The Weak Performance of EV Makers

Imagine Tesla selling only one car and not bringing anything else out or even announcing another car for 4 or 5 years. Then imagine that car getting almost no support from their sales staff. Then imagine the Supercharger network didn’t exist. Now imagine other companies who have infinitely more manufacturing experience and many more times the amount of money available to them. Yes, companies like that exist in 2017. It’s crazy to think about.

BMW are the first company I think about that fit the bill completely. But at least they’ve offered an EV of some description for years. How many companies out there have failed to even release a single one by now? See my last post for a very long list.


The Manufacturers That Don’t Make An EV In 2017

Here’s a list of the major car manufacturers that have at least 1 EV in their lineups in the U.K. in September 2017.

  • BMW
  • Hyundai
  • Kia
  • Nissan
  • Peugeot
  • Renault
  • Smart
  • Tesla
  • Volkswagen

And here’s a list of the car manufacturers in the U.K. who don’t currently offer a single EV in September 2017.

  • Abarth
  • Alfa Romeo
  • Aston Martin
  • Audi
  • Bentley
  • Citroen
  • Dacia
  • DS
  • Ferrari
  • Fiat
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Infiniti
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Lamborghini
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Lotus
  • Maserati
  • Mazda
  • McLaren
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Mitsubishi
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Seat
  • Skoda
  • SsangYong
  • Subaru
  • Suzuki
  • Toyota
  • Vauxhall
  • Volvo

Bear in mind that this is 6 years after Nissan started offering the Leaf, and around 7 years after Mitsubishi first brought the i-Miev to market.

So I think it’s fair to say that the current state of affairs is rather pathetic. Unfortunately, it seems as if Hyundai were the last of the early adopting manufacturers. It now appears the rest of the pack would rather wait until the end of the decade before bothering to release a single EV. I suppose we do know that Jaguar and Audi are coming to market in the next year, but that’s scant consolation.

In Frankfurt there were plenty of EV concepts but there was no Ioniq style announcement where they say it’s coming next year. Everything is coming in 2019 – 2022.

The Honda Urban EV stole the show. I’m a huge fan. But the question needs to be asked. Where has the 200 mile Jazz EV with ChaDeMo support been the last year or so? It wouldn’t be as headline stealing as the Urban EV, but it should have been built. They did a limited range Fit EV in the US and Japan, so at the very least we should have had a version of that in Europe. And by now it could have been upgraded in battery capacity as Renault have done with the Zoe Z.E. 40.

Can Nissan Hold On To Its EV Leadership Position With the New Leaf?

I watched the archived live stream this morning of the Nissan event in Tokyo. At first I was really impressed with the design, as it was exactly as the leaks had previously shown. But after thinking about it more after a few hours, it’s harder to get as excited by it as I expected to be. As the world leader in EV sales, I expected Nissan to really throw down the gauntlet to other manufacturers and set an extremely high bar for them to try and match.

I’m far from convinced that they’ve raised the bar enough and by not wowing us, they may have already effectively given up their market leadership. I don’t think the Model 3 base version will be that much more expensive than this car (especially once the bigger battery comes out), and with the huge advantages it has over the Leaf, it seems likely to me that Tesla could steal the throne away from Nissan. If they can ramp up production fast enough to meet demand that is.

On the lower price end of the market, I would expect Renault to do very well with the current Zoe. It is a very affordable car and will likely be the obvious choice for many buyers over the next year or two. It remains to be seen whether any competitors will emerge in the next year in this segment, but even if something else comes along, Renault will likely be unchallenged for at least the next 6 months if not significantly longer.

I do think the new Leaf will do well, but if it is confirmed that the car doesn’t get faster than 50kw charging and still has type 1 rather than type 2 slower charging for Europe, then those things could really hurt them. Especially if it is also the case in Europe, like in Japan that the 6.6 kw charging is an optional extra. In my opinion, 7kw type 2 charging ports should be mandatory on every single EV sold in Europe. Who wants to have a different home charger fitted just because the manufacturers can’t agree on a universal standard?

There are some other small things that I find particularly irksome about the Leaf. The analogue speedometer really seems out of place in a car like this and is something I would really not want to go back to. The rear folding seats don’t create a flat load bay and the Bose subwoofer is poorly positioned.

So in conclusion, once I took a step back from all the razzmatazz, I wasn’t wowed like I hoped I would be. Perhaps once the longer range battery becomes available and they allow 80kw or more ChaDeMo charging, I’ll be convinced. But price and what range the general public will accept will also play huge roles in the success of this car.

The fact that Nissan haven’t been able to match Renault’s top EV range is a problem because range is the biggest factor EV buyers think about. Even if the Leaf is a higher quality, bigger car, to many people, that is secondary to how far they can drive it without having to think about plugging it in.

Will a Non-Leaf EV Be Announced This Year?

I wrote earlier in the year about whether there would be any new EV models announced this year. It wasn’t looking good back then and it’s still not looking any better now. The new Leaf is announced tomorrow, which is very exciting. I’m hoping we see Bolt type range and 80kw charging possibility. Maybe up to current Supercharger speed of 120kw.

I hope it does come out this year because we can’t have a year with absolutely no other new EVs at all. The Model 3 is obviously in production now but we’ve known about it for so long, and I’m talking more about announcements.

The real test will come at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Generally though, we tend to find out about a lot of announcements beforehand these days, and we haven’t seen anything about a new EV from any manufacturers. But I really hope that we see something. Another motor show without a new manufacturer announcing its first EV would be a massive disappointment.

As far as EV launches in 2017. The Leaf should make it out before the end of the year around the world. It seems like they have the car ready to go as soon as it’s announced. The Model 3 is the other big new car this year and I’m excited about it, but personally, the most exciting thing for me is the affordable end of the market. Cars that are about half the cost of a Model 3. I want everyone to be able to afford an EV. I want to get rid of ICE cars as soon as possible.

So with that said, has 2017 been a good year when it comes to affordable EV annoucnements? No, it hasn’t. The last major update was the Renault Zoe with massively improved battery pack. The updated Zoe with 200 mile range came out at the tail end of 2016 and there isn’t a similarly sized and priced car to challenge it. The Zoe has been the only EV in the B Segment since it was launched in 2013. That to me is totally unacceptable. This is the segment that can bring EVs to everyone, and the manufacturers can’t be bothered to compete. They are simply more interested in bringing out petrol / diesel powered crossovers based on their existing B and C segment hatchbacks.

You could argue that manufacturers should at the very least be bringing out EV versions of small crossovers because those are the popular segments right now. But the thing is that EV drivers are generally pretty knowledgeable. They know that hatchbacks make more sense than SUVs in almost all driving scenarios. They know that aerodynamics play a role in range and that SUVs are never going to be as efficient as similarly sized saloons and hatchbacks.

But if you’re going to expand the market, you have to offer EVs in other segments. And if you’ve got the platforms already developed, why not make a crossover version for the more mainstream future EV buyers?

There are two issues here. EV manufacturers need to make different types of EVs. And non-EV manufacturers just need to make EVs! Someone make a Renault Zoe competitor so I have a decision to make when it comes time for me to give back my Zoe.