The U.S. may have more plug-in vehicles registered than any other country, but that doesn’t mean that every model is sold here. BYD, for example, is the top green car company in China by volume, but it doesn’t have any plug-in models in U.S. dealers. And it’s not alone: Peugeot, Renault and Geely are also absent, to name a few.
Though it sometimes seems odd when one market gets a particular model while another does not, a couple of issues come into play for carmakers. Exporting cars into the U.S. is expensive, for one, and vehicles with low production may struggle to be profitable in the extra market.
Different regulations can also add on more work and expense. Safety standards, for example, are not the same in both Europe and the U.S., requiring automakers to alter vehicles for each market. A global standard on fuel economy and carbon emissions is also lacking. Even the way fuel economy is measured differs.
Because these cars aren’t sold in the U.S. at the moment, the corresponding fuel and safety ratings are not available (additionally, MSRP and price estimates do not include any potential tax credits). Still, these five plug-ins would likely be well-received if they ever made it to the U.S.
1. Renault Zoe
France’s Renault is the third largest automaker in Europe and, through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, posts some of the highest sales of plug-ins worldwide. But the company’s highly-praised Zoe
battery electric isn’t yet sold in the U.S.
With a starting price at 18,445 pounds ($27,897), this little hatchback makes an economical commuter car with enough room to carry five passengers. Reviewers say its 65-kilowatt electric motor quickly accelerates to highway speeds, though the Zoe can struggle as it nears its top speed of about 84 mph.
The lithium-ion battery pack is rated at 22 kilowatt-hours (kwh) and is offered under a lease as low as $106 per month. The Zoe has a 210 km (130.5 mile) range according to the generous New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), though Renault estimates the car’s real-world range is closer to 91 miles. These specs would slot the Zoe right underneath the Nissan Leaf, which offers about 107 miles of all-electric driving for $34,200.
2. VW Golf GTE
Though Volkswagen historically posted its strongest sales of alternatively-powered vehicles in the diesel segment, the German carmaker also offers a number of popular plug-ins. And the Golf GTE
plug-in hybrid is one of the top-selling plug-in vehicles in Europe.
The Golf GTE (Gran Turismo Electricity) visually looks very similar to the gasoline-powered Golf that is available in the U.S. To create the plug-in version, Volkswagen removed the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine (rated at 29 mpg by the EPA) and replaced it with a hybrid setup that includes a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, a single electric motor and an 8.7 kwh lithium-ion battery pack. This increased the overall power output from 170 horsepower on the standard Golf, to 201 horsepower for the Golf GTE. The plug-in has an all-electric range of 31 miles (as rated by the NEDC); its fuel economy as estimated by Car and Driver is 42 mpg city, 48 highway with a mile per gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 95.
The downside, though, is the price. In the U.S., a four-door Golf starts at $20,175, significantly under Europe’s 33,755 pounds ($51,064).
3. VW e-up!
The Volkswagen e-up! was the precursor to the battery electric e-Golf, and was VW’s first all-electric car. It’s a compact hatchback that’s downsized a bit from the e-Golf, with an 81 horsepower electric motor, an 18.7 kwh lithium battery and a European-rated range of 93 miles. And though the e-Golf has a bit more power and can drive about 25 miles further, experts say the e-up! still has enough pep to satisfy many consumers. As a bonus, in European markets the e-up! also sells for about 6,500 pounds less than the e-Golf, which could potentially translate to a savings almost $10,000 in the U.S, should the compact electric ever make it this direction.
4. Volvo V60 PHEV
The U.S. just recently received the Volvo XC90 plug-in. And while many will appreciate the versatility of this seven passenger SUV, its MSRP of $68,100 will cause others to balk. Which is one reason why it would be fantastic for Volvo also to bring its V60 PHEV to the U.S.
The V60 PHEV can switch from the standard hybrid mode to operate in all-electric mode – using its single electric motor to travel 31 emission-free miles – or engage both the electric motor and the 2.4-liter turbo diesel for all-wheel drive.
If pricing between regular V60 and the plug-in version matched pricing of Volvo’s XC90 variants in the U.S., the V60 PHEV would likely sell for around $55,000. For buyers shopping in the higher-end segments, this is a bargain in comparison to the Cadillac ELR (MSRP $65,000) and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid (MSRP $77,200).
5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been marked as one of the top-selling plug-in vehicles within the European market. Similar to the Volvo V60 PHEV, the Outlander PHEV can use its dual electric motors for 32 all-electric miles (as rated with the NEDC). But when it engages its 2.0-liter gasoline engine, the Outlander PHEV can also alternate between driving as a series hybrid (with the engine recharging the battery) or as a parallel hybrid (with the electric motors backing up the gas engine on an as-need basis).
The redesigned 2016 Outlander PHEV was launched earlier this fall in Europe. And earlier this year, Mitsubishi confirmed that the U.S. is finally set to receive the plug-in as well. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in Spring 2016, with the Outlander Sport PHEV following sometime later.