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...70 Miles: Nissan LEAF
Range: 75 miles
Mileage: 115 mpge
Who wants one: A guy who knows a LEAF will take you anywhere you need to go 90 percent of the time, but owns another car to cover the other 10 percent.
If you drive 70 miles to work and back, that's a hell of a commute and one in which a hybrid would spend much of its time wailing along on the gas motor. But a Nissan LEAF will handle that drive, while delivering its signature cognitive dissonance: You know you're in a compact hatchback, but the silky power and minimal road noise imply a pint-size Rolls-Royce. Because the LEAF was first to the electric game, Nissan has had three years to tinker with it. For the 2013 model, they managed to simultaneously extend the range, cut charging time in half, and drop the price. That's an impressive trifecta that seems to have swayed the public: LEAF sales were up more than 400 percent for April. [$21,300 after federal tax credit; nissan.com]