Since electric cars first started gaining in popularity a few years ago, they have faced a couple of factors that have prevented more widespread adoption of the technology. A car that allows its drivers to forfeit weekly trips to the gas station? No oil changes, transmission services, or coolant flushes? A car like that should certainly be quite popular among today’s mainstream auto buyer. But they haven’t, and aside from range issues, there is one primary factor that’s inhibiting the expansive growth of EVs: Price.
Relatively speaking, internal combustion engines are cheap — not to maintain necessarily, but to produce. The ICE is so ingrained in our industrial culture that it’s the only reason Nissan can sell its Versa for under $14,000 — the economies of scale in producing gasoline engines have grown to the point where it’s economically viable to produce the units because they can be made cheaply. EVs, however, haven’t reached that point yet, and it really comes down to one component: The battery.
Global demand for lithium-ion batteries hasn’t yet reached to point where the economies of scale for production are conducive for a mass-market EV. While companies like Tesla are working fervently to change that, EVs still remain at a disadvantage with gasoline cars on pricing — and there’s perhaps no better illustration of how than the Ford Focus Electric.
When it first debuted, the Focus Electric — which carries a range of about 76 miles per charge — sported an MSRP of $39,200. To put that in perspective, the base Focus starts at $16,810 — over $22,000 less than the EV. For the price of the electric model, you could buy yourself a well-appointed gasoline focus, and still have over $15,000 to pay for gas with. That’s a lot of gas. So you really have to be an EV enthusiast to prefer the Focus EV to the gasoline model, on a pricing perspective.
It has been a similar story with others; the Nissan Leaf started out at over $30,000, with hatchbacks of its size weighing in at about half that. The Chevy Volt, which uses a hybrid powertrain, was also nearly $40,000, and like the Leaf, vastly outpriced its competition despite offering little more in terms of capability, performance, or versatility. Like the Focus, all of these cars have seen the axe taken to their original asking prices.
Ford is slashing $6,000 from the Focus EV’s price for 2015, following a $4,000 cut last year. This brings the starting price for the EV to about $29,995 before federal and state incentives, which have the potential to drop the price down to about $22,000. This is far more on point with other contenders, and is far more competitive with the likes of the Leaf and the Mitsubishi MiEV.
Left Lane News quoted Ford as saying that the lower MSRP should also help the Focus Electric find a few more potential buyers “by skirting under the $30,000 price point in internet searches,” it said. “We hope by reducing the price we’re giving consumers another reason to consider it,” Ford spokesperson Aaron Miller told Autoblog Green.
Sales of the EV have stalled, and to date, Ford has sold just 1,534 Focus EVs in the U.S., with 1,335 of those in the first nine months of 2013, Autoblog said. Meanwhile, sales of the Nissan Leaf have taken off, and Volkswagen is hoping to add to the fray with the e-Golf in the next couple of months. In order to remain competitive in the space — which is liable to expand in the coming years — Ford will have to keep its EV edge sharp.
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