Here’s a tale of two countries and how they plan to put more EVs on their roads. In the US, federal subsidies are designed to make EVs more cost competitive with conventional cars, but the charging infrastructure is left to the manufacturers to figure out. In China, the government is taking the lead on building EV charging infrastructure and doles out so many incentives and perquisites to EV buyers, it makes little sense to buy anything but an EV.
Audi of America President Scott Keogh said at the Los Angeles auto show this week that his company expects 25% of its sales in the US will be EVs by 2025. That plan begins with the A-3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid, which has been selling quite well in Europe since earlier this year. It is now available in the US. Base price for the car is $37,900, which makes it seem like it competes quite well with the new Chevy Volt. However, the Volt has more than 50 miles of electric only range; the Audi only has 20. Fully optioned, the Audi’s price climbs rapidly to $46,800. That seems like a lot of dough for a car with such a short electric range.
Audi will follow that up with more as yet unnamed plug-in hybrid models, says Ecomento. It is pinning most of it hopes on an all electric SUV called the Q6 e-tron that is expected to debut in American showrooms in 2018. The Q6 e-tron is intended to compete head to head with the Tesla Model X, with similar range and performance. Since prices for the Model X begin at around $80,000, Audi will be able to market its stylish offering for considerably more than the A3 Sportback e-tron.
Audi says that by the time the Q6 e-tron gets here, a network of 150 kW fast charges will be available, capable of an 80% charge of the car’s 95kWh battery in 30 minutes. Audi says it is working with “partners” to accomplish this, but who those partners are, how many charging stations there will be, where they will be located and who is paying for all this remains unclear.
Meanwhile in China, Geely says 90% of its cars will be electric by 2020, according to a report in Industry Week. China’s new car market is the biggest in the world, with almost 24 million sold last year. Geely is only China’s 8th largest car manufacturer, but it is looking to increase its market share by making a big push for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Geely owns Volvo and the company that makes taxis for the City of London.
Electric cars are known as “new energy cars” on China. The Chinese government strongly supports the manufacture and sale of these vehicles. Among other things, it is building an electric car charging network that will be able to provide 5,000,000 charging sessions a day. A major feature of that system is that it will be designed to meet the needs of apartment dwellers in China’s densely populated cities. In the US, people who live in apartments and condos often have no access to charging stations, which limits EV sales mostly to owners of single family homes.
Here’s the big difference between the Geely approach and the Audi approach. “Geely officially promises… to let consumers realize the dream of owning a new energy car at the cost of a traditional one,” Geely CEO An Conghui says. In the US, EVs cost considerably more than their conventional cousins. Mass adoption of electric cars — which is supposed to be the point of electric cars in the first place — appears to be many years, if not decades in the future.
The question is whether the world can afford to wait that long for the environmental blessings of electric personal transportation to materialize.