It’s been almost four years since the first Model 3 left Tesla’s Fremont, CA factory. Setting a standard for speed, range, and design for affordable EVs, the Model 3 has outsold competitors and captured the public’s imagination. Similar to Apple’s influence on consumer electronics, established automakers are redefining their existing fleets in order to compete with Tesla while newcomers are pushing the limits of affordability and design.

The Wuling Hongguang Mini: Is small and affordable the future of EVs?

The Wuling Hongguang Mini is not a household name in North America and doesn’t compete with Tesla in terms of speed, range, or legroom. But its popularity has made manufacturer SAIC Motor one of the top three players in global EV market share for 2020. That figure is even more impressive as the car is only sold in China at the time of this writing.

Its small interior and no frills specs, including a top speed of 62 miles per hour, may not appeal to the current sensibilities of the average American car buyer, but its success and budget price (US$4,500) indicates a potential trajectory for automakers. Moreover the increasing popularity of EVs itself proves that consumer sensibilities can shift.

Frank Stronach, founder of global auto parts company Magna, believes small and affordable is the way forward in the EV space. Earlier this month, he announced plans to produce a three-wheel, single-seat EV. The size of a golf cart, the vehicle is named SARIT and promises a 60-mile range per charge with a projected price of about US$3,000.

Volkswagen ID.4: Legacy brands adapt to the EV era

The second-largest competitor in the global EV market, Volkswagen is leveraging familiarity and brand recognition for its EV fleet. Launching stateside in 2021, its focus on passenger comfort and cargo room implies the ID.4 is a family-friendly EV option, defining the car against Tesla’s perceived driver-centric design.

The ID.4’s range of 250 miles per charge would facilitate an escape from most major cities to a nearby lake or national park, like the drive from New York City to the Finger Lakes region. Folding the rear seats expands the rear cargo space to 64.2 cubic feet, about 30% more cargo space of the Model 3 and enough for a serious trip to Costco. The ID.4’s top speed of 100 miles per hour won’t win an EV race, but the $40,000 base price makes it accessible for families looking to buy their first plug-in vehicle.

Similar to Volkswagen, legacy automakers are redefining their fleets with EV and hybrid options such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the Jaguar Road Rover. Meanwhile, newcomers like Rivian and NIO are making a name for themselves in the competitive EV landscape.

The Tesla Model 3 is the current standard-bearer for performance, design, and affordability and will influence that next generation of EVs. But there is a tendency for competitive, innovative domains to set new standards in quick, successive iterations. As a company creating the infrastructure for the future of EVs, we have to remain adaptable, but sustainable innovation and affordability are welcome trends in the EV industry.


Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash