The future of the auto industry is increasingly likely to be electric—although you wouldn’t necessarily know that from sales numbers. Just under 200,000 plug-in cars were sold in the United States last year (out of a new-car market of 17.25 million). In California, cars with plugs made up 4.6 percent of the new-car market in 2017, while nationwide the number increased only slightly, to 1.16 percent of total auto sales. But 2018 is shaping up to be better, with 36 percent higher EV sales in the first four months than in the same period the previous year.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, EV sales are booming. Last year China’s EV sales were more than three times those of the United States, accounting for nearly half of all plug-in vehicles purchased worldwide. In tiny Norway, thanks to great incentives, more than half of all new-car registrations in 2017 were either hybrid or battery electric.
The United States has a chance to catch up. Amid a welcome proliferation of EV models, the general trend is that most new cars will be offered with a plug-in variant. The consumer today has a lot of good EV choices that are much cleaner than conventional vehicles, even factoring in emissions from the electricity used to charge them. Both range and performance are improving as prices come down. If electric cars can travel 300 miles on a charge—as do some versions of the Tesla Model S and upcoming cars from Volkswagen and Porsche—then the old shibboleth of range anxiety may no longer apply.
Here are six noteworthy 2018 models, both full battery electric and plug-in hybrid. It’s important to point out that all these cars come with federal incentives of up to $7,500. Many states offer further financial subsidies as well as perks such as priority parking and single-passenger privileges in HOV lanes. All prices stated below are base prices, without federal and state incentives or destination charges (the cost of shipping the car from manufacturer to dealer).