US Battery Electric Vehicle Market – Progress or Proliferation? Tesla has a 75% Share. Is the Nissan Leaf a Best Buy?

Ken Zino of on the US battery electric vehicle market – progress or just proliferation?

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The Nissan Leaf was the first modern pure EV when it launched in 2010. (EPA Says Nissan Leaf Gets 106 MPGe) Since then the US battery electric vehicle market has added roughly 20 different models with prices ranging from ~$21,000 to more than $140,000. The question is whether this is progress or just proliferation? Well, as always, for consumers it depends on what you consider.

“Among the entry-level models (priced below $25,000), the Nissan Leaf has a similar base price as a decade ago, although its electric range has doubled as a result of advancements in lithium-ion battery packs and e-motor proficiency,” observes Matt Lucki, Senior Analyst, Powertrain Forecasts, The Americas at LMC Consultancy.

However, Tesla with some sort of first-mover advantage still controls 75% of the market with its expensive, quality- and software-troubled electro-mobiles. (Solid Power – More Money from BMW, Ford, Volta Energy Technologies for Solid-State EV Batteries, Volvo to Only Sell EVs Online as a Pure EV Company by 2030, Hyundai Revises Ioniq EV for 2022 with New Platform, Toyota, Subaru at Shanghai Introduce Latest Joint-Venture EVs)

One of the only other battery electric vehicle models close to the Leaf in mileage range when it was introduced was the original Tesla Roadster, which could travel 244 miles on a single charge. In 2010 that kind of electric range would have cost close to $100,000, compared to LEAF’s original base price of $33,000 (before federal tax incentives). Now the LEAF looks like progress. (GM Needs Range, Battery Cost Cuts to Speed EV Plans)

The new Volkswagen ID.4 now looks to be close to the Tesla 3/Y standard range. The RWD ID.4 is currently for sale. An AWD version in Q4 this year is likely to bump up the price. The question is by how much? Riding  – or galloping – on the popular Mustang brand, the Ford Mach-E (88 kWh) is challenging the Tesla 3/Y long-range variants.

“Premium BEV models range from $50,000 to $140,000 for the performance-oriented Porsche Taycan. In general, premium models tend to concentrate on higher power output, at the expense of overall range,” says Lucki. Some things in automotive marketing never change. (2021 Mustang Mach-E GT and GT Performance Edition On Sale)

However, using LMC data on all the models on sale today, only three exceed 350 miles in range – all Tesla models. During the next few years, BEV models are slated to more than double as old-style gasoline and diesel automakers bring EVs to market. These include electric pickups with large batteries and ranges topping 400+ miles without payloads. (GM Doubles Down on EVs in Bid to Win Global Race)

Ford made headlines by revealing the F-150 BEV Lightning’s base price of US $40,000, creating a problem for the yet-to-be-priced Chevrolet Silverado electric. Since GM has passed the 200,000-unit threshold for federal tax incentives, GM is faced with a dilemma – price to market to build volume or try and command a premium for a Chevy. The ill-fated Cadillac ELR is a stark warning about how much an old-line maker can command in the new BEV market. (EV Pickup! Ford is Betting Lightning Can Strike Twice, Ford Introduces All-Electric F-150 Lightning Pro – Bring Money, GMC Adds Hummer SUV EV. Direct Selling Without Dealers?, Is the Cadillac ELR a flop? Incentives via a Free 240 Volt Charger and ‘no-charge’ Home Installation added, Cadillac ELR debuts in January at $75,995. Tesla Killer?, Cadillac LYRIC – Taking Back the Luxury EV Lead?)

While automakers and the business press have been chasing the semi-conductor shortage, many claim May’s drop in sales are the effects of a supply and demand imbalance. However, the vehicle mix of highly-equipped vehicles, plentiful low-interest-rate money, high used car trade-in values, the elimination of now unneeded incentives, and the headlong rush into electric vehicles – priced above an average working person’s ability to carry the loan – are starting to make light vehicles un-affordable to the working and middle classes. For example Ford Motor set record electrified vehicle sales – up 184% on F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid, Mustang Mach-E, Escape and Explorer Hybrid models. If this continues, there is trouble ahead for the economy, and expensive EVs. (May US Light Vehicle Sales – Start of an Affordability Slump?)

Also, consider this key finding just released from the Biden Harris review of supply chains that the semi-conductor disruption prompted: “The Department of Energy (DOE) will release a National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries. This Blueprint will codify the findings of the battery supply chain review in a 10-year, whole-of-government plan to urgently develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America. Later this month, the Department of Energy will host a Battery Roundtable, including representatives from each segment of the battery supply chain, to discuss the Blueprint.”

Ten years is a long time in the automobile business… No more disruptions until then?

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