(This article was brought to you in part by Green Insurance Company, which has been providing car, van and bike insurance for over 30 years.)
Just seven years ago, the award-winning documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? examined Big Oil’s role in quelling the energy-efficient automotive revolution. But if recent statistics are any indication, the 2014 Electric Vehicles market should be one for the record books.
Leading models such as the Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and Toyota Prius broke EV sales records in August thanks to lower lease prices and steep dealership discounts. The 11,363 Electric Vehicles sold during that month shows significant growth from the 4,175 sold during the same period in 2012.
But forecasters are predicting the EV market will grow exponentially larger in 2014, with some of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers ready and eager to enter the fray.
With sales of more than 9 million cars a year, Volkswagen is currently the #3 player in the auto industry. According to Zurich-based sustainability investment company RobecoSAM, VW is also the world’s most sustainable automaker.
RobecoSAM’s Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) review analyzed the economic, environmental, and social sustainability performance of 31 automotive companies, with VW ranking highly based on its efforts to improve the fuel consumption of its entire fleet in an attempt to lower CO2 emissions; its environmental management system; and positive community engagement.
Given these eco-friendly initiatives, you can imagine the buzz in auto industry circles when Volkswagen announced their plan last month to make electric cars and plug-in hybrids integral to their manufacturing process, with 14 electric or hybrid models from VW brands to be introduced by the end of 2014 (including the eGolf, an electric version of one of the company’s most popular models).
“We are electrifying all vehicle classes,” said CEO Dr. Martin Winterkorn in a press release, “and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018.”
But Volkswagen isn’t the only German automaker looking to toss its hat into the 2014 Electric Vehicle ring. BMW is poised to introduce its new i3, which combines high-end engineering with avant-garde aesthetic innovation. Using lightweight carbon fiber construction, the BMW i3 will be the first car to offer consumers a choice between EV and plug-in hybrid options. But with its tiny size, uniquely bizarre design and $42,4000 price tag, will buyers bite?
Other luxury automakers are expected to jump on board the Green train as well. Developed by GM using the Volt’s chassis and powertrain, the Cadillac ELR will be a plug-in hybrid, compact sports car with a limited production run and a hefty price tag (estimated to be $60,000-$70,000) designed to convey exclusivity. The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, described by Digital Trends as “a car worth reporting on,” represents an eco-friendly evolution for the storied brand. But its $99,000 sticker price will likely assure it remains more of a niche attraction than a game-changer.
But the innovator everyone’s watching isn’t even close to being one of the auto industry’s “Big 6.” The 30,000-40,000 cars sold by Tesla Motors in 2013 isn’t even 1/100th of those sold by Volkswagen. Yet the California-based EV upstart has earned a lot of attention for their Tesla Roadster (the world’s first fully electric sports car) and Model S (a fully electric luxury sedan). The promised 2014 delivery of their Model X, a fully electric SUV/minivan hybrid, seems to forebode even bigger and better things to come for the independent company.
Tesla, named after physicist Nikola Tesla, revolutionized the auto industry by using an AC motor directly descended from his 1882 design and lithium-ion battery cells, creating the first EV with a range of over 200 miles per charge. And because the company not only sells its own vehicles, but also sells patented electric powertrain components to other manufacturers, they’re rapidly emerging as a lightning rod whose innovation is expanding the EV market at a remarkable rate. Within a year or two, the company may offer a $30,000 electric vehicle twice as fuel efficient as the Prius.
So, while 2013 has been a banner year of growth for eco-friendly automobiles, there’s ample evidence that it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the promise of the 2014 electric vehicles market. As more and more major automobile manufacturers jump into the field, competition heats up, and prices continue to drop, we could soon see EV models that are incredibly economical in both the short- and long-term. –Bret Love
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