Sales Double in 2013; This Year Off to a Good Start!
Sales doubled in 2013 as automakers continue to increase our choice of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars and crossovers; 2014 promises to be another banner year for plug-in cars. Picking the Top 10 electric cars now involves making some choices as the number of vehicles available increases.
General Motors is #1 in plug-in hybrid sales with the Chevrolet Volt, a four-passenger compact hatchback that has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and 380 to 400 miles per gasoline fill-up range. The Volt has a starting price of about $34,185, but are eligible for federal and state incentives. Also at GM is the all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV (on sale in California and Oregon) for about $26,685 for this fun city car with 80-mile range between charges. Sales are just beginning for the Cadillac ELR using a plug-in hybrid drive system similar to the Volt. It retails for $75,000.Road Test: 2014 Chevy Volt; 2014 Chevy Spark EV; Cadillac ELR news.
Toyota, world-leading seller of hybrids, also sells both plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. The Prius Plug-In Hybrid looks like another Prius until you spot the J1772 plug for smart charging for a 12 to 15-mile electric range. With a starting price of $32,000, Toyota will be offering three electric cars in California: the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV, with a 150-mile electric range (produced with some help from Tesla, in which Toyota is a shareholder); the FCHV fuel cell car with over 350 mile range (which goes on sale in 2015), and the new Scion iQ-EV small all-electric city cars with limited availability for car sharing and campus pilot tests. By 2015, Toyota will also offer 21 hybrid cars with similar electric motors and advanced battery packs shared with its electric cars. First Drive: RAV4 EV.
Nissan is the sales leader of pure electric cars. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. Nissan is now making the LEAF in Tennessee for the U.S. market with options that include Level 1 charge, Level 2 charge at 6.6 kW/hour, and 25-minute DC fast charge. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,800. Road Test: 2013 Nissan Leaf
Ford is giving customers the greatest choice in all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. The new Ford C-MAX Energi is a 5-door, 5-seat, crossover with more room than a small SUV. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in hybrid with 14 to 20-mile electric range and 620 mile total range. It is well priced at about $33,700. If you prefer a classic sedan, the Ford Fusion Energi uses the same plug-in drive system, and similar electric and total range. The Ford Focus Electric is an all-electric with 80 to 100-mile range, but priced at $39,200. Increasingly, Ford is offering its cars with customer choice between good MPG, hybrid, and electric. Ford Focus EV-First Drive
Tesla owners are the first to put 10 million electric miles on U.S. roads. Customers have more than 20,000 on the road and sales are expanding around the globe. Tesla is delivering the roomy Model S luxury sedan that starts at about $71,000. Production of the Roadster has stopped, with deliveries totaling 2,500. The Model S has a remarkable electric range options of 160 to 300 miles per charge. Tesla helped shareholder Toyota to bring back the Toyota RAV4 EV, an electric SUV. Orders can now be placed for the Tesla Model X Crossover SUV with optional AWD, with deliveries starting in 2015. Tesla News.
Honda is selling the 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid, a premium midsize sedan with comfort for 5. Starting at around $39,800, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid rates high in efficiency at 115 combined mpg, 15-mile electric range, and 574 total range. For a few hundred test drivers, the all-electric Honda Fit EV can be leased for $259 per month. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. Road Test: Honda Accord Hybrid.
Daimler is the automotive giant that owns Mercedes, Smart, and is also a Tesla stockholder. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart ED is now in its third generation and has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for cities and universities. In San Diego, 12,000 members of Car2Go car sharing program drive 300 of these Smart Electrics. Mercedes has two versions of its B-Class compact, a pure electric and an fuel cell electric vehicle with a more than 300 miles of range.
BMW is delivering the i3 in two versions, an all-electric or one with a small range-extender gasoline engine. The company has said initial orders are causing it to boost production plans. Its carbon-fiber cabin makes it one of the lightest cars on the market for its size and allows BMW to use smaller electric motors and batteries while still producing the expected BMW performance.
The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol is beginning sales this year. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor. BMW i3 is on top of my “Best of 2013″ list based on my early drive.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV fits into tight parking spaces and tight electric car buyer budgets. The Mitsubishi i starts at about $29,000. This fun-to-drive 5 door, 4 seat hatchback, fits in those precious city parking spaces too small for most cars. The i-MiEV has an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Although it’s been modified for the US market it still feels very much like the Japanese-market original, which is to say, less substantial than many of its competitors.
Fiat, which owns Chrysler, is now selling the Fiat 500e for a fun all-electric city car. We think it’s the most fun car of the EV bunch. Road Test: Fiat 500e. Lease deals are available for this California-only car.
U.S. Electric Car Forecast
Electric car sales were expected triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013; they missed that mark in 2013 by a wide margin, but sales are still stronger than the early years of hybrid cars. Accenture and some others were forecasting more than one million electric vehicles (cumulative) in the United States by 2015, but those numbers are being pushed out. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. Fisker offered a beautiful $100,000 Karma luxury sports coupe, but filed for bankruptcy in 2013. It may now return with new owners. Coda offered an all-electric sedan with more range than the LEAF and Focus Electric but failed to find a market and closed operations. Battery makers, such as Panasonic, Sanyo, LG Chem, and Samsung see strong growth, while others such as A123 and EnerDel struggle in the face of intense competition.
California and seven other states reaffirmed their goal to have 3.3 million electric cars (including plug-in hybrids and fuel cells) on the road by 2025. The numbers are basically accounted for in the ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandate that the states have in place, but rely on a steep ramp up of sales after 2020.
New models coming on the market to help boost sales include the VW e-Golf, Audi A3 e-tron and Hyundai and Toyota’s fuel cell electrics. It looks like it’s going to be quite a ride.
China/India/Korea Prepare for the U.S. Market
For years we have read about China’s plans to bring electric cars to the U.S. Although China’s U.S. ambitions have slipped badly, its automakers cannot be ignored. China has over 100 million light electric vehicles, e-bikes and e-scooters in daily use. It’s new 5-year plan calls for 100 million electric charging stations in China by 2020. BYD, with gold-plated investors such as Warren Buffett, has only put a few hundred electric vehicles on the road in China and continues to delay introduction to the United States. Volvo, now owned by China’s Geely has the new C30 Drive E Electric, but the Volvo electric car will be selling only in Europe in the short-term. SAIC, Chery, and hundreds of players are also preparing EVs for China. India might bring us a Maharinda Reva or Nano EV that under prices everyone, but given recent European crash tests of those models, they are unlikely to show up here anytime soon. Korean manufacturers, already tearing up the U.S. market, have announced that the Soul EV will go on sale this year.
Europe, with higher fuel prices and fewer oil subsidies, is forecast to have more electric cars by 2020 than the United States. But it will not be a smooth road. Better Place was expected to deliver 100,000 of the Renault Fluence with its switchable battery to Israel, Denmark, Australia, and even U.S. taxi fleets, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Volkswagen may teach everyone how to extend range by making vehicles light. The concept Up Light weighs just over 1,500 pounds and it’s coming on the market soon. We loved test-driving the Volkswagen Golf Blue E-Motion and expect to see it late in 2014. The Audi E-Tron may show up by 2015. Competition will be tough.
There is a lot of innovation from around the world that did not make this Top 10 List, which focuses on the U.S. market for the next 12 months. Please bookmark this Top 10 List and check back as we update. Exciting new electric cars are being driven on the U.S. streets and freeways. Nissan is an early mover with battery-electric cars and General Motors with plug-in hybrids. Competition increases from Mitsubishi, Ford, Toyota, Honda, and dozens of Asian, European and American innovators. The winner will be the customer.
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