There have been significant way markers on the road toward an electrified automotive future, and 2016 has seen more than its fair share.
The U.S. plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) market was essentially kicked off in 2008 with Tesla’s Roadster if one discounts prior attempts including GM’s late-90s EV1.
To make up for abandoning that project, GM did open the U.S. major manufacturer market with its extended-range electric Chevy Volt – alongside Nissan with its electric Leaf – and it’s been off to the races with most other established autmakers joining in.
Since then the growth of the PEV market has been a series of wins and losses, and early expectations plus a projection of one million PEVs on American roads by end of last year were not met.
With now almost half a million PEVs sold to date since 2008, the U.S. was the leader of an awakening global market, and things are still heating up.
News and developments this year that stand to accelerate the transition were many, and while this is not a comprehensive list, a few with greatest impact are as follows:
Nationwide 2016/2017 Volt Rollout
The Volt was fully redesigned and shown January 2015, launched in California ZEV rules markets late 2015, but the nationwide rollout happened earlier this year.
This pioneering car has been a bellwether and is still a unique product that is the PEV with the highest cumulative sales in the U.S.
Its 53-miles EV range for the compact Volt is well above that of midsized “blended” plug-in hybrids ranging from the teens to 27 miles for the Hyundai Sonata.
Just as relevant is the new Volt’s revised powertain architecture was developed as the seed stock to develop more hybrids and plug-in hybrids at will. The 46 mpg Malibu Hybrid co-developed with the new Volt is the first, and the architecture positions GM well, with potential to compel others to continue working toward their own competitive products.
Tesla Model 3 Unveiling
More than 400,000 pre-orders for $1,000 apiece quickly piled in for this third-generation Tesla setting a precedent and sending ripples into the market.
Skeptics wonder how it will come in within budget, on time, and with sufficient quality control, while proponents herald the dawning of a new age of battery electrification.
Its 215-miles plus range for $35,000 base MSRP before delivery fee plus BMW-competitive styling defies the industry to try and keep up.
Gigafactory Grand Opening
This Friday is Tesla’s Gigafactory grand opening.
What its initial production will be for aside from Powerwall and test mules is not exactly clear as Model 3 production may not begin before late 2017. Once the Gigafactory spools up, Tesla chief Elon Musk projects rapid firing of new cells.
“Cells will be going through that thing like bullets from a machine gun. In fact, the exit rate of cells will be faster than bullets from a machine gun,” said Musk during a June 22 conference call to primarily discuss the proposed Tesla and Solar City merger.
CAFE Rules and Review
U.S. automakers must follow tightening mpg and CO2 guidelines under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law, and the EPA has said they are generally outdoing themselves.
Meanwhile this month, the first stages of a “Midterm Review” for 2022-2025 CAFE rules indicates the feds have a strong case to keep holding automakers’ feet to the fire although it is expected they will push back on points, to some degree.
These federal rules plus California ZEV rules for states comprising about 30 percent of the U.S. market are leading automakers to choose plug-in vehicles as an increasing part of their product portfolio.
VW Diesel Scandal Aftermath
A silver lining inside a dark cloud of diesel smoke and mirrors has made Volkswagen AG promise to really come clean.
The world’s largest automaker, under its numerous global brands, says not only are plug-in hybrids being spliced into the future product assortment, it will introduce three new battery electric cars per year through 2025.
Like so many other major initiatives, the potential ramifications are sizable that others will be forced to follow, leading Roland Hwang, the NRDC’s director of its Energy and Transportation program, to note this as a key potential market driver.
All Other Global Regulations
“The pace of new product introductions continues to gain steam as more automakers introduce products,” said Michigan-based auto analyst Alan Baum. “The capability of these products will be significantly improved given the improvements – now and future– in battery technologies
Baum notes also the apparent increase in PEVs in the new global PEV sales volume leader, China, is spurring all automakers who want into that market to develop technology and products that will find their way to all other markets.
Number-two PEV world market, Europe, also is seeing its automakers other than VW devoting billions to plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars.
Not as nimble – or all-in as Tesla – the giant global auto industry has woken up to the need, and the next five years are projected to see more innovation than the last 50.
Included in that statement are innovations like car sharing, and autonomous vehicles, but the mix includes PEVs in a big way.
2017 Chevy Bolt Launch
A first major jump forward in price for performance will be GM’s Chevy Bolt.
On paper, it matches price and range of what Tesla wants to do, and GM wanted to be first, and it will be.
Last year it was also revealed that GM is being enabled to build the Bolt profitably with LG Chem battery cells bought at the good-will price of $145 kWh – cheaper than many believed possible and an implicit good news for other automakers seeking to follow.
Meanwhile, as other 200-mile range EVs in the sub-$40,000 range are coming, GM is at work on what will lead to generation two and whatever else it has in store.