For a hundred years or so, our major car-shopping considerations remained static. Whether the year was 1935 or 2005, a guy might choose a car based on its space, or speed, or curve of the fender. But since the arrival of electrics and plug-in hybrids, an important factor has come into play: destination. How well one of these cars works for you (or whether it works at all) depends on where you want to go. Will you drive it to work every day? How far is that? Can you charge once you're there?
And just because you drive 50 miles each way to work doesn't mean that an electric car is out of the question, but you'll need to choose wisely. Basically, you want to tailor your battery to your lifestyle. Plug-in hybrids, for instance, seem like a brilliant solution to the range problem (you're carrying your own backup generator, after all), but plug-ins only make sense to the extent that you can use them as electric cars, because once that gas motor fires up, you're just driving an underpowered normal car. The challenge is maximizing miles in electric mode – or, in the case of full electrics, maximizing time in your LEAF instead of the Armada next to it in the garage. But if you can afford a Tesla Model S Performance, then skip straight to option number four.
If You Commute...260 Miles: Tesla Model S Performance
Range: 265 miles
Mileage: 89-95 mpge
Who wants one: You, your neighbors, anyone who doesn't own a gas station
The Model S Performance, which combines Tesla's biggest battery with its most powerful motor, costs BMW M5 money but delivers M5 performance. The 416-horsepower motor delivers a 4.2-second 0–60 time that feels even quicker thanks to the blast of instant torque. The ultimate Tesla's EPA-certified range is 265 miles, which ought to be enough for almost anyone's daily driving requirements and occasional weekend beach-trip forays. Tesla still has its detractors, people who pooh-pooh the spotty coverage of the Supercharger charging network or the Model S's inability to cruise coast-to-coast nonstop. But there's a reason this machine earned the title as one of Consumer Reports' highest-rated cars ever and enabled Tesla to pay back its half-billion-dollar Department of Energy loan nine years early. It's not about range, or charging time, or tax incentives. The Model S is a sneak peek into the very near future, when electric cars are not just sensible, but lust-worthy. [Base price: $87,400 after federal tax credit for the Model S Performance; teslamotors.com]