Sales of electric cars are falling behind expectations in the United States and a number of major manufacturers are upping the ante by cutting the price of EVs. Ford is the latest company to do so by announcing a huge $6,000 price cut on its Focus Electric model. This comes hot on the heels of a previous $4,000 discount made in 2013. The Focus Electric was $39,995 when released in 2011 but can now be purchased for just $29,995.
Almost all car manufacturers have followed suit but with gas prices in and around the $3 a gallon mark, it will be tough to persuade a nation of gas vehicle lovers to make the switch. The Focus Electric is almost identical to the gas model but it has an electric drive-train and a number of gauges and displays that enable you to watch your vehicle’s energy consumption. EV motorists need to keep an eye on these gauges to ensure they have enough juice to get to and from their destinations.
Ford Focus Electric. Image: Google UK
The EV Price War
The Focus Electric has a range of less than 100 miles and has sold just 1,500 units in the first 9 months of 2014. In contrast, over 176,000 Ford Focus models were sold during the same period in the United States. Yet virtually every other EV manufacturer is struggling at the moment with just over 87,000 electric vehicles sold in America from January-September 2014. This comprises less than 1% of the total market.
On the plus side, this is an increase on 2013 figures when just 97,000 EVs were sold during that 12 month period. One reason for this may be the increase in the number of models; there were 16 models on sale in 2013 and 22 models on sale this year. Some manufacturers are enjoying positive momentum. The Nissan Leaf for example is probably going to surpass the 23,000 models it sold in 2013 and is the #1 selling EV on the market. Yet even the popular Leaf has only enjoyed increased success due to price cuts.
Manufacturers that have slashed the price of their EVs include Chevrolet and its Volt model, Honda with its Accord model, Fiat with its 500e, Smart with its ElectricDrive BEV and Mitsubishi with its i-MiEV. Sergio Marchionne is the CEO of Fiat Chrysler and has basically asked consumers not to buy its EV since the company loses over $10,000 on every sale!
What Does The Future Hold?
So why should manufacturers continue developing and selling electric cars? California regulators have a pretty good reason for them: the state has a strict Zero-Emissions Vehicle regulation that forces car manufacturers to bring ‘green’ vehicles into the market. As a result, companies are looking for alternatives; Hyundai has launched its Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle while Toyota and Honda are likely to release hydrogen powered vehicles next year.
Toyota is set to pull its RAV4-EV off the market which means it will only have the Prius Plug-In Hybrid as its ‘green’ representative. Toyota is known to be a sceptic of lithium-ion based technology and focuses on conventional hybrids. Yet other manufacturers are committed to electric car development with BMW releasing the i3 and i8 models. Even Volkswagen, known for being slow off the mark with EV technology, is coming into the market with its e-Golf and Bentley SUV plug-in hybrid.
Tesla is also about to release its Model X SUV in 2015 with a Model III likely to follow in 2016. Tesla is not offering any discounts however and its Model S can cost as much as $110,000!