E.V. Buying Guide: What to Know About Models, Batteries, Charging and More

Buying used could be a cheaper way to get an electric vehicle, though evaluate the car you are buying carefully, particularly the quality of the battery, because it will degrade over time. That said, a used electric vehicle could be a perfect choice for a second car for errands, commutes and other short trips.

As exciting as it may be to own an electric vehicle, it may not be for everyone. Many families and individuals can’t afford an E.V. that meets their needs — there are few electric vehicles with three rows and room for youth sports gear, for example, and they tend to be expensive. Others cannot easily charge at or near their homes. That’s why Mr. DeLorenzo and Mr. Fisher recommend plug-in hybrids.

“If you’re interested but not really sure you want to commit, these plug-in hybrids are kind of a gateway,” Mr. Fisher, of Consumer Reports, said.

For many people, a plug-in like a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan or the RAV4 Prime S.U.V. could effectively serve as an all-electric vehicle, he said. Toyota claims the RAV4 Prime can run for 42 miles before switching to gasoline, while Chrysler says the Pacifica has 32 miles on a full charge. If used mostly for short commutes to work and trips around town, the cars could rarely use gas. Those two vehicles and other plug-in hybrids also qualify for federal tax credits.

“You can just plug it into your normal wall outlet and charge it overnight and you can get a taste of what that’s like, having an E.V., and then maybe your next vehicle will be a pure E.V.,” he said.

Of course, gas-powered cars have grown increasingly efficient, and choosing one wisely can help reduce emissions if you are upgrading from an older vehicle. Yet many people buy cars based on what they consider alluring and attractive. And if you are wowed by the features and design of an E.V., you might find it hard to settle for anything else, Mr. DeLorenzo said.

“It’s a different experience,” he said. “It’s not the same as owning a regular car, for sure. So there’s something to be said for that.”

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Volkswagen Under S.E.C. Scrutiny After Gag Falls Flat

Volkswagen’s American unit was only kidding when it put out the word late in March that it was changing its name to “Voltswagen” to show its commitment to electric vehicles. To say the April Fool’s joke didn’t land is an understatement. Now the misfired marketing gag has prompted an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Volkswagen did not dispute reports in Der Spiegel and other German media that the S.E.C. was looking into whether the carmaker misled shareholders with the faux rebranding. Volkswagen in Germany declined to comment Friday.

Publicly listed companies are not supposed to fool their shareholders, even in jest. Some media reported the purported name change as fact until Volkswagen of America admitted it was all a joke.

German law also requires companies to be honest with their shareholders, but a spokeswoman for the stock market regulator, known as Bafin, said the agency saw no basis to investigate the Voltswagen issue.

emissions scandal has cost the company since 2015. The gag does not appear to have had any influence on the price of Volkswagen shares, which rose for several days even after the company admitted it was all a ruse.

Like a comedian bombing onstage, the most painful consequence may be the humiliation.

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Three Electric S.U.V.s With Tesla in Their Sights

An electric trickle is turning into a flood: As many as 100 new E.V. models are coming to showrooms by 2025. Heavyweights including Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford are floating promises of all-electric lineups within a decade.

The end times of gasoline can almost seem a fait accompli, except for one pesky issue: Even given Tesla’s strides, we’re still waiting for the first genuine E.V. sales hit, let alone a mass exodus from unleaded.

In 2014, Nissan sold a mere 30,200 Leafs, and that’s still the American record for any non-Tesla model. Ford routinely sells more than 800,000 F-Series pickups. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 annual buyers, compared with roughly 250,000 sales last year for all E.V.s combined — 200,000 of which were Teslas.

Automakers insist we’re “this close” to a tipping point. E.V. market share is expected to grow to as much as 50 percent by 2032, from just 1.7 percent last year, said Scott Keogh, president and chief executive of Volkswagen of America. While Tesla captured 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric vehicles in 2020, VW and other global giants — with war chests built on internal-combustion engines and unmatched scale and manufacturing know-how — are well positioned to take a piece of Tesla’s pie.

prices and charging times of E.V.s, while bolstering driving range, until consumers see no reason to stick with polluting gasoline models whose energy-and-operating costs exceed the plug-in alternatives.

Like the Rolling Stones pushing the Beatles, Mr. Keogh said, healthy competition will ultimately benefit all E.V. fans and creators. And when consumers sees E.V.s proliferate in their neighbors’ driveways, and take their first test drive, there will be no going back.

Mach-E seems the most straight-up rival yet to Tesla’s Model Y, in not only price and performance but also the Ford’s maximum 300-mile driving range.

Consumers have noticed: Ford sold 3,729 Mach-Es in February, the first full month of sales, almost single-handedly chopping Tesla’s dominant E.V. share to 69 percent, from 80 percent. If Ford could maintain that pace for a full year, the Mach-E would easily set a sales record for an E.V. not built by Tesla.

Tesla’s 326-mile Model Y Long Range still squeezes a few more miles from each onboard kilowatt-hour, owing to the carmaker’s expertise in aerodynamics, motor and battery efficiency, and to “simple” stuff that’s anything but: Its 4,416-pound curb weight undercuts the Ford by about 400 pounds. And Tesla rules the public charging space, with its Supercharger network that has rivals — now with a potential infrastructure lift from the Biden administration — racing to catch up.

The Ford fires back with a sculpted exterior versus the dad-bod Model Y, a tech-savvy interior with superior materials and craftsmanship, and winning performance of its own. With 346 horsepower from dual motors, the Mach-E Premium A.W.D. that I drove shot to 60 miles an hour in 4.8 seconds. Even the new Shelby GT500 — history’s mightiest Mustang, with 760 horsepower — won’t equal the 3.5-second 0-to-60 m.p.h. blast of this summer’s Mach-E GT Performance version.

Voltswagen, as the company briefly convinced some media and car fans in a marketing stunt gone bad. Regarding historic names, VW calls the ID.4 its most significant model since the original Beetle. But where the Beetle was a revolutionary leader, the ID.4 feels like a follower.

Based on my drive, the VW can easily top its 250-mile range rating, with 275 miles within reach. A rear-drive, 201-horsepower model rolls to 60 m.p.h. in 7.6 seconds. That’s on a par with gasoline sport utilities like the Honda CR-V, but pokey by E.V. standards. Dual-motor, all-wheel-drive models arrive later this year, promising 60 m.p.h. in under six seconds.

From a company famed for fun-to-drive German cars, the ID.4’s generic performance and styling are letdowns. Its infotainment system is even more disappointing: The clunky, vexing touch screen can’t touch the onscreen wizardry of the Ford, Volvo or Tesla.

The VW’s snappiest performance came during a fast-charging session at a Target in New Jersey, replenishing its 77 kilowatt-hour battery from 20 to 80 percent in an impressive 31 minutes. That growing network of Electrify America chargers is funded by VW’s $2 billion, court-ordered penance for its diesel emissions scandal. And VW is offering indulgences to ID.4 buyers, with three years of free public charging.

Thrifty virtues include a $41,190 base price, or $33,690 after the $7,500 federal tax break. That’s $2,800 less than the most-affordable Mach-E. It’s also less money, after credits, than a smaller Chevrolet Bolt. The more powerful ID.4 with all-wheel drive will start at $37,370, postcredit.

Still, as Tesla’s triumph and Chevy’s lukewarm Bolt have proved, there’s more to electric success than an attractive price. VW is aggressively investing $80 billion to develop E.V.s, but the ID.4 feels less like a market splash and more like a toe in the water. We’ll see if VW erred by not kicking off with a recognizable design that truly connects its nostalgic, weed-hazed past to today’s green virtues: the electric ID.Buzz Microbus, due in 2023.

Volvo seems such a natural fit for E.V.s. And the progressive-minded brand brings us the XC40 Recharge, an electrified take on its gasoline XC40.

The Recharge is like that perfect dining table in a shelter magazine: You’re not sure why it costs so much, but you want it anyway.

The Recharge’s wedgy Scandinavian styling tops every S.U.V. in this group, as does its lovely interior. That includes soft Nappa leather, versus the ascetic “vegan” materials of many E.V.s.

The drive is similarly breezy, with 402 horses and a quicksilver, 4.7-second flight to 60 m.p.h. The biggest tech talking point may be Android Automotive OS: The Recharge (and Volvo’s electric Polestar 2) introduces a cloud-based Google operating system that works like a dream, with Google Maps, search, an ultra-capable voice assistant and more. (Don’t confuse this with the ubiquitous Android Auto, which simply mirrors phone apps on a car’s screen.)

Several major automakers, including G.M. and Ford, plan to make Android Automotive the nerve centers of coming cars. If only the Volvo itself were as efficient.

The Recharge is an electron guzzler, with a 208-mile range that seems optimistic in real-world use. I drove the Recharge in frigid New York weather, which explained some but not all of its hunger for power: No matter how I babied the throttle, the Volvo stayed on a pace for 190 miles, at best, covering about 2.4 miles for each kilowatt-hour in the batteries. I can achieve 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour with little effort in the Tesla Model Y and above 3.2 in the Ford.

Environmental Protection Agency numbers bear that out: Despite having virtually the same-size battery, the Tesla brings 326 miles of maximum range, 118 more than the Volvo. The Recharge is also expensive for its intimate size: $54,985 to start, and nearly $60,000 for the model I drove. That $7,500 federal tax break softens the blow. Yet if the Volvo indulges bourgeois buyers, they’ll also need to indulge its profligate ways.

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Hot Hatchbacks: Party in the Front, Business in the Back

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. The hottest of the hot? For sure, if one factors in the AMG-specific engine, which puts out a neck-bending 382 horsepower in such a small crossover. The GLA 45, part of the newly redesigned GLA range, will churn to 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds; don’t mind the industrial rasp of the engine, or the jarring ride.

Volkswagen ID.4. In the electric realm, an early candidate (and one of the very few) for spunky C.U.V. is the Tiguan-size ID.4, which is based on the platform of the ID.3 hatch already introduced in Europe. With its rather generic looks, one won’t mistake this $40,000 vehicle for a sports car, although its specs are fundamentally impressive, with 201 horsepower and an estimated range of 250 miles.

BMW X2 M Mesh. The compact X2 was introduced a couple of years ago to add some sass to a platform that supports the X1 as well as a couple of Mini models. The bodywork is sleeker than the X1 and doesn’t reduce cargo and passenger space by very much. Now the German brand is offering a dressier version of the 2, the M Mesh edition, on the front- or all-wheel-drive models. There’s little to gussy up the performance of the truck, but poseurs might embrace the exclusive grille, the 19-inch wheels and the sport steering wheel.

Toyota C-HR. It falls into the attractive/unattractive conundrum, depending on one’s taste. The interior is plain and functional, the touch screen is underwhelming, and the amenities are limited. The C-HR rides surprisingly well at moderate speeds on smooth roads, but it bucks and shakes in my Queens neighborhood. Needs more work to turn up the hot-hatch heat.

Honda HR-V. Looks swift but, like the Toyota, lacks power. Surprisingly, Honda is without a hot-hatch entry, unless you count the Civic Type R, which is essentially a track car. Perhaps the HR-V will develop some chops, especially now that the clever Fit hatchback has been axed in the United States.

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2 Korean Battery Makers Settle Dispute That Threatened Biden’s Green Agenda

Two South Korean manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries that are building plants in the United States said on Sunday that they had reached a $1.8 billion settlement in a trade secrets dispute that threatened the domestic battery supply and, with it, the Biden administration’s green agenda.

The announcement came on the day of a deadline set by the United States’ trade representative to decide whether to veto an International Trade Commission ruling in the intellectual property case between LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation. The commission’s ruling in favor of LG had threatened SK with a ban on supplying batteries in the country and put its facility under construction in Georgia at risk.

The plant, which is still under construction, will supply batteries for electric vehicles for Ford and Volkswagen, and with the settlement agreement, SK is now also free to seek business from other companies.

The dispute had threatened the domestic supply of batteries for electric vehicles. The settlement prevents delays in the development of American electric vehicles and supplies.

as DealBook reported on Friday.

“A week ago, talks between these companies had stalled and 2,600 Georgia jobs were at risk,” Mr. Ossoff said in a statement. The settlement, he said, ensures “thousands of jobs, billions in future investment, and that Georgia will be a leader in electric vehicle battery production for years to come.”

vetoed a decision by the International Trade Commission in a dispute between Apple and Samsung on public interest grounds. But such disapprovals are rare, and the settlement spared the Biden administration from having to take a position. LG is building a plant in Ohio that will supply batteries for General Motors electric vehicles, and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, also wrote to President Biden about the dispute last month, urging the president not to veto the decision, arguing that SK should not be allowed to benefit from “stolen intellectual property” against its state workers.

The trade commission’s decision would have excluded SK from the domestic American market while allowing the company to fulfill existing contracts to Ford and Volkswagen. But the plant in Commerce, Ga., is still under construction, and SK expressed hesitation on continuing to build it given that it would be unable to do additional business.

LG countered that SK had overstated its importance to the domestic battery supply and suggested that another company would purchase the plant in Georgia if SK abandoned it. But any disruption to the plans in Georgia could have been a problem for American automakers and the administration, as the international battery supply for electric vehicles is already strained and the administration’s green energy transition plans rely on expanding the use and production of electric vehicles.

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Biden’s Push for Electric Cars: $174 Billion, 10 Years and a Bit of Luck

But production is only one piece of the puzzle. The transition away from gas-powered vehicles rests on convincing consumers of the benefits of electric vehicles. That hasn’t been easy because the cars have higher sticker prices even though researchers say that they cost less to own. Electricity is cheaper on a per mile basis than gasoline, and E.V.s require less routine maintenance — there is no oil to change — than combustion-engine cars.

The single biggest cost of an electric car comes from the battery, which can run about $15,000 for a midsize sedan. That cost has been dropping and is widely expected to keep falling thanks to manufacturing improvements and technical advancements. But some scholars believe that a major technological breakthrough will be required to make electric cars much, much cheaper.

“There’s a good sense that at least for the next maybe five years or so they’re going to keep declining, but then are they going to level off or are they going to keep declining?” Joshua Linn, a professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow with Resources for the Future, an environmental nonprofit, said about battery costs. “That won’t be enough, so then that’s given rise to a lot of attention to infrastructure.”

The federal government and some states already offer tax credits and other incentives for the purchase of electric cars. But the main such federal incentive — a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of new electric cars — begins to phase out for cars once an automaker has sold 200,000 E.V.s. Buyers of Tesla and G.M. electric cars, for example, no longer qualify for that tax credit but buyers of Ford and Volkswagen electric cars do.

The Biden administration has released no details about its proposed E.V. tax credits.

Another big concern is charging. People with dedicated parking spots typically charge their E.V.s overnight at home, but many people who live in apartments or have to drive longer distances need to use public charging stations, which are still greatly outnumbered by gas stations.

“The top three reasons consumers give for not buying E.V.s are lack of charging stations, time to charge, and the cost of E.V.s,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “They seem to be really emphasizing all three. So, over all, it looks very promising.”

There are well over 100,000 gas stations in the United States, most with multiple pumps. Mr. Biden’s plan calls for a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers within the decade, up from about 41,000 charging stations with more than 100,000 outlets today, according to the Energy Department.

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No, Volkswagen is not renaming itself Voltswagen.

Contrary to what you may have read, Volkswagen has not changed its name.

The company’s U.S. operation caused a stir with an announcement on its website that it planned to call itself Voltswagen to emphasize its push into electric vehicles as it rolls out its first electric sport-utility vehicle in the United States — the ID.4. The change came ahead of April Fool’s day — a favorite time of year for companies to try to grab a share of the social media conversation, such as when IHOP tried to convince the world it was changing its last letter to B, as in burgers.

“At the end of the day, it was a bit of fun with the name and the brand,” a Volkswagen spokesman, Mark Gillies, said. “We wanted to reinforce what we are messaging about the ID.4.”

Word of the name change surfaced on Monday when a news release announcing the name change was published on the company’s website for about an hour before disappearing. CNBC, USA Today and others reported on the news release, saying it was dated April 29 and appeared to have been accidentally posted a month early.

On Tuesday, the company posted a new statement dated March 30 about the name change, sparking a flurry of comments and speculation on social media. Late Tuesday afternoon, Volkswagen officials in Germany, where the company is based, acknowledged it was a marketing tactic.

company’s Twitter account was changed Tuesday morning to show a logo with the new name, but the company’s website continued to use the old name.

Changing the name of an automaker as established as Volkswagen would clearly be a huge undertaking, and not just for the company. Its dealers would have to spend millions of dollars to rebrand their franchises.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Jason Kuhn, owner of two Voltswagen, nee Volkswagen, dealerships near Tampa, Fla. said on Tuesday before the company admitted it was just having fun. “I’ve read it. I really can’t comment.”

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Volkswagen will seek damages from former executives accused in emissions fraud.

Volkswagen said on Friday that it would seek financial compensation from its former chief executive and the former head of the Audi division, accusing them of failing to act after learning that diesel vehicles sold in the United States were fitted with illegal emissions-cheating software.

The decision by the German carmaker’s supervisory board marks a turnabout. Volkswagen had been reluctant to publicly accuse former top managers of complicity in the emissions fraud, which has cost Volkswagen tens of billions of euros in fines, settlements and legal fees.

At the same time, the supervisory board said it found “no breaches of duty” by other executives who were members of Volkswagen’s management board in September 2015, when the scandal came to light.

That group includes Herbert Diess, now the chief executive of Volkswagen, who had joined the company two months earlier from BMW. Hans Dieter Pötsch, now chairman of the supervisory board, was chief financial officer and a member of the Volkswagen management board at the time, a position he had held for more than a decade.

Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive, failed “to comprehensively and promptly clarify the circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions” after learning about the misconduct in July 2015.

Mr. Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the emissions fraud became public, also failed to ensure that questions by U.S. authorities “were answered truthfully, completely and without delay,” the supervisory board said. Shareholders suffered damages as a result, the board said, although it did not say how much money the company will try to recover.

Mr. Winterkorn’s lawyers said in a statement Friday that he denied the accusations and had done everything possible “to avoid or minimize damage” to Volkswagen.

The Volkswagen board said it also concluded that Rupert Stadler, former chief executive of the Audi luxury car division, was negligent because he failed to investigate the use of illegal software in diesel vehicles sold in the European Union.

Mr. Winterkorn and Mr. Stadler face criminal charges in Germany that revolve around the same circumstances. Mr. Winterkorn’s trial was scheduled to begin in April, but judges in the case postponed it this week until September, citing the pandemic.

Mr. Stadler has been on trial in Munich since last year on charges that, even after the wrongdoing came to light, he allowed Audi to continue selling cars that were programmed to recognize when an official emissions test was underway and dial up emissions controls to make the car appear compliant. The cars were not capable of consistently meeting pollution standards.

Mr. Stadler’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, Mr. Stadler has denied wrongdoing.

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