Mass production electric cars aren’t a new phenomenon. The early 1900s saw many electric cars used on roads in cities in the USA. In fact around 1912, 40% of American automobiles were powered by steam, 38% by electricity, and 22% by petrol. However, the advent of better internal combustion engines and the lack of progress in battery technology meant that 100 years later, petrol and diesel engines ruled the automotive world.
Today, there are many manufacturers who are making viable alternatives to petrol-engine cars, and at the forefront of this, is Tesla. The California-based automaker is redefining what it means to be a car manufacturer. Some say the all-electric company’s strategy is unlike any other manufacturer as it has changed the automobile industry in the same way that smartphones changed the mobile phone industry. After the introduction of the pricier Roadster, Model S and Model X, Tesla’s Model 3 woth a 215 mile (345km) range is meant to be the definitive car to re-introduce affordable electric cars into the automobile market.
There are many mainstream automakers who have also taken a keen interest in providing customers with an all-electric option. The modular nature of platforms used by car makers today mean that their standard models could support internal combustion engines, hybrid powerplants and battery-powered engines as well. Some manufacturers have a separate electric model in their range as well. BMW’s i3 may be priced high and have a range of just 114 miles (182km), but still has its takers. Nissan has its Leaf that can only do about 80 miles (130km) on a single charge, while Renault has its Zoe. These cars are a little limited in terms of range.
General Motors is the first manufacturer to bring out an electric car that’s affordable and is not a compromise in any way. The Chevrolet Bolt can go 238 miles (380km) on a single charge, reach a top speed of 91mph (146kmph), and is about $5,000 cheaper than the upcoming Model 3. The American giant has finally used its resources to beat Tesla in this arena. In addition, the Bolt has been launched nearly a year before the Model 3 will be out giving it an even larger advantage.
Following the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen planned to cut down on its diesel powered vehicles and jump on the electric car bandwagon. The German marque already has the e-Golf on-sale but it has a measly range of just 83 miles (133km). At the recent Paris Motor Show, VW revealed its ‘Strategy 2025’ plan that said it would launch over 30 electric cars (including its subsidiaries Audi, Porsche, SEAT, and Skoda) in the next 10 years. This includes new hybrid and electric cars, and swapping out the petrol engine in some of their standard models with an electric powertrain.
At the show itself, VW had the XL3 prototype meant to take on the likes of Toyota’s Prius for the electric/hybrid market leader. The BUDD-e electric van, revealed at CES at the beginning of the year sporting a floor-mounted battery with a range of 232 miles (370km), may also be one of the new models to be introduced. The manufacturer also unveiled its MEB modular toolkit, which means that all future electric cars from VW will share the same architecture and components. All this required an investment of about $1.1 billion (£900 million) marking Volkswagen’s commitment to the new strategy.
Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce at least 10 battery-powered cars in the coming years. The German manufacturer will launch the cars under a sub-brand ‘EQ’ specifically to take on Tesla. The 2016 Paris Motor Show, which incidentally saw many car makers reveal massive electrification plans, had Mercedes showcase its near-production SUV, a rival to the Model X. With a claimed range of 310 miles (500km), Mercedes has planned to take the fight to Tesla and has put pressure on its rivals, BMW and Audi.
After investing $1.1 billion (£900 million) in electric car technology, the brand expects to see 25% of its cars sold as electric vehicles. Besides the SUV, Mercedes has planned two electric saloons and another SUV for launch quite soon. Currently, the only all-electric car in their line-up is a variant of the B-Class.
In the last couple of weeks, car designer Henrik Fisker has teased a few details of his company’s upcoming electric car. First came the car’s suicide scissor doors (which he called “butterfly doors”), and then its front end. The company was one of the first to leap into the electric car field with the plug-in hybrid called Fisker Karma. However, after filing for bankruptcy and getting bought out by Wangxiang, a Chinese parts supplier, the firm is back with a new model. Details about the car are few. All we know so far is that it will compete against Tesla’s Model X.
Besides the fact that WM Motors is another Chinese electric car start-up company, not much is known about the products they have said they will unveil in 2018. The few other points of interest are that it was founded by Freeman Shen, the previous Group Vice President of Geely (owners of Volvo). Further, WM has raised about $1 billion, some of it from the Warren Buffett backed BYD, a Chinese automobiles and rechargeable batteries manufacturer. China is a massive market for automobiles in general and with the government’s new legislation for eco-friendly cars, an emerging market for electric cars as well. WM Motors expects to produce 100,000 cars per year by 2022.
A Chinese-backed, American start-up technology company, Faraday has been in the news recently for not being able to pay for the construction of its new plant near Las Vegas. The start-up showcased the single-seat FFZERO1 at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show and is expected to launch its first car sometime next year. The FFZERO1 was looked amazing, if a little outlandish, and sported 1,000bhp electric motor capable of rocketing the concept to 200mph (320kmph). However, most people were disappointed as they expected a mass-market car rather than a sporty concept.