Automakers Change EV Strategies Due to Tesla’s Success
The automotive industry was invigorated by the introduction of the high-performance, electric-powered Tesla Model S late last year. Despite some less-than-sterling press in relation to three battery fires in October and November, warranting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate, the car has defined a new marketplace for electric vehicles.
It’s worth noting the NHTSA gave the Model S a rare five-star safety rating back in September – something that only one percent of all vehicles tested receive. Wall Street Journal also posted an update on December 3 in favor of the carmaker.
Either way, the reviews didn’t deter any heavy hitters in the auto industry from having a go at high-performance hybrid supremacy. The L.A. Auto Show wrapped up December 1, and the impact of the Model S was seen through many of the new vehicles on display. USA Today quoted John O’Dell, Senior Editor for Edmunds.com, a major auto research site, about Tesla during the show, “Tesla proved to a lot of automakers that there is a market at the upper end for electric-drive vehicles – with ‘exhilarating’ driving statistics. They can get almost scary. It’s like driving a very fast car.”
Slated for showroom floors later next year, the 2014 BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car was one of the superstars of the show. BMW’s first hybrid high-performance ride combines its electric drive system with a 1.5 liter, turbocharged gasoline engine to maximize performance while minimizing emissions. Labeled a “progressive sports car” by BMWBlog, style and performance features like its electric vehicle (EV) components, scissor doors (made famous by Lamborghini), and a carbon fiber body make the $135,000 price tag a little more justifiable. The vehicle drew so much attention over the past year that the BMW Head of Sales and Marketing Ian Robertson said during the L.A. show that the i8 is “sold out” for 2014 based on production projections by the company. Its smaller hatchback sibling, the i3, will lack the glitz and glamour of the i8 but will be available this upcoming spring for around a third of the price.
Although the new B-Class from Mercedes is a bit more modest than many of the other vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show, the EV has plenty of redeeming qualities. The engineering assistance of Tesla Motors is one – since Mercedes bought a small share of the automaker back in 2009, they are privy to utilize the company’s expertise to develop their own creation. The $40,000 ride has been available in foreign markets since 2011, but will make its debut in the States in 2014 as an all-electric, four-door hatchback with a charge that will last over 100 miles, Mercedes said via the L.A. Times. The car takes only four hours to fully charge through a 240 volt power source.
On the opposite end of the performance spectrum is the Porsche plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder. This beast “combines pedigree motor racing technology with excellent everyday utility” says the Porsche press release. And they aren’t kidding – the supercar’s massive 887 horsepower engine propels the car from zero to sixty miles per hour in only 2.8 seconds. According to Porsche, the 918 Spyder will offer five different driving modes through three separate motors that can be changed via a “map switch” on the steering wheel; the five modes include the quieter, more reserved E-Power mode, the energy efficient Hybrid mode, the dynamic Sport Hybrid mode, the ultra-powerful Race Hybrid mode, and the even more demanding Hot Lap mode that pushes every available energy in the battery for a few face-melting laps at a time. For a measly $845,000, you can have them all at your disposal.
Start saving your allowance, kids.
Audi unveiled a plug-in hybrid of its A3 Sportback, which combines the performance of a 100-horsepower electric motor and a gas engine. It will become available in 2015.
Nissan “embodies a fearless vision of the EV future” with its new BladeGlider, showcased for the first time in Tokyo last month. The vehicle’s bizarre design resembles something closer to a Formula One car than a street-legal EV, check it out below – courtesy of Nissan.
Even Cadillac made an effort to plunge into the EV market with its ELR model, a $76,000 luxury sedan that utilizes technology from the Chevy Volt to maximize efficiency. Speaking of Chevrolet, the company also unveiled a new performance mode on its all-electric Spark EV last month, enhancing its performance to the chagrin of Chevy Engineering Group Manager Carl Smith. He told USA Today, “It shows there is huge potential out there for electric vehicles…[the Spark EV] was a fun little vehicle to put on the track.”
What electric vehicle has caught your eye over the past couple months? Do you believe the demand will match the supply of these high-powered, energy-efficient machines? Let us know in the comment section below.