5 Emerging Electric Vehicle Trends to Watch For in 2017
We’ve reported on a wide range of electric vehicle trends in 2016. From the rise of electrified heavy-duty trucks to the huge growth in charging infrastructure to the slate of automakers working on plug-in vehicles, changes took place in every aspect of the ecosystem.
We expect more of the same in the coming year. At the Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November, the immediate future of the plug-in marketplace began to take shape. While General Motors and Tesla work on their long-range EVs for the masses, the rest of the industry is filling in the blanks.
Here are five trends in the electric car industry to look for in 2017.
Performance Utility Vehicles
Tesla Model X rewrote the book on utility vehicles in 2016. On top of the falcon-wing doors and blistering performance specs, the electric SUV can seat seven and features some of the most advanced self-driving capabilities on the market. The auto industry has never seen such a product, and established luxury automakers are reacting to the statement from Silicon Valley.
Both Audi and Mercedes-Benz introduced utility models as their long-range EVs of the near future. At the L.A. show, Jaguar entered the game with I-PACE, an all-electric crossover that seats five and delivers the type of power we’ve only seen in a Tesla before. I-PACE features 400 horsepower and the ability to hit 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) in 4 seconds.
While attempts to copy or best the Tesla Model S have yet to succeed, European luxury brands have a legitimate plan in place to challenge the field with SUVs.
Plug-in Hybrids with Greater Range
Of the 17 plug-in hybrids on sale for the 2016 model year, only four offer more than 19 miles of electric range. As a result, the green driving benefits are limited unless owners have a place to charge at work and at other places they visit on a regular basis. For the 2017 model year, the market will get more PHEVs with solid electric range.
Here are a few key additions:
- Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (30 miles)
- Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid (30 miles)
- Kia Optima PHEV (27 miles)
- Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles)
By establishing a new standard between 25 and 30 miles, these models become much more useful to owners. Most will be able to drive electric over 50% of the time, cutting down on gas use and saving on operating costs in the process. In the case of Pacifica’s plug-in hybrid, U.S. consumers will be able to claim the full federal tax credit ($7,500) off the base price of $41,995.
125 Miles as the Baseline for New EVs
Just as the industry is setting the new standard for plug-in hybrids at around 30 miles, electric vehicles are getting a range boost of their own. Gone is the generation that marked the minimum useful range at or near 80 miles. Models like the original Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf, and BMW i3 all hovered around this mark.
We’ll call the wave coming in 2017 the “bridge EVs” as the industry pushes toward a minimum of 225 miles. Here’s what consumers can expect in the near future:
- Hyundai Ioniq EV (124 miles)
- Volkswagen e-Golf (124 miles)
- BMW i3 94 Ah (114 miles)
Considering 87% of U.S. drivers do not exceed 73 miles of driving per day (per an MIT study), we would say the “range anxiety” that plagued consumers to the end of 2016 should begin lessening in 2017 with a new standard near 125 miles.
These cars are not just impressive in range, either. Hyundai Ioniq EV, rated by the EPA at 150 MPGe in city driving and 136 MPGe combined, is now the U.S. market’s most economical vehicle. The title briefly held by the 2017 Prius Prime now belongs to the new nameplate from Hyundai that will be available as a hybrid, PHEV, and EV next year.
With the Tesla Model S P100D beating out all production cars in acceleration, electric vehicles have impressed the auto world at large. We’re going to see more models featuring otherworldly performance and luxury coming onto the scene in 2017, beginning with the NIO EP9.
Launched as a sub-brand of Shangai-based NextEV, NIO will begin with the EP9, a show car capable of hitting 124 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds. EP9 showed its chops by setting a new EV speed on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe and making the rounds at Circuit Paul Ricard. The Model S P100 in Ludicrous mode will be quicker to 60 miles per hour by a few ticks, but EP9 will be the fastest in longer-range sprints, NIO says.
Though only six will be made for NIO’s founding investors, the car will turn up at track days to impress future clients and partners. Afterwards, NIO plans to release a production car for a more significant market, which sounds like how Tesla got started with the Roadster.
Plugging in to Boost Slumping Models
Could a struggling car actually receive a boost from a plug-in variant? Maybe that was part of the thinking behind the electrified Mini Cooper Countryman that appeared at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The new Countryman is the largest Mini to date, but the most surprising part was the PHEV model capable of about 20 miles on electric power.
When you think of Mini’s appeal to markets in the Northeast and West Coast (including several ZEV states), the addition of a plug-in model makes sense. BMW, parent company of Mini, already has the technology in place for models like the X5 xDrive40e and 330e. Adding it to a Mini might help the small car brand as it fights to stave off a sales decline.
While there have been concerns for the future of the electric vehicle market following the U.S. election, most automakers have plug-in plans that are well past the development stages. It’s probably too late for them to stop now. We’ll be hearing about EVs more than ever in 2017.