Wondering about buying an EV? Maybe you want to do your part to save the planet. Or maybe you are just tired of paying for gasoline. You could be attracted by the instant torque and quiet ride. But how much will an electric car actually cost you?
After a strong sales performance in July, the Chevy Volt is now the first car with a plug to sell more than 100,000 vehicles in the US market. The Nissan LEAF was leading the sales parade in America until the second generation Volt was introduced last last year. Since then, Volt sales have zoomed while LEAF sales has slowed to a crawl.
The numbers are in for EV sales in the US through the first half of 2016. Tesla leads the pack by a wide margin, especially if sales of the Model S and Model X are lumped together. Combined they accounted for about 19,000 new sales. The Chevy Volt, which costs less than half as much, was in second place at just under 10,000 sold. The Ford Fusion Energi made a strong showing, finishing in third place, just barely ahead of the Model X.
I know, I know. SUV’s, crossovers, and pickup trucks are flying off dealer lots in record numbers. Nationwide, average fuel economy is down as people gravitate toward larger, thirstier vehicles in this era of low gas prices. You might think people don’t car that much about gas mileage any more, but you would be wrong.
Nissan and Madrid’s La Ciudad del Taxi announced at the Madrid auto show that they have entered into an agreement that will provide 110 Nissan LEAF automobiles to be used as taxis in Spain’s capitol city. The Nissans will be equipped with the company’s latest battery technology, a 30 kWh unit with a range of 107 miles.
The electric car market in China is heating up, thanks to generous government incentives and favorable regulations. China calls all plug-in hybrid and electric cars “new energy vehicles.” Government subsidies can range all the way up to $8,475 per vehicle. With incentives like that, sales of NEVs quadrupled to 331,092 last year — far more than in any other country. China has already provided the equivalent of $4.6 billion in EV subsidies. It wants 5 million NEVs on its roads by 2020, but questions whether it has the financial resources to continue paying such large incentives.
Nissan is using the outpouring of interest in the Tesla Model 3 as the basis of a new print ad appearing today in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. The ad reminds people they don’t have to wait until 2017 (or 2018 or possibly 2019, given Tesla’s inability to get its products to market on time in the past) to drive an all electric car. All they need to do is hop on over to their nearest Nissan dealer and grab a shiny new LEAF. After federal rebates, a LEAF S can cost as little as $22, 360 including transportation.
Regulators in Canada started investigating reports of brake issues with the Nissan LEAF more than a year ago. On rare occasions in very cold temperatures, a LEAF might unexpectedly require more pressure on the brake pedal than usual. If that happened, the car could take longer than expected to slow down or stop. That’s not a good thing.
Troy Hunt, a prominent security researcher, has exposed a flaw in the NissanConnect app which allows a remote user to access controls on Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) with only a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Hunt was able to control several remote features on a Nissan Leaf by exploiting security flaws in the company’s phone app. Using the same process as the app, hackers can tamper with controls of a Nissan Leaf from just about any location.
By using his computer as a proxy between the internet and the app, the original hacker who discovered the flaw (not Hunt) was able to view the requests made from the app to Nissan’s servers. In doing so, this anonymous hacker was able to see that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) was being used to identify Leafs in these requests.
Furthermore, there is no security identification or authorization for the app.
By using only a Leaf’s VIN, the vehicle can be accessed and controlled remotely and, by law, VINs are typically etched in the window of every car.
When made aware of the flaw, Hunt took action. He made contact with colleague and fellow security researcher Scott Helme to create a demonstration. With Helme in the United Kingdom and Hunt in Australia, Hunt was able to control Helme’s Nissan Leaf from across the world. The trial was documented in the following video.
Hunt was able to access the vehicle and obtain private statistics that could potentially be used maliciously. Data regarding recent trips, distances of those trips, power usage, and the car’s charge state. Hunt was also able to access the Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system and control the car’s AC and heating elements including the seat warmers. Basically, anything the app is programmed to access.
Australia-based Hunt is a security researcher and has been named a Most Valuable Professional for Developer Security by Microsoft. Hunt does not work for Microsoft but has received the title for his community contributions in the field. After contacting Nissan and finding the flaw unresolved after a month, Hunt finally decided to release his findings, which were already recognized by select Leaf owners worldwide.
Hunt disagrees and views the company’s “security through obscurity” as ineffective and has expressed that Nissan could easily discontinue the service until the flaws are fixed.
As of now, any Leaf owner who wishes to avoid potential cyber trouble can unregister their NissanConnect app and disable their Nissan CarWings account to prevent any unauthorized access.
We know EV sales declined slightly in the US last year, but how are things going with EV sales for our neighbor to the north? According to FleetCarma, Canadian sales of electric and plug-in hybrid cars were up 32% over 2014. Is that good? As with all things that involve numbers, it depends. EV sales rose 67% in both 2013 and 2014.
Tesla led all other manufacturers, posting a sales gain of 137% in 2015. The Nissan LEAF saw a 23% gain, while sales of the Chevy Volt fell 8%. That last statistic is no doubt due to Chevrolet announcing in January, 2015 that a new and improved Volt was on the way. Even though the new Volt started showing up in 10 US states last September, cars for the Canadian market won’t find their way north of the border until April at the earliest.
FleetCarma reports there were 18,451 cars with plugs in Canada at the end of 2015. 54% are battery electrics and 46% are plug-in hybrids. The Volt is still the largest selling EV in Canada but the Tesla Model S is rapidly gaining ground. The LEAF, the Model S, and the Volt account for 72% of all EV sales in the country. It will be interesting to see how the second generation Volt and the LEAF with the upgraded 30 kWh battery perform once both are generally available.
Nationwide, Quebec has 46% of all EVs in Canada, but British Columbia and Ontario both have beefed up their EV incentive programs recently. In BC, the increase in EV sales has been dramatic, although final figures for 2015 are still not available
In Ontario, the new incentive program boosts the maximum benefit to $14,000 — provided the battery is over 16 kWh, the car has at least 5 seats, and the total rebate doesn’t exceed 30% of the MSRP. There is a catch, however. If the sale price of a car is between $75,000 and $150,000, the rebate is capped at $3,000.
That will effect Tesla buyers the most. The Tesla Model S that received a $8,500 rebate last year now gets only $3,000. However, the Chevy Volt is eligible for $11,877, apparently because Ontario doesn’t consider it a real 5 passenger automobile. The new Chevy Bolt will qualify for the full rebate of $14,000. That’s almost enough to make it worth moving to Ontario and buying a Bolt when President Trump takes office.
Graph via FleetCarma.com
The marketplace for electric cars is a bubbling cauldron of innovation these days, as manufacturers try to decide what products will get customers excited. All agree that EV range is a critical factor in the minds of most shoppers. The basic Nissan LEAF has a 24 kWh battery and about 80 miles of range. It is currently the best selling electric car in the world. Since the average motorist only drives 36 miles a day, 80 miles of range should be more than enough. But is it?
Chevrolet and Tesla have decided that a mass market EV needs to have 200 miles of range. Both the Chevy Bolt and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 will come with a 60 kWh battery pack that will allow each to travel about 200 miles on a single charge. Both manufacturers believe attitudes are more important than statistics.
“Today’s drivers of 100-mile electric cars always need to look for the next charge,” said Larry Nitz, G.M.’s director of global transmissions and electrification. He thinks 200 miles of range is essential to get people to stop worrying about whether they will be able to get to work and back without running out of electricity, even in winter when range may drop significantly. Asked by Popular Mechanics if other car makers will offer cars with the same or more range, he said, “They have to. That’s how the free market works.”
Nissan is quietly rolling out a 30 kWh battery that will give the LEAF a 107 mile range. It is only available in models with more amenities, which cost $5,000 more than the entry level LEAF S. But it has a concept car with a 60 kWh battery in the works. “We are very aware of what’s happening in the market,” says Ken Kcomp, director of product planning at Nissan. “Nissan is developing longer range batteries. There are different ways to look at EV leadership. Range is one of them. It’s not lost on us.”
“I question the race to the 200-mile electric car,” says Jose Guerrero, head product manager of electric vehicles, high-performance models, and connected technology for BMW of North America.He is somebody who looks at the statistics and wonders why someone driving 36 miles a day needs a 200 mile car. “We don’t see exponentially increasing sales with a 200-mile battery,” Guerrero says.
BMW prides itself on building cars that are fun to drive. Guerrero thinks loading an i3 electric sedan down with hundreds of more pounds for a larger battery would diminish the cars handling prowess. “Putting a 60 kilowatt-hour battery in an i3 would kill the dynamism of the car,” he says.
Siegfried Pint used to agree with Guerrero. He worked at BMW when he was part of the team that developed the BMW i3. But now he works for Audi, where he is head of the electric powertrain program and has different ideas about EV range. “I had that opinion six or seven years ago,” Pint says, “but if you want to sell a decent number of cars, you need ‘first-car ability’.” By that he means an electric car will need to do everything the conventional car with the internal combustion engine sitting outside in the driveway can do.
For its part, Audi is hard at work on an electric SUV, the Audi e-tron quattro. That car will have a 95 kWh battery and 300 miles of range. That’s quite a bit more than the Tesla’s electric SUV, the Model X. The Audi will also be priced below the Tesla at about $70,000. Why did Audi push driving range of the e-tron all the way to 300 miles? “That was a strong requirement from the sales department,” Pint said.
Sales professionals say people buy on emotion and justify their decisions later with facts. Attitudes are important motivators when it comes to choosing one product over another. A person may only need 80 miles of range, but want 200 miles or more. Typically, wants trump needs when it comes time to make a buying decision. It seems a consensus is developing among electric car buyers that 200 miles of EV range is something they expect from an electric car.
This 11th and final article pulled from Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want — a new report from CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 — is a summary of the whole report. Of course, I encourage you to read through the entire report, at least in parts here on CleanTechnica (where you can also dive into the comments under each section). But if that doesn’t work for you for some reason, hopefully this summary is what you need.
We are still at the baby stages of an electric car revolution. With electric cars accounting for just about 1% of new car sales, the buyers are generally stereotypical early adopters and people passionate about addressing global warming, air pollution, and oil dependency. They have higher incomes and much higher solar adoption rates than the general public.
These people are concerned about making buying decisions that benefit broader society, but they have also discovered that electric cars come with some huge consumer benefits that almost anyone can appreciate.
For one, electric cars have instant torque that provides them with quick acceleration from a stop. This is a great deal of fun, and it also makes driving less stressful and safer, since it is easier to merge into moving traffic and get up to speed with other drivers, to cross lanes of moving traffic, and so on.
Secondly, charging is typically much more convenient than filling up a gas tank. It takes approximately 3 seconds to plug in and approximately 3 seconds to unplug. The rest of the time, you can be doing other things, like eating dinner, hanging out with your family or friends, relaxing on the couch, working, or basically anything you want to do. Approximately 85% of charging is done at home, but charging at work or key destinations can be just as convenient.
Electric cars also have much lower “fuel” costs per mile, have many fewer parts (so should also have less maintenance), and drive much more quietly and smoothly than conventional gasoline-powered or diesel-powered cars.
Given these benefits, many respondents see test drives and simply better media coverage of EVs as keys to market growth. However, many respondents still ranked more EV charging facilities and better financial incentives as the most powerful ways to drive growth.
Concerning specific electric car models that EV-driving respondents had, the split was similar to the broader market. By far, the top three models were the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, and Chevy Volt, respectively. The BMW i3 was a bit further behind, but still had a solid hold on the #4 spot. After that, no other models accounted for over 4% of respondents.
Moving from existing vehicles to EV models respondents planned to buy or lease, as well as announced or expected EV models respondents were most excited about, there was a strong preference for Teslas — the planned Model 3, the just-released Model X, and the well reviewed Model S. After Teslas, there was a continued preference for EVs from the companies that have led the market so far — the planned Chevy Bolt, the Chevy Volt (first generation and second generation), and the Nissan LEAF (first generation and second generation).
Exploring specific features respondents were interested in, we learned that over half of respondents (54%) require access to Tesla’s Supercharger network or a comparable super-fast charging network (there is no such network in place or publicly announced) with any future electric model they buy. 28% require five seats, 27% require all-wheel drive, 14% require towing capacity, 13% require a free car rental for up to 3 weeks a year or free access to a carsharing service for up to $500 of use, and 10% require a sunroof.
Large percentages also indicated that the following features could trigger them to buy one model over another: access to Tesla Supercharger network (61%); apps to check charging status (57%) and preheat or pre-cool the car (45%); over-the-air software updates (50%), autonomous cruise control (44%); all-wheel drive (41%); keyless start, stop, and entry (38%); and a system to allow the owner to send electricity from the EV’s battery back into the grid, assuming the utility would pay for that (34%).
Certain autopilot features were popular with a smaller but still significant number of respondents: autosteer (26%), automatic parking, without a person present in the car (24%); and auto parallel park (22%).
Additionally, 69% of potential owners indicated they would be significantly more attracted to a fully electric model if they would be able to upgrade the battery pack. Only 7% didn’t care about that.
In terms of car classes, there was a clear preference for an EV in the intermediate class, which is interesting since there isn’t a mass-market EV in that class other than the Ford Fusion Energi, which only has ~20 miles of electric driving range.
Aside from the intermediate class, there’s also strong demand for the SUV, compact, and full-size classes. There’s much less demand for electric pickup trucks, sports cars, and scooters/motorcycles — apologies to the CleanTechnica readers who I know are eagerly awaiting those options.
There are only a few ways in which electric cars still trail gasoline-powered cars from a consumer perspective: range on a single charge, time needed to charge, and upfront cost (because of the large and expensive batteries in electric cars). There has long been a big range gap between ~80-mile electric cars from conventional automakers and >220-mile Tesla electric cars. 100 miles or fewer seems like not enough range for many buyers, but over 200 miles seems like overkill, given that we drive 70 miles or fewer on 90% of days, so I was curious to see what type of range requirements consumers actually had.
Among non-owners, 45% responded that they needed 220 or more miles of range on a single charge, and 15% indicated they needed no more than 100 miles of range, leaving a gap of 40% of respondents who need less range than a Tesla offers but more than all of the other pure EVs on the market.
Similarly, 50% of EV drivers indicated they needed 220 miles or more, 19% indicated they needed no more than 100 miles, and the remaining 31% were somewhere in between.
In other words, there’s a big market opportunity there for companies that fill the range gap between a 2016 Nissan LEAF and a Tesla Model S or Model X.
Extra range isn’t free, though. Asking respondents to balance range needs and hypothetical prices, among non-owners, 7% indicated a sweet spot of 70 miles for a $25,000 car (similar to a base-level Nissan LEAF), 16% indicated 100 miles for $30,000 (similar to the new 107-mile Nissan LEAF), 16% chose a 130-mile EV for $35,000, 12% chose a 160-mile EV for $40,000, 8% chose a 190-mile EV for $45,000, 15% chose 220 miles or more for $50,000 and up, and 24% weren’t happy with any of the options. That leaves a big opening for moderately priced electric cars with 110 to 200 miles of range.
Asking EV drivers the same question, the responses were similar. 7% again indicated a preference for 70 miles of range for a $25,000 car, 15% indicated 100 miles for $30,000, 21% selected 130 miles for $35,000, 19% selected a 160-mile EV for $40,000, 10% selected a 190-mile EV for $45,000, and 29% chose 220 miles or more for $50,000 or more.
These results show that there is no electric car on the market serving the range–price “sweet spot” of nearly half the market. Clearly, there is a large gap there that automakers should be working to fill. However, more research needs to be conducted on why automakers have kept away from this opening in the market.
With battery technology improving fairly fast, respondents were eager to be given the option of upgrading the battery packs in their cars in the future, for a reasonable price. 69% of potential owners indicated they would be significantly more attracted to a fully electric model if they would be able to upgrade the battery pack. Only 7% didn’t care about that.
Fast-charging capability was also critical to potential buyers. When asked about the importance of Tesla’s Supercharger network (or some comparable super-fast charging network), 65% of potential owners indicated they would be significantly more attracted to a fully electric model if it had access to Tesla Superchargers or something comparable.
In a separate survey for both EV drivers and potential EV drivers, 29% of respondents indicated that DC fast charging (which is about half as fast as Tesla Supercharging but several times faster than Level 2 charging) was a requirement for them to consider a fully electric car, 25% indicated that it was very important for them, and 27% indicated it was somewhat important for them. Only 12% indicated it was “quite unimportant” and 7% “not important at all” for them.
In general, all of these responses regarding fast charging indicate that the charging network and fast-charging (even super-fast-charging) capability are key components of an EV buyer’s purchasing decision.
Additionally, with regard to the onboard charger in an EV, most of the market now sees a 6.6 kW onboard charger as a critical component of the car, while they are much less convinced about the need for a 10 kW onboard charger. However, this may be due to lack of exposure to 10 kW or higher-capacity onboard chargers, and also long-range electric vehicles.
When it comes to market growth, while most of the respondents see electric cars accounting for 10% of the new-car market by 2020, the majority don’t expect electric cars to account for 50% of the new-car market until 2025 or later. Nonetheless, a large percentage (70-71%) think Tesla will disrupt the auto industry, another ~17% are not sure, and only ~12% don’t think it will do so.
Almost across the board, EV-driving respondents are happy they got their EVs. Granted, this survey was disseminated on EV websites, so was likely to attract EV enthusiasts — nonetheless, 96% of respondents said they were happy with the purchase/lease, and under 1% said they weren’t.
Perhaps more telling, 72.5% of respondents who didn’t indicate the following sentence didn’t apply to them strongly agreed with the statement, “People who drive my EV tend to love it.” 21.8% more moderately agreed, 5% were not sure, and only 0.7% moderately disagreed.
In conclusion, there are many features, car classes, and improvements to charging infrastructure and capability that auto manufacturers and EV charging companies could implement in order to serve consumer demand and grow the EV market. There are big gaps in the options on the market, and they are gaps consumers want filled. Nonetheless, current EV drivers are very happy with their cars and widely see their key benefits as stimulating demand. They see the future as electric, and they are bringing about that future now by living with EVs or by making plans to join the market.
You can download the full “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want” report here.
In this 10th and nearly final article pulled from Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want — a new report from CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 — we get to an exciting topic — EV Revolution!!
I’ve mentioned “EV revolution” a few times already in this report. What am I talking about? By “EV revolution,” I’m referring to EVs taking over the personal transportation market in a relatively short period of time, something which I’m convinced will happen due to the significant benefits of electric cars (eight of them, by my count). However, when that will really start to happen is very debatable, even among those who are convinced it is on the way. So, I posed a handful of questions to the respondents to crowdsource opinions on this matter.
The first such question on this matter was, “In which year do you think electric cars will make up at least 10% of US car sales in a single month?” 33% of EV drivers and 33% of non-EV drivers responded 2020. In second place, 13% of EV drivers and 17% of non-EV drivers chose 2018. In third place, 17% of EV drivers and 11% of non-EV drivers chose 2025+. In addition, significant percentages chose 2022 (11% and 9%), 2019 (9% and 11%), and 2017 (4% and 7%). In other words, responses were all over the place, but 83% of EV drivers and 89% of non-EV drivers see this happening within the next decade.
The next question raised the bar quite a bit. It asked, “In which year do you think electric cars will make up at least 50% of US car sales in a single month?”
71% of EV drivers and 63% of non-EV drivers chose 2025+. Only 8% of EV drivers and 11% of non-EV drivers see this happening by 2020.
In other words, while these EV enthusiasts see strong electric car sales growth coming in the next few years, they think we are still at least a decade away from electric cars accounting for the majority of the new car market.
With Tesla Motors being the clear leader in the EV market from most angles, I also wanted to better understand how respondents felt about the company and how disruptive (economically speaking) they thought Tesla would be. The responses shocked me, even knowing that Tesla was a very popular company.
70% of EV drivers and 71% of non-EV drivers think Tesla will disrupt the auto industry, 16% and 18% are not sure, respectively, and 13% and 11% don’t think Tesla will disrupt the industry. On the whole, that’s a strong expectation that Tesla will really shake things up in one of the largest industries in the world.
Competitive advantages Tesla currently has over conventional automakers include the Supercharger network, lower battery prices, the under-construction Tesla Gigafactory (which will further reduce battery prices), a reputation for high-performance and hi-tech cars, frequent over-the-air software updates to fix or improve cars, a sales and service-center system that trumps dealerships from the consumer perspective, and an undeniable “cool” factor.
There’s still a lot of room for other EV pioneers like Nissan, GM, Mitsubishi, BMW, and Volkswagen to succeed in this realm, but many responses to this survey seem to indicate that the best way to do so is through association and partnership with Tesla.
Specifically, partnering on the Supercharger network and perhaps future battery production plans could be very helpful to these other automakers. And simply being “friends with” the “cool kid on the block” could open up more consumers to their brands. These are big decisions for the heads of large auto companies to consider, but if I were in their shoes, I believe I would be working feverishly to walk alongside Tesla and partner on critical pieces of the EV lifestyle — particularly, Supercharging capability and growth.
No matter what EV consumers buy, though, one thing is clear: they love driving electric. We asked the EV drivers, “Are you happy that you bought/leased your electric vehicle(s)?” 96% responded “Yes,” only 3% responded “Meh,” and only 1% responded “No.” See if you can find any other consumers so happy with their vehicles.
Also, just before this report was released, it was revealed in the latest Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey that the three cars topping the list for owner satisfaction were electric cars — #1 Tesla Model S, #2 Chevy Volt, #3 Nissan LEAF. In other words, the owners of these electric cars are happier with their cars, on average, than the owners of all the gasoline and diesel models on the market. That’s pretty telling.
And to reiterate a point made earlier, friends and family who drove their EVs seemed to love them as well. Under 1% disagreed with the statement, “People who drive my EV tend to love it,” and only moderately so.
You can download the full “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want” report here.