Tesla Opened the Door: Which New EVs Will Continue the Progress?

Tesla Opened the Door: Which New EVs Will Continue the Progress?
Tesla Opened the Door: Which New EVs Will Continue the Progress?

More and more ubiquitous on America’s roads, chances are you’ve seen headlines or read articles about problems with Tesla Incorporated’s electric vehicles (EVs). Critics of Tesla, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, and EVs in general claim that the accidents are proof the company will crash and burn and take the entire idea of EVs with it. But EV proponents are quick to say, “not so fast!”

Those familiar with Tesla and other EVs point out that the problems with the company’s products are vastly over-exaggerated and that other negative issues commonly associated with EVs – higher costs, reliability, and availability – are quickly diminishing every day thanks to Tesla. As Tesla expands its operations and footprint in the auto industry in general and the EV market in particular, others have followed while using Tesla’s success as a blueprint. Tesla opened the EV industry door and now there are plenty of companies waiting to lead the industry into the future. 

The electric vehicle idea

Since the dawn of human civilization, people have wondered how to make their journey from point A to point B easier. The idea led to the domestication of the horse and the discovery/invention of the wheel. These early ideas involved either an animal or a person doing the moving – the idea of “self-propelled” vehicles was a long way off.

You may be surprised to learn that the first cars powered by electric batteries were invented in the late 1800s, and that by 1900, they comprised 1/3 of the cars on the road. For several years, there was a real competition between steam, electric, and internal combustion (gas) engines to see which one would power the world’s cars. When Ford’s Model T came off the assembly lines and onto America’s roads in 1908, it made the internal combustion engine the winner – at least for the time.

The dream of EVs never died

Gas-guzzling vehicles may have become the standard in the 20th century, but that didn’t mean everyone gave up on the idea of EVs. The 1970s saw two major fuel crises and the birth of the modern environmentalist movement, both of which put pressure on the auto industries to develop EV alternatives. Most of these cars never got past the experimental stage, but when the hybrid Toyota Prius was introduced in 1997 and the hybrid Honda Insight became available in 1999, the dream that began more than 100 years earlier would soon become a reality. 

But of course, no discussion about EVs would be complete without at least briefly mentioning Tesla Incorporated. In 2003, the Tesla Motors Company began as a Silicon Valley startup that had some incredible technology, and when entrepreneur Elon Musk joined the company in 2004, he gave it a new vision where EVs would one day become affordable and widespread. After securing a $465 million loan from the US government that it would later repay, Tesla, which changed its name to Tesla Inc., developed the Model 3 in 2016 as an affordable EV car for the masses. Priced at just under $39,000, the Model 3 was no Model T, but it did open the door for a new wave of EV brands that seek to bring the auto market into the future.

New players enter the field

After Tesla opened the door in the EV market, a number of new players threw their hats into the ring. Well, most of these “new” players are actually the “old,” standard auto companies that have taken advantage of the trend started by Musk and Tesla. General Motors Corporation got into the act in 2011 with its hybrid, the Chevy Volt, and after that dozens of companies around the world began producing their own hybrids and fully electric vehicles.

Perhaps the most successful non-Tesla EV to hit the roads has been the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf first came out in 2010 and continues to be one of the most popular EVs, due in large part to its more affordable price at just over $27,000 – making it the cheapest EV in 2021. But Nissan has some notable competition from other brands.

South Korean auto giant, Hyundai, has produced two EVs since 2017 – the Kona and the Ioniq. The Kona may be a game-changer in the EV sector, as it is currently priced at under $40,000 and is able to travel 258 miles on a single charge. The Ioniq has a hybrid version that appeals to many consumers not completely sold on EVs and has an excellent safety rating, although it can only travel 124 miles on a charge.  

Other big-name auto companies that have entered the EV market include Kia, which produces the Niro and Soul, and Volkswagen, with its e-Gold (sold in the low-$30,000 range). Familiar luxury brands Porsche, BMW, and Jaguar all have their EV products, and most believe it’s only a matter of time until the “Big Three” American auto manufacturers take a more proactive approach to the EV market. The Ford Focus EV was produced from 2011-2018 and although it’s no longer made, Ford has plans to produce an electric truck and an EV version of the iconic Mustang.

The future of EVs looks bright

With the number of auto companies offering EVs increasing, the future certainly looks bright for the EV market, but even more so when you consider factors that favor the increasing popularity of the sector. The numbers show that the interest in EVs is certainly there – and growing – with an estimated 7% of the US population currently owning a hybrid or EV. Although only about 2% of newly registered American cars were EVs in 2020, the number was about 1.8 million, which was more than a threefold increase since 2016. These encouraging numbers are the result of a number of factors, the most important of which is the decrease in the cost of EVs.

The free market dictates that the more of a certain product that is available, the more its price will decrease. And when it comes to EVs, this is no different, as the average cost of an EV decreased 13% per year beginning in 2019. Although the cost of EVs probably won’t continue to drop at that level, expect overall prices to continue lowering as competition becomes more heated.

Other factors that will contribute to increased EV sales and general acceptance include government and societal incentives and pressures to “go green”, as well as increased education about the industry. As more people become familiar with EVs, they’ll realize that the horror stories associated with Tesla’s dead batteries and exploding vehicles have been greatly exaggerated. Studies show that as many EVs that are now on American roads, there’s been no meaningful increase in accidents or mishaps caused by them.

The future is electric

Despite some of its early problems, Tesla is a strong company that has only increased its economic footprint in recent years. And as Tesla fought to establish its brand and the long-term viability of EVs, other established brands have walked in through the door Elon Musk opened.

Many well-established auto manufacturers have taken advantage of government incentives and current societal attitudes to increase the overall market share of EVs in the auto industry. No doubt Tesla will continue to lead in the near future, but as established automakers diversify into the EV sector, producing cost-effective models capable of traveling longer distances, new challengers will come forward. It remains to be seen, though, if one of these other companies will replace Tesla as the king of EVs.

Header Image: CHUTTERSNAP, Unsplash

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