General Motors CEO Mary Barra said this week that her company is “moderating the pace” of its electric vehicle rollout.
This means that one of my most anticipated new EVs of the year, the Chevrolet Equinox EV, is getting bumped back to a 2024 release. The Equinox EV, with pricing likely to start at about $30,000 before tax credits, and battery range of about 250 miles, has a chance of hitting a sweet spot of affordability and features.
While we wait for that model and others that are coming soon, there are many other EVs that deserve a look. I spoke with Alex Knizek, manager of auto testing and insights for Consumer Reports, about what he sees as the best options.
But first, here’s a snapshot of the market. In the third quarter, U.S, consumers bought 313,086 electric vehicles, which was about 8 percent of U.S. sales of cars and light trucks, according to Cox Automotive. The growth in market share has been rapid, rising from 1 percent in 2019.
Tesla remains the leader, with about half of all EVs sold, but it faces formidable competition. It gets good ratings from Consumer Reports, but not the best ratings.
“The Hyundai, Kia and Genesis EVs really impressed us the most,” Knizek said. BMW also got some of the best results from testers.
Here are the top five recommended models, in order:
Kia EV6—The compact crossover SUV is Consumer Reports’ top-rated electric vehicle because of its handling, high expected reliability and a long list of other appealing features. About the only downside is poor outward visibility. Its starting price is $42,600.
BMW iX—The luxury SUV gets some of the strongest marks of any model for road test handling, with quick acceleration and exceptional comfort. If testers could change one thing, it might be onboard controls, which can be confusing. Its starting price is $84,100.
Genesis GV60—The luxury SUV gets a perfect score for predicted owner satisfaction, which means the manufacturer has gotten the details right on quality and ease of use. The model was built with the same design platform as the EV6, which helps to explain why it shares many positive characteristics and a couple negative ones, like poor visibility. The starting price is $59,290
BMW i4—The luxury sedan has exceptional results in its road test, which is the main reason it’s so high on the list. One of the few discordant notes is that the rear seat is a bit cramped. Its starting price is $52,000.
Hyundai Ioniq 6—The electric sedan, built on a variation of the platform used for the EV6 and the GV60, is a head-turner because of its sleek design. It is highly rated by road testers because of smooth handling and acceleration that one reviewer described as “zippy.” The positives helped to make up for having predicted reliability that was good but not great. Its starting price is $41,600.
None of the five vehicles qualify for federal tax credits (though next year’s Equinox EV will), which can be up to $7,500 for models that meet standards for being assembled in the United States with battery components from the United States or certain other countries. This searchable database at Fueleconomy.gov shows which vehicles qualify. The number of eligible vehicles will grow as automakers adjust their operations to get partial or full credits.
What I don’t see on the list of top EVs is a model that would be affordable for most buyers.
Part of the issue is that nearly all new cars, gasoline and electric, have gotten much more expensive in recent years. That said, for EVs to take hold in the market, there will need to be more options at the low end of the price scale.
Right now, some of the least expensive EVs have issues with reliability. This includes the Chevrolet Bolt, with a starting price of $26,500 and a range of up to 260 miles. The Bolt ranks third on the sales chart, but does poorly in Consumer Reports’ owner surveys that ask about how well the model held up after purchase. (Other reviews of the Bolt, including from J.D. Power and Kelley Blue Book, are more positive.)
The current versions of the Bolt, including a subcompact hatchback and a subcompact SUV, will end production later this year while GM works on a new design that will go on sale at some later point.
The Equinox EV, meanwhile, has the potential to combine the good qualities of the Bolt—a reasonable sticker price and decent range—along with a better design and fewer concerns about reliability.
“It does, on paper, appear to be a pretty compelling vehicle,” Knizek said.
This brings me back to why the Equinox is being delayed until 2024, so that GM has more time to fine-tune its plans, according to Barra.
On a conference call with analysts this week, Barra spoke about the release of new models in terms of “operating discipline,” which means being mindful of making the manufacturing process as efficient as possible and also timing the ramp-up in production to coincide with a time when EV demand is high.
“Our commitment to an all-EV future is as strong as ever, and we continue to plan to have annual EV capacity of 1 million units in North America as we exit 2025,” she said during the call.
That timing “will allow us to participate in the EV market upside,” she said.
GM also is dealing with an ongoing strike at some of its plants. The United Auto Workers expanded the strike this week to include GM’s highly profitable plant in Arlington, Texas, which makes the Chevrolet Tahoe and other SUVs. The Orion, Michigan, plant that makes EVs like the Bolt and will make the Equinox EV, is not on strike.
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The “market upside” Barra envisions is several steps down the road, when dealers are more used to selling EVs and consumers are more ready to buy them.
GM can help determine when that happens by releasing vehicles that people want to buy, especially people who are getting their first EV.
Other stories about the energy transition to take note of this week:
IEA Sees Peaks in Global Oil, Coal and Gas Demand by 2030: The world’s leading energy agency said this week in its World Energy Outlook report that global demand for oil, natural gas and coal will peak by 2030 as countries promote cleaner forms of energy and transportation. The International Energy Agency says that solar, wind and hydropower may supply about half of the world’s electricity by 2030, part of a shift that will help to slow climate change but is not enough to stop it, as Brad Plumer reports for The New York Times. “The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “It’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’—and the sooner the better for all of us.”
Tesla Discloses DOJ Probes Over Vehicle Range, Personal Benefits and More: Tesla has said in a regulatory filing that the Department of Justice is investigating the automaker regarding its driver assistance systems like Autopilot; the range of its EVs; and the potential of improper personal benefits for executives at the company. Also, Tesla CEO Elon Musk struck a pessimistic tone in a presentation last week about the company’s near-term prospects as the long-awaited Cybertruck is getting close to being ready for mass production. The government investigation is yet another challenge for the leading EV maker and its high-profile CEO, as Lora Kolodny reports for CNBC.
Debunking 21 Myths About Electric Vehicles: Electric vehicles are being subjected to hostile reporting across mainstream media in much of the world. Simon Evans of Carbon Brief seeks to debunk what he sees as 21 as the most common myths about EVs.
State Rooftop Solar Crackdowns Cloud the Industry’s Future: State governments are changing the rules for net metering in ways that make rooftop solar less attractive for consumers, as Jason Plautz reports for E&E News. Net metering is the policy that sets how much compensation solar owners receive for excess electricity that they send back to the grid. California, the country’s rooftop solar leader, implemented its rule changes this year to the detriment of solar owners. Arizona is one of several states exploring changes to its net metering rules. In most cases, the rule changes are happening at the behest of utility companies that view rooftop solar as competition.
Rubio Takes Aim at Biden’s Energy Efficiency Standard: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has introduced an amendment designed to blow up the Biden administration’s tightening of energy efficiency standards for new homes that they finance. The National Association of Home Builders opposed the increase to efficiency standards and the home building industry is a major donor to Rubio, as my colleague Marianne Lavelle reports. Energy efficiency rules are a crucial part of the transition to clean energy and Biden has taken major steps to improve efficiency.
Inside Clean Energy is ICN’s weekly bulletin of news and analysis about the energy transition. Send news tips and questions to email@example.com.