I’m loosely in the market for an electric car. I am not alone. Sales of electric vehicles hit record highs in the first quarter of 2021. Purchases of battery electric vehicles (BEV) went up by nearly 45% over 2020, and those of hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) more than doubled.
This is not all that surprising, for a number of reasons. First, people were buying more new cars in general at the start of this year—11% more—given the changing economic situation connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, the Biden administration took office early this year, reversing many of the pro-carbon-based-fuel burning/climate change-denying policies of the vileTrump presidency, and encouraging EV purchases.
But, most important, there were a whole host of new electric cars on sale. So people could, if they so desired, select from a range of different electric vehicles from a range of different manufacturers. This adheres to the adage elucidated for me by EV industry analyst Chelsea Sexton, who told me recently, “The EV pie will grow when the product offerings grow.”
And grow they have. In the first quarter of 2020, I tried out an unconscionably diverse group of BEV and PHEV, trying to figure out if there was one that would suit my oddball automotive tastes. (Here’s my fleet: 1972 Saab 95 Wagon, 1977 Honda Accord, 1978 Porsche 928, 1979 Fiat Spider, 1990 Range Rover, and 2018 VW Golf Alltrack Wagon.)
I drove a Volvo S60 and S90 Recharge, the top-of-the-line versions of the Swedish automaker’s sedans. And while I enjoyed their lovely shape and driving dynamics, and the boost their electric powertrains provided to their already potent supercharged and turbocharged engines, I found it somewhat difficult to drive in pure EV mode, in the hilly rural Upstate New York area I’ve been residing for the Pandemic, and that seems like a necessary joy. Volvo: Please build an all-electric V60 wagon, and take my money.
I drove the puzzling Karma GS6L, an update on a stunning design from yet another of Henrik Fisker’s failed automotive companies. I found it to be a very odd proposition, particularly at its $115,000 price point. With limited, 60-mile electric-only range, little to no usable interior or cargo space, a whoppingly dysfunctional infotainment system, and kit car interior material finish, it reminded me of a less expensive and poorly assembled competitor to the Polestar1, another lovely and quick six-figure vehicle seemingly reverse engineered to answer automotive questions absolutely no one is asking. (Including mine: Why doesn’t it come with a padded vinyl roof?)
I didn’t enjoy the Hyundai Ioniq as much as I wanted to; it felt sloppy and blandly styled. (I’m excited about their forthcoming EV, though.) I had more of a positive reaction to the Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E, which offered range, capacity, affordability, and a soupcon of futuristic panache, even though both seemed too middling in their adherence to the quotidian crossover paradigm. (When VW builds an E-Golf Alltrack, I want to know.)
Even more compelling was the Mercedes EQS I was granted a day with. Though it was a pre-production vehicle, it excited me with its power, éclat, and especially its outrageous tech overkill—including the A-pillar to A-pillar Hyperscreen. But old as I am, I’m still too young for a new S-Class.
I drove the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid round trip from Miami to Key West for my family’s annual Passover by the Pool misheggas, and was delighted—more than my typical affection for this ovoid hauler—at its 32-mile EV range, good enough to cover all daily driving on a small, sinking coral island. It’s just weird enough to be in my consideration set, and stealthy enough to not mark me as some kind of desperate virtue signaler.
But my favorite of all of these was the Porsche Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo, a mouthful, and a delightful handful. With 616 hp and a big battery pack down low, this thing hustled and clung. Plus it was luxurious, and sophisticated, with readily usable tech that was thrilling without feeling like total overkill (generally.) And it was a wagon, with a crisp long-roof profile that looks like nothing else on the road. Sadly, it costs $153,000, which is approximately four times my ideal budget.
But now that all of these manufacturers, and others, have pledged to roll out dozens of new EVs over the next couple of years, I feel confident that I will find one soon that will suit me. As I tell everyone who asks me for car advice, “Your next vehicle will be an electric vehicle.”