The electric vehicle world will be taking some big steps forward this autumn. Four new vehicles are expected out from manufacturers near the end of the year that each push the envelope in some interesting ways and fill market niches that are still barren. So if your lease is expiring soon or you are otherwise in the market for a new car, you can expect to have some exciting new options to pick from.
With luck, we may have some of these vehicles available to test out at National Drive Electric Week, coming on September 10-18. Which reminds me that if you have ever considered becoming a city captain for an event, or signing up as a volunteer, this is the time to do it. You can check out our event map here, and hopefully also add your pin to the map.
The most anticipated vehicle on this list, of course, is the Chevy Bolt, which GM is promising before the end of the year. The Bolt will be the first in the new generation of moderately priced 200-mile-range EVs. All indications are that these new longer-range vehicles will be real game changers. We got a taste of the vast public demand for 200-mile EVs when Tesla started taking pre-orders for the Model 3 and quickly shot beyond 400,000 orders. That so many people are willing to drop $1,000 to get on a 2-3 year waiting list suggests that the real demand for a well-designed 200-mile EV available today is even larger perhaps several millions. Being first out of the gate, GM will get the first real bite of that apple and soon.
Another intriguing vehicle that fills a vast market void is the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, a plug-in hybrid, expected to get 30 miles on a charge. Having a middle-schooler in our family, I get a lot of questions from the soccer mom (and dad) contingent about when they might see a plug-in car that works for them (e.g. a minivan, or something like it). The BMW i3 is a great car, but it won’t take three kids and their sporting gear to practices. If it is priced right, the Pacifica will have that market niche all to itself for the near term and reap the first-mover benefits.
The Volkswagen eGolf has been an EV also-ran up to now, but is about to get a major boost in range that could change everything. It’s easy to pile onto Volkswagen these days for their diesel misdeeds, but the eGolf is not a bad car at all. It has loads of power and about the same range (83 mi) as a Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 or Fiat 500e. And as I write this, I see dealers on-line offering to lease them for $99/month essentially for free, when you figure in the fuel savings. Despite all of that, in May, they sold a very modest 269 vehicles nationally. This may change when the 2017 comes out at the end of this year. It is getting a boost to a 36 kWh battery from the current 24 kWh, boosting its EPA range to an astounding 123 miles well beyond anything currently on the market, aside from a Tesla.
Finally, it is worth rounding out this list with the Hyundai Ioniq (pronounced like “ionic”). Hyundai is trying a strategy of offering the same car as an all-electric (110 mile range), plug-in hybrid (25 mile electric range), and conventional hybrid. This will offer an interesting experiment in consumer preferences among the three power trains, assuming that everything else about the cars is the same although pricing may play a role as well. Presumably the conventional hybrid will only sell if it priced deeply below the other two otherwise everyone would want the plug option.
So stay tuned, it should be an interesting autumn and I am not even talking about the presidential election! If you have ever thought it would be fun to organize a National Drive Electric Week event in your city or neighborhood and talk to your neighbors about EVs, then sign up for it right now. We’ll provide you with all the training, information, and supplies you will need to make it happen.