7 Automakers with Major Electric Vehicle Programs in the Works

 In EV Industry

It seems that every week another automaker is announcing a shift toward electric vehicles. Considering industry trends and increasingly strict clean-air regulations, it is not surprising that major manufacturers are headed in a greener direction – and 2016 has been a landmark year on that front.

Of course, Tesla is still pacing the pack as the only major company that sells cars without tailpipes. We have already seen a glimpse of the Model 3, but the Fremont-based OEM has plans to produce electric crossovers, pickups and heavy-duty commercial trucks in its next phase of development.

As for Tesla’s future competition in the EV space, the next five years will be a busy time of planning and launching new products that plug in rather than gas up for fuel. Here are seven automakers with major electric vehicle programs in the works.

1) General Motors

Chevrolet BoltWhile General Motors may not have the grandest of plans for electric cars, it has the most specific one of the bunch. Before the end of 2016, GM will release the Chevrolet Bolt EV in the U.S. market, with most of the early cars devoted to the automaker’s partnership with Lyft. Through a special deal, Lyft drivers will get the groundbreaking EV through low-cost, short-term leases.

All early adopters will be getting more range than initially promised. According to GM and independent road tests, the Bolt can travel at least 238 miles on a full charge. That’s more than even the Tesla Model S 60 (210 miles) and 60D (218 miles) can manage. Considering those cars start at $66,000 and $71,500, we’d say the $37,500 Bolt EV looks like a major release.

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2) Volvo

Volvo XC90 chargingSweden-based Volvo already has plug-in hybrids on the road in North America (XC90) and Europe (S60), but many more are on the way. According to a company announcement from April 2016, Volvo plans to sell one million electrified vehicles by 2025.

Given its low volumes so far, this goal will take a very ambitious push in the space over the next decade. To get there, Volvo said it will offer “at least two hybrid versions of every model in its range” and bring its first pure EV to market by 2019. Judging by reviews of its powerful yet economic early releases, Volvo should soon be a force in the plug-in space.

3) Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes C350 plug-in hybridIt may have seemed like Mercedes-Benz was letting BMW and Audi take the lead with electric cars, but the automaker now considers it the right time to jump into the fray. According to a summer 2016 report, Mercedes is planning on launching two SUVs and two sedans as from-the-ground-up EVs by the end of this decade.

The German automaker also has plans to launch commercial trucks that would rival concepts from Nikola Motors and other manufacturers beginning to announce plans for heavy-duty transport. Mercedes would have a sub-brand devoted to these electrified models similar to the BMW i line of vehicles on the road now.

4) Ford

2017 Ford Fusion Plug-in HybridMuch was made of Ford’s $4.5 billion investment that included electrifying 13 future vehicles by 2020, but so far we have only seen the original short-range Focus Electric and the Energi plug-in hybrid family. While the Fusion Energi has been a strong seller for its excellent package for consumers, Ford’s overall EV program has been stuck in 2013 for several years.

That should change by the end of 2016, when we’ll see the upgraded Focus Electric and learn more about projects in the works. In September, Ford CEO Mark Fields told investors that the best use of the company’s resources would be in products where it already leads: sports cars, commercial vehicles, and pickup trucks. Maybe this means an electric F-150 is in the works?

5) Volkswagen

Volkswagen BUDD-e

Volkswagen BUDD-e concept.

Volkswagen still has work to do in order to live down the Dieselgate scandal, and the automotive group sees its electric car program as one way to make it happen. In fact, VW has set a goal of 30 new EVs and two-to-three million plug-in sales by 2025. That would amount to nearly one quarter of the automaker’s current sales volume.

At the Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen is unveiling its new Modular Electric platform, said to offer smartphone-like capabilities and ranges topping 350 miles on a single charge. A better version of the e-Golf is also coming in 2016.

6) BMW

BMW 330eBMW has already seen success with its plug-in hybrids and i3 electric car. The automaker said in August its 3 Series and 7 Series plug-ins had sold out for 2016. In some European markets, the plug-in 330e was responsible for over 40% of 3 Series sales. Meanwhile, a longer-range i3 was making its way to North American markets.

BMW has plans to keep this momentum going, beginning with larger production volumes. As for new products, sources suggest a model slotting in above the i3 and below the i8 (possibly an i5 or i6) will be released by 2021. Later in the next decade, both the i3 and i8 will be replaced by newer models.

7) Audi

Audi E-Tron QuattroAs Volkswagen’s volume luxury brand, Audi must meet the challenges of Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes while helping lessen the Dieselgate impact for its parent company. The only electrified Audi on North American roads is the A3 Sportback e-tron, a variant of the company’s entry-level sedan.

The brand will begin its bigger push with the e-tron Quattro, an all-electric SUV capable of 250 miles on a single charge that is expected to go on sale by 2018. Two more electric models will appear before 2020, the automaker announced in summer 2016. Autonomous driving will be part of the company’s focus as it moves away from diesel and into a cleaner future.

The Near Future

While the Nissan-Renault alliance is the segment leader in global EV sales, there are no major plans announced for North America from the automaker behind the Leaf. The Tesla Model 3 is the most anticipated release coming in 2017, as far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned.

Until 2018, we expect most of the changes to the segment to be incremental. There is no magic bullet for success, even as range increases and battery costs drop by the year.

Let us know in the comments section below which automaker’s EV program has you most excited!

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  • Greg Shiff

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