Four new (or updated) electric cars hitting the road in 2017
The four electric car models coming to dealerships next year may change the numbers on what makes are currently selling best.
Among battery electric cars on sale in the U.S., only three vehicles have sold more than 10,000 copies since 2010: the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and BMW i3.
But four new or updated models coming for the 2017 model year may change those equations.
The most eagerly awaited new 2017 electric car is undoubtedly the Chevrolet Bolt EV, with a promised range of 200-plus miles and a base price of $37,500.
But it's not the only new or updated electric car coming as a 2017 model.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric, along with updated and longer-range versions of the BMW i3 and Ford Focus Electric, will join the array of plug-in electric cars on sale.
Here's our rundown of all four new or updated entries.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
(200+ miles of range; base price $37,500 before incentives)
It's clear that General Motors, a pioneer in electric-car technology, intends to take an aggressive position in offering battery-electric cars as well as its Volt plug-in hybrid.
The Volt has the longest range of any plug-in hybrid except for the BMW i3 REx, which can only travel about 75 miles on gasoline once its battery is depleted.
And Chevy will equip the upcoming Bolt EV with a 60-kwh lithium-ion battery that gives it a range rating of 200 or more miles, making it decisively the first mass-priced 200-mile electric car.
The company has been slowly revealing details of the Bolt EV and its technology since announcing last year that it had undertaken an unprecedented partnership with Korean industrial combine LG to develop numerous technologies for the car as joint projects.
The first Bolt EVs to be delivered may arrive as early as this November or December, less than two years after the car was announced by GM CEO Mary Barra at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.
And GM says it will be offered for sale nationwide, unlike its compliance-car predecessor the 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV, which will be replaced by the Bolt EV.
Electric-car advocates continue to argue over whether the Bolt EV is a compliance car too, as former GM product czar Bob Lutz alleged, or whether the company will make a concerted effort to sell as many of them as possible.
Questions also remain about Chevy's ability to market both the Bolt EV and the Volt beyond the early-adopter buyer base that's supported the Leaf, Volt, and Model S over the previous five years.
But those questions shouldn't obscure the main point: the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV will be the first 200-mile electric car for a price under $40,000—and it'll go on sale late this year or early next year.
That is, as GM underscores repeatedly, considerably before the end of 2017, when Tesla Motors says it will start sales of its Model 3 sedan. That model will also have a 200-mile range and will carry a base price of $35,000.
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
(110 miles of range; on sale early in 2017; base price TBD)
Hyundai's Ioniq lineup is the first car in the world to be offered with the choice of a hybrid-electric, battery-electric, or plug-in hybrid powertrain—but no conventional gasoline version.
The company expects the Ioniq Hybrid to sell best, but the Electric version will be launched second, shortly after the Hybrid lands in dealers at the end of the year.
The Ioniq Electric is likely to be rated at about 110 miles of range from its 28-kwh battery pack, which is similar to that used in the Kia Soul EV but uses different lithium-ion cells.
The pack is mounted under the rear seat and load bay of the hatchback body, rather than under the floorpan like those of the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S.
But Hyundai hinted that perhaps the pack could be extended into the tunnel between the two seats if more capacity were needed.
Still, the Ioniq Electric will have essentially the same range as the 2016 Leaf, as well as the updated BMW i3 and Ford Focus Electric.
2017 BMW i3
(100-plus miles of range projected; on sale Sept 2016 or later; base price TBD)
BMW has been remarkably close-mouthed about the mid-cycle update to its innovative i3 electric and range-extended hatchback.
Aside from a somewhat garbled article last November quoting Harald Krüger--the company's CEO--there's been little published about a range increase expected to take the 2017 i3 over an EPA rating of 100 miles.
But production of the new version is rumored to start in Germany in July, meaning that the first cars should reach dealers in perhaps September, with a national rollout over the fall.
Current inventories of this year's BMW i3 are low, and sales thus far have fallen substantially, indicating that BMW is carefully managing the wind-down of the older model.
That should, in theory, prevent it having to put many thousands of dollars in incentives on the remaining 2016 models once news of the longer-range 2017 versions breaks.
The longer-range battery is expected to be used in both the battery-electric i3 (now rated at 81 miles of range) and the range-extended model (72 miles) that also has a small two-cylinder gasoline engine powering a generator.
The big question is whether BMW will make the new pack retrofittable to older i3 versions, providing something of an upgrade down the road as pack capacities decline.
Only Tesla offers interchangeable packs so far, though the prices make it an uneconomic proposition for most buyers at the moment.
2017 Ford Focus Electric
(100+ miles of range; on sale end of 2016 or early 2017; base price TBD)
Finally, the Ford Focus Electric will get a new and longer-range battery pack for the 2017 model year, as revealed late last year by its maker.
Today's electric version of the Focus hatchback has one of the lowest ranges of any electric car sold (just 73 miles) and no capability for DC fast charging.
The 2017 version is expected to be rated at 100 miles or more of range.
Ford has also committed to offering the capability of fast-charging via a Combined Charging System (CCS) socket to be offered on the updated Focus Electric.
Beyond that, little is known about the updated Focus Electric, but it is widely expected to continue as a low-volume, limited-avaiability compliance car.
Any 200-mile electric Ford will likely have to wait until at least 2019 or 2020, when the company may introduce a dedicated vehicle called the Model E, including a battery-electric model as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.
This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.
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