Jack Norton, a history professor in Minneapolis, started shopping for an electric vehicle early last year. His requirements were simple: all-wheel drive and a price tag under $55,000.

At first, Norton noticed few EVs were being shipped to Minnesota, where car companies are contending with looser emissions mandates than in much of the U.S.

So he expanded his search to other states — then came the sticker shock. The scant electric models Norton could track down at dealerships were only available in top trims, and for amounts far above the starting prices he’d seen in ads and product launch presentations.