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Energy Efficiency

What’s Next For Electric Vehicles in the US?

To say that 2020 has been a major year for EVs in America would be an understatement. It’s hard to imagine a more transformative time for the industry. Earlier this year, Tesla edged out Toyota to become the world’s most valuable car company, and recently  Governor Gavin Newsom of California mandated all new passenger vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2035. Signs like this point to a not-so-distant future where EVs could begin to outnumber gasoline-powered vehicles.

Between 2017 and 2018, U.S. EV sales outpaced the international trend. Despite a slowing of sales in 2019 “as a result of the Trump administration’s phaseout of the federal tax credit and loosening of fuel-economy standards,” and the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has posed, an influx of upcoming EVs from all-American automakers like Ford and General Motors (GM) announced this year indicate a prosperous future for the industry. 

Tesla’s dominance in the American passenger EV market, and its influence on other automakers to make the shift toward electric, is key to this optimistic outlook for EVs. 

Elon Musk’s company accounted for a whopping 78 percent of U.S. EV sales in 2019, with Tesla’s Model 3 and Model X being the top-selling vehicles with an estimated 154,846 and 18,500 sold respectively according to CleanTechnica. Tesla’s stronghold on the industry continued through the first half of 2020, with its Model 3, Model Y, and Model X representing the top three EV sales, and its Model S at number five after the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

The pressure that Tesla’s reign over the EV market placed on American automakers has become evident as auto industry giants scramble to compete, and EV startups – like Rivian, Nikola, and Lordstown Motors – have announced ambitious plans for the future.

Market Research firm AutoPacific “counts a remarkable 90 to 100 new electric nameplates coming to U.S. showrooms by 2030,” Car and Driver magazine reports.

Leading the EV surge is GM, which committed to spending a whopping $27 billion on its introduction of electric cars and trucks in the next five years. GM CEO Mary Barra said the company aims to introduce 30 different EV models around the world by 2025. 

“We are all-in to establish leadership in electric vehicles,” the company’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said at a Barclays Capital conference. “E.V.s are core to growing our business and creating shareholder value.” 

Earlier this year, GM’s 118-year-old Cadillac brand unveiled its first all-electric vehicle, an SUV called Lyriq, set for release in the first quarter of 2022. Additionally, the widely anticipated electric Hummer is projected to hit showrooms toward the end of next year.

GM has made it abundantly clear that it aspires to become competitive with Tesla–a plan that, if followed by other automakers, could help account for what promises to be a wildly transformative coming decade for the American automotive industry.

Another major breakthrough is that GM says it is on the cusp of a major innovation in battery chemistry that will “cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline within five years,” and “will increase the range per charge to as much as 450 miles.” GM has already rolled out its innovative new Ultium batteries and the modular platform it will use in its upcoming EVs.

The vast majority of EVs on the market cost more than $30,000, but GM’s product development chief confirmed that it will sell a small electric SUV that will go for less than that.

And GM isn’t Tesla’s only upcoming competition. Lucid Motors’ recently revealed their Lucid Air sedan EV is expected to compete directly with Tesla’s Model S. Lucid Motors said in a press release that the Air will be the fastest charging EV ever offered as well as the world’s most aero-efficient luxury car. Deliveries of the vehicle are scheduled to begin in spring 2021 with the base model starting at $74,400.

The Lucid Air exterior, Photo: Lucid Motors (news release)

Tesla is on the hunt for greater affordability and efficiency for its vehicles. Elon Musk said in September that Tesla is pursuing new technology to make EVs more affordable and greatly increase the distance possible on a single charge. However, he  said that the new batteries may not be ready for production at a high-volume level until 2022. The headline here is that the advent of more affordable technology means there could be a Tesla with a $25,000 starting price. The company’s cheapest model – Model 3 – currently starts at $33,690. More affordable EV prices, in addition to gas savings, could be an even greater incentive for Americans to purchase EVs.

In 2018, Ford pledged $11 billion for EV manufacturing and is set to release its first-ever all-electric crossover: the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Car and Driver reports that deliveries of the vehicle will begin in December. 
Further fueling the transition toward an electric vehicles future is a flurry of upcoming electric pick-up trucks from automakers like Tesla, GMC, Nikola, Rivian, Ford, Bollinger, and Lordstown Motors. Considering trucks comprised the top three best-selling vehicles of 2019, the potential for competitiveness among EVs in that sector is yet another signal of a massive move toward EVs in the U.S. One thing is clear – by 2030 there will be far more EVs on the road than there are today, and our planet will be the biggest beneficiary.

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