A recent TV ad for the Nissan Leaf depicts a world where every modern convenience—alarm clock, coffeemaker, computer—runs on a fumes-spewing gas-powered engine. It's a clever message, but the idea of feeling technologically superior will never trump the reason most Americans can't imagine owning plug-in electric: range anxiety, that fear of being stranded on the highway miles from a power source. To do that, I suggest some simple math. Here, for example, is a busy day in my life: house to trailhead, trailhead back to house, house to daughter's school, school to office, office to grocery store, grocery store to house. Repeat, with slight variation, Monday through Friday. Total daily distance: 18 miles. I could triple that and still remain comfortably inside the Leaf's 100-mile range. Add on the parking-friendly size and the company's ambitious plan to expand the number of charging stations, then subtract the tax credit and the space in your brain where you store the price of gas, and you've arrived at your next vehicle.
Brand: Nissan $35,200