Carmakers’ Commitment to Electric Cars

By · April 23, 2019

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Elon Musk

Every electric vehicle purchase is a vote of confidence in the companies helping to wean the world from a petro-based transportation infrastructure. Obviously, a vehicle’s features—its style, handling, and range—are essential for making a good decision. But for many EV buyers, the level of commitment an automaker makes toward the electric car future is another important consideration.

But what indicates that an automaker is making a serious level of commitment to vehicle electrification? Consider the following factors when voting with your dollars for an EV car brand.

Ground Up Design
Some EVs use existing internal combustion platforms. The automaker finds a way to swap out gas or diesel systems with batteries, motors, chargers and electric controls. This creative reuse can be viable. But auto companies that design and build an EV from the ground up specifically and exclusively as an electric vehicle are making a bigger investment—one that results in a car optimized for electric propulsion.

Size of Production Run
Most electric cars on the road today are produced in minimal quantities—showing little confidence from their makers that a battery-powered vehicle can become popular. These cars are primarily produced and sold, a couple hundred per month, to comply with government mandates for zero-emission cars. However, a few companies—most notably Nissan, Tesla and General Motors—are working to sell plug-in cars in the tens and hundreds of thousands.

Geographic Availability
After years of EV sales, relatively few electric cars are available widely across the United States. Most models are only available in California, and in some cases also in the New York area. Carmakers covering a wide territory, from one corner of the country to the other, deserve credit for making EVs a mainstream option. Another way to gauge commitment is the percentage of a brand’s dealerships that have inventory and EV-devoted sales support.

Innovative Features
An electric vehicle is a different animal than an internal combustion car. Car companies that invest thought and resources into EV innovation are helping establish a new automotive category that maximizes the distinct advantages of an electric car. Notable electric drive features include quick charging, range-extending engines, big battery packs, lightweight body materials, efficient heating/AC, mobile apps, and multiple regenerative braking settings with driver-controls such as paddle shifters. These features earn EV bonus points for carmakers.

One sure-fire way to kill an EV program is to overprice a plug-in car. While cost and pricing are obviously complex proprietary issues, the current market has established benchmarks for purchase and lease pricing. Electric models that carry sticker prices significantly higher than the competition reflect a clear lack of interest in selling a plug-in car in meaningful quantities.

Range of Vehicles
Every carmaker starts down the road to electrification by launching its first battery-powered car. But there’s a difference between dipping one’s toes in the water and developing a full electrification program that includes multiple models in different vehicle segments—from compacts and sedans to wagons and crossovers, and one day hopefully minivans and pickup trucks. Relying on a single EV—especially if it’s overpriced, produced in small quantities, and only sold in one state—indicates an anemic electric program.

Comments from Leadership
Nothing undermines consumer confidence in an automaker’s electric efforts than strident anti-EV comments from a chief executive. Honest assessments of the challenges facing electric cars are obviously welcome. But off-the-cuff attacks are unfortunate. Claims from CEOs that EVs “make no sense,” that consumer don’t care, or that the cars lack sufficient range, can turn off buyers considering a purchase from that automaker.

New to EVs? Start here

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