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

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

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.

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

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

Plug-in hybrids

The joy of a plug-in hybrid is that the best of them run largely as electric cars, but occasional long trips can be made with the convenience of using the ubiquitous gasoline filling stations, at the cost of additional environmental damage.

As long as the majority of miles covered in the new vehicle are made on electricity, using some gasoline on occasion seems like a reasonable compromise to me. (Some readers may disagree.)

The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is, arguably, the most obvious choice as a replacement vehicle. With 53 miles of electric range and a price below $40,000 for even the "Premier" trim level, it certainly meets all the requirements. Right now, discounting makes them very affordable.

READ THIS: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime vs 2017 Chevrolet Volt: video test

Having driven the Volt, it is clearly a great vehicle with excellent acceleration and beautiful flat-panel displays.

The main downside is its limited cargo space (just 10.6 cubic feet) and slightly cramped rear seats, which might be a challenge for my 6’4” son during long family trips. I suppose my 5’10” wife could ride in the back seat, but that risks upsetting a delicate family dynamic.

Another possibility is the not-yet-on-sale 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In, with 27 miles of range and likely more cargo space than the Volt, though its seats seem a little low to the ground.

2016 Ford C-Max Energi

2016 Ford C-Max Energi

The two Ford Energi plug-in hybrid models, the C-Max tall hatchback and the Fusion mid-size sedans, meet our requirements. Neither produced much interest from me or my wife: the former is slightly awkwardly shaped, and the latter is a perfectly nice sedan, for anyone who wants a sedan.

This has left us with the most obvious choice for a 2006 Prius owner to replace the car: the 2017 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

With 25 miles of rated electric range, it should easily handle the daily 16-mile commute, and it would manage long trips on gasoline at an impressive 54 mpg combined.

The Prime, in many ways, is a compromise car: it is not the all-electric car I would prefer.

It has only four seats rather than five; it has only 25 miles of electric range rather than the Volt's 53 miles; and the cargo space has been reduced from 27.4 cubic feet on the regular Prius to 19.8 cubic feet on the Prime. Acceleration is also not its strength, particularly in EV mode.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

However, the Prime might offer the right compromises at the right time, in a nice modern car with an 11-inch center display and many active safety features that just weren't available when we bought our last Prius a decade ago.

So what advice can you offer, Green Car Reports readers?

Is the Toyota Prius Prime the right vehicle to replace my wife’s trusty 2006 Prius—or should it be something else?


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