Gas2 Week in Review: EV and PHEV Competitors Challenge Tesla

EV and PHEV competitors are making lots of news these days. Electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are starting to stir conversations about competition for Tesla, contradicting the prevailing Tesla in-house philosophy that the only cars that challenge Tesla are gas-powered.

Several reasons point to EV and PHEV competitors rising in the marketplace. First-time EV and PHEV owners are robust target audiences, partially because of environmental appeal and mostly because more budget-friendly sticker prices are making EV and PHEV transportation suddenly appealing. Governments around the world are offering enhanced levels of support to expedite the transition from fuel-burning automobiles to clean energy transportation. And more manufacturers are responding to the surging interest by developing EV and PHEV options and instigating competition.

So our featured stories on this “Gas2 Week in Review” turn away from the usual Tesla media feeding frenzy and look, instead, to EV and PHEV competitors. Mahindra & Mahindra’s new offices outside Detroit have led to speculation that its new EV and PHEV line will be provided under either the Pininfarina or  Ssangyong Motor Company brand. Samsung’s SM3 ZE and its increased battery capacity without more weight lets us breathe a little more deeply as we actually start to relinquish range anxiety. Honda’s electric range for its 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is just six miles shy of the Chevy Volt. Geely-owed companies, Volvo and Lync & Co., are chatting up their commitments to the U.S. plug-in hybrid crossover market with assurances that all will be real by 2018 or 2019. Not to be overshadowed, General Motors CEO Mary Barra insists that her company has up to 20 electrified models ready to hit production — or at least on the architects’ drawing boards. Uber’s at it again, this time announcing a deepening relationship with Volvo for autonmous vehicles.

And numbers are good for EVs and PHEVs in the recent 2017 quarters— at least in China, that is.

Here are those EV and PHEV stories on this edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”


Mahindra Eyeing US EV Market. Could Use Pininfarina Or Ssangyong Branding

Will it be Italian design house Pininfarina or the Korean utility vehicle Ssangyong Motor Company that Mahindra & Mahindra will use to brand its EV and PHEV products in the U.S.? After the opening of a new North American headquarters outside of Detroit earlier this week, Mahindra has inched closer to establishing EV and PHEV distribution in the large U.S. marketplace. The possible EV and PHEV collaboration is likely to involve premium models for Pininfarina that would compete with U.S automakers.

As a refresher, Mahindra & Mahindra purchased Reva Electric Car Company in 2010 and renamed it Mahindra Electric Mobility, Ltd. Mahindra & Mahindra’s legacy of EV and PHEV products began in India in the mid-1990s with its fleet of battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws.

New Samsung SM3 ZE Electric Car — Double The Range, No Increase In Weight

Samsung has announced that it has increased the size of the battery in its SM3 ZE to 36 kWh, which boosts range by 57% to 132 miles. What’s especially interesting is that Samsung says the weight of the vehicle has not increased as a result of the power improvements. The Samsung SM3 is the Korean version of the Renault Fluence, the latter of which caused lots of reactions in 2013 when it was offered as the first electric car designed to use the battery swapping technology.

The SM3’s greater range would allow a five day span without recharging for the typical Korean owner, whose daily use is generally less than 25 miles. Korea’s EV and PHEV incentives might lessen the list price to around $34,000.

The Plug-In Hybrids Are Coming! The Plug-In Hybrids Are Coming!

Three intriguing stories about EV and PHEV manufacturers made the news this week.

First, the Honda Clarity, with a price tag beginning at $33,400, will be a fun stocking stuffer. The well-equipped standard trim version features a 17 kWh battery that is large enough to qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit. The Clarity’s roominess will appeal to commuters who are assigned to rear seats. Recharging time is given as 2.5 hours using a 240 volt charger.

Second, Geely-owed companies, Volvo and Lync & Co., have each committed to U.S. plug-in hybrid crossover models in the 2018-2019 years. The two companies will share a plug-in hybrid powertrain with 31 miles of electric range backed up by a 1.5 liter three cylinder gasoline engine. Some say that a version with 50 miles of range will be offered as well.

Third, General Motors CEO Mary Barra insists that her company has up to 20 electrified models moving from R&D to production with target release dates starting in 2020. Could the first release be Chevy FNR-X concept unveiled at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year, as Fox News has suggested?

Uber Announces Plans to Buy 24,000 Self-driving Volvo Cars

Volvo and Uber are increasing their existing Pittsburgh autonomous ride-hailing collaboration  with new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform Volvo cars. In fact, the expansion volume may reach tens of thousands of new vehicles from Volvo’s 90 series cars — XC90, S90, V90 — and the new Volvo XC60 midsize SUV. Volvo’s relationship with Uber acknowledges the influence of technology on the automotive industry and Volvo’s goal to be “an active part of that disruption,” according to Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo president and chief executive.

The Volvo press release states that the base vehicles the automaker will supply to Uber will incorporate all necessary safety, redundancy, and core autonomous driving technologies inherent in efficient self-driving technology. Uber’s relationship with Volvo invites mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale and adds another dimension to the list of possible EV and PHEV competitors to Tesla’s potential ride-sharing plans.

Electric Car Sales Surge 63% In Third Quarter

China is leading the world in global EV and PHEV car sales, accounting for most of the 23% increases since the second quarter of 2017 and of 63% in the third quarter of 2017. Chinese consumer interest in EV and PHEV transportation is directly linked to government policies that strongly encourage people to purchase an electric car instead of a conventional car. Those policies, of course, emerged concurrent with China’s goals to end both the production and sales of fossil fuel vehicles as a mechanism to respond to public outcries about struggles with crippling air pollution.

Many other governments around the world are hoping to meet emissions goals with EV and PHEV transitions. France and the U.K. have said they will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel-burning cars by 2040, while the Netherlands is targeting goals that all new cars sold by 2030 will be emissions-free.  Unfortunately, the U.S. federal government is not on the list of countries that is envisioning an emissions-free future, so California is currently weighing the pro’s and con’s of following the EV-only trend on its own.

Photo by new 1lluminati on / CC BY

Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+