It has been said that the entry level EV market may settle into price levels sorted by range tiers, and another indicator this may be happening was relayed last week by Ford.
Ford is now the second major manufacturer in the past month to say it is not aspiring to increase range for its entry level electric car to 200-plus to follow Tesla, GM, and eventually Nissan.
These three vehicles all threaten to readjust the market by offering at least twice the range at the same essential price point that today’s first-generation entry level EVs now do – from the upper 20s, to low 40s. The Nissan Leaf is for now the benchmark and world’s best seller, and 107 mile trim levels start at just over $35,000 at MSRP.
This fall the $37,500 Chevy Bolt is to be the first 200-plus-mile EV to launch, and Tesla this month has made unprecedented waves with around 400,000 pre-preorders and counting for its 215-mile and up Model 3. Nissan too has said it will launch a competitive second-generation Leaf to replace its aging Leaf which has dominated its market segment since 2011.
But Ford is at this stage sitting it out. The automaker has only announced plans to increase its Focus EV’s range from 76 miles to 100. Last week, Kevin Layden, Ford’s director of electrification programs and engineering echoed a sentiment that’s been heard also from Hyundai in saying 100 miles will be enough to meet daily driver needs.
“I think right now with the launch of the Focus Electric at 100 miles, it is going to satisfy a big chunk of the population,” said Layden from the sidelines of the SAE World Congress to Automotive News. “It’s going to be really affordable and a step up from where we are now.”
Advocates might also hope so, as the present Focus Electric through March sold 257 units in the U.S. compared to 2,931 of the Nissan Leaf.
According to the reporter for Automotive News who sized up Layden’s disclosure, Ford has no plans in the immediate future to build a competitor to the Model 3 or Bolt or Leaf.
At this juncture, the Dearborn manufacturer says the Focus will save costs with a lighter, and smaller battery. Not said is the Focus is already stuffed with batteries, is a converted internal combustion car, and respective competitors all are building purpose-made EVs.
Nissan, GM and Tesla all put the batteries in the floor, and open up room for superior cargo and passenger space atop the chassis.
Unclear however is whether this means Ford intends to not build a head-to-head competitor indefinitely, and it was not indicated one way or the other by Layden.
Nor is this likely, as Ford has recently committed $4.5 billion to spruce up its electrified portfolio, so it could be that it has more than what it’s willing to talk about in the works.
Tiered Market Budding
Layden’s statements also mirror in sentiment those of Hyundai Manager of Product Planning, John Shon, who spoke of the pending all-new Ioniq which will also have range just around 110 miles range.
The Ioniq is purpose made as an electrified car, but it is also offered in hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms, as well as a pure battery electric version.
Like Layden, Shon has said that range of a little over 100 miles will meet needs, save costs and weight, and thus we see the broadening of tiered EVs sorted by battery size – and presumably price.
This had a loosely similar corollary over 100 years ago when automakers placed larger engines in cars and buyers could decide if they wanted a small engine or bigger engine.
In the new EV market, it has been assumed by some that 200 miles or more range is needed for mass adoption. General Motors said a California poll indicated this range was a sweet spot to tip the scales for 70 percent of intenders toward making a battery electric car their one and only vehicle.
A federal study by U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab recently said 300 miles was needed.
Whether those studies have merit or otherwise, Ford and Hyundai are citing stats that there is a market at the present level held by such EVs as the Nissan Leaf, which was launched with 73 miles range in 2011 and this year has as much as 107.
Implied also is the new crop of 200-mile EVs in the mid $30,000 range before government incentives will force down prices for EVs that do not offer this much range for dollar.
Ford launched its Focus close to $40,000 a few years ago, reduced it to just below $30,000 and may need to lower it further if it hopes to sell any when the Bolt, Model 3, and next-generation Leaf come forth.
Hyundai also has said as much, without naming price, that it will have to be cost competitive with the three EVs known to be coming with 200-plus-miles in the mid 30s.