Which electric car is best for you? (comparison)

We put the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and the Mitsubishi i-MIEV side-by-side to see how these everyday EVs stack up.

Waving goodbye to your local gas station used to involve waiting lists, lease-only pilot programs, or dropping six figures on an early adopters' plaything like the Tesla Roadster. These days, just about anyone can walk into a local dealership, plunk down $35,000, and drive away in a car that doesn't have a tailpipe.

No, the 2012 Nissan Leaf, 2012 Ford Focus Electric, and 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV aren't the first electric cars to hit the market. However, they are in the first batch of fully electric, zero-emissions vehicles that are priced and packaged for mass consumption. Each seats four or five adults comfortably, has space for cargo and groceries, and packs much of the same (if not better) cabin technology and creature comforts as its gasoline-powered stablemates.

We've put these three models side by side in the chart below to see how they stack up and compare with one another. Green values indicate the best-performing model in each category. Which one is best for you? Read on:

 2012 Ford Focus Electric2012 Nissan Leaf2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV
Torque184 pound-feet207 pound-feet145 pound-feet
Horsepower143 hp107 hp66 hp
Curb weight3,624 lbs3,385 lbs2,579 lbs
Weight/Power ratio25.34 lbs/hp31.64 lbs/hp39.08 lbs/hp
Top speed84 mph90 mph81 mph
Economy and efficiency
mpge city*110 mpge106 mpge126 mpge
mpge highway*99 mpge92 mpge99 mpge
mpge combined*105 mpge99 mpge112 mpge
Estimated range*76 miles73 miles62 miles
Cost to drive 25 miles*$0.96$1.02$0.90
Annual fuel cost*$600$600$550
Battery and charging
Battery typeLithium ion, liquid-cooled and heatedLithium ion, air-cooled and heatedLithium ion, air-cooled, optional battery heater
Battery capacity23kWh24kWh16kWh
Full charge time @ 240V / 120V4 hrs / 20 hrs7 hrs / 21 hrs7 hrs / 22 hrs
Proprietary charging optionn/aOptional DC fast charger (CHAdeMO) charges to 80% in 30 minutesOptional DC fast charger (CHAdeMO) charges to 80% in 30 minutes
Cabin tech
Telematics and remote vehicle managementMyFord Mobile app and Web portalNissan connection powered by Carwingsn/a
Infotainment system and cabin techStandard: MyFord Touch, Ford Sync powered by Microsoft, standard navigation with EcoRouteStandard: Nissan navigation customized for Leaf, Bluetooth HF and A2DP, and USB and iPod connectivityOptional: 40GB HDD Navigation system with rearview camera, FUSE Hands-free Link System with USB port, 360-watt premium audio system
Vehicle management appsMyFord Mobile app for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and HTML5-capable smartphonesCarwings Nissan LEAF app for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhonen/a
Noteworthy creature comfortsCustomizable MyFord Touch instrument cluster provides visual feedbackNissan navigation is range-aware, puck-shaped drive selectorOriginal Wraps custom graphics program
Additional details
Green cred bonus pointsCloth seats made of 100% recycled material, stuffed with bio-based foamRear spoiler with integrated solar panel for SL modelsMost efficient model in the pack with lowest operating costs
A typical driver......is a techie type who spends more time staring at the MyFord Touch interface than watching the road. Pulls out phone during dinner to check charge state....gets a custom plate that reads "NOGAS" or something equally obnoxious. Scowls at Chevy Volt drivers, but doesn't know why....constantly compensates for the i-MIEV's short range and toylike appearance by bragging to total strangers about miles per gallon equivalent, fuel costs, and parking.
Base price$39,200$35,200$29,125
Fully loaded with destination$41,485$38,100$34,765

*Fuel economy (mpge) and operating cost data provided by FuelEconomy.gov.

The Ford Focus Electric edges out the competition where range and charging time are concerned, leading me to believe that it would be the best model for those with "range anxiety." Additionally, its standard cabin tech package is arguably the most sophisticated of the bunch.

Meanwhile, the bare-bones Mitsubishi i-MIEV works out as the model with the lowest entry and operating costs. It is clearly the penny-pincher's EV.

Nissan's Leaf finishes in the middle of the pack for most of our chosen metrics. However, it's also the model that's been around for the longest, with thousands of examples on the roads already. Drivers looking for reliability from EV technology (which is still viewed as early adopter territory by many buyers) may find themselves gravitating to the Leaf for this reason.

Which of this new batch of electric cars do you like best? Sound off in the comments with your pick!

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