Eight years of winners show how plug-in vehicles have evolved

Follow Bengt

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

As we’re on the eve of naming our Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2019 award winner, a quick glance back at our previous winners offers several points of perspective.

One of them is that the field, particularly for anything that plugs in, has evolved tremendously since then, in such a relatively short time. Another is that the pace of environmentally-focused automotive technology has been uneven, but in the electric-car realm especially, it appears to be picking up pace.

As such, our previous winners are a good mix of the revolutionary and the pragmatic.

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf

It seems that we started this award just in time for a quiet revolution. The Nissan Leaf was the first fully electric vehicle conceived for mass production on a global scale. Deliveries of this 73-mile EV began in December of 2010. At this point Nissan has delivered more than 300,000 Leafs globally, with nearly 140,000 in the U.S. But the Tesla Model 3 is quickly catching up to it.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius family

The 2012 Toyota Prius V tall wagon brought more rear-seat flexibility and cargo space without severely impacting the Prius’ excellent fuel economy, while the Prius Plug-In Hybrid provided 6 miles of all-electric driving. Although neither of these two models was game-changing, increasing the appeal of what was then the most fuel-efficient lineup was very deserving of recognition.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

Driving the Tesla Model S made us marvel at just how far the electric-vehicle field had come in such a short time. We lauded its 17-inch touch-screen display which we said “is so fast, so crisp, and so relatively intuitive that it makes all other such control systems seem pathetically outdated.” And we said of the Model S as a whole: “It’s an impressive car. Period. The fact that it’s green is almost secondary.”

Even then, in 2012, Tesla was already starting to lay out its Supercharger network and had, almost everyone would argue at this point, the better vision for where DC fast chargers should be located—at strategic points along the highways owners might use for cross-country road trips.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

The very mainstream Accord sedan was the vehicle Honda chose for introducing an entirely new Two-Mode hybrid system—one that relied on an electric motor to turn the drive wheels most of the time. The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid felt more responsive than other hybrid systems and could deliver 40 mpg in real-world driving. Honda has since introduced slightly different versions of this system in the latest Accord, the new Insight, and the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

2015 Volkswagen Golf family

In 2014 (for the 2015 model year), the Volkswagen Golf adopted a new-generation modular platform that made it a lot easier, Volkswagen said, to produce different powertrain versions: and it backed up that premise right away with gasoline, TDI diesel, and all-electric e-Golf choices. While we lauded the fuel efficiency of the TDI, the star of the lineup from our perspective was the e-Golf, an all-electric version offering a 24.2-kwh battery and 83-mile range—and a driving experience that felt sprightly and sporty compared to the Leaf. With the Volkwagen diesel emissions scandal breaking the following September, this award will always be seen a bit differently in retrospect.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt

Green Car Reports chose the second-generation Volt, at its debut, to be the Best Car to Buy 2016 because it improved so much upon the first-generation model. WIth more all-electric range, a better driver interface, a reconfigured interior, and nicer cabin finishes, the 2016 Chevy Volt stayed true to the concept of a range-extended electric car but was much more livable day-to-day. “We'd seriously consider the 2016 Volt as our only car to use,” we said at the time. “It's really that good.”

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt EV’s spacious interior, perky driving manners, and 238-mile EPA-rated range made it pretty much a shoo-in for our 2017 award, given in November 2016. We called the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV an American-made electric-car milestone, and the “spiritual successor” to the original Nissan Leaf, and noted that it provided the range of a Tesla for roughly half the price.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Don’t let the understated badging throw you off. Really a plug-in hybrid, the seven-passenger Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid can go 33 miles on a charge, if you keep your foot light on the accelerator. There are no multiple modes in this van; you plug-it in overnight, and as long as there’s charge the system prioritizes it. Run through the charge and you still have a big, spacious people-hauler that can get 32 mpg combined.

 
Follow Us



 
© 2019 MH Sub I, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Stock photography by izmostock. Read our Cookie Policy.