The twin buzzwords in the automotive industry at present are "mobility" and "electrification." The 2018 New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center in Manhattan from March 30 through April 8 was charged with talk about current and future plans for hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and the battery-electric vehicle (BEV). In contrast with previous years where the buzz came from specialty and fringe manufacturers, the current came from major manufacturers, both domestic and imported. And this seems to be the year when BEV has stepped forward as a mainstream force, with dozens of available and planned models on display. Have we reached the critical juncture where electric vehicles represent a real force in the marketplace?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Conventional internal combustion engine-powered cars, SUVs and light trucks are still overwhelmingly dominant. "We are at the tipping point where technology, engineering, sport, marketing and customer preferences are starting to come together in the form of electric transportation, and this year’s New York International Auto Show is the place to see it all," said Mark Scheinberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. "With multiple international vehicle debuts, many of them focusing on the future of mobility through electric vehicles, this year’s show is the place to explore for environmentally savvy New Yorkers."
BEV sales are still heavily subsidized by a $7,500 Federal tax incentive to consumers, and some states, like New York and California, offer an additional incentive of up to $2,500. Manufacturers are attempting to prime the pump with new BEV models. Where the BEV conversation centered around Tesla a few years ago, NYIAS displayed new BEVs like the Jaguar I-PACE, Hyundai Kona Electric, Chevrolet Bolt, the next-generation Nissan Leaf, smart electric drive and many others this year, with prices starting as low as $25,000. More will follow, as General Motors has promised to deliver up to 20 BEV models by 2025. Volkswagen announced that it will launch an all-electric sub-brand.
While the infrastructure for electric vehicles is still developing, utility companies in many areas support the technology with reduced rates for off-peak charging, and some even provide assistance with home charging installation. Online resources like the non-profit Plug In America (https://pluginamerica.org) help consumers find charging stations and solutions in their areas. It’s still easier to own a BEV on the West Coast or in the Northeast than in the middle of the country, but barriers are collapsing as electric driving range expands. More BEVs on the road will breed more charging stations.
A battery-electric vehicle may not be the best solution for your transportation needs right now, but chances are good that a BEV could be a good choice in the near future.