Three No-Brainer Electric Car Trends in 2013
Just three weeks into the new year, we're already seeing three blatantly obvious trends emerge.
1EV Are Getting Cheaper
The big persistent complaint against electric cars is high cost. Critics say that plug-in cars cost more than so-called comparable models, but deliver less range or other features. Those arguments usually overlook the fact that EVs provide quicker acceleration, better handling because of a low center of gravity, and a smooth silent drive. (Let’s leave aside the lack of a tailpipe and what comes out of it.)
But lo and behold, only three weeks into 2013, and the price of the entry-level Nissan LEAF has been dropped by $6,000. And on Wednesday, GM North America President Mark Reuss said the company can reduce production costs of the Chevy Volt by “thousands of dollars” signaling a price reduction for the extended-range electric vehicle. If you look closely at the price of the Ford C-Max Energi, it’s actually lower than the C-Max Hybrid, when considering federal and state incentives. Also, the 2013 Smart Electric Drive starts at a compelling $25,000, before incentives.
This is not the end of the trend of fully capable EVs with a net price in the teens.
2Plug-in Hybrid Selection is Expanding
The Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid officially went on sale this week. The Ford Fusion Energi hits the market at the very end of Q1. My local Ford dealer expects to see the first units in April. These two plug-in hybrids—offered as options on ultra-popular—join the Chevy Volt, Ford C-Max Energi, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Fisker Karma, which are already on sale. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is coming later this year.
This all adds up to seven plug-in hybrids from seven different automakers, in a wide variety of sizes, styles and powertrain approaches. Volumes will not be high, but the ability for consumers to choose from among a field of options is unprecedented—and plants the seeds for future growth.
3Struggling EV Companies Are Becoming Less Relevant
Just as the major automotive companies are introducing their plug-in products, well-known start-up companies that have been talking a big game for several years appear to be stuck in neutral.
Better Place, the EV infrastructure that bet hundreds of millions of dollars on robotic battery swapping, is now without a CEO. Four months ago, its charismatic leader Shai Agassi stepped down, and was replaced by Evan Thornley, the company’s top guy in Australia. This week, Better Place issues a press release thanking Thornley for his “transitional” role, as he made his exit from the CEO's office.He has not yet been replaced. This is not a good sign.
Fisker Automotive is also failing to make up ground lost last year, due to a series of quality problems. Today, a number of news agencies are reporting that Fisker hasn’t built a single Karma vehicle for six months, and is pointing to supplier problems as the cause, including the bankruptcy of A123 Systems, its battery supplier. Yet, Inautonews.com reported that Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher, said, “Fisker is in advanced talks with a number of potential strategic partners. We expect some exciting developments in the next few months.”
For all intents and purposes, Coda Automotive has also not produced a vehicle for several months and is in discussions with potential strategic partners—an increasingly common euphemism for a company scrambling to find an investor or buyer (most likely in China).
These three trends paint a picture: a new more realistic EV market with greater choice, better pricing, and represented by major car companies, rather than less established hype-prone newcomers. Not a bad start.
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