Tesla Motors (TSLA) recently announced its highly anticipated Model III all-electric compact sedan, which will sell for around $35,000. And if the Model S is any indication, the Model III will be a massive hit. The vehicle, however, won't be available for delivery until 2017.
BMW is surely rolling its eyes at the car’s name, as the Model III sounds eerily similar to the BMW 3-series. Both vehicles will undoubtedly go head-to-head for the dominant share of the luxury compact sedan market several years from now.
However, the electric vehicle (EV) market is shaping up to be anything but a two-horse race. Everything from compact sedans to luxury sports cars to minivans are set for release in the coming years, and hordes of EVs have hit the market over the past couple years. Here’s what to expect in the future from a highly competitive EV market.
The EV Pipeline
Audi A3 E-Tron: Audi has been toying with its E-Tron concept for quite some time, and it appears that the A3 E-Tron will be the first to hit the streets. Many believe that the A3 E-Tron will be a plug-in hybrid with an electric-only option, similar to the Chevy Volt. Details are scarce at the moment, but Green Car Reports expects a release in the second quarter of 2015.
BMW i8: Ever since it made its debut in Mission Impossible 4, auto enthusiasts have been craving the i8’s arrival. The i8 manages to reach 60mph in 4.4 seconds and 155 mph on only three cylinders, a true breakthrough in auto engineering. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid, but can deliver a 23-mile range on battery alone. Even if you have the $150,000 to buy one, the i8 is completely sold out at the moment. The car was recently released in Germany and is set for American arrival soon.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV: Set for U.S. release later this summer, the B-Class EV hopes to retain existing Mercedes-Benz customers who are looking to make the move to electric. The B-Class comes fully equipped with Mercedes’ ultra luxurious interior and prestine reputation. It is the most traditional looking car of the bunch, as the car is a near carbon copy of the regular B-Class, which began production in 2005. The car will start at $41,450 and has a 115-mile battery range.
Nissan e-NV200: The name definitely needs some work. However, Nissan’s (NSANY) electric van could be the first EV specifically for businesses, a market with enormous potential. The cars range is about 105 miles, has 4.2 cubic meters of cargo space, and costs about five cents per mile to operate. Price and release date are to be determined.
Porsche 918 Spyder: At $847,975, potential buyers probably aren’t buying the 918 Spyder for the $7500 tax credit. On a 608hp V8 engine plus 279hp from a battery, the car hits 60mph in an unbelievable 2.5 seconds on almost 900hp. The car set the all-time record at the Nurburgring racetrack with a lap time of 6 minutes and 57 seconds and can go all-electric on limited range. Deliveries are already underway and Porsche will deliver 918 vehicles worldwide (hence the name 918 Spyder).
Tesla Model X: Tesla’s next $70,000 EV probably won’t outsell the Model S, but it definitely makes a statement. The five-door hatchback body style with gullwing doors is a bold way to enter the crossover market, yet Tesla is poised to do so with success. The performance version of the car goes 0-60 in less than 5 seconds and can travel 270 miles on a single charge, making it one of the quickest and most efficient utility vehicles on the road. Reservations for Fall 2015 delivery are currently available.
Volkswagen E-Golf: VW ($VLKAY) hopes to combine functionality with efficiency with the 2015 E-Golf, set for release in late 2014. VW’s engineers hit a sweet spot with a 118-mile range, and with plenty of hatchback space and VW’s reputation for reliability, the E-Golf is sure to be a hit. Its price is to be determined, but the E-Golf will probably steal some of the Nissan Leaf’s market share with a competitive price tag.
New EVs Currently on the Road
BMW i3: “Electric and electrifying” reads the BMW website, declaring its first EV a near-perfect combination of performance, comfort, and efficiency. The $41,350 i3 hits 60mph in 7.2 seconds – not bad for a car of its size, particularly an EV. BMW has a reputation for immaculate engineering and a luxurious interior, a clear advantage over the rest of the market. Yet, its two-door crossover body style is, well, “interesting” looking, so the car may never puncture the mainstream market.
Cadillac ELR: This one’s a plug-in hybrid, but makes the list because it offers 35 miles of all-electric range. The ELR offers high-end luxury and performance, but at $75,000 it’s hard to imagine the ELR stealing away customers from the all-electric Tesla Model S.
Chevy Volt: Chevy (GM) was the first EV to break into the mainstream car market and even won Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the Year Award. At a reasonable price of $34,185, the Volt became popular because it has the option to run on gas once the 38-mile battery range runs out. However, EV purists and long commuters have rejected the Volt because of its 38-mile electric range.
Chevy Spark EV: The Spark EV is Chevy’s budget EV. With two doors and an 82-mile range, the Spark EV sells for $19,185. Spark has a surprising 327-lb of torque, which “makes a boring car intriguing,” said Kevin Wilson of Car and Driver.
Ford Focus: The Ford (F) Focus EV may be the most well balanced EV on the market. At $35,170, the Focus offers a 76-mile range, a solid interior, and a traditional body-style that doesn’t scream “Hey everyone look! I’m electric!” The Focus EV hit dealerships worldwide last summer.
Honda Fit EV: The Fit EV is Honda’s (HMC) rendition of the popular Honda Fit, a top-selling compact hatchback. With a range of about 80 miles, Fit EV is a popular 100% electric, four-door option for families. At almost $37,000, however, the Fit is a little pricey compared to other comparable offerings.
Nissan Leaf: The $28,980 Leaf is the cheapest four-door EV on the market and is 100% electric. With a 126-mile range, the Leaf has positioned itself as an affordable EV with ample range for almost any commute.
Tesla Model S: The Model S has emerged as the gold standard of the EV market. With a beautiful exterior, luxurious interior, a massive 200+ mile range, top safety ratings, zero to sixty between 4.2 and 5.9 seconds, and an extensive network of charging stations, Tesla has built something really special. The Model S is also the most expensive, starting at around $70,000.
Toyota Rav4 EV: The model is the only all-electric SUV on the market. It’s the ultimate soccer mom car, but at $49,800 it has priced some families out of the market. The model may not be along for much longer, as Toyota (TM) announced this month that it is planning to shift its resources from EVs to hydrogen fuel cells.
Mini-compacts: Smart fortwo Electric Drive, Fiat 500e, and Scion iQ Ev.
The Future of the Electric Car Market
It’s dangerous to presume that electric is set to overtake traditional gasoline, but it’s obvious that consumers will have ample EV choices in several years time. There will soon be an EV available for all tastes and demographics, something that the EV market currently fails to offer.
As the king of green and the gold standard of all-around EV performance, Tesla has a taken the clear lead in the industry. The Model III will sell like mad unless another EV maker pushes forward a release date and drives down its price.
The space appears to be getting more crowded, so it will be interesting to see how the market plays out. Some carmakers may aggressively look to position itself in the EV market before Tesla seizes domination, while others will concede defeat and look to capitalize on the next big breakthrough in auto efficiency. Many are looking toward hydrogen fuel cells as the next big thing.
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