Electric Car Price Wars — Part 2
Chevy Volt Drops Its Price for 2014
Consumers interested in plug-in cars got more good news this month as the Mercedes-built Smart and Chevy Volt both joined the recent moves to drop prices on their models. The Smart dropped lease prices to $139/month, substantially below much of the competition. General Motors in turn announced the Volt’s price was being lowered by $5000. The actions follow similar moves by Nissan for the Leaf, Honda for its Fit EV and Fiat with the 500e, among others, and the announcement that the all-new BMW i3 electric car would start at $41,350 in the U.S.
That latter price was thought to be the catalyst for the Volt move, although it is very early in the electric car market to be attributing pricing countermoves to automakers. That said, the Smart price drop was clearly a reaction to the $199/month lease prices being promoted by Fiat (for the 500e), GM (for the Spark EV) and Nissan for the Leaf. In the same way the gasoline-powered two-passenger Smart is generally priced below the gasoline versions of those four-passenger competitors (or in the EV-only Leaf’s case, the Nissan Versa), it’s clear that Smart needed to drop its lease price to keep consideration of its Smart ED in the mix.
2013 Smart Electric Drops Lease Price
The Smart ED is the third generation electric car from the Mercedes-Benz sub-brand. It’s substantially improved from earlier versions with stronger performance, but is likely to struggle as its gasoline sibling does since the market for two-passenger cars is limited. Its appeal right now is as the lowest price electric car you can buy. Since most pure electrics are urban-oriented, limited use vehicles (with Tesla’s Model S the pricey exception), the diminutive Smart could yet find a niche. Dealers are reportedly getting additional marketing incentives that could lower prices even more.
Volt Price Drop
They Chevy Volt is in a different place. Since their almost simultaneous introductions, The Volt and Leaf have battled for sales leadership in the plug-in category, though this year the Tesla Model S has been challenging them. Nissan moved Leaf production from Japan to its Nashville, Tenn., plant this year and has started battery production there as well. The moves allowed Nissan to drop the Leaf price by $6,400 this year, which boosted sales by 2-3 times 2012’s level. Nissan also just announced that they have the capacity to increase Leaf production if sales remain strong or improve.
The Volt with its range-extending technology jumped out to an early lead over the pure-electric Leaf in sales last year, but the race has tightened this year with GM offering lease deals on the Volt to keep it competitive with the Leaf. GM claimed the price drop was possible because of manufacturing efficiencies, but it appears that market pressures may have been the prime motivator of the move. Along with the announcement of the $5,000 price drop for the 2014 model, GM also instituted a comparable $5,000 consumer rebate on 2012 and 2012 models that are still on dealer lots.
General Motors has consistently said it doesn’t expect to make any money on its first generation of the Volt, but hopes to change that with increased volumes and reduced costs with the next generation, due in 2015.
Getting the Same Treatment
As we noted in an earlier article, plug-in cars are starting to get the same treatment in the marketplace that conventional vehicles regularly do – garnering incentives and price adjustments based on consumer response to the vehicle. The additional pressure that electric cars face is that at present none of the models on the market are creating profits for the automakers, so incentive money or price drops add to an existing deficit. As is the case with any model, that strategy cannot play out long term.
In the interim consumers have a great opportunity with little risk (particularly in lease offers). Federal and state incentives added to lowered prices and special deals have brought electric cars into the same prices range as not only hybrids, but even regular gas models, particularly when operating costs are factored in. So the bargain choices are as follows (this is for pure electrics; of course, some of the models have limited availability at present) along with some of the variety now offered (most of the initial EVs on the market are subcompact or smaller cars):
Lowest Price: Smart ED, $139/month lease
Lowest Price 4-passenger: Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf – all at $199/month lease
Convertible Electric Car: Smart ED Cabriolet
Electric SUV: Toyota RAV4 EV
If you expand your search to include plug-in hybrids such as the Volt, your choices expand significantly with wagons such as the Ford C-Max Energi, midsize cars such as the Ford Fusion Energi or Honda Accord Plug-In or a plug-in version of the best-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius Plug-In.
And next year the market will expand even more with new plug-in cars from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Cadillac, Porsche and Infiniti, among others.
Other similar articles you might find interesting:
Electric Car Price Wars
The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy
Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars
Electric Cars Are Cleaner Today & Will Only Get Cleaner
This all-electric city car is priced so low that I had to ask 3 times to confirm. I heard it right. Spring 2013 you can order the smart fortwo electric drive (yes the car name is not capitalized) for $25,000 and be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. Your state may offer added incentives. $17,500!
This all-electric smart looks like the gasoline smart car. With clever Germany engineering, the all-electric is the same size inside and outside as its gasoline cousin.
For an extra $3,000 you can have fun driving the electric convertible smart fortwo electric cabriolet. You can continue to buy the gasoline smart car, but the low price of the electric and the savings of never going to a gas station make that a less attractive choice.
I was impressed with my test drive in 2011 of the smart fortwo electric drive in Car2Go car sharing. There are 300 of these all-electric cars used by thousands of San Diego members daily. The Smart that impressed me used the second-generation drive system. This new 2013 Smart Electric Drive has 50 percent more power to get you up the hills.
I was more impressed with my test drive of the new 2013 smart electric drive here at the LA Auto Show. With a bigger electric motor it has good acceleration. Merging on a freeway would be no problem. It cornered well and was fun to drive.
Only 8-feet 8-inches long, this small city car is popular in car sharing and with city drivers who can fit into street parking spaces, saving parking costs of $20, $30, or even $50 per day. The smart fortwo, as its name implies, is only a 2-seater with limited cargo.
The smart fortwo electric drive is a zero-emission visual statement that further defines the spirit of smart. Based on the iconic smart fortwo, and available in coupe and cabriolet body styles, the new generation smart fortwo electric drive has the smallest footprint of any car on U.S. roads and represents a key step in sustainable transportation.
The electric drive battery fits where the fuel tank usually goes, under floor between the front and rear wheels, while the electric motor replaces the conventional engine between the rear wheels. As a result, the electric drive looks just like a normal fortwo. The electric drive has the same outside footprint, the same interior room, the same cargo space and the same safety of any smart fortwo.
Daimler, owner of Mercedes, gets serious about Electric Cars
In the new generation of the smart fortwo electric drive, an EM-motive (joint venture between Bosch and Daimler) 55-kilowatt electric motor provides 35 kilowatts of continuous power that translates to 130 Nm of torque. The motor can generate peak power of 55 kilowatts for about two minutes. This power provides acceleration from zero to 60 mph in less than 12 seconds, and a top speed of more than 78 mph.
The second generation smart-electric used a Tesla battery pack. Daimler owns about 5 percent of Tesla’s stock. In this new 2013 third-generation smart electric drive Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotove provides a new 17.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-battery and electric motor with an efficiency of 110 watt hours per kilogram.
The all-new smart electric drive achieves 122 city MPGe, (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent). The EPA tested range for the electric drive is 76 miles in city driving, about the same as the Nissan LEAF and better than city car the Mitsubishi i. During coasting and braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, helping to slow the car and pumping up to 30 kilowatts back into the battery. Due to this regenerative braking, the smart fortwo electric drive is very efficient even in stop-and-go traffic.
Charge in 3.5 hours with intelligent charging
The smart fortwo electric drive can be charged from any normal household 110-volt wall socket with the provided standard cable or a 240-volt socket. From a 240-volt outlet, it only takes 3½ hours to charge the battery from 20 to 80 percent and about six hours to reach full charge from a depleted battery. Unlike the Mitsubishi I, Chevrolet Spark EV, and Nissan LEAF, 20-minute DC fast charge is not available.
The smart fortwo electric drive can communicate with the smart vehicle homepage through the power lines whenever the car is being charged. This real-time data provides useful information to owners about usage patterns, power draw and vehicle performance. The power line communication enables drivers to take advantage of lower utility night rates available in some areas, enable automatic billing and provide real-time information about the state of charge, interior temperature and system pre-conditioning.
There is an app for the smart fortwo electric drive that provides charge time remaining and expected completion time. When driving, the app’s map feature will highlight nearby charging connections and set favorite charging locations as well as estimating driving distance and tracking available battery range.
The interior is plainer than more expensive electric cars and the electronics are simple. On the dash, a power meter gauge and state-of-charge gauge replace the optional tachometer and clock. Like a gas gauge, the charge gauge shows the percentage of battery power remaining, with a red line below 20 percent. Every vehicle also comes equipped an eco-meter which shows how efficiently the car is being driven. When the driver begins charging the car, the next driving time can be set like an alarm, so the car’s interior temperature will be pre-conditioned and fully charged for the next trip.
Small Car Safety
Many, with some justification, see small cars as unsafe. The smart fortwo has endured extensive crash testing and meets all U.S. motor vehicle safety standards. Its tridion safety cell is like the roll-cage in a race car.
To provide additional protection for the interior, the engine, High Voltage battery, and 12V battery are housed in impact-protected zones.
Wide steel bumpers connect to bolt-on crash boxes at the front and rear that can be replaced after a minor collision. In a rear collision, the motor is designed to slide under the passenger cell rather than into it. The smart fortwo electric drive coupes have eight standard air bags. ESP® helps drivers maintain stability, especially on slippery roads, by helping to prevent over steering (fishtailing) or under steering.
electric car price competition
All-electric competition is getting hot with high gas prices. The average U.S. driver travels under 40 miles daily making an electric car a good match. Range is less of an issue than first imagined due to most early buyers being in 2-car households, charging at work, and thousands of public charge points. The smart fortwo electric drive has competition that seats four and five, but costs thousands more.
Mitsubishi I MiEV for about $4,000 more seats four people, has more cargo room, and has optional DC Fast Charge. Although a micro-compact, I found its room inside to be adequate.
Chevrolet Spark EV for less than $32,500 gives you a stylish microcompact 4-seater from the same engineering team as the Chevrolet Volt. Optional is the new SAE DC Combo Fast Charge.
Nissan LEAF for about $35,000 gives you a 5-seat compact hatchback that fits right in on the highway and city streets. I can lower the back seat and put 2 mountain bikes inside my LEAF and the DC Fast Charge has allowed me to extend range.
Smart fortwo electric drive at $17,500 after federal tax credit expands the market for all-electric cars. The smart fortwo electric drive is a fun driving car for households with 2 cars, city and university dwellers, and car sharing programs.