Three Electric S.U.V.s With Tesla in Their Sights

An electric trickle turns into a flood: by 2025, up to 100 new EV models will be in the showrooms. Heavyweights like Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford promise all-electric setups within a decade.

The end times of gasoline can almost be a fait accompli, save for one annoying problem: even with Tesla’s steps, we are still waiting for the first real EV sales hit, let alone a mass exodus of unleaded vehicles.

In 2014, Nissan only sold 30,200 Leafs, and that’s still the American record for any non-Tesla model. Ford routinely sells more than 800,000 F-Series pickups. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 buyers a year, compared to around 250,000 sales last year for all electric vehicles combined – 200,000 of which were Teslas.

Automakers insist that we are “that close” to a turning point. The market share of electric vehicles is expected to increase from just 1.7 percent in the previous year to up to 50 percent by 2032, said Scott Keogh, President and Chief Executive of Volkswagen of America. While Tesla captured 80 percent of the U.S. electric vehicle market in 2020, VW and other global giants – with internal combustion engine-based war crates and unmatched expertise in size and manufacturing – are well positioned to grab a piece of Tesla’s pie .

“There has never been a competitive consumer product with a market share of 80 percent,” said Keogh for a long time.

Globally, Volkswagen is poised to overtake Tesla as the world’s largest electric vehicle seller as early as next year, according to Deutsche Bank, with Europe and China being the key markets. In America, where the brand remains an outsider, VW and other older automakers are focusing on the stronghold of compact SUVs: models like the RAV4 that make around four million segment sales annually.

As always, the idea is to reduce the prices and charging times of electric vehicles while increasing the range until consumers no longer see any reason to stick to environmentally harmful gasoline models whose energy and operating costs exceed the plug-in alternatives.

Like the Rolling Stones who drive the Beatles forward, healthy competition will ultimately benefit all EV fans and creators. And when consumers see electric vehicles multiply in their neighbors’ driveways and take their first test drive, there’s no going back.

“If you drive one, you drive the future and that’s what people will want, not a debate,” Keogh said.

The latest hopefuls for electric SUVs to hit showrooms are the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The Nissan Ariya, the BMW iX and the Cadillac Lyriq are expected to arrive at the end of 2021 by next March. I drove the VW, Ford, and Volvo to see what could knock down Tesla’s Model Y SUV – or at least beat the 2014 Leaf.

Ford branded its fabled Mustang name on an electric SUV, igniting some boomers in the process. But the Mach-E appears to be Tesla’s Model Y’s most straightforward rival to date, not just in terms of price and performance, but also in terms of the Ford’s 300-mile maximum range.

Consumers have noticed: Ford sold 3,729 mach-es in February, its first full month of sales, and almost single-handedly reduced Tesla’s dominant EV stake from 80 percent to 69 percent. If Ford could keep that pace for a full year, the Mach-E would easily set a sales record for an EV that wasn’t made by Tesla.

Tesla’s 326-mile Model Y Long Range is still a few miles from every kilowatt-hour because of the automaker’s expertise in aerodynamics, engine and battery efficiency, and “simple” things that are anything but: the 4,416 pound curb weight removed on board undercuts the Ford by about £ 400. And Tesla rules the public cargo space with its Supercharger network, in which competitors – now with a potential infrastructure lift from the Biden administration – are fighting to catch up.

The Ford strikes back against the Dad-Bod Model Y with a sculpted exterior, a tech-savvy interior with superior materials and craftsmanship, and a feat of its own. With 346 horsepower from twin engines, the Mach-E Premium AWD I was driving shot to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Even the new Shelby GT500 – at 760 horsepower the most powerful Mustang in history – won’t match the 3.5-second blast from 0 to 60 mph of this summer’s Mach-E GT Performance version.

The Shelby would of course put the Mach-E or Tesla to shame on any winding road. Still, because of the curvy stuff, the Mach-E is reasonably fun and glides with addictive boost and confidence.

A cinema-scale 15.5-inch touchscreen sneaks past the Tesla’s 15-inch unit. Like other electric vehicles, the Ford sends its presence below 20 mph, a throat-clearing hum to alert pedestrians. In the driver-selectable “Whisper” mode, the Ford would please the most stubborn librarian. Select the “Unbridled” mode and the Mach-E swaps wonderful silence for a revised sound with a faux engine: think of a V-8 that has been remixed by Kraftwerk. The soundtrack is apparently intended for people who need to be weaned from the burning beat of the gasoline, but it can be turned off with an on-screen switch.

EV buyers can whistle about the Ford’s price tag, which is just $ 36,495 or $ 48,300 for the extended-range AWD model. These prices include a $ 7,500 tax credit denied to Tesla EV (or General Motors EV) buyers because those automakers sold too many to qualify. Despite Tesla’s big defensive price cuts for 2021, the cheapest Mach-E with a range of 230 miles undercuts Tesla’s 244-mile standard range by $ 6,700. A Mach-E Premium AWD saves $ 2,900 versus a Model Y Long Range. In a surprisingly streamlined, compelling matchup with the Tesla, the government is credited with perhaps the most seductive perk of the Ford: a $ 7,500 discount.

No, Volkswagen is not changing its name to Voltwagen as the company briefly convinced some media and car fans about a bad marketing stunt. In terms of historical names, VW calls the ID.4 the most important model since the original Beetle. But where the Beetle was a revolutionary leader, the ID.4 feels like a trailer.

Based on my drive, the VW can easily exceed its 250 mile range with 275 miles in range. A 201-horsepower rear-wheel drive model rolls to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. This is comparable to gasoline sports equipment like the Honda CR-V, but pokey by EV standards. Twin-engine, all-wheel drive models are coming later this year and promise 60 mph in less than six seconds.

The generic performance and design of the ID.4 comes from a company known for its fun German cars. The infotainment system is even more disappointing: the clunky, annoying touchscreen cannot touch the screen magic of Ford, Volvo or Tesla.

The VW’s fastest performance was achieved during a quick charge session at a target in New Jersey, where the 77-kilowatt-hour battery was refilled from 20 to 80 percent in an impressive 31 minutes. The growing network of Electrify America chargers is funded by VW’s court-ordered $ 2 billion fine for the diesel emissions scandal. And VW is offering ID.4 buyers indulgences with three years of free public fee.

Frugal virtues include a base price of $ 41,190, or $ 33,690 after the $ 7,500 tax break. That’s $ 2,800 less than the cheapest Mach-E. It’s also less money after credits than a smaller Chevrolet Bolt. The more powerful ID.4 with all-wheel drive starts at $ 37,370 after deduction.

But as Tesla’s Triumph and Chevy’s lukewarm bolts have proven, electrical success is more than an attractive price. VW is aggressively investing $ 80 billion in electric vehicle development, but the ID.4 feels less like a market splash and more like a toe in the water. We’ll see if VW got it wrong by not starting with a recognizable design that really blends its nostalgic, weedy past with today’s green virtues: the electric ID.Buzz Microbus, slated for release in 2023.

Volvo seems like a natural fit for electric vehicles. And the progressive brand brings us the XC40 Recharge, an electrified version of its gasoline XC40.

Charging is like the perfect dining table in a Shelter magazine: not sure why it costs so much, but you want it anyway.

The angular Scandinavian design of the Recharge surpasses any SUV in this group, as does its pretty interior. This includes soft nappa leather compared to the ascetic “vegan” materials used in many electric vehicles

The ride is similarly breezy, with 402 horses and a quicksilver flight of 4.7 seconds to 60 mph. Perhaps the biggest technical topic of conversation is Android Automotive OS: The Recharge (and Volvo’s electric Polestar 2) introduces a cloud-based Google operating system that works Like a Dream, with Google Maps, Search, an ultra-capable voice assistant and much more. (Don’t confuse this with the ubiquitous Android Auto, which simply mirrors phone apps on a car’s screen.)

Several major automakers, including GM and Ford, plan to make Android Automotive the nerve center of upcoming cars. If only the Volvo itself were that efficient.

The Recharge is an electron eater with a range of 208 miles that appears optimistic in real life. I drove the Recharge in cold New York weather, which explained some but not all of the hunger for performance: No matter how I flipped the throttle, the Volvo stayed at one pace 190 miles at best, covering about 2.4 miles for every kilowatt – Hour in batteries. I can get 3.6 miles per kilowatt hour with little effort in the Tesla Model Y and over 3.2 in the Ford.

The numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency confirm this: although the Tesla has practically the same battery size, it offers a maximum range of 326 miles, 118 more than the Volvo. The Recharge is pricey because of its intimate size too: $ 54,985 for the start and nearly $ 60,000 for the model I drove. This $ 7,500 tax break mitigates the blow. However, if the Volvo indulges bourgeois buyers, they must indulge in its lavish ways too.

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