a dog, but not when 7 seats are in use
* peppy acceleration
* rough ride
* 7 month wait for delivery
* owned by volvo, chinese company, made in china
* sedan / coupe style
* has a “frunk”
* stiff but peppy driving
* “hey google” voice-activated car adjustments and navigation
* loud but not as loud as the tesla y
* middle console is bulky
* no place to put bag/purse except on passenger seat and difficult to reach over the console to retrieve it
* not much headroom in the back for a dog in the back (similar to hyundai) but one youtube reviewer managed to get a dog crate in the back
* a hitch must be ordered with the car and cannot be installed afterwards
* they are the only ones with actual vehicles to purchase (none with a hitch)
AND THE WINNER [for me] IS…
The Volvo XC40 Recharge!
This fully-electric car with 223 miles of range drives like butter, is quiet, the front seat tilts down (for my short legs), the back seats aren’t too tall (older children’s feet will reach the floor) , it has a frunk, there is room in the back for our dog plus luggage, and the volvo dealer can put a hitch on after it arrives. Mine will come with the the climate package (heat pump for winter efficiency, heated back seats, heated steering wheel).
Since there is a strange waiting game to get one, I started calling around. Long story short, two XC40 Recharges came into a dealer and, after they called people who had placed orders (ages ago) to see if they wanted them, I was able to secure the purchase of one with a deposit. Instead of waiting months for a new electric car, it will arrive in a couple of weeks. Woo hoo!