For many Americans, the image of an electric vehicle is largely confined to a futuristic sedan or boxy hatchback. But legacy automakers are racing to offer electrified versions of their classic brands, holding on to the design and sensory elements that made their gas-powered predecessors cultural touchstones.
For Ford, that means an all-electric F-150 pickup truck with even more horsepower than before. Volkswagen has turned its bus, the iconic hippie van of the 1960s, into an ambient lounge where seat-backs fold down into tables. Dodge plans to take the signature roar of its muscle cars and play it through an electronic speaker.
Dodge Charger Daytona SRT
Year available: 2024
Battery range: TBD
The signature rumble of an 8-cylinder engine came to define car culture in the late 1960s and early ’70s, thanks in large part to the Dodge Charger. But Dodge now plans to retire the gas-powered muscle car and replace it with the all-electric Charger Daytona SRT concept car, sporting an electronic roar that imitates the classic sound.
Parent company Stellantis designed the concept car to have the look and feel of a classic Dodge, and the electronic muscle car roar is an industry first, it says.
Longtime muscle car enthusiasts say there’s a lot at stake. “The muscle car era [will] just fade on away unless they show us something mighty mighty good,” says Alton Freeman, curator of the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum in Alexander City, Ala.
Volkswagen ID. Buzz
Year available: 2022 in Europe, 2024 in United States
Price: £57,115 in the United Kingdom ($65,739)
Battery range: 258 miles
The Volkswagen Microbus, or “bus” for short, has long embodied social liberation and a rejection of car-buying norms. It was a symbol of protest culture in the 1960s. More recently it has figured into the viral #vanlife social media trend, in which people chronicle travels in the vehicles.
The ID. Buzz ― released in Europe in 2022 and with a U.S. release slated for 2024 ― is a five-seat electric redesign. The European version includes a three-person bench seat that can be folded down, and fold-down tables on the backs of the front seats.
An optional 30-color ambient lighting system includes a “mood menu” with pre-configured light strips throughout the interior. The European model also includes an electronically-limited maximum speed of 90 miles per hour, and makes little noise even at high speeds.
Ford F-150 Lightning
Year available: 2022
Battery range: 240 miles
Ford’s F-150 has been the best-selling pickup in America for more than four decades, according to JD Power, and the prospect of an all-electric version sent a shockwave through the auto industry when production began in April.
Ford is marketing its new electric vehicle as a stronger, tougher, battery-powered version of what came before. The basic appearance is little changed. Under the hood, however, the Lightning is a noticeably different vehicle. It carries a 580-horsepower motor, marking a significant upgrade from its predecessor’s 430-horsepower engine. It can accelerate from zero to 60 in just four seconds ― not far behind some high-performance racers made by Porsche and Ferrari. And with bidirectional charging, the battery could be used to charge other vehicles or even a home.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Year available: 2021
Battery range: 303 miles
Ford’s Mustang crossover makes several key departures from past models, a risky move for any legacy manufacturer. The classic nameplate now appears on a four-door SUV with more internal storage space, marking a stark contrast from the muscular sports cars that came to define the brand.
The company could win over longtime Mustang enthusiasts with the sheer performance of the electric version. The car boasts an all-wheel drive system thanks to separate electric motors on the front and rear axle, giving the driver additional acceleration.
GMC Hummer EV
Year available: 2021
Battery range: 250+ miles
To many, the Hummer SUV is known as a notorious gas-guzzler. It was originally conceived as a consumer version of a military Humvee, with its gas mileage averaging around 10 miles per gallon, or even lower on city streets.
General Motors is now selling an electric Hummer SUV marketed as a rugged off-road vehicle. Its standard features include an infinity roof, all-weather floor liners, and 35-inch all-terrain tires. GM also touts a “crab walk” function that allows the vehicle to move diagonally. The driving experience can be modified through a “mode dial” offering the driver settings like “off-road,” “terrain,” “tow,” and “adrenaline.” And it is designed with the power and hauling capacity of its predecessor, with up to three electric motors available.
Year available: 2020
Price: €67,818 in Germany ($67,499)
Battery range: 249 miles
Mercedes-Benz EQV carries the design elements of the car-maker’s signature V-class vans, known in the U.S. as the Metris. It carries the space and functionality of a different classic: the minivan.
The EQV’s 8-seat capacity sets it apart. It comes in two settings: long, and extra long. It also has a number of added comfort features such as a fold-out table console for the middle row of seats. Currently it’s only available in Europe.
Year available: 2019
Battery range: 200+ miles
Porsche’s Taycan electric vehicle series is being marketed for its speed and maneuverability in the tradition of the brand’s high-performance sports cars. It comes in three variants designed to accentuate various design characteristics. The Cross Turismo and Sport Turismo each carry an enlarged rear in the style of a hatchback.
The pricey Taycan Turbo variant, meanwhile, is a true racer. It can zoom from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds flat. And it’s more aerodynamic than any other Porsche model ever produced, according to the company.
Mini Cooper SE Electric
Year available: 2020
Battery range: 114 miles
With a starting price in the mid $30,000 range, the Mini Cooper Electric is one of the most affordable electric vehicles on the market.
Its compact frame makes it a common choice for congested city driving. Its limited battery range of 110 miles, however, could make a tough sell for car-buyers looking for more than a suburban commute.
Year available: 2018
Battery range: up to 292 miles
Jaguar’s all-electric I-Pace is described as a “performance SUV,” recreating the brand’s classic sports-car feel with a more spacious interior.
The company describes its luxury vehicle as a “sanctuary from the outside world,” employing a sharp exterior to minimize wind noise. It has motor encapsulation to further reduce noise.
Editing by Karly Domb Sadof and Laura Stevens. Additional editing by Haley Hamblin, Hadley Green and Gaby Morera Di Núbila.