As The “Original” EVs Head To Pasture, Tesla Says The Model S Will Soldier On
With the 2nd generation, 2016 Chevrolet Volt just now popping up at dealership across the United States, it shines a light on the 1st generation status of the other major plug-in offerings from ‘back in the day’ in America.
…which for EVs is like 4-ish years ago.
Here is a quick look at the plug-in sales from the nine EV models offered in 2012:
For one plug-in model (the Volt), the 2nd generation is here today. For many, that 2nd generation upgrade is currently well into development. For others, that day will never come. But for one, who knows?
In the case of the Tesla Model S, it is now that one EV firmly in the “who knows?” category, and will assuredly be the last “original EV” left standing, as Khobi Brooklyn, a Tesla’s communications manager, relayed to Road & Track:
“We don’t have plans for retooling Model S at the moment.”
As the Tesla Model S is just entering its 4th year of existence, the EV is just cresting its peak selling years now.
However, also being at the ‘no plans’ stage of development behind the scenes, is to be miles away from debuting a 2nd generation offering, given the scope of what is required in both time and financial resources needed to re-launch a car.
In other words, while the Model S is unquestionably popular today – “familiarity breeds contempt“. Tesla will indeed need a replacement at some point – and the R&D for that day needs to happen years ahead of time.
With that in mind, we can choose to look at this revelation in one of two ways:
1.) It is a testament to the Model S sedan’s design (simple and elegant), and its performance abilities (up to ~300 miles of range), that will allow it to live on and stay fresh much longer than its fellow plug-ins
2) The limited resources, and sole production facility of Tesla, is highlighted in the fact the company seems unable to be able to earnestly develop or redesign more than one EV concurrently (Roadster, Model S, Model X, Model III, Roadster 2.0, etc.)
With that being said, let’s check in on what is happening with the future of those nine original 2012 offerings:
Chevrolet Volt – the 2nd generation, 2016 model year car arrived this week, and people seem jazzed about it. The new Chevy Volt gets 53 miles of all-electric range, and 42 MPG on regular petrol thereafter – and for less money than the outgoing 38 mile, 37 MPG/premium gas, 1st gen edition.
Nissan LEAF – the 2016 model year gets a 107 mile range option, but that certainly doesn’t fall into the 2nd gen/refreshed category. The next generation Nissan LEAF is expected as a 2018 model year car in the second quarter of 2017 – Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has promised a 200-ish mile range (EPA) for the next LEAF.
Toyota Prius PHV – the 1st generation plug-in Prius (and its 11 miles of assisted electric range) went out of production in June of this year.
As for the 2nd generation Prius PHV, it has been confirmed and also promises more than 20 miles of range (and perhaps upwards of 30). The only problem is that the Prius PHV is basically a conversion of the ‘regular’ Prius…and that generational upgrade took waaaay longer than expected. The Prius PHV 2.0 is now not expected to arrive until the end of 2016.
Tesla Model S – the Tesla has seen numerous upgrades to the battery and drive systems (and most recently its Autopilot abilities) since it debuted in 2012, but with the latest confirmation that the company has “no plans” to retool the sedan, it will be a very long time before anyone drives a 2nd generation Model S.
In total, a generational upgrade takes the better part of 3 years to perform front to back (and that is if you are quick). If Tesla indeed hasn’t even started planning, it will likely be at least 2020 (possibly after the 2nd generation of Roadster/Model R) before we see a new Model S on the roads. Nine+ years is a very long time for any car (plug-in or not) to go without retooling – provided that will ultimately be developed to production at all.
Ford C-Max Energi – the petrol C-Max is headed for a 3rd generation overhaul in a couple years. However, Ford gave US-production of the car its walking papers this summer, saying the line in Wayne, Michigan would end by 2018. Ford has a separate/newer production line for Europe (and now China) running now, that is also capable of picking up any electrified slack for the US – but the increasingly competitive US plug-in segment (and the ‘not-so-great’ sales for the C-Max model overall in America), means the C-Max Energi will very likely not see a 2nd generation.
We should note that Ford (once again) has plans to launch a serious hybrid to compete with the Prius (along with a plug-in version) for 2018, but we doubt the project internally dubbed the C240 will end up as a C-Max Energi or Hybrid – especially given the C-Max’s failure to follow through on that exact same promise the first go around. The arrival of this new, uber C240 vehicle to destroy the Prius, would surely mean that the C-Max Hybrid and Energi has no place left to reside inside Ford’s lineup.
Ford Focus Electric – like the C-Max Energi, the Focus Electric is assembled at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant. And like its plug-in brother, it has been given an eviction notice for 2018.
However, given that Ford will still badly need both an EV compliance-mobile and a low-end PHEV offering for the US and Europe…and the fact the company has a relatively new electrified Euro-plant in Germany – we expect to see either a Focus Energi roll off that line by 2018, or for Ford to choose the new Focus Electric platform to house its longer range BEV platform (LG Chem sourced batteries of course).
Given Ford is also working on 5 new assembly plants in Mexico, we assume the North American-intent Focus models (in both petrol and whatever plug-in version they choose) will ultimately be built to the south of the US.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV – the Japanese kei car has only been made available only every other year in the US (no 2013 model year, no 2015 model year), and the Mitsu is still technically available in the US as a 2016 model year – although you would be hard pressed to find one stocked at a dealership.
Mitsubishi has gone on record saying there will be no 2nd generation i-MiEV; and with the Outlander PHEV arriving in May, the current 2016 model year is expected to be the end of the line for the model. Looking at it another way – we just don’t see Mitsubishi once again giving the i-MieV 2017 off, and then bringing back the same 64 mile EV into a landscape dominated with 150+ milers in 2018.
Toyota RAV4 EV/Honda Fit EV – when both these all-electric vehicles were announced, they were presented as answers to a CARB-mandate of BEV compliance for major automakers. Toyota said they would make and sell ~2,600 RAV4 EVs in the US, while Honda stated 1,100 Fit EVs would be produced and leased in America. Both goals were accomplished, with the Toyota RAV4 EV going out of production in September of 2014, and the Fit EV shortly thereafter.
Neither is being replaced, however Honda says it will debut a new production plug-in hybrid and all-electric car in 2017.