Sales for electric vehicles (EV) seemed to dip at the beginning of the year, reaching a low point of 27,680 in January, but have crept back up and remained about 40,000 a month for March, April, May, and June. Though it seemed as if lower gas prices would effectively dash future sales of electric cars, and have consumers trading their hybrids in for all-gas options (as choices like pickup vehicles made a comeback). For now, at least interest in EVs is still alive, kept alive in no small part by the innovation of current iterations of modern EVs and the announcements of some newcomers to the electric vehicle arena.
Japanese automakers are making waves. In particular, the Nissan LEAF has grabbed headlines. Though US sales have waned a bit on the model this year, Nissan has decided to shake things up with the announcement of a new battery pack designed to increase the range of this vehicle to 250+ miles. Undoubtedly this is to woo customers from popular EV automaker Tesla and gain ground on the Model 3 (aimed at budget buyers).
They’ve also announced a “No Charge to Charge” Program in select American markets, which offers consumers complimentary public charging for two years with the purchase of a LEAF from a certified dealer. It’s interesting to note that promotional materials heavily emphasize that the LEAF is still the global leader in EV sales (over 205,000 with 90,000 of those being US purchases) and that the LEAF’s starting price of $26,700 (post tax credits) makes it rather alluring to the budget buyer. It wouldn’t be wise to count Nissan out of the EV race just yet.
The Chevy Volt, meanwhile, is giving Nissan stiff competition. Year to date, the Volt has overtaken the LEAF in sales. The biggest Volt news, though, is the 2nd Gen Volt Hybrid. It’s got many technological improvements up its sleeve, and this has put it in an advantageous position to reign supreme: less weight, a new battery, and a host of ease-of-use and safety features like lane-departure warnings and side blind-zone alerts. That last bit is of particular value to many motorists, as crashes and road fatalities have gone down steadily on the whole (and motorcycle accidents are among the most deadly still), 2015 saw an alarming uptick in injuries. Obviously, no one is particularly keen on having a significant investment like an EV ruined in a collision.
The BMWi3, which saw first-year sales of over 11,000 units (an impressive feat as a new entry into a market largely dominated by Chevy, Nissan, and Tesla), has made recent news overseas with some aggressive incentives from the German government to boost sales. With some upgrades to battery life, range, and overall performance, similar tactics might apply to American markets as well.
The most significant EV news, however, has been ongoing coverage of Tesla’s recently announced Model 3, and the car that’s shaping up to be its chief competitor, the Chevy Bolt. Though not slated for release until 2017 at the earliest pre-orders for the Model 3 are close to 400,000 so far. The relatively affordable price of this EV, combined with luster and prestige of being a “Tesla” brand vehicle, have many thinking this will be the model that brings top-tier electric vehicle technology to the masses.
That’s if they can beat out the Chevy Bolt, that is. Final testing for the Bolt has already commenced, and it will be available to consumers later this year (giving it a significant head start on the Model 3). The all-electric vehicle will have more than 200 miles of range and be priced around $30,000 (after tax credits), putting it right in the sweet spot for the consumers that Tesla is seeking to target with the Model 3.
It’s entirely possible that Chevy will be able to tempt former Tesla faithful to purchase a Bolt as an alternative, especially if (as many naysayers are quick to point out), Tesla is unable to meet their audacious production goals for the Model 3. Tesla has also run into a recent patch of bad luck, exacerbated by production shortages and rumors of a possible SEC probe.