The old assumptions about electric vehicles are becoming hard to defend. Just when you thought range anxiety was the big problem, an MIT study showed 87% of driving in America could be handled by the current generation of EVs. For those who were convinced life-cycle emissions for EVs were the same as (or worse than) gasoline cars, it turned out going electric saved about half the emissions in the end.
But what about consumers, who don’t buy plug-ins on the same level as combustion-engine cars? Surveys have shown consumers would like to know more and are interested in EV technology but often have no access to said cars, especially if they don’t live in California. In the worst-case scenarios, they visit one of the few dealerships with plug-in inventory only to discover the EV has no charge and can’t even go for a test drive.
A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) actually points the finger for slow adoption at automakers themselves. Outside of California, where the CARB mandate forces manufacturers’ hands on plug-in vehicles, consumers have a hard time finding much EV selection. UCS counted 37 states that have 10 plug-in options or fewer available, while 49 states had 14 or fewer. Compared to the hundreds of gasoline and diesel cars, it’s an enormous spread.
It might surprise consumers to learn that some of the largest and richest automakers on the planet have no electric vehicle — or even a plug-in hybrid — on the market in 2016. Sure, most have them in the works, but they are plenty late to the party. Here are five automakers with the worst electric vehicle programs.
1. Fiat Chrysler
Which automaker rates the worst in fuel economy? The same one that has marketed only one electric vehicle in its history and has no plug-ins under the Dodge, Jeep, or Chrysler brands as of summer 2016. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sells the Fiat 500e only in California and Oregon, making it a true compliance car. Not only has the automaker done the bare minimum; CEO Sergio Marchionne has gone out of his way to disparage the segment. Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the first plug-in of the U.S. divisions, is promised for late 2016.
Honda, a top-five brand in U.S. sales, has no plug-in hybrid or electric car on the market in 2016. Union of Concerned Scientists singled out Honda not only for its lack of options now; it also cited the company’s compliance-car efforts of the past with the limited-edition Accord plug-in hybrid and Fit EV, both of which ceased production. According to UCS, GM sold more EVs in April 2016 than Honda did in its history on the U.S. market. With an Accord plug-in priced $18,000 more than the gas Accord, it’s easy to see why.
Though Prius has become synonymous with excellent fuel economy, Toyota’s efforts in fuel cell technology distracted the automaker to the point where it markets no electric models as of summer 2016. The upcoming Prius Prime, which will replace the nameplate’s original plug-in model, is expected to debut later in the year. In the meantime, loyal Toyota customers either have to wait or shop another brand in order to replace a gas vehicle with an EV.
In its history of doing business in America, Hyundai has a total of 1,895 plug-in sales, which is less than the sales of the Chevy Volt in July 2016 (2,406), so this one doesn’t require a great deal of analysis. Hyundai has the Ioniq EV coming late in 2016 and the plug-in hybrid coming in 2017, so things may change in the near future. As of September 2016, only the Sonata PHEV had reached the market, and production remained limited for this attractive model that topped Ford plug-ins in range.
There was a lot to like about the Kia Soul EV when it debuted in the U.S. in late 2014. Its 93 miles of range was near the top of the electric car pack and its price point below $35,000 was right. However, sales have never taken off, and the model’s peak was 179 units in July 2016. UCS pointed the finger at Kia for low inventory, and it does not seem like this car ever got a fair shake as far as marketing or production go. Meanwhile, the Optima PHEV still hasn’t arrived in America.
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