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Autotrader reveals 10 best electric cars of 2021

Brian Moody, Executive Editor for Autotrader, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to break down Autotrader’s top electric vehicle selections for 2021.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome back. Well, it seems like there's more electric vehicles to pick from than ever before. So let's go through some of the top picks from Autotrader. We're joined now by Brian Moody, Autotrader's Executive Editor. I don't know why I said, electronic, Brian-- forgive me there on that. But let's start with the topic for the year. I'm seeing here it is the Mustang Mach E. Tell us about that one.

BRIAN MOODY: Well, the Mustang Mach E is definitely a revolutionary type of electric car. So first of all, it leverages the Mustang name, which a lot of people know and like, I guess you could say. It also has a lot of equity with American buyers. But it's also a wholly different kind of electric car.

This is a sort of a crossover SUV type of thing-- the type of vehicle that American buyers are buying more and more. It's the most popular type of vehicle. And it has a decent range and it's made by Ford. So all of these things together, it should be a pretty strong contender. We like it because it's fun to drive. And it's just one of those things that when you're inside, it feels like nicely built, high tech, like a thing of quality.

KRISTIN MYERS: And it definitely looks nice as I'm watching that video there. OK, what's number two on the list? I'm seeing Chevy Bolt EUV. Tell us about that one.

BRIAN MOODY: Right. So the Chevy Bolt EUV is like the Chevrolet Bolt that's already out, except this is sort of more of an SUV-ish type version-- more space inside, more of a, let's say, bigger, blockier look. Do you notice a trend here? It's toward SUVs. So that's a good one.

It's reasonably priced. These cars are not inexpensive. Other than the Nissan Leaf, many electric cars are very expensive. Expect to pay in the high 30s to 40, maybe even $50,000 or more for an electric car today.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, so the Hyundai Kona is the third on the list. I'm seeing that is a crossover. I'm curious to know if you can either tell us about that car, but also why are so many folks so interested in these SUVs-- these compact SUVs, these crossovers right now?

BRIAN MOODY: Yeah, so I think what happened is that the typical sedan from, say, the '70s, the '80s, the 90s, and even the 2000s, a lot of people are just doing more, and they want to get out more, and they find that these small crossovers like the Hyundai Kona-- the Hyundai Kona is a great car. It's electric, you can drive it-- it's not going to go off-road like a Jeep, let's just say, but it can handle some off-road, adventurey kind of things-- good for inclement weather.

I think what's happening here is people see these big, giant SUVs-- let's say the Chevy Tahoe, the Chevy Suburban-- and then they see these small electric cars like the Nissan Leaf-- if there's a way to marry those, that's what they want. They want an adventure-ish type vehicle, but they also want something that's efficient and car-like to drive every single day-- whether that's gasoline-powered or electric-powered.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. So, Brian, what went into making the cut, so to speak, for Autotrader? What did a car need to have to really make it into the-- not just the top five, but the top 10?

BRIAN MOODY: Right so the first thing is we had a group of editors and we voted. And we decided on which cars we liked. But we had criteria such as the base price of the car had to be under $75,000. Now, that sounds like a lot of money. Of course, it is, but that's not as easy to do with electric cars, because some of them are quite expensive.

The second criteria was that it simply had to have a plug. There had to be a way to plug it in. So we included for the sake of diversity, the sake of having a broad list both all electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars which can run on electricity for some portion of time without using any gasoline. So that was the criteria. Also, we wanted cars that would be on sale either now or within six months-- so no concept cars, nothing that's, like, way-- five years down the road or anything like that.

KRISTIN MYERS: OK, so I know that you're highlighting and we had a nice graphic of what's on the list-- I want to ask you about something that is not on the list, and that is Tesla. Why didn't Tesla make the cut?

BRIAN MOODY: Well, Tesla is-- listen, Tesla gets credit for introducing people to the kinds of electric cars that they really wanted. If you think about the world pre-Tesla and after Tesla, what we see is a lot of luxury automakers jumping into the game-- Jaguar, Porsche, Audi, all those. I don't think that would have happened without Tesla.

Now, in fairness, last year when we did this list, there was a Tesla on the list. That was the Tesla Model 3. And we all liked the way it looked and the way it drove. We weren't crazy about the central screen where every control, every aspect of the car goes through one central screen that's over here on the side.

Also one reason Tesla isn't on the list this year, I've got to be honest, increasing competition. A lot of automakers are really stepping their game up and introducing either these plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars. And the Mustang is a great example. There's a lot of competition out there.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Brian. I do want to ask you about those chip shortages and how that's going to weigh on the EV space.

BRIAN MOODY: Well, it's going to weigh on new car sales regardless of how they're powered. Like, today's car really has microchips, and semiconductors, and those kind of things all throughout the systems-- whether it's screens, whether it's monitoring the fuel economy, whether it's some sort of comfort adjustment on the screen. It's more than just electric cars.

But yes, this is a great point. And it's almost fortunate that this is happening and that the Biden administration has stepped in and said, hey, we have a plan or we're going to come up with a plan to help produce those things here in the US, because it's only going to be increasingly dependent upon things like rare earth minerals, lithium, where the stuff is mined is going to be important, and also the chips that control all those things-- increasingly important. So if we can solve that now while electric cars are only 2% of the market, better off down the road when they're 5%, 6%, 7%, 10% of the market.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Brian Moody, Executive Editor at Autotrader, thanks so much for joining us today.