New EVs in the pipeline—fantasy vs reality

One commonly-cited reason for the slow pace of EV adoption is a limited selection of models. That lack of choice could soon be a thing of the past—at least if you take automakers’ announcements at face value.

Above: Impressive electric cars like the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model 3 are leading the way for new entrants in the EV space (Unsplash: Roberto H)

A recent Car and Driver article listed no less than 66 pure EVs that are expected (by their makers, at least) to hit the US market over the next five years. That sounds like a lot, and there are many more in the pipeline—several automakers have announced ambitious plans to electrify their entire lineups.

So, does that mean that a car buyer will have 66 electric options to choose from a year or two from now? Well...not exactly. Most of the EVs on this list are not likely to be available to a real car buyer living in the real world anytime soon, for various reasons. Some of them have been appearing on lists of coming attractions for years—their launch dates have been delayed again and again. Some are from startup automakers whose very existence, much less their ability to deliver a new model on time, is in doubt. Still others are supercars that will be out of reach of non-billionaires (Bentley, Lagonda, Lotus and Maserati are all planning electric offerings). And some of the most popular, highly-anticipated models have already sold out for their first year or two of production, so even if their makers are able to ramp up production quickly, it will probably be several years before you’ll be able to get behind the wheel.

It’s also worth mentioning that the vast majority of upcoming models, like the majority of those currently available, are aimed at the high end of the market. There isn’t much out there for the middle-income car buyer. A couple of automakers, notably GM, have announced plans to start bringing out some mass-market models, but it remains to be seen how long that will take.

Another frustrating fact: Europe and China are years ahead of the US, and most automakers are focusing their efforts on those markets. Pretty much all the new EVs from non-US automakers will be introduced in Europe first, and some of those from European brands—especially small, low-budget models like VW’s ID.3—will never be sold here in the Land of Big.

All that said, there are a few EVs in the pipeline that could be real blockbusters, so let’s whittle down the list and see what’s worth watching.

Startups and Asian upstarts

Several startups are trying to duplicate the Tesla formula, and we sincerely hope they succeed. However, building a compelling car is hard, and building a company that can sell them in volume is orders of magnitude harder. The best of the new generation of startups—Lucid and Rivian—are struggling to ramp up production, and it’s likely to be an even rougher road for the next batch.

Canoo is hoping to launch a seven-seat van in late 2022, and a pickup in 2024. Faraday Future said its FF91 crossover was production-ready back in 2017, and the company has had some ups and downs since then—it now says production will begin later in 2022. Fisker has likewise been lingering for several years, delivering much hype but no vehicles. It now says its Ocean SUV will be available in late 2022, and recently announced another model, the smaller Pear, which is planned to go on sale in 2024.

Byton is a Chinese startup that showed two concepts, a crossover and a sedan, at CES in January. It hopes to start selling its M-Byte crossover in Europe in 2022, and to bring it to the US in the future. Perhaps the most interesting of the Asian entrants is VinFast, a subsidiary of a large conglomerate that sold 30,000 vehicles in its native Vietnam last year (not all of them EVs). The company has big plans—it hopes to start selling its VF8 and VF9 electric SUVs in the US in late 2022, has started work on a factory in North Carolina, and is planning a US IPO.

Japanese laggards

Toyota and Honda have been leaders in high-mileage, low-emission cars for decades, so it’s beyond puzzling that both have shown so little interest in EVs. Both recently announced grandiose plans to catch up to the rest of the auto world, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

Toyota’s bZ4X is a RAV4-size SUV that’s expected to hit the States this year at a price under $40,000. Unfortunately, the password-like name doesn’t inspire confidence that the giant automaker’s marketing machine is on board. No one doubts Toyota’s ability to create excellent EVs, but selling them may require a new generation of leadership. Companion brands Lexus and Subaru also have EVs in the pipeline for the next year or two.

Honda has announced a partnership with GM that’s specifically aimed at offering lower-cost EVs. This would be just what the market needs, but the first electric Honda, the Prologue SUV, along with a more upscale version under the Acura brand, isn’t expected until 2024.

A Japanese stalwart

The Nissan LEAF is the elder statesman of the EV world—it seldom makes the headlines, but it’s been in production since 2010, longer than any currently available EV (the second-place Model S appeared in 2012). It’s a tried-and-true workhorse, and believe it or not, its maker actually reduced its price for the 2022 model—at a starting MSRP of $27,400, it’s probably the cheapest EV you can buy in the US.

Nissan has something bigger and snazzier on the way—the Ariya electric crossover recently went on sale in Japan, and is expected to arrive in the US by the end of 2022, at a starting price around $47,000.

The German luxury brands

The star in this segment is Porsche—its Taycan has made headlines for outselling the brand’s iconic 911, and has reportedly even been giving Tesla’s Model S a run for its money. However, the brand’s two crossover/SUV offerings, the Cayenne and Macan, are by far its best-selling models, so it’s big news that the latter will soon be electrified. The Porsche Macan EV will be based on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) platform that is being co-developed with Audi. Porsche says it plans to start production of the Macan EV in 2022.

Audi’s e-trons have been selling in respectable numbers, and the brand has more variants in store. A Q4 e-tron, along with a Sportback variant, are expected in 2022. These will be built on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform, and are supposed to start at a comparatively modest $45,000. The Audi A6 e-tron, which will be based on the newer PPE platform, may appear in 2023.

BMW’s i3 made big waves back in 2013, but the company has played a minor role in the EV show since then. The i7, an electric version of the company’s flagship 7 Series sedan, could put the Bavarians back on center stage. It’s scheduled to make its debut later this year, and might reach the US market in 2023.

As for that i3, it’s still very much alive, and helped BMW to become the world’s second-most electrified automaker, after Tesla—plug-in vehicles made up 19% of BMW’s sales in 2021.

In the number-four spot (after Geely) is Mercedes, which has electrified 14% of its sales, and has a number of new EVs in the pipeline. This year, it expects to launch the EQA, an electric compact SUV, the EQB, a larger SUV, and the EQE sedan—all in Europe. There’s no word yet on whether any of these will make it to the States.

Waiting for the Bus

The good old VW Bus (aka Microbus, Camper Van, Kombi or Bulli), has one of the most dedicated fan bases in automotive history, and VW has been talking about an electric version since the sixties, or so it seems. The ID.Buzz, when it arrives (along with its commercial cousin, the ID.Buzz Cargo), is likely to be the hottest ticket in town. In fact, fans are already camping out—the expected launch date is 2023, but I wouldn’t expect to tune into this EV before mid-decade.

The reliable Koreans

Good-quality cars at moderate prices—that’s what Hyundai and Kia specialize in (plus more luxurious models under the Genesis brand), and they’re steadily electrifying. Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 sedan is supposed to launch in late 2022 or early 2023, and the Ioniq 7 SUV is expected in 2024. A 2024 Kia EV9 SUV and three new Genesis models (the GV60, GV70 and G80) are also on tap, and that’s not all. The three sister brands have said they plan to release a total of 31 new EVs by 2030, including two Kia pickup trucks. Not all of these are expected to reach US buyers (of course).

The Americans play catch-up

The arrival of electric pickups and mid-priced SUVs is expected to be a major milestone—and maybe the killer app that clinches the victory of electrons over hydrocarbons. There’s just one little problem—thanks to supply chain bottlenecks and good old-fashioned corporate inertia, the legacy US automakers are learning what it means to be supply-constrained (a situation that Tesla has been dealing with for years).

Production of Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning pickup began in April, and the first deliveries may be taking place as you read this. Facing demand that turned out to be two to three times what Ford expected, the company has increased planned production numbers several times. Unless you’ve already got an order in, you can probably expect to wait a year or more to get behind the wheel of a Lightning.

Ford also has plans to electrify its Explorer, one of the most popular SUVs sold in the US—launch is slated for 2023. Ford-watchers expect AWD versions of all the company’s EVs, including the Mustang Mach-E, to appear eventually. There’s been talk of a Lincoln SUV to be revealed in 2022, and the luxury brand claims that it will go all-electric by 2030.

GM has been talking an even bigger electric game—it has promised 30 new EVs by 2025—but the horrible Hummer (an embarrassment to the EV industry) is the only new GM EV currently on the road. The Bolt EV and its crossover-ish cousin the EUV resumed production in April after a battery-related recall.

Production of the Cadillac Lyriq began in March, and deliveries should start soon. This is a significant vehicle, as it’s the first to use GM’s new Ultium battery technology, but it bears a starting price of $59,990, and isn’t likely to sell in large numbers. (An even pricier Cadillac EV, the Celestiq, is expected to go on sale at $100,000 and up “before 2025.”)

GM does have some potential blockbusters in the pipeline. Its entrant in the red-hot pickup segment, the Chevrolet Silverado EV, is expected to appear in 2023, and will be offered in several variants, from work trucks for fleet customers to a performance model with 664 horsepower. A GMC Sierra EV, slated for 2023, will share the Silverado EV’s underpinnings.

Electric versions of the Blazer and Equinox, two of the hottest SUVs on the market, are promised for 2023. If the latter hits its target MSRP of $30,000, it could blow the ESUV market wide open.

Electric trucks-n-SUVs are also on the mind of the folks in Auburn Hills. A Jeep and a Jeep Wrangler EV have been promised for 2023. Stellantis’s e-pickup, the Ram 1500 EV, is just vague talk at this point, but the talk is of 2024. A Dodge eMuscle, whatever that is, currently consists of a teaser video and a hint of 2024.

Where are the Teslas?

For most of its history, Tesla has been a tireless innovation factory, announcing game-changing new products and services on a yearly basis. Now the company has three upcoming vehicles that have been clogged in the pipeline for what seems like years, as the CEO’s attention flits from flower to flower. Of course, Tesla has occasionally been a bit late with new products in the past, but this time the former trendsetter allowed startup Rivian and stodgy, smack-talking Ford to beat it to the pickup market, and Daimler, Volvo and others are staking out positions in the heavy-duty truck space.

Tesla’s (hopefully) still sitting on over 200,000 orders for Cybertruck. Some say it looks weird, others counter that a lot of people like weird. To say we’re impatient would be an understatement—if nothing else we want to see which faction (weird bad vs weird good) wins out. Tesla was probably right to put the Roadster on a back burner—it’s the least important of the trio that’s in the pipeline—but we’d like to see a couple of those on the road before Gabe blows his trumpet. Both Cybertruck and Roadster are supposedly on the schedule for 2023, but that may just mean that in 2023, the launch dates will be officially pushed back to 2024.

As for the Tesla Semi, which is an extremely important vehicle (Class 8 trucks may not make the covers of hot-rod mags, but they generate a disproportionate amount of air pollution), we know that it’s in limited production, and suspect that it’s in testing with some early customers, but the company has said almost nothing about it recently, and it’s anybody’s guess when serious deliveries will start.

Tesla’s original mission (before humanoid robots, Twitter and political punditry got added to the mix) was to force the legacy automakers to get serious about EVs, and there’s no denying that it has succeeded. There are lots of exciting new models in the offing, and a few of them will actually be available to buy and drive. So what do we want now? Why, more, of course!


Source: Car and Driver