Auto industry gets an F on electric vehicles

Lux report assigns low mark for high costs and limited offerings with an over 200-mile range.

BOSTON — The automotive industry may be touting its progress on electric vehicles, but a US research firm that tracks EV development gives them failing grades for missing key performance benchmarks.

Boston-based Lux Research’s EV Inflection Tracker gives the industry a 27 out of 100 rating, mainly because of high costs and limited offerings with a driving range of over 200 miles (or 322 kilometres in Canada).

Luxury cars earned the highest rating because of Tesla, BYD and Volvo – but three of the five classes received “F” grades, and pickup trucks were incomplete, with no plug-in vehicles available.

The study estimated that plug-in vehicles (both EVs and PHEVs together) will reach mass-adoption – capturing more than 50% of new car sales – between 2035 and 2040.

“Although EV progress is being made, we still found few compelling choices for mainstream consumers, with most plug-ins both too expensive for the mass market and too limited in electric driving range. This performance earns the automotive industry a failing report card aside from the luxury niche,” said Cosmin Laslau, Lux Research senior analyst and lead author of the report titled, EV Inflection Tracker 2016 Edition.

He said it will take three full model cycles worth of development and iteration before the EVs take over the market, but automakers are showing progress on improving their offerings, with Tesla and GM leading the way.

Here are some other findings from the report:

• Compelling mass-market EVs aren’t there yet. No carmaker has attained 322 kilometres of all-electric range and a price tag below $33,000. The forthcoming Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 should be closing in on that target, however, and could even make the cut with some temporary subsidies.

• Small is still big in EVs. Small plug-ins will continue to see the most action in the next few years, with new players jumping in. In addition to Tesla’s promised Model 3, Volkswagen is pinning its hopes after Dieselgate on a new EV and longer-range plug-in Golfs. Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric car, is likely to be drawn into an emerging battle around 200-mile electric range EVs.

• Luxury cars enable trickle-down innovation. Luxury plug-ins don’t drive meaningful sales volumes but serve as early incubators of technology, providing critical “trickle-down” innovation. Tesla’s Model S and the newer Model X lead this segment but Germany luxury carmakers such as Porsche, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are pouring billions into plug-in development.

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