Should we buy a Toyota Prius Prime, Chevy Bolt EV, or Volt?

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2006 Toyota Prius and 2015 Nissan Leaf  [photo: John C. Briggs]

2006 Toyota Prius and 2015 Nissan Leaf [photo: John C. Briggs]

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It's now time to shop for a new car for my wife, as her wonderful 2006 Toyota Prius has 144,000 miles and we're ready for something new.

So I thought I might throw the question out to Green Car Reports readers.

What car should replace our 2006 Prius hybrid?

DON'T MISS: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime: gas mileage, electric range review

Our needs and requirements are clear:

  • No plug, no deal: it must be electric, either a full battery-electric or a plug-in hybrid
  • The main use is a 16-mile daily roundtrip commute to work.
  • It must also handle occasional 300-mile round trips from Boston to Woodstock, Vermont, with minimal charging hassles
  • Base price must be less than $40,000 before incentives

Map: CHAdeMO and CCS electric-car fast-charging sites between Boston and Woodstock, VT, Aug 2017

Map: CHAdeMO and CCS electric-car fast-charging sites between Boston and Woodstock, VT, Aug 2017

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Fully electric models

Any modern all-electric car can handle the 16-mile daily commute into Boston with ease, as my 2015 Nissan Leaf does today. But we need, at least one vehicle that can make the trip to Woodstock, Vermont, without much of a hassle.

Looking at DC fast-charging infrastructure today, it is sparse in the Northeast. On the way up from Boston to Woodstock, there is only one single EVGo fast-charging site: at the Whole Foods in Bedford, New Hampshire.

So it might be possible to get a Chevy Bolt EV, drive it from Boston to Bedford, recharge, and head north. There are currently no more quick-charging stations from that point on.

WATCH THIS: Chevrolet Bolt EV: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy 2017

That would make the trip possible in a Bolt EV with a pair charging sessions in Bedford, one up and one on the return.

But this seems to be both an inconvenience and a high risk. The single station could fail or be in use. Recharging at today's maximum of 50 kilowatts means long waits at the charger for multiple sessions.

The trip may also be in very cold weather or snow, which will greatly reduce the 238-mile rated range of the Bolt EV.

Map: Tesla Supercharger electric-car fast-charging sites between Boston and Woodstock, VT, Aug 2017

Map: Tesla Supercharger electric-car fast-charging sites between Boston and Woodstock, VT, Aug 2017

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The 2018 Nissan Leaf, with its presumed range of 200 miles or more, may also be a possibility.  But whichever charging protocol it uses—CHAdeMO like current Leafs or CCS like the Bolt EV—it will have the same problems as the electric Chevy.

No doubt more charging stations will be added between Boston and Woodstock. But we're not willing to buy a car based on the chance that future charging stations will appear.

The Tesla Model 3 dramatically changes the prospect of the Vermont trip in terms of charging sites. The company has put 12 Superchargers in Hooksett, New Hampshire (near the toll plaza), and a further eight in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, only 15 miles from our destination of Woodstock.

CHECK OUT: 2017 Tesla Model 3 prices, features, details, specifications

This means that the longest single stretch of the trip in a Tesla is only 70 miles between abundant and well-located chargers—but that charging might not be all that much faster than for the Bolt EV.

Tesla estimates 130 miles of range added in 30 minutes (for the smaller Model 3 battery that gets the Tesla under our $40,000 cap). That translates to a rate of only 65 kw assuming roughly 4 miles per kilowatt-hour, so there would still be some inconvenience.

Not only that, it could take a year or more of waiting before I could get my hands on a Tesla Model 3. I’m not sure we're willing to wait.


 
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