Ford, Nissan, Honda, and Fiat have cut prices on their pure electric cars, and Chevy has shaved the sticker on its Volt plug-in hybrid. Now the auto industry will hold its collective breath and see what happens.
"The automakers are certainly keeping a close eye on this," Dave Hurst, senior analyst for Navigant Research, told us.
Last week, Ford slashed the price for its Focus EV by $4,000 to $35,995. This followed similar moves involving the Nissan Leaf ($6,400 price cut), Honda Fit (new lease rate of $259 a month), and Chevy Volt ($5,000 in incentives). Fiat is offering a rebate of up to $2,000 rebate for its 500e, along with 12 days of free annual access to a gasoline rental car.
The question is when EVs will begin to look like a good buy. To some degree, that's already starting to happen. In the first six months of 2013, Nissan Leaf Sales more than tripled from the first half of last year to 9,839. Chevy Volt sales rose 11.8 percent to 9,855.
Ford hopes to do the same for the Focus EV. Reuters reported that the company has built 2,517 Focus EVs and sold 1,593, including about 900 in the first half of 2013.
"Ford is finally recognizing that $40,000 for a Focus is a hefty price, even if it doesn't use any gasoline," Hurst told us.
Still, when government incentives are figured in, the costs are becoming tougher to pass up. A Wall Street Journal article in May discussed a suburban Atlanta man whose cost for a Nissan Leaf could be construed as less than $0. After signing up for a 24-month discounted lease, he got a $7,500 federal incentive and a $5,000 Georgia state subsidy -- to go with about $2,400 a year in gasoline savings. "Suddenly, the car puts $2,000 in my pocket," he told the WSJ.
It's not clear how long such incentives will remain in place or whether auto companies can afford more cuts. At this spring's Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne said his company loses about $10,000 on every Fiat 500e it sells.
Experts say the incentives will help sell the cars for now. "The price cuts won't be enough to create a huge boost in sales," Hurst said. "But we're definitely going to see a bump up."
What would it take to put you in an electric car? If the prices were comparable with those for gasoline-based vehicles, would you make the jump? Tell us in the comment section below.
I appreciate the perspective from rural America. You may be right that the EV is much better suited to urban areas, but perhaps one day there will be an electric car sophisticated enough that this can change. The technology, I think, is certainly available.
I appreciate your opinion and comment, Constitution_man, but to clarify, I don't actually have a lot of discretionary money. ;) And I don't think all gas-powered cars are the devil. I actually live in Europe and drive a diesel-powered VW mini-bus. Not the best thing for the environment! I was just trying to get people to see a bigger picture. Although perhaps as another commenter points out, not even EVs are good for the environment. So I suppose we should all get on our bicycles then!
Warren; I 100% agree with you that pure EV is not for many of us here in rural areas of the US. I might consider a hybrid for a future vehicle; but a pure EV is not feasible for this area here in Southern New Jersey by the coast. In fact, I had to laugh about the comment by Jerry Dicus about "calling AAA". Having been hit by Superstorm Sandy last year which devastated NJ and NY coastal towns; AAA was not even able to respond.
Oops; Power was gone for many days and we were ordered to evacuate. How far would my EV go under those circumstances with wide-spread power outages for many miles along the coastal evacuation routes. Gosh, my Jerrycan of gas was a big help with my ICE when the evacuation notice came.
Pure EV's might be great for urbanites; but those of us out here in Rural America (where most of your food is grown or raised), we all have bigger problems to contend with. It is an 8 mile drive for me to the nearest Gas Station, convenience store, or ATM. If we need groceries or go to the bank; my drive is 15 miles each way.
There are situations where EV's, Hybrids, & ICE's are the best for a particular situation. I do not like to see massive credits/rebates being given out to artificially support & push pure EV's. Each technology has it's advantages for a particular region or a person's driving habits. Somehow, everyone seems to be pushing a "panty hose mentality", where "one size fits all".
I agree that incentives are not the best reason to try these new technologies but they do become easier to afford from just an individual consumer perspective. The down side is dependence through debt. My goal has been to reduce consumption of oil. Most of my ideas have come from The Home Energy Diet by Paul Schekel. A great resource for self sufficiency. $600.00/yr. in savings may sound insignificant but if you see it from my perspective; 1,100 a year for 17,000 miles of driving, it becomes huge amount over time. It's relative to how much energy you actually consume. Unfortunately everyone is borrowing "incentives" for example Social Security, roads, buildings, food. I do believe the system will collapse,but how to prepare is the question.
1. "Incentives" means money taken from the pockets of others and given to you. If you're depending on your fellow citizens to pay for your food, heat and housing you probably shouldn't be buying expensive cars. If you DON'T fund the rest of your life from welfare, why should your car be different?
2. Don't count on saving $600/year in gasoline costs for long. Both Federal and all State governments already have plans on the drawing board to make up for loss of fuel tax income -- you could very well be paying half (or more) of that $600 every time you renew your license plates.
3. "... save me $600.00 a year in fuel costs." Let's see; at $10,000 or so more to buy an EV over an equivalent conventional car, you'd break even (assuming what I suggested in  above doesn't happen) in how long?
I'm certainly not opposed to the EV concept, but I'm not convinced there's even one good reason (discounting self-satisfaction) for buying one until they evolve past the experimental stage and become a viable alternative.
I agree with you, gafisher. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, not an electric car. A narrow definition from SAE enables GM to call it an electric car because electric motors drive the wheels, but that's misleading. It burns gasoline; it should be called a hybrid.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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