5 Cool Electric Vehicles That Won't Break the Bank

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APThe Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle was unveiled in January at the Detroit auto show.
Electric vehicles are growing in popularity, but so far, outside of Tesla Motors' (TSLA) Model S, there haven't been a lot of attractive electric vehicles for consumers to choose from. The Nissan Leaf was an uninspired design and the Chevy Volt didn't bring much in the way of sexiness to EVs.

But recently automakers have been investing heavily in making EVs people will actually want to buy. Here are five that will look good in your driveway without leaving you broke.

A Refreshing Bolt

The Chevy Volt wasn't a head turner when General Motors (GM) launched it, but the Chevy Bolt might be. The sleek, compact design is highlighted by an all-glass roof and a minimal dash that seems like it was designed by a startup auto company rather than Detroit's old guard.

What's equally as impressive is the 200-mile range and a $38,000 price tag, even before tax incentives. The Chevy Bolt won't go on sale until about a year from now, but it could quickly become the best-selling electric vehicle on the market when it does.

Tesla Motors' Encore

The Model S is now the benchmark for electric vehicles, but the Model 3 is really when Tesla Motors will prove its mettle. This will be the third mass-produced vehicle for Tesla Motors (after the Model X launches later this year), but it'll be the first to be within reach for the mass market.

Current plans are for the Model 3 to have at least 200 miles in range and a price tag of $35,000 before tax incentives. Styling will be similar to the Model S, so Tesla isn't taking too many risks there. With a price tag that's more in reach for consumers this could be a defining product for Tesla Motors' future and could make or break the company financially. The most recently reported launch date for the Model 3 is March 2016.

Germany's Best Shot at Electric Vehicles

Tesla Motors and Chevy get a lot of the attention in the EV market, but BMW has come out of nowhere to take the No. 3 spot in U.S. EV sales so far in 2015. The i3 may be the most ambitious EV we've seen yet with a chassis built of carbon fiber and an all-electric design from a company known for luxury, high-performance vehicles.

The $42,400 price tag is expensive to be sure, but it's not much more than other EVs and among the least expensive vehicles BMW makes. The 81-mile range of the i3 isn't the industry leader in range, but this is also the first crack at EVs for BMW and I think that will improve dramatically given its success out of the gate.

VW Makes EVs Affordable

If you want an EV on a budget, the VW e-Golf is a great place to start. The car is available for $25,950 after the $7,500 federal tax credit and gets up to 83 miles on each charge. VW claims you can get up to 66 miles of charge from fast-charging stations that are popping up around the country.

The e-Golf will also perform nearly as well as gasoline-powered competitors in VW's line. It has just one foot pound less torque than the Golf TSI, due to a natural torque advantage electric engines have over gasoline power. The e-Golf should be fun to drive and at an affordable price it could be a worthy competitor to other compact EVs hitting the market.

Ford Has Gone Electric

A relative late comer to the EV party was Ford (F), but it has managed to learn from mistakes manufacturers like GM and Nissan made to bring an EV to the market that could appeal to the masses. The Ford Focus Electric has 80 miles of range in a hatchback design that starts at just $29,170.

Unlike the original Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, the Focus Electric is a sleek design that doesn't scream "electric" as it's driving down the road. At under $30,000 it looks like Ford is also trying to see if there's mass appeal for future electric vehicles.

It's Not So Crazy to 'Go Electric'

Just a few years ago, it would cost a fortune to buy an electric car and if you got one it was hard to feel "cool" driving it. But automakers have upped their game when it comes to styling, range, and affordability. Today, it's possible to find an attractive electric car without breaking the bank.

Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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