The Cheapest Electric Car on the Market Right Now 
The number of electric cars on the road is increasing every day. But EVs are not yet so commonplace that they are as affordable as gas-powered cars. According to a 2021 report by Kelley Blue Book, the average new vehicle costs $40,768, while a new electric vehicle costs about 25% more, at $51,532. The average EV cost is inflated by all-electric cars like the Tesla Model 3, BMW i4, and Audi e-tron, which are considered high-end luxury vehicles.
Despite the variation in average cost, there are a bunch of affordable EV options on the new car market without the hefty price tags. Eager to get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle without breaking the bank?
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As of February 2022, the cheapest electric car available in the 2022 model year is the Nissan LEAF S, a compact five-door hatchback battery-electric vehicle (BEV).
The ’22 Nissan LEAF has a starting price of $27,400, a price that can be reduced as low as $19,900 after the application of potential federal tax credits. That figure also does not include any state tax credits, rebates, or incentive programs that you may be eligible for.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the Nissan LEAF, including its powertrain, interior features, and other specs, to help you decide if it’s the right EV for you.
Nissan LEAF S: The Rundown
The 2002 Nissan LEAF comes in five different trim versions: The Nissan LEAF S, SV, S PLUS, SV PLUS, and SL PLUS. The Nissan LEAF S is the base model of the car. While it remains the cheapest EV on the market as of this writing, it still has many of the features that drivers are looking for in an entry-level EV.
Performance and Efficiency
The Nissan LEAF S is powered by an electric motor and a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery. The car’s front-wheel drive powertrain offers 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. While it’s certainly no speed racer, it’s plenty of efficient, zero-emission power for running around town and for occasional highway travel. Critics and drivers alike have praised the car’s fairly swift acceleration considering its minimal power plant.
Make no mistake about it, affordability and efficiency are the Nissan LEAF’s calling card. The car offers drivers an incredible EPA-estimated 111 MPGe combined (123 MPGe city and 99 MPGe highway).
While the car’s 149 miles of range on a full charge leaves something to be desired, the amount of money drivers can save compared to an average new gas-powered vehicle will very likely make it a fair compromise.
According to fueleconomy.gov, the average new gas-powered 2022 vehicle gets 27 MPG. They indicate that Nissan LEAF drivers will save $6,250 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle, or $600 per year. While the car’s range is only 149 miles, it costs just 99 cents to drive 25 miles. That’s an incredible savings, particularly for drivers looking for a second vehicle for running errands around town, or those looking to save on fuel costs who have a short commute to the office.
Infotainment and On-Board Technology
The base model Nissan LEAF is pretty simple when it comes to on-board technology features. While drivers eager for a lot of bells and whistles in terms of in-car technology may want to look elsewhere, the LEAF’s no-frills interior is a big factor in its affordability. While no touchscreen is offered on the base level S trim, the car does offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
While this feature may not be as sophisticated as on-board navigation technology, it’s enough connectivity to allow drivers easy access to their audio entertainment and navigation as well as hands-free phone use. Higher-end interior features like touchscreen navigation and premium audio are available in higher trim levels.
The car also offers standard cruise control, which, alongside with features like lane-keeping assist, make highway navigation comfortable.
The Nissan LEAF S trim happens to be among the best electric cars in terms of standard safety features. For drivers who have a high priority in this category, Nissan’s compact EV comes with several impressive standard safety technologies that many entry-level vehicles lack, particularly EVs.
Among these features are forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection that warns the driver when people are close to the vehicle while moving. The car’s rear automatic braking system automatically stops the car if it detects vehicles behind it—ideal for city driving and exiting crowded parking lots. Other safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning systems, and lane-keeping assist.
The car has also received an impressive 5-star rating for overall safety in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Nissan LEAF comes with stellar warranty protection. The car’s lithium-ion battery pack comes with a warranty that covers work and material defects for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever is reached first.
In addition, Nissan LEAF‘s warranty protects buyers in the event of rapid battery degradation. This includes limited coverage against battery loss below nine bars of capacity on the vehicle’s battery capacity gauge for eight years, 100,000 miles.
Is the Cheapest Electric Car Right for You?
The Nissan LEAF S‘s compact size, small footprint, and affordability make it an ideal vehicle for young professionals looking for an affordable and basic entry into the EV world. That said, drivers with families or who travel frequently with numerous passengers will want to consider a roomy all-electric SUV or crossover. The Nissan LEAF simply doesn’t provide enough comfortable passenger room for multiple people, particularly for adult passengers in the back seats.
The car’s styling, while fairly bland, is a big upgrade from the compact EVs of yesteryear. However, it doesn’t rival that of competitors like Mazda, Hyundai, or Honda.
Also, while the Nissan LEAF S is extremely efficient in terms of miles, it’s not suited to drivers eager to make long-range journeys without extensive stops for charging. Class competitors like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Hyundai IONIQ Electric, and Mini Cooper SE as well as larger EVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai IONIQ 5, and Kia EV6 offer much farther all-electric range, albeit at a much higher price point.
In addition to impressive savings on fuel, it’s also important to note that EV drivers can save considerably on annual maintenance compared to those who drive gas-powered vehicles.
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