Despite discounts, electric vehicles don't come cheap
This June 22, 2012 file photo shows a Tesla Model S outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Jeremy Cato, Special to Autos.CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, September 1, 2012 7:10AM EDT
If you want an electric vehicle (EV), be prepared to dig deep.
Last week Tesla Motors announced pricing for its Model S electric vehicle (EV) in Canada: $64,500 for the base model with a 40 kWh battery pack Model S, rising to $75,200 for the Model S with the 60 kWh battery pack and $85,900 with the 85 kWh battery.
Tesla claims the most robust Model S has the longest range of any production electric car in the world – 424 km or 265 miles. Tesla’s first Canadian store opens in Toronto this November, but Canadians can join the more than 12,200 potential buyers worldwide who have already reserved a Model S at one of Tesla's retail stores or online.
The Model S joins other full production EVs for sale in Canada – the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV among them. More are on the way. Ford has a Focus Electric ready for market, as well as an EV version of the Transit Connect commercial van. Fisker already has its luxury EV, Smart will start selling a fortwo EV in just months and the list goes on and on. EVs are quickly becoming a reality for consumers.
That said, every one of them comes with a hugely out-sized price tag compared to highly fuel-efficient vehicles of a similar size. That explains why despite thousands of dollars in direct subsidies to EV buyers, only a handful of hard-core early adopters have taken the EV route.
The reality is this: despite billions in government subsidies and cheap loans to the companies creating EVs, they remain outrageously overpriced compared to the most fuel efficient gasoline-only vehicles. Not one Canadian city has anything close to a comprehensive EV support infrastructure, either – charging stations and a way to track and pay for electrical usage, to put it simply, not to mention anything resembling a so-called “smart” grid designed to maximize EV efficiency.
But the EVs will keep coming because regulators and legislators want them. No one quite knows how the EV price tag will be covered – in particular, the biggest expense of all which is taxpayer-funded infrastructure – but I believe we’re only in the very early stages of a revolutionary shift to EVs. The big question is, how long will it take for EVs to take hold in the marketplace?
The answer to that question is found in another one: How much? How much will everyday EVs cost in three to five years, and will they ever be able to compete against gasoline and diesel vehicles of comparable size and capabilities – on price, utility and range? Because today, EVs cannot compete.
Even with hefty taxpayer subsidies and fairly generous sales sweeteners, EVs are not price competitive and it’s not even close. But don’t believe me, believe the numbers.
Subsidies? If you live in Ontario, the government EV rebate is $8,500, while in B.C. it’s $5,000 and in Quebec the subsidy is $8,000. B.C. residents can also get $500 per unit to offset the cost of a residential charging station.
So then let’s run the numbers for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle. On top of the government help, Mitsu Canada has in play a $1,500 factory-to-dealer rebate that can be combined with any other available offer – including a Loyalty Rebate for existing Mitsu owners ($1,000) and even a $500 factory-to-customer rebate for new graduates.
And then there is the 3.5 per cent financing for up to 84 months that is available from Mitsubishi, too. Add everything up and a certain EV buyer could see discounts and rebates worth $11,500 on an i-MiEV electric car with a factory sticker of $32,998.
Then there’s the Chevrolet Volt. It lists for $41,545, though with a government rebate of $8,231 in Ontario, a $7,769 rebate in Quebec and a $5,000 subsidy in British Columbia, buyers in those provinces will be paying much less than the sticker price.
And the Nissan LEAF? It lists for $38,395, but is eligible for an Ontario incentive of $8,500. In Quebec the taxpayer subsidy amounts to $8,000, while in B.C. it’s $5,000.
What’s the takeaway? If you want a pure EV, Mitsubishi has one for less than $22,000, brand new with a three-year/60,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty and factory coverage on the power train five year/100,000 km. That’s the best an EV buyer can do today.
And there’s the problem in a nutshell. A much, much better price can be found on, say, the Hyundai Accent hatchback. Yes, today you could go out and buy a very fuel efficient 2012 Hyundai Accent L four-door hatchback with an automatic transmission for $14,799.
Factor in freight and the air conditioning tax($1,495) and then subtract factory and dealer discounts that you might be able to negotiate (perhaps $350 from the dealer, another $1,600 in a factory-to-dealer rebate) and you’re out the door for around $16,000, taxes all in.
The Accent is not an experimental car and it is a perfectly reliable one that can go six or seven times further on a tank of gas than a i-MiEV or a LEAF or the upcoming Smart EV or any other EV running purely on battery power alone. True, Tesla claims a range of 424 km for the Model S, but it starts at $64,500. You could buy four Accents for the price of one Model S.
Someday you may be able to buy a five-seat, factory-built EV for $16,000, out the door, taxes included. When that day comes, EVs will clog the streets. Until then, EVs can be little more than curiosities, ones favored by politicians, early adopters and the truly committed.