Karl Brauer, executive analyst at automotive research firm iSeeCars. An automotive journalist for more than 25 years, he is a jury member for both the North American Car and Truck of the Year and the World Car of the Year awards. iSeeCars.com
The auto industry is about to jump start the market for all-electric vehicles (EVs). Over the next two years, buyers who would rather plug in than fill up will have many more options, including various SUVs and pickups as well as a number of exciting but reasonably priced sedans. These new entries are likely to expand the EV market, which in 2019—even with gas-electric hybrids included—accounted for less than 2% of new US vehicle sales.
To increase that share, automakers are trying to address “range anxiety”—the fear that elective vehicles will conk out when they venture beyond a trip to the supermarket. Most of the newest EVs can travel at least 200 miles per charge…and some top 300 or even 400 miles. (Most take around eight hours to completely recharge, depending on the available charging voltage.)
The automakers also hope they can cut into Tesla’s EV dominance, especially now that US buyers will no longer be eligible for the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit if they opt for any Tesla, because that automaker has exceeded the credit’s cutoff of 200,000 electric vehicles sold. (Buyers of GM EVs, including the Chevy Bolt, no longer qualify for a tax incentive as of April 2020.) That’s a big financial incentive to choose a different carmaker’s EVs. Without the tax credit it becomes difficult to justify an EV’s higher price tag, even accounting for the $700 to $900 in estimated annual savings in fuel and maintenance costs.
Here’s a look at eight of the most enticing EVs expected to reach the road soon…
A Crossover and an SUV
An appealing crossover and SUV will reach showrooms late in 2020…
• The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is an attractive performance-oriented EV that borrows styling cues from the classic Mustang sports car while offering crossover space and functionality. With 332 to 459 horsepower (depending on the model) and a very low center of gravity, it’s likely to be fast and fun to drive. Top-of-the-line models are expected to go from 0-60 mph in around 3.5 seconds, comparable to a 760-horsepower Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 with a gas engine. But the Mach-E also promises practicality. Ford did a great job creating a spacious, versatile interior in a vehicle that doesn’t seem oversized on the outside—a 6-foot-5-inch-tall adult can sit comfortably in the middle backseat. The base Mach-E can travel 240 miles on a charge, and an optional extended-range battery pack could stretch that beyond 300 miles. The Mustang has a starting price of $44,995, well below the $49,200 price for a Tesla Model Y, and the Ford qualifies for the $7,500 tax credit.
• The 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge is an electric version of the automaker’s popular XC40 compact luxury SUV. Like the gas-powered XC40, this will be a well-equipped, safe, stylish, upscale and relaxing five-seat SUV. The cabin offers excellent visibility, the front bucket seats provide impressive back and leg support, and interior storage compartments abound. Don’t confuse the Recharge’s relaxing interior with a boring ride—its 402 horsepower, under-five-second 0-to-60 acceleration (compared with 7.8 seconds for the base gas-powered XC40) and low center of gravity suggests it will provide plenty of driving fun. Range is expected to exceed 200 miles and expect a starting price below $50,000. That’s well above the base gas models $34,695 starting price…but the $7,500 tax credit helps.
Previous economy-oriented EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf offered little in styling or excitement. These two econo-EVs do much better…
• The 2020 Kia Soul EV hatchback is not brand new, but it was upgraded dramatically for 2020. It provides 201 horsepower, 7.2 second 0-60 acceleration and 243 miles of range, a huge leap forward from the earlier model’s 109 horses, 11.2-second 0-60 time and 111-mile range. Its styling is distinctive with a squared-off exterior that doesn’t look like all the other hatchbacks on the road. It’s big enough inside for four adults, and well-equipped for an economy car. Soul EV is expected to reach the market at some point this year, perhaps by the summer or fall. It’s expected to cost about $35,000—or less than $30,000 after the tax credit.
• The 2020 Mini Electric Hardtop, an electric version of Mini’s 2-door hatchback is a cute little EV at a reasonable price—its starting price of $30,750 falls to a very palatable $23,250 after the tax credit. Its impressive list of standard features includes heated seats, keyless entry, rain sensing wipers and more. Like many Minis, its handling is agile through corners, while its 181 horsepower is plenty for a car this small. But it’s not the most versatile vehicle—interior space is limited, adults will find the rear seats cramped and range is just 110 miles per charge. It is scheduled to reach showrooms this month.
The Picks Among the EV Pickups
Tesla got a lot of attention when it unveiled its Cybertruck last year—the Tesla pickup’s stainless-steel body and odd, angular styling made it look like something out of a science fiction movie. But that styling isn’t for everyone…and the Cybertruck won’t reach the roads before 2022. By then it will face stiff competition—players ranging from little-known startup Lordstown Motors to heavy hitter GM’s Hummer brand are preparing to introduce EV pickups. Two that stand out…
• The 2021 Rivian R1T from new Michigan automaker Rivian is expected to be available by the end of 2020. It promises impressive capabilities—400-mile range…11,000-pound towing capacity…and 0-60 acceleration in three seconds would put it on par with elite sports cars. The R1T strikes a balance between futuristic and traditional truck styling. And while some buyers might be wary of trusting an untested automaker, there’s reason to have faith in Rivian—this truck is designed and built in Michigan by a team that has impressive pedigrees working with big automakers, and the company’s investors include deep-pocketed Ford and Amazon. (Disclosure: The parent company of Kelley Blue Book, the company I work for, also is an investor.) The main downside is its steep price—$69,000 before the tax credit.
• The new electric Ford F-150 will almost certainly be a big seller among EV pickups—the gas-powered F-150 is a tremendously well-made truck that’s been the best-selling vehicle in the US for decades. The only problem—we know virtually nothing about what the EV version of the F-150 will be like. Photos taken of prototypes suggest that its styling is likely to be similar to the gas-powered F-150.
Not everyone buys an EV just to be energy efficient. Some buy them because EVs can be tremendously fun to drive…
• The 2021 Audi e-tron GT will deliver everything people want from an Audi when it arrives in showrooms early next year—striking styling, excellent driving dynamics, the latest technology and a luxurious interior. This four-door performance sedan produces 590 horsepower and 3.5-second 0-60 times, while its extremely low center of gravity and all-wheel-drive/all-wheel steering system contribute to elite handling through curves. Range is expected to be around 250 miles, and Audi’s innovative wireless charging system means you don’t even have to plug it in. Prices are expected to start at around $75,000 before the tax credit.
• The 2020 Porsche Taycan shows what EVs are capable of when efficiency and affordability are set aside in favor of pure driving enjoyment. This four-door sports sedan is as sporty as Porsche’s famed 911. Its center of gravity is the lowest of any production Porsche and it’s incredibly powerful—the top-of the-line Turbo S model offers 750 horsepower and can accelerate from 0-60 in a blink-and-you-miss-it 2.6 seconds. Even the base 4S model with the base battery pack produces an impressive 482 horsepower. The Taycan’s batteries can recharge from 5% to 80% capacity in just over 22 minutes (or add 60 miles of range in just five minutes) at high-voltage charging stations, thanks to Porsche’s innovative 800-volt electrical system. Range is expected to be between 200 and 300 miles depending on model selected. Prices start at $105,150 and climb to $186,350 for the Turbo S. If you have that sort of money to spend on a car, you would get great driving satisfaction return on that investment. It arrived in showrooms in December 2019.