esla’s new Model 3 has gotten so much press the casual reader might be forgiven for thinking there’s only one electric car in America.
If you’ve ever imagined zipping around on electric power, though, the next few months could turn out to be a decent time to check out a trio of vehicles that need never refuel at the gas station.
While the California-based upstart claims 400,000 customers already have ordered the still-not-on-the-market Model 3, there’s actually a three-way race shaping up in the electric vehicle world.
The completely updated Tennessee-made Nissan Leaf will roll out later this year. And the Chevrolet Bolt, a General Motors product that launched last year, is starting to reach dealers in the interior states in higher volumes.
“I don’t see this as a Model 3-only market. It’s not,’’ said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal, a magazine in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “Leaf falls right in the middle. It will be the third significant contender.”
Just about everyone knows America is truck country. But rather than scrap electric cars, automakers are listening to tech buffs, anti-oil advocates and residents of smoggy cities clamor for cleaner cars. At the same time, look-ahead forecasts predict big demand in the coming decades for self-driving electric vehicles available as hourly and daily rentals in congested cities.
While analysts say these high-tech electric cars someday could replace taxis, even wipe out the idea of having to own a personal car, no one is quite sure of the future, although most observers agree if the electric car is to rule the decades ahead it'll have to run longer on its batteries than today's battery-powered fleet. That's where this new trio stand out.
Both the Leaf and the Tesla Model 3 are expected to be like the Bolt -- longer range (200 miles and over between charges), compared to 107 miles on average for the present Leaf. What's more, the cars are affordable (about $28,000 after federal tax credits), good looking and in the Leaf’s case enhanced by Nissan’s ProPilot self-driving technology.
It won’t change lanes or cleanly handle sharp curves, at least not yet, although ProPilot can keep the Leaf centered on a straight street while you fumble for the cell phone, and its sensors activate the brakes if the truck in front of you suddenly slows down, and speeds back up when they accelerate. So it can navigate stop-and-go gridlock without tailgating the car ahead. If by chance the car wanders to the edge of the lane it will sound a warning to alert you to take the wheel.
“It's no more complicated than any other adaptive cruise control on the market. And the automatic resumption following a lane-change makes it a breeze to use even when traffic is flowing and you need to move around other vehicles,’’ reviewer Joel Stockdale wrote last week on autoblog.com after driving a Nissan test car on a suburban Detroit interstate.
Nissan, the No. 3 Japanese automaker, assembles the ProPilot system in Middle Tennessee for the Leaf. ProPilot already has debuted abroad, on Nissan’s Serena minivan in Japan last year. A self-parking feature for potential use in the United States is being tested, Nissan spokesman Josh Clifton said.
Ushering the technology into the U.S. market aboard an electric car signals the Leaf will represent a kind of halo for Nissan, a car notable for intelligence, connectivity and mobility, Clifton said.
“The Leaf delivers on all three,” Clifton said. “It’s the step toward the autonomous vehicle.”
Bolt and Leaf are bound to get a boost from Tesla’s buzz.
Hip and wealthy enclaves around the country favor the upscale brand. An avalanche of orders followed the announcement the Model 3 would enter production in a new Nevada plant. Why an avalanche? You can merely be hip and afford one.
Model 3 is half the price of the $69,500 Model S, the current low point in the Tesla price scheme.
Filling all the back orders could take many months, so electric-car fans weary of waiting could scrap their Model 3 order and head for the Chevy or Nissan showroom. “I see that working to the advantage of the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf,” Cogan said.
While many electric cars carry upscale prices, Cogan notes only three come in at around $31,000, the average transaction price for a new auto after federal tax credits, and promise a range over 200 miles – the Bolt, Leaf and Model 3.
Hyundai, for example, this year began selling an electric Ioniq sedan priced at $29,700 before the $7,500 worth of federal tax credits are applied. But the Ioniq contains a smaller battery pack. It's capable of a 124-mile range before recharging compared to Bolt’s 238 miles.
Why electric cars
The trinity of pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers refueled at gasoline stations accounts for almost two of every three new autos sold. Sedans and coupes comprise the rest of the 8.4 million new vehicles automakers have sold this year through June.
In contrast, the 10 leading electric cars sold about 42,000 copies through June, with the $82,500 Tesla X and Tesla S representing about half the sales, estimates the web site Inside EVs.
Ozone, colloquially known as smog, causes shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks. (Photo: Asbury Park Press file photo)
Despite the limited market for electric vehicles, or EVs as they are called, automakers have made sure they have them in the fleet. Volvo says it will produce only electric cars in 2019.
Currently, more than a dozen electric-only models are available in the United States. Some are regional curiosities such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Most are purchased in coastal cities like smoggy Los Angeles, where the California Air Resources Board dictates automakers market low- and zero-emission cars.
California’s zero-emission mandate prods the automakers. No company wants to make one car for California, the nation’s largest vehicle market, and another for the rest of the country, Cogan said. Washington also prodded automakers.
In 2009, President Barack Obama’s green car initiative committed more than $2.4 billion to scale up electric and hybrid-electric cars. Four years later, the Obama administration required automakers double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
While electric cars were considered essential to meeting the 2025 goal, the fracking revolution has sent oil prices plunging. After automakers balked at the 54.5-mpg standard, President Donald Trump in March ordered the goal reviewed.
Even if regulators drop the Obama-era fuel economy standards, automakers are not likely to phase out electric cars. “I don’t see automakers ramping down on electric,’’ Cogan said.
EVs have fewer moving parts than a gasoline-fueled car. So lower-cost maintenance will appeal to fleet buyers, particularly as autonomous-driving technology like Nissan's ProPilot takes hold.
Waymo, the self-driving car project birthed by Google, was shown on the autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivan as shown at the North American International Auto Show in 2017. (Photo: FCA US)
Over the next two decades in large cities, taxis and personal passenger cars could give way to cars available for rent hourly or daily. Some analysts contend 90 percent of the miles driven in the United States by 2030fa will be aboard these on-demand autonomous vehicles.
“As the industry goes to more autonomous technology, the electric car could play a bigger role here and abroad,’’ said Jessica Caldwell, senior automotive analyst at Edmunds.com.
http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/m ... 485094001/
I didn't quite catch how the Bolt and Leaf are going to get a boost from the release of the Model 3? Can someone spell it out for me?