5 Electric Vehicle Trends on the Horizon for 2018
At the close of 2017, you could easily call the year a landmark for electric vehicles. Before December’s totals could be counted, sales records had been set for North America and the world as a whole.
Meanwhile, the number of plug-ins available on the U.S. market topped 40 options. Consumers have more choices than ever – and at better prices – than they have in the past.
However, with plug-in sales still around 1% in North America, we remain a long way from widespread EV adoption. Looking at our review of trends from last year, we can see some obstacles the industry faces. With that in mind, we’ll look ahead to EV trends for 2018, with a quick review of last year’s forecast.
How last year’s trends played out
Before we start on 2018, we’ll briefly run through the trends we called out at the end of last year to see what happened in 2017.
- Performance crossovers arriving from luxury brands. Both Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz appear on track with their powerful electric crossovers. Jaguar’s I-Pace s will debut in 2018. Meanwhile, the Tesla-challenging NIO ES8 already launched in China.
- Plug-in hybrids with greater range. Though Chrysler, Cadillac, and Kia all introduced PHEVs with more range in 2017, only Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles on electric) is a genuine contender. In fact, Prime looked ready to bump Chevy Volt from the top three in sales for the first time.
- A step up from compliance cars. While the first iteration of EVs came in near 80 miles of range, the next set (Hyundai Ioniq EV, Ford Focus Electric ) offered close to 120 miles. This group of cars mostly stagnated in 2017.
- EV supercars. While flashy, speedy electric cars like NIO EP9 occasionally grab headlines, they didn’t do much to further the industry’s big goals over the course of the year.
- Adding a plug to showcase nameplates. This trend, which we saw most prominently in Mini Countryman’s plug-in edition, went nowhere in 2017.
Emerging trends to watch for in 2018
Trend 1: Tesla’s no longer alone
With the arrival of NIO’s electric crossover in China, Tesla gained a bona fide competitor. The ES8 features a 70 kW battery, allowing for long-range travel, at a price below $70,000. (That number is far cheaper than a Model X in China.)
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As Mercedes, Audi, and Jaguar continue readying their own high-end EVs for the U.S. market, Tesla will see its first real competition in America by the end of 2018. At the lower end of the plug-in market, Tesla already watched GM sprint forward with its first year of Bolt EV sales. Indeed, Tesla may start to lose its grip as the leader in EVs by the end of 2018, especially if Model 3 production stumbles continue.
Trend 2: A surge in electric mass transit
With transportation emissions now the leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., every municipality is grappling with ways to reduce its footprint. For the first time ever, we expect a surge in EV mass transit orders following Los Angeles’s order of 95 electric buses at the cost of $138 million.
Recent breakthroughs in bus production, along with lower battery costs, have allowed cities to invest in this type of green transportation. As L.A. leads the way and other cities learn about the environmental and cost savings available, expect more transit authorities to shift to electric power. Proterra buses can now travel 350 miles on a single charge, eliminating the need to charge for an entire day.
Trend 3: Multiple long-range EVs below $30,000 USD
Though Tesla’s Model 3 rollout was less than successful, the delays allowed other, more established automakers to prep their own long-range EVs for market. By January 2018, the new Nissan Leaf (150 miles, $29,900) will arrive in U.S. dealerships.
By mid-year, Leaf will join Chevy Bolt EV ($37,500 before incentives) and Model 3 at the low end of the market. For the first time ever, consumers will have three quality choices with fast-charging options and enough range to curb most anxiety.
Trend 4: Rise of the used EV market
When sales were low and fewer than 20 models existed, the used electric car market was limited at best. By 2017, we began to see three-year leases of ’14 models and other pre-owned EVs hit the market. Consumers noticed immediately.
In fact, when iSeeCars.com looked at the fastest-selling cars on the used market, six of the top 10 (including No. 1) were plug-ins. Once original buyers deduct incentives and factor in depreciation, most of the early EVs sold for less than half their original price. As 2018 begins, a 2016 Nissan Leaf (107 miles) may be the most economical car (electric, gas or otherwise) on the used market.
Trend 5: Moving toward true zero emissions
For years, the dirty little secret about electric cars was the energy source people used to charge them. In areas where coal-fired plants powered the grid, these EVs were far from the “zero emissions” ideal you see on a Tesla license plate. However, as more states upgrade their grids with renewables, we are getting closer to that goal.
The best way for individual EV owners to guarantee zero-emissions transport is generating solar power from their homes. Tesla’s Solar City, SunRun, and several other companies offer solar products for homes. As more consumers become conscious about building emissions and these products get more affordable, we should see more solar homes with EVs in the driveway.
While it’s probably unreasonable to expect monumental changes to the EV industry in 2018, we expect another year of solid growth and the debut of several new models. Finally, in what is a good omen for the plug-in car consumer, Congressional Republicans stopped short of ending the $7,500 tax credit in the last version of their tax plan. That boost should keep EVs moving and set a new record for U.S. sales in 2018.