The electric auto industry -- more than the conventional auto industry -- is an extremely volatile and competitive place.
And unlike the mainstream auto industry, small-scale and boutique companies like Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive actually compete for the custom of electric car buyers alongside major automakers like Nissan and Ford.
But while 2012 promises to bring a new wave of electric cars to market, which electric cars do we think will still be available to buy in five years’ time, and which cars will be long-forgotten in the history books?
Today, we’re going to focus on cars we think will still be available to buy in dealer lots across the country, but in future features we’ll concentrate on cars we think will still be a good used buy in five years -- and which cars we think you won’t be able to buy.
With a dedicated battery production facility being built in Smyrna, Tennessee and a huge commitment to making the Nissan Leaf through at least 2014, we think Nissan will still be making the Leaf in five years’ time.
But much like Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, we think the Nissan Leaf will probably be into its second major revision -- with a revised, more conventional body, higher performance and longer range battery pack.
In order to remain competitive, we’d expect a 2016 Nissan Leaf to have significantly dropped in price, with a sticker price before discounts between $18,000 and $23,000.
We’d also like to think Nissan’s controversial Carwings system will get much-needed revisions, improving range predictions and solving the niggles that its first generation telematics system has suffered from.
Since its inception 13 years ago. the gasoline Ford Focus has proven itself with consumers worldwide, as well as an impressive number of wins in various motorsports.
But with the third generation of the popular family hatchback came a variety of new drivetrain options -- including an all-electric model.
All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric
While the all-electric Focus isn’t even available to buy yet we think the Focus’ existing reputation as a gasoline car will transfer over to the Focus Electric, prompting many existing Ford customers to make the switch from the familiar gasoline model to electric one.
It’s difficult to predict what to expect of this model for 2016 -- but an increased range, better performance and lower sticker price are all highly likely.
Much like the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Volt is a car which we’re certain will still be available in one form or another in five years’ time.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
Like its all-electric rival, the plug-in range-extended hybrid represents the first in a long-line of plug-in cars that General Motors has hinted will become an increasingly important part of its lineup.
What do we expect to be different about the Volt by 2016? We’re not sure, but a lower price is almost a given at this point. We’d also like to see an improved gasoline fuel economy, making running in blended or gasoline-only mode a lot closer in economy to the fuel efficiency offered by Toyota’s 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype
Toyota RAV4 EV
Built in Canada as the result of a joint project between automotive giant Toyota Motors and precocious automotive newcomer Tesla Motors, the Toyota RAV4 EV hasn’t even launched yet.
But much like the Ford Focus Electric, we expect Toyota’s all-electric crossover SUV to find fans among hardcore electric car enthusiasts and first-time electric buyers alike.
Unlike some of the other electric cars on the market, the Toyota RAV4 EV looks the part -- and offers more range, performance and space than more obvious city cars like the 2012 Mitsubishii.
We’re going to be highly surprised if the RAV4EV isn’t still being sold in 2016 -- although we think it will probably use a Toyota rather than Tesla engineered drivetrain.
If you follow the electric auto industry closely you’ll know that most small electric car companies are born, burn brightly for a while -- and then die.
Occasionally we see an automaker which just won’t die. Almost the electric car equivalent of a cockroach, the cars they produce are hardly desirable, but somehow survive no matter what.
Assembly of Think City electric cars, Elkhart, Indiana, Jan 2011
Norwegian electric car company Think Automotive is one such company.
Resurfacing after its latest financial crisis and subsequent bankruptcy, Think has been a feature of the electric car industry for nearly 20 years -- along with its diminutive, low-powered electric city cars.
Often costing more than better engineered, better equipped electric cars, the Think City is likely to survive thanks to its newest owner, Russian businessman Boris Zingarevich.
We expect Zingarevich to move production of the plastic-bodied electric car to Russia, cutting production costs -- and dare we suggest quality? -- in an attempt to keep the Think dream alive.
And when someone cuts production costs and sticker price, someone will want to own one. Given the alternatives available now and in the next five years though, we’re not sure who that will be.
But like the cockroach, we don’t expect Think to really die for many years to come.
What electric cars do you expect to still be avaiable to purchase new in 2016? Let us know in the Comments below.