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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.

2011 Nissan Leaf

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 Electric 2012 Nissan Leaf 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV
Motor 107kW 80kW 49kW
Torque 184 pound-feet 207 pound-feet 145 pound-feet
Horsepower 143 hp 107 hp 66 hp
Curb weight 3,624 lbs 3,385 lbs 2,579 lbs
Weight/Power ratio 25.34 lbs/hp 31.64 lbs/hp 39.08 lbs/hp
Top speed 84 mph 90 mph 81 mph
Economy and efficiency
mpge city* 110 mpge 106 mpge 126 mpge
mpge highway* 99 mpge 92 mpge 99 mpge
mpge combined* 105 mpge 99 mpge 112 mpge
Estimated range* 76 miles 73 miles 62 miles
Cost to drive 25 miles* $0.96 $1.02 $0.90
Annual fuel cost* $600 $600 $550
Battery and charging
Battery type Lithium ion, liquid-cooled and heated Lithium ion, air-cooled and heated Lithium ion, air-cooled, optional battery heater
Battery capacity 23kWh 24kWh 16kWh
Full charge time @ 240V / 120V 4 hrs / 20 hrs 7 hrs / 21 hrs 7 hrs / 22 hrs
Proprietary charging option n/a Optional DC fast charger (CHAdeMO) charges to 80% in 30 minutes Optional DC fast charger (CHAdeMO) charges to 80% in 30 minutes
Cabin tech
Telematics and remote vehicle management MyFord Mobile app and Web portal Nissan connection powered by Carwings n/a
Infotainment system and cabin tech Standard: MyFord Touch, Ford Sync powered by Microsoft, standard navigation with EcoRoute Standard: Nissan navigation customized for Leaf, Bluetooth HF and A2DP, and USB and iPod connectivity Optional: 40GB HDD Navigation system with rearview camera, FUSE Hands-free Link System with USB port, 360-watt premium audio system
Vehicle management apps MyFord Mobile app for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and HTML5-capable smartphones Carwings Nissan LEAF app for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone n/a
Noteworthy creature comforts Customizable MyFord Touch instrument cluster provides visual feedback Nissan navigation is range-aware, puck-shaped drive selector Original Wraps custom graphics program
Additional details
Green cred bonus points Cloth seats made of 100% recycled material, stuffed with bio-based foam Rear spoiler with integrated solar panel for SL models Most efficient model in the pack with lowest operating costs
A typical driver... 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

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!