2020 is almost upon us, and there’s many people out there who will be making a New Year’s resolution to buy a new electric car during the course of the year. The number of offerings on the market keeps expanding every year, so what will this year look like? Join us for a very deep dive into all mass-market electric cars (e.g. excl. trucks, vans, etc) that will be on the market in the US (this information took a long time to collect and turn into all of these graphics!)
This is part one of a three-part series. “Part 2: Price, Performance, Efficiency, Range and Charging” will be posted tomorrow, followed by “Part 3: Cargo, Internal and External Dimensions, Purchasing” the day after!
Every Electric Car Coming Out, Compared In Every Way.
Part 1: Offerings, Basic Stats, Safety, and Manufacturers
Click the names to see them, skip if you know them, but let’s start by introducing…
1. The Cast
|Tesla Model 3||By far the most widely sold electric vehicle in the United States, this sports sedan outsells the competition by nearly an order of magnitude due to a combination of range, performance, efficiency, features, and rapid charge rates. Lacking a hatch, it compensates with a cavernous high-opening trunk.|
|Tesla Model Y||An upcoming large CUV variant of the Model 3 — built on the same platform and sharing most of the hardware with the Model 3, it offers up to three rows of seating (a property shared only with the Model X).|
|Tesla Model S||The first mass-market electric sports sedan, it is Tesla’s fastest high-end offering (indeed, one of the fastest-accelerating vehicles in the world), and offers more cargo space than the Model 3. A new version (expected out this summer) known as “Plaid” is optimized for the track; prototypes have been demonstrating mind-boggling performance.|
|Tesla Model X||Powered by the same powertrain as the Model X, this “robot SUV” with self-opening doors and “falcon wings” offers the most interior space of all 2020 passenger EVs. A “Plaid” version is expected out at some point after the Model S Plaid, most likely (but not confirmed) in 2020.|
|Chevrolet Bolt||The first mass-market EV to challenge the low-end Teslas in range, the hatchback offers significant “local road tripping” ability (longer trips limited only by its low peak charge rate). Its already significant range got a further update earlier this year.|
|Nissan Leaf||The first mass-market low-end modern EV (prices kept low in part due to a simple air-cooled battery pack), this hatchback dominated US EV sales until the rise of the Model 3. It recently got an update in the form of the “e+” variant, which significantly improved its modest range and charge rates; the lower-cost 40kWh leaf remains on sale for the more budget-constrained.|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||Much anticipated a year ago, the small-to-midsize CUV entered the scene with a nice balance of size, range, performance, and charge rates relative to its price point.|
|Hyundai Ioniq Electric||The only EV to rival the Model 3 for the top of the efficiency charts, demand for this sedan has long been outstripped by its limited availability (despite its small 28kWh battery size). This year sees the pack upgraded to 38kWh at only a modest price premium (at the cost of a slower charge rate)|
|Kia E-Niro||Sharing a drivetrain and battery pack with the Kona, the E-Niro CUV offers only slightly worse performance and efficiency; in exchange it offers one of the roomiest back seats in its size class.|
|Kia Soul EV||Famous for its boxy looks, the Soul EV now gets an update to a 64kWh battery, bringing it solidly into the modern age.|
|Smart ForTwo ED||With limited range, performance, charging and top speed, the two-seat ForTwo ED certainly qualifies as a “city car”; however, it compensates for its shortcomings with a tiny physical footprint and tight turning circle. Availability is usually quite limited.|
|Fiat 500e||The second-smallest of the EVs on the list, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne famously once told people not to buy it, because they sell it for so much less than it costs them to make it. Like the Smart (but to a lesser degree), one gives up range, performance, charge rate and top speed for a small footprint and tight maneuvering.|
|BMW i3||The third-smallest EV on the list, while range and top speed are limited (as one expects for its size class), the i3 has quite reasonable performance — as one would expect from BMW, as well as a quality interior. But also as one might expect from BMW, the price tag is rather high compared to the vehicle’s specs. The “i3s” variant is slightly sportier than the base “i3”.|
|BMW iX3||A midsize CUV based around the BMW X3, this new-in-2020 EV will be BMW’s first venture into “non-niche” electric vehicles. Many details are yet to be disclosed.|
|Long one of the most popular budget EVs in Europe, this small-to-midsize modest-performance electric conversion of the highly popular Golf hatchback continues to achieve modest sales in the US.|
|Mini Cooper Hardtop Electric||Bringing reasonable performance to an iconic brand, the coupé is only limited by its limited range.|
|Honda Clarity Electric||Only with limited availability as a lease, the Clarity BEV offers only modest range and charge rates, but its subsidized lease rates and general good reception has rendered it popular among owners.|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E||Ford’s first serious EV venture (after limited-production “conversion EVs” like the Focus Electric), the Mach-E series mimics many of the design elements of the Model 3 / Y, and is built like a taller Model 3 / shorter Model Y. Only the more expensive premium versions will be available in 2020, but more modest-priced variants will become available in 2021.|
|Polestar 2||Also very much in the Model 3-influenced vehicle space, this sporty Chinese-built sedan is the first mass-market vehicle by Polestar, a new brand launched by Volvo (which is in turn now a subsidy of Chinese automaker Geely)|
|Volvo XC40 Recharge||Being sold under the Volvo brand itself, relatively little remains known about this electric version of the midsize XC40 CUV.|
|Jaguar I-Pace||One of the first “high-end luxury sports competitors” to Tesla, US sales of the sporty Magna-built I-Pace have been relatively modest due to limited range and modest 100kW charge rates relative to its prodigious consumption. However, an upcoming software update promises to significantly improve both of these via sizeable efficiency improvements.|
|Audi E-Tron||Audi’s first mass-market EV offering (and also in the high-end luxury space), it has sold better than the I-Pace despite also suffering from high consumption and limited range. Where high-power CCS chargers are available, its ability to maintain a ~150kW charge rate up to nearly 80% SoC helps compensate. A new, more modestly priced “e-tron 50” variant comes available this year.|
|Porsche Taycan||The much heralded Taycan has proven to be the first EV from an established automaker to be able to challenge Tesla in the performance and charge power arena. Heavily optimized for the track, its huge energy consumption rates unfortunately significantly limit range and partially neutralize the charge speed, and the car bears a mind-boggling price tag.|
2. Seating and Powertrain
Let’s begin with a straightforward plot of vehicle seating configurations and powertrains.
The caveats for the ones that aren’t simple circles include:
- Porsche lists the Taycan as either a 4 or 5-seater, but the middle seat on the latter is tiny; I thus represent it as “4+1”.
- Model S used to have a 5+2 config, but it’s not currently available; consequently, it’s “+2” bar is greyed out.
- Model Y comes in a 5-seat config and a 7-seat config. However, the rear row of seats doesn’t have much leg room (akin to the rear seats of the 500e), so I gave the 7-seat config a small upper circle.
- Likewise, due to the small size of the Fiat 500e and Mini’s rear seating row, I list them as 2+2 instead of the nominal 4-seat configuration.
- Model X comes in full-size 5, 6 and 7-seat configs.
2. Roof and Tow Capacity
Towing and roof racks don’t matter to everyone, but they do matter to some people! Almost all vehicles can technically have roof racks or towing added aftermarket, but these are not included in the above, save for the Model 3 (see below). Note that the best tower — the Tesla Model X — has no roof rack capacity at all, because its falcon-wing doors would interfere with one.
I wavered on whether to list the Model 3 in the above graph. The Model 3 is an exceptional case in that the vehicle is designed for towing, and in Europe offers an official tow hitch. However, Tesla has not made this hitch available in the US. An aftermarket supplier, EcoHitch, makes their own hitch which slots onto the vehicle’s hitch mounts for use in the US, and offers the same towing capacity. Since the vehicle actually is designed for towing, I decided to include it above (with caveats)
It has not been announced as to whether there will be a towing option for the Model Y, but spy shots have shown a Model Y towing. Capacity is guessed at the same as for the Model 3, of which it shares a platform, but it could be increased.
Several vehicles have announced roof racks, but not listed capacities. As 165lbs is a common capacity, it is assumed for vehicles that haven’t stated a specific value.
3. Safety Ratings
Safety ratings agencies — IIHS, NCAP, and the NHTSA — can be frustrating. For example, 40% of all vehicles (and most EVs) get 5-star ratings from the NHTSA, which makes it difficult to distinguish between them, when in reality there can be significant differences in the raw safety data. To help compensate for this, I add an additional column, the NHTSA VSS (Vehicle Safety Score), from which the star ratings are derived; the VSS is inverted and scaled so that the highest VSS (the Model 3) is ranked “5”. This allows for a more nuanced view of the actual ratings. Note that the VSS data is not always available, even when NHTSA star ratings are available.
The IIHS has three possible rankings — “Top Safety Pick+” (full-length blue bar), “Top Safety Pick” (half-length blue bar) , and not picked (blue nub). The absence of any sort of blue bar means that the vehicle has not been examined by the IIHS.
Some vehicles are outdated, and thus don’t affect the latest safety improvements — particularly, the Model S and Smart’s IIHS ratings (2017); the Bolt (2017), Kona (2017), and i3’s (2016) NCAP ratings; and the Model S (2016), Leaf (2017), and Smart (2016/2017)’s NHTSA ratings. The Smart, Kona, E-Niro, iX3, Ioniq, Soul, Mini and e-Golf have their IIHS ratings based on their internal combustion variants, due to a lack of testing of their electric versions.
For an extremely nuanced (but hard to read) view, I plot all ratings for all major categories by all ratings agencies. Note that there are significant gaps in available. Note that many types of ratings are unavailable for many vehicles.
As described for the previous graph, some vehicles had to rely on the ratings for their ICE equivalents.
4. Manufacturing Locations and Component Sourcing
Not much nuance is required for discussing the country of origin. However, more nuance is required when discussing component sourcing:
For all vehicles currently in production and on sale in the US, the percentage of US/Canadian and other North American content is public information. For upcoming vehicles, it has to be estimated. For the above, I estimated Mini production to be similar to its ICE variants. Mach-E was estimated to be similar to other vehicles out of its plant in Mexico, although it could vary significantly from this estimate. Other upcoming non-US-made vehicles are expected to have little to no North American content, as is the general rule for such vehicles today.
5. Corporate Responsibility
|Brand||Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers||Joined Trump Lawsuit Against CARB|
Corporate responsibility with respect to environmentalism is often a topic of concern to vehicle buyers. Above are two factors that have been significant players recently. On the left, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, while publicly talking up the benefits of electrification, has been lobbying the Trump administration to loosen mileage limits and to fight against California’s higher standards. On the right is the manufacturers who have joined the Trump administration’s lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board on behalf of the Trump administration.
tl;dr — An ‘X’ on the left is bad, an ‘X’ on the right is even worse.
I initially wanted to have a third corporate responsibility measure in the above graph: “Unionized?”, but as I was investigating it, it proved to be a surprisingly complex topic that would require a whole article of its own. Some examples:
- Unionization can vary not only from plant to plant within a company, but also for various phases of a vehicle’s production within a plant. For example, Tesla’s Fremont vehicle factory and their Nevada Gigafactory aren’t unionized, but Tesla-Grohmann – the company’s branch that builds and updates their production lines – is.
- Being in a union and being actually represented by a union are two different things, particularly outside of the US / EU. For example, Ford’s plant in Cuautitlan (upcoming home of the Mustang Mach-E) has several times attempted to establish its own union independent of the national union, CTM, who they viewed as being in Ford’s pocket; the conflict peaked in the early 90s, when paramilitaries hired by CTM opened fire on protesting workers, injuring 12 and killing 1.
- China (upcoming home to the Polestar 2 and the BMW iX3) is a key example of “nominal unionization” in today’s world. All workers in China belong to branches of a single national union, ACFTU. However, ACFTU is strictly controlled top-down by the Communist Party, and generally serves the interests of businesses rather than workers. Forming a union outside of ACFTU control is strictly prohibited, and attempts in the past have been put down by military force.
If there is interest, however, I could compile a plant-by-plant history of unionization statuses and list any past worker conflicts.
6. Corporate Financial Health
In addition to corporate social responsibility, corporate financial health is a topic frequently discussed. Three measures are plotted. The debt to equity ratio of a company reflects its ability to pay off its obligations by selling stock (low is good). Debt-to-EBITDA reflects the ability of a company to pay off its obligations through its ongoing operations (low is good). And lastly, the Altman-Z score is a more complex measure used to assess the risk of a company going bankrupt (high means a low risk of bankruptcy).
Note that Tata (which owns Jaguar) doesn’t have a visible Debt-to-EBITDA ratio; this is because, in their last quarter, Tata posted a sizeable loss, and thus EBITDA was negative.
Addendum ( for anti-EV readers only 🙂 )
- If you’re here to make the “long tailpipe” argument that EVs just move pollution around, you’re incorrect (beyond the fact that the grid gets cleaner every year and that the location of emissions has a profound effect on their health impacts… e.g. you want a long tailpipe)
- If you’re here to argue that you save more energy just continuing to operate an old ICE vehicle, you could not be more incorrect.
- If you’re here to claim that EVs are too expensive, compare the lease rates to ICE vehicles’ lease rates (e.g. numbers calculated by quants, factoring in depreciation, interest, etc). For example, a 3-year 12k mi Model 3 SR+ lease (with an extensive standard feature suite and excellent performance) only is $124/mo more expensive than a 3-year 12kmi lease on a barebones base-model Honda Accord. A longer-term lease would have an even smaller monthly difference. Now subtract from that 1k mi/mo in gasoline costs and annual maintenance.
- If you’re here to claim that new cars in general are too expensive — if you’re not a new car buyer, then this is not about you. People who buy used cars will end up buying whatever new car buyers bought, some years prior. Thus, if new car buyers switch to EVs, used car buyers will as well, with some number of years lag. Hence, the goal needs to be to get new car buyers to buy electric.
- If you’re here to be opposed to cars in general, this is also not a conversation for you. City planning decisions and the transportation needs of people in the countryside are a fascinating, unrelated topic. Until if / when cars disappear from the roads, those that are purchased should be electric.
- If you’re here to claim that EVs suck because apartment dwellers in cities without curbside charging and whose landlords or employers don’t allow charging (even when asked), and there’s no DC fast chargers near you at places that you frequent (grocery stores, restaurants, etc)…. then don’t buy an EV right now. Leave it to the people who aren’t in your situation 🙂 . The higher the rate of EV penetration in the market, the more that cities and landlords will be forced to adapt. I simply recommend that you A) actually ask your employer and landlord (rather than assuming an answer of “no”), B) actually check Plugshare to ensure that there’s no sufficiently-fast chargers at places you frequent (don’t forget to zoom in; Plugshare truncates their display list from a distance), and C) follow up on the above once or twice per year to see if the situation has changed.
And to all people in the market for an EV out there in the coming year… happy shopping 🙂