About Electric Vehicle Progress in America. Jerry Mooney writes: When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla often gets the headlines, but there is an increasing fleet of electric cars that are pushing the envelope on price, range and quality. Don’t get me wrong, I spend most of my automotive fantasies focused on a Tesla Model X, but even though the EV revolution is just beginning, there is an increasing variety of available and soon to be available electric cars with a similar variety of specs, costs and features.
The Tesla Model X is the standard by which all cars, not just EVs, should be measured, but it isn’t the only choice. Especially when you consider that a well equipped Model X costs about $140,000, most of us must pivot to alternatives. And even the more modestly priced Model S typically runs in the $70,000 range, that’s twice what most people are willing to spend on a new car.
Then there is the Tesla Model 3, which has a starting price of $35,000, plus tax incentives that can get the actual purchase price below $30,000. This becomes an inviting thought, especially when we consider that the Model 3 is still an amazing car. The problem is that it is still not available. It is supposed to begin shipping later this year, but for those who want an EV now, it isn’t a choice.
The availability seems to be a normal problem with EVs at this point. Startup car companies like Sion and their solar powered EV have crowdfunded their endeavour, but consumers are still waiting for the actual ability to drive one. This is an example of how the EV market is still in its infancy. People feel they need to know more about EVs before they are going to commit to them. This is true of consumers and manufacturers at this point. People want to know the limits of EVs, especially their range, their prices versus conventional cars, and what they have to compromise in order to go electric.
Over time the answers to these questions will become more obvious, but until then, we must wait for EVs to become prominent in the marketplace. Aggressive companies like Tesla Motors have been setting the standards, but traditional car companies have been slow to follow. Even Volkswagen has yet to mass produce their EV line, following their emissions scandal. In the wake of their punishment, VW committed billions of dollars to creating an aggressive line of zero-emissions cars and the infrastructure necessary to manufacture and charge them, but these steps are still in the concept phase.
Last year Volkswagen introduced the Budd-e at the Consumer Electronics Show, an all electric modern version of the microbus, but the Budd-e, along with their all-electric versions of the Passat, Golf and various Audi models are still simply concept cars to this point. They have created the platform and designs, but they haven’t began production.
Part of this is due to the shift in production demand that an EV requires. Conventional cars obviously ran on combustion engines, that were supplied or built through long-standing, well established supply chains. The batteries required for EVs is a relatively new link in the supply chain and requires a commitment to their production. Even if Volkswagen and others commit to such a project, it will be years before their version of the Gigafactory is operational and until then, there would be a limited supply of available battery packs to power the cars.
For those of us who are not patient enough to wait for Volkswagen and others to get their green acts together, nor willing to wait for the Model 3 to arrive (400,000 are already reserved, so get in line), there are other options already in production. These might not be a sexy as the Tesla models, but they are zero emissions, available and improving. Chevrolet seems to be the most aggressive of the major car companies in its EV production. They have constructed a battery factory to accommodate the future needs of EVs even if this factory is currently producing mostly cobwebs.
Chevy anticipates the need, but doesn’t feel the current demand requires their factory be fully operational. But they do have the infrastructure in place to mass-produce several lines of EVs, from their hybrid Volt to the new, all-electric Bolt, which boasts over 230 miles in EPA estimated range on a full charge and has a starting sticker price of around $35,000.
The Bolt is said to act bigger than its size because the drivetrain is unnecessary and doesn’t take up interior space. This car was launched as a direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3 and beat the Model 3 to market. Now the question is, can it create the same hysteria that caused over 400,000 people to put deposits down for a Model 3 that they wouldn’t get for, at best, a year and a half down the road.
The Nissan Leaf has been on the market for half a decade now and has been a popular choice for green car enthusiasts as they wait for the prices of Teslas to come down. The Leaf boasts a sticker price of just under $31,000 and is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax incentive as well as various state tax rebates.
This makes the Leaf affordable, but the Leaf, although pioneering left consumers with the dreaded “range anxiety”. New Leafs get just over 100 miles of range on a fully charged battery, which makes it great for commuter driving. But with no supercharging network and requiring hours to charge back up, consumers have generally left the Leaf as a nice niche choice but nothing that would move the needle within the auto industry.
The least expensive of the EVs that are currently on the market (and mass produced) is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Its sticker price starts below $23,000 and with tax incentives that could put the overall price in the $15,000 range or even below in some States. For a commuter car with zero emissions, this could be a great way for inner-city drivers to reduce smog and park with its small body. It has a range of merely 62 miles on a charge, though, so don’t expect the i-MiEV to take you on long road trips. This is purely a commuter car.
The EVs are coming and some are already here. Until they become ubiquitous, we still have some options beyond upgrading our exhaust systems to reduce emissions. These cars might not thrill the Tesla sycophants, but they are proof that the EV revolution is on its way, even if we have to wait a little while longer to see it fully unfold.
Jerry Mooney is a Professor of Language and Communications and the author the novel History Yoghurt and the Moon. His dad and grandfather loved to work on cars and he fell in love with a Buick Riviera when he was a teenager. While this ignited a lifelong fascination with automobiles, his favorite vehicle, however, is his custom built chopper. Jerry also enjoys traveling and has been to 17 different countries.