January 2023 Update: Tesla slashed prices for new models by up to 20% overnight. The top-selling Long Range Model Y dropped from $65,990 to $52,990. This means that not only are all Teslas cheaper now, but most Model 3 and Model Y spec options are now eligible for the $7,500 EV tax credit in the U.S., at least until March when more detailed eligibility requirements are to be released by the government.
Lower new Tesla prices will immediately hit used Tesla prices hard. With these changes, in 2023, expect used Tesla prices to be at least 20% lower than they were in 2022.
Now, on to the original article.
Used car prices have fallen over 25% in 2022, and have a lot further to fall. Generally, used electric car prices have been reluctant to drop, at least compared to the steep declines seen in other vehicle classes such as luxury SUVs, crossovers and compact cars. The picture is different for used Tesla prices heading into 2023. Long the best-selling EVs by raw numbers and market share (more on that here), Tesla became the darling of auto market speculation in 2022. Thousands of Tesla buyers flipped their new cars for a profit on the used car market just weeks to months after taking delivery.
In 2023, used electric car prices are in for a rude awakening. Here’s where things stand today, and where prices are headed in the near future.
Used Tesla Prices Plummet
According to Edmunds data shared with Reuters, used Tesla prices were down 17% in December for the July peak. In July, the average price of a used Tesla was $67,297, but six months later the average price had fallen to $55,754. It’s all about perspective here: the overall used car market dropped 4% at the retail level during the same period, and wholesale prices dropped much more, as you can see here.
Used Teslas are sitting on dealer lots for much longer these days. In November, used Teslas sat on dealer lots for 50 days before selling on average, compared with 38 days for all used cars.
Who would’ve guessed it? Tesla cars couldn’t remain appreciating assets forever. “You can’t sell your current Tesla for more money than you paid for it, which was true for a lot of the past two years,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at car sales website iSeeCars.com.
Tesla Inventory and Days to Sell Rising
As we approach the new year, there are 1,085 used 2022 model year Teslas for sale on YAA Car Search. A third of these nationwide listings have less than 5,000 miles on the odometer. In fact, roughly one third of ALL used Tesla listings are 2022 models. More noteworthy is how long used Teslas are remaining on the market.
As recently as July 2022, analysts at iSeeCars found that the Tesla Model Y was the fastest-selling used car in the United States. The Model 3 and Model X were #5 and #6 on the list, right behind the Toyota Prius hybrid and the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. It was a time of record gas prices, and electric mobility was very appealing.
Fast forward to the last days of 2022, and 69 percent of the 5,800 used Teslas on the market nationwide have been listed for greater than 38 days, the overall industry average. Nearly 40 percent have been listed for sale for over 90 days.
We compiled data from YAA Car Search for six of the best-selling electric vehicles in America:
As you can see above, the Model 3 and Model Y have a higher proportion of listings that have been on the market for over 90 days than other popular EVs. Notably, 38 percent of used 2022 Tesla Model 3s and 40 percent of used 2022 Model Ys have been on the market for over 90 days.
What changed? Well, where do we start? Gas prices fell, interest rates doubled and fears of economic recession reverberated through consumer thinking in the latter half of 2022. Top that off with the omnipresence of Elon Musk in the news cycle, and you have a recipe for declining demand for Tesla cars, at least among enough car buyers to make a difference in sales trends.
Tesla Flippers Out of Luck
And then there were the flippers. Tesla flippers made good money for a while. Wait times were between two and six months for factory-ordered Tesla EVs. Flippers would order a brand-new Tesla from the factory (often paying cash), with the intention of selling for a premium to an impatient buyer weeks if not days after taking delivery. The LA Times featured once successful Tesla flippers in this fascinating story.
The Tesla flippers flooded the market with gently used Teslas, the buyers vanished, and we’re left with plummeting prices for used Teslas.
Used Tesla Prices in 2023
These are the biggest factors that will influence used Tesla prices in 2023:
EV tax credits
The competition (quality AND quantity)
We recently took a deep dive into why our auto experts think used car prices will continue to decline in 2023. Historically, Tesla has bucked the mainstream trends, but that era may have come to a close. Here’s a summary of what our team expects in 2023:
Why are used car prices so likely to drop further?
New car inventory is now the highest it has been since 2020. More buyers are considering new models, reducing demand for used cars.
Interest rates for auto loans have doubled since 2021. The average used car loan APR is now close to 10%, while used car loan APRs average under 5%.
We expect used Tesla prices to soften in 2023, especially when considering yet another factor, revised EV tax credits. More on that below.
Tesla Tax Credits Return, With a Catch
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 replaced the original EV tax credit in place since 2009 with new rules and eligibility requirements. These are the biggest changes taking effect in 2023 for new EVs:
The 200,000 sale cap is replaced with an expiration date of December 31, 2032.
The tax credit is back for Tesla, GM, Toyota and all other EV automakers, but only if strict requirements are met.
New vans, SUVs, and trucks with MSRPs up to $80,000 qualify. Sedans priced up to $55,000 MSRP qualify.
The tax credit will remain at $7,500, however it is now divided into $3,750 for battery mineral sourcing and $3,750 for battery component sourcing.
Final assembly must be in the United States, Canada or Mexico as soon as the bill is signed into law.
The EV tax credit is income-limited to individual tax filers with adjusted gross incomes of $150,000 or less, and joint filers with incomes of $300,000 or less.
There’s now a used EV tax credit, but before you get too excited, the used EV tax credit has the following eligibility requirements in 2023:
Used EVs would now be eligible for a $4,000 federal tax credit, with a price cap of $25,000. Used EVs must be at least two years old, and the used credit can only be claimed once in the life of the vehicle.
Tax filers can claim only one used EV tax credit every three years.
Used Tesla prices have fallen, but they’ll have to fall a whole lot more to approach the $25,000 price cap. Barring an astonishingly severe downturn, used Teslas won’t qualify for the used EV tax credit in 2023.
New Tesla Models Again Eligible
In addition to higher interest rates, rising competition, a flooded market and general economic worries, consumer demand for used Tesla cars will decline further simply because brand new Teslas will again qualify for EV tax credits, for the first time since 2019. Of course, they’ll have to fall under the strict price caps of the new law. Few buyers will want to pay over $50,000 for a used Tesla Model 3 when a brand-new one could be had for less with the new tax credit. This continues in 2024, when the EV tax credit becomes a point-of-sale rebate.
Tesla Depreciation Data
Car Edge provides depreciation forecasts for Tesla models using real market data. The graph below shows expected depreciation for the Tesla Model Y over the next decade.
Now more than ever, you CAN negotiate used Tesla prices. Floorplanning costs are high, meaning that car dealers are paying more each day that a used Tesla sits on their lot. With YAA Car Search, you can see exactly how long a car has sat on the lot, and then use that information as leverage to negotiate lower prices.
Take one look at our YAA member success stories, and the value of negotiating is clear. When you learn how to effectively negotiate car prices, you open the door to THOUSANDS of dollars in savings. At a time when auto loan interest rates are climbing ever higher, saving a few thousand dollars on a deal translates to even greater savings in financing costs over the long-term.
One third of American drivers are seriously considering going electric as generous tax credits, fuel savings and reduced emissions lure the masses towards EVs. My own household made the switch in early 2022, and we’re never going back to ICE. However, going electric is not as simple as perusing dealer lots. As with any emerging technology, there’s a very wide range of prices, capabilities and reliability ratings in today’s electric car market. And then there’s the challenge of availability. In hopes of adding clarity to the current EV market, the team at CarEdge has created this resource to share what we think are the BEST electric cars, trucks and SUVs in 2023. We’ve also shared what we think are the worst.
Have a bone to pick with our lists? Let us know in the comments, or better yet, join us at the internet’s fastest-growing EV forum, the CarEdge Community.
The Best Electric Cars in 2023
These models are stand-outs for their value. Range, charging speed and available features are given priority over performance in our analysis.
2023 Tesla Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive
Range: 272 miles
Fast charging (adding 200 miles in 20-30 minutes)
Why it’s great: The Tesla Supercharger network makes cross country travel hassle-free. Tesla charges are very reliable, and with 1,500 locations in all 50 states, finding one is rarely an issue.
Plus, the price you see on Tesla’s online configurator is the price you pay (before taxes and required fees, of course). While legacy automakers continue to struggle with out-of-control dealer markups, Tesla and other direct-to-consumer EV makers have the upperhand on pricing.
Why it’s great: The Model Y is the larger, more family-oriented version of the Model 3. Last year, the Model Y overtook the 3 as the best-selling EV in America. Although it is the most expensive model on this list, if you can afford it, the ease of public charging, great range, spacious interior and exhilarating performance all make this the sweet spot for many buyers. Plus, there are no dealer markups.
But wait, there’s more. Both the Model Y and Model 3 are available for delivery soon after placing an order. Tesla wait times are between one and three months as of late 2022. That’s about as good as it gets in today’s EV market.
Should you ever decide to sell, both of these Teslas have amazing resale value.
Fast charging: Add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes
Why it’s great: The 2023 IONIQ 5, Kia EV6, and Genesis GV60 are the first models powered by Hyundai Motor Group’s Electric Global Modular Platform. This is next-gen 800-Volt architecture at (relatively) affordable prices, and that’s awesome.
Plus, the IONIQ 5 is spacious, and looks really cool. Sadly, Hyundai has had a very difficult time scaling up production due to supply chain constraints, so expect to either wait for at least six months, or battle outrageous dealer markups to get your hands on a rare allocation.
Fast charging: Add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes
Why it’s great: Kia’s version of the IONIQ 5 looks completely different, with very similar specs. That’s because both models share the e-GMP platform with great range and even better charging.
The 2023 EV6 has slightly more availability than the IONIQ 5 right now. For the 2023 model year, Kia decided to drop the “Light” base model, kicking the entry-level price all the way up to nearly $50,000.
As always, I recommend everyone take a test drive before dismissing EVs. They’re quiet, efficient and fun. The EV6 would be a great one to take for a spin.
Fast charging: Add 190 miles of range in 28 minutes
Why it’s great: The VW ID.4 is now made in America at Volswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee factory. That means it will qualify for the revised EV tax credit (up to $7,500), as long as your VIN confirms that it is an American-made ID.4. I was impressed during my test drive of the ID.4. It rides like a luxury crossover, and has plenty of acceleration when you need it. However, it’s definitely the least sporty of this bunch, but it’s also the least expensive.
Now made in America, there is also a new cheaper option starting at $37,495. However, with public charging infrastructure slow to build out, the expected 208 miles of range is not enough for us to confidently recommend it to anyone but those who expect to stick around urban areas 95% of the time. The ID.4 Pro, on the other hand, is exceptional value with the EV tax credit.
Price: $90,000-120,000 (before markups of up to $100,000)
Range: 329 miles
Why it’s horrible: Where do we start? The Hummer EV costs $100 to charge (because it has a MASSIVE 212 kilowatt-hour battery pack), weighs 9000 pounds (that’s 2x the weight of the typical F-150), and is horrible for the environment. If you’re looking to go green with your EV purchase, this isn’t it. It’s also very expensive, but that’s less surprising these days.
At auction, we’ve seen many Hummer EVs selling for over $200,000. No thanks.
2023 Mazda MX30
Range: 100 miles
Why it’s horrible: If you’re considering the Mazda MX-30, send me an email at justin@CarEdge.com. I’d like to talk you out of it. I have nothing against Mazda as a brand (they make some awesome cars), but I am very against anyone buying an electric car with just 100 miles of range in 2022. Sure, maybe it’s just for around town. Have you thought about resale value? With barely 100 miles on a charge and slow charge times of around one hour, I’m afraid Mazda’s first EV won’t be worth its scrap metal value in a decade.
Other options to consider at this price point? The Nissan LEAF, base Volkswagen ID.4, Chevrolet Bolt, and soon-to-come Chevrolet Equinox EV are all far more capable for under $40,000.
2023 MINI Hardtop
Range: 110 miles
Why it’s horrible: I sure hope CarEdge’s own Ray Shefska forgives me for bashing the electric MINI, but with 110 miles of range and slow charging, I don’t see a single reason why anyone should consider this EV. It’s one of the last ‘compliance cars’ in the EV market.
2024 Cadillac Celesiq
Price: $300,000+ (yes, count those zeroes)
Range: 300+ miles
Why it’s horrible: Would you pay Rolls Royce money for a Cadillacl? GM seems to think you would. I’m all for going all-out on EV design and innovation, but when Cadillacs cost more than houses, I can’t help but shutter. But hey, it will be hand-built.
If you’re thinking about hauling the kids off to school with zero emissions, today’s EVs offer more range, faster charging and greater fuel savings. The best electric cars and SUVs for families are available in a wide range of options to meet your needs, and an even wider range of price points. These are the best electric crossovers and SUVs on sale in 2023, and the ones we’re looking forward to in 2024.
Electric Crossover SUVs for Families
These electric crossover SUVs and full-size SUVs are the highest-rated, most-loved EVs for families today. Spaciousness, pricing, range and charging speeds vary from one electric model to another. We’ve also included NHTSA safety ratings if they’re available. Let us know which EVs you have your eye on!
Would a live 1:1 coach make car buying less of a hassle? What about exclusive savings on financing, insurance, maintenance and more? Consider joining CarEdge+, the membership that pays for itself!
The Model Y is the best-selling electric vehicle in America, however prices have increased over 20% since 2020. Although it’s known for autonomous driving, the full capability (known as FSD) is a $15,000 package.
Price: $65,990 to $84,990
Range: 303 to 330 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): can add 200 miles in 15 minutes
I can confidently say that the IONIQ 5 is a great family car, and that’s because my wife and I haul our own kiddo around in this segment-bending electric crossover with hot hatch flavors. The IONIQ 5 has won many awards, including Car and Driver’s 2022 EV of the Year.
Price: $40,925 to $57,400+
Range: 256 to 303 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): Adds 200 to 240 miles of range in 20 minutes
The spaceship-styled EV6 is Kia’s version of the Hyundai IONIQ 5, which shares the e-GMP electric powertrain. The Kia EV6 has slightly less passenger and cargo space than the Hyundai, but it’s better range and equally fast charging make it an obvious feature on this list of best electric cars for families.
Price: $41,400 to $55,000+
Range: 274 to 310 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): Adds 200 to 240 miles of range in 20 minutes
Starting in late 2022, the ID.4 is now made in Tennessee. The newest American-made EV is equipped with decent range, okay charging, and a comfortable interior that’s designed for families. However, don’t expect Tesla-level infotainment. The ID.4 is best for those who are content with the simpler things in life.
Price: $38,790 to $55,000
Range: 208 to 275 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): Adds up to 190 miles of range in 30 minutes
When the e-tron first debuted in 2019, it was ahead of its time. Today, the e-tron remains a solid choice for families with a large interior, acceptable range and average charging capabilities. The premium styling and interior comforts make up for what it might lack. The original larger e-tron has recently been joined by the Q4 e-tron crossover.
Price: $53,000 to $94,000
Range: 218 to 244 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): can add 135 miles in 35 minutes
Where are all of the suburban-sized electric SUVs at? Unfortunately for larger families, large SUVs and minivans are not very aerodynamic, and therefore require larger battery packs to travel the same number of miles. As traditional and startup automakers ramp up their EV production, they’re increasingly left with no choice but to ration their batteries. The vast majority of EV automakers rely on battery manufacturers like Panasonic, LG and CATL to produce the batteries they need for their electric vehicles. If an automaker like Ford has signed supply contracts for X number of batteries, does it make sense for them to make 100,000 compact crossovers, or 20,000 full-size SUVs?
However, it looks like electric full-size SUVs are coming due to popular demand. There are just two quite expensive options now, but others are nearing production soon.
If you’re open to plug-in hybrids, the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV is a great vehicle, if you can find one at a fair price.
Tesla Model X
It’s not cheap, but the Model X is the most popular fully-electric three-row SUV today. With gull-wing doors and a massive glass roof, there’s no hiding the fact that the Tesla Model X is a luxury SUV.
Price: $120,990 to $150,000+
Range: 351 miles
Charging (Public fast charger): can add 200 miles in 15 minutes
This three-row SUV has a starting price nearly $30,000 below the electric competition in this segment. VinFast is building a massive factory to build EVs in North Carolina. There’s a catch: Batteries are sold separately. VinFast offers two battery subscription plans. The VF9 also has a smaller sibling, the VF8.
The Hyundai IONIQ 7 will be Hyundai’s first three-row electric SUV. It will be joined by Kia’s version, the Kia EV9 electric SUV. Both of these should bring somewhat more affordable electric full-size SUVs to the American market. The IONIQ 7 and EV9 remain concept cars for now, with production details to be released this year.
NIO is a Chinese automaker very likely on a path to North American auto sales. With a corporate headquarters already open in California and US-market job postings, it’s all but certain. The NIO ES8 is a three-row electric SUV likely to make an American debut in 2024.
Electric Crossovers That Didn’t Make the List
These EVs are great around town, but not recommended for family road trips.
With disappointing fast-charging capabilities, the bZ4X would be a real hassle on a road trip. The most capable all-wheel drive variant is rated at just 228 miles on a charge. That would be a non-issue if it wasn’t restricted to 100 kW at a DC fast charger. In the real world, the bZ4X and its sibling the Subaru Solterra would require 45 minute to hour-long charging stops every 175 miles or so on the interstate. That’s a lot of waiting around with a family!
The Solterra is the Subaru-branded sibling to the Toyota bZ4X. It’s essentially an electric Crosstrek. While standard all-wheel drive stays true to its Subaru roots, once again it’s the pitifully outdated charging capabilities that keep the Solterra off of our recommendations. Range is below average at 222 to 228 miles of range. It could be worth a look if you never hit the highway. Learn more about the Subaru Solterra.
You’re probably starting to see what makes or breaks an EVs suitability for families. Range, safety, interior room and charging speed are all important. If you travel, range and charging speed matter a lot. If you plan to stick around home, you have many more affordable electric vehicles to consider. The Bolt really only fails in one of these categories, but it fails in a big way. The 2023 Chevrolet Bolt has the same 55 kW DC fast charging limitation as the original Bolt did way back in 2017. With 259 miles of range (that’s not bad!), that means you’d be stopping to charge for 45 minutes to an hour every 180 to 200 miles on a road trip. About 90% of EV charging is done at home on average, but the Bolt requires a lot of patience on road trips. We covered the 2023 Chevy Bolt in detail here.
The Leaf was the first mainstream EV to go on sale in North America. It’s been a much-appreciated affordable option since 2011, but Nissan has failed to update the Leaf as competitors entered the scene. A top-of-the-line 2023 Nissan Leaf is rated for 212 miles on a charge, but the peak charging speed is outdated. In a best case scenario, it takes 40 minutes to add 175 miles of range. Plus, the Leaf has an outdated charge port style known as CHAdeMO. You’ll have to haul an adapter around with you to charge in public.
Will Electric Vehicles Get Cheaper in 2023?
It would be a welcome surprise if electric car prices dropped in 2023. Right now, EV prices are headed in the opposite direction. It seems like every week automakers from Tesla to Ford are announcing price increases for their electric models. In 2022, the average transaction price for an electric vehicle was $66,000, more than $11,000 higher than traditional vehicles. Fuel savings add up, but higher prices can bite into fuel and maintenance savings for years. See break even times for today’s most popular EVs.
Simply put, the more you drive, the quicker you will reach a break-even point with your EV purchase. If you drive less than 10,000 miles per year, going electric just doesn’t make sense right now when it comes to cost. However, it sure is great eliminating tailpipe emissions.
A new analysis by iSeeCars finds that used electric car prices are rising much faster than their combustion counterparts. The report finds that EV prices are up 54% year-over-year. ICE vehicles were up 10.1% during that same period. There are more signs that used car prices are beginning to drop, but it’s within the realm of possibility that EV and PHEV prices will remain elevated even as the overall used car market softens. People are scrambling to buy EVs, and demand continues to exceed supply.
The New EV Tax Credit Helps Some, But Not All
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 eliminated the original EV tax credit and replaced it with a completely revised tax credit. For vehicles that qualify, up to $7,500 in tax credits are available. However, the incentive is based on battery sourcing, which will be determined by the automakers. Income limits restrict buyer eligibility, too. See the full details on qualifying models here.
There’s also a used EV tax credit for the first time, but a price cap of $25,000 eliminates every single family EV on this list. See what does qualify.
When the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law in 2021, $1.2 trillion in federal funding was earmarked for dozens of projects ranging from bridge repair to internet access. Included in the massive package is $7.5 billion for National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI), also known as the national charging network. States were tasked with submitting a plan for how they would spend NEVI funding, with a submission deadline of August 1, 2022. Now that states have turned in their EV charging proposals, we decided to create this resource with every state’s plans for how they’ll spend NEVI funding.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Phase one of this five-year initiative will prioritize DC fast chargers every 50 miles along Alternative Fuel Corridors, which are usually interstate highways. Once state NEVI plans are approved by the Federal Highway Administration, the contract bid process and construction will kick off in early 2023.
Fiscal year 2022 (FY2022) funding is based on the state’s population, size, and number of major highways. We’d love to hear what you think about how your state is planning to build out their portion of the national charging network.
With electric vehicle market share recently rising above 5%, it’s not too late to get the ball rolling on a national charging network. But time is of the essence. Sales data from Europe saw accelerated adoption once the 5% market share threshold was surpassed, and half of American drivers are interested in EVs.
Of greater concern is the many ways in which the build out of a national charging network could fall short, and this is what’s on my mind. Anyone who’s ever frequented Electrify America charging stations is well aware that malfunctioning charging stations are a lot more common than they should be. In my experience with my Hyundai IONIQ 5, it seems like one out of five chargers has issues.
Can states, the U.S. Department of Transportation and private partners install 500,000 chargers that are more reliable and less confusing than the status quo? Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from Tesla, whose Supercharger network is the gold standard. In many ways, the success of electric vehicles in America will rely on the success of the state plans shared here. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling a bit of anxiety about how this could go!
Drop us a comment below. What’s your take on these state plans for the national charging network?
After four months of electric vehicle ownership, my perspectives about the mass transition to electric vehicles have evolved. I no longer think that everyone should run out and buy an EV right now (besides, that’s not possible). I have a greater understanding of the skepticism that accompanies the push to EVs. All-in-all, I feel that I now understand the arguments from both sides: electric vehicles are amazing, better for the planet (in the long run) and fun to drive, however EVs are not even close to being ready for mass adoption.
Automakers have committed well over half a trillion dollars to electric vehicle research and development, marketing and most importantly, charging infrastructure buildout. But the grid isn’t ready, charging providers aren’t ready, and the American public has a LOT to learn before making the switch. EVs could still fail, and bring down the automotive industry with them. We’d hate to see that. These are 5 things that must happen in this decade to prepare the world for electric mobility.
EV Cost Parity: Electric Cars Are Much Too Expensive
The average price paid for an EV surpassed $66,000, on par with the overall luxury segment.
For years and years, I touted the coming cost parity that would finally make EVs just as affordable as any other car. Industry experts always told us that EV price parity would come when battery costs dropped below $100 per kilowatt-hour. Just as that milestone arrived, the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global factory shutdowns disrupted the supply chains that all automakers rely on, and most notably those related to semiconductor chip production. Without the parts to make the cars, electric vehicle growth was held back just as the public warmed up to them. Raw materials used in both vehicle and battery manufacturing increased in cost by over 100%, and many automakers have passed the premiums on to consumers.
Today, electric vehicles cost more, and inventory is slim. Kelley Blue Book’s June 2022 car price data shows that the average EV transaction was $66,000, $18,000 over the overall car market average of $48,000. One year ago, the average EV transaction was $52,486, or 10.8% less than it was in June of 2020. In short, EV prices are headed in the wrong direction just as automakers are getting serious about making them.
Monthly Payments Are ALREADY Out of Control
In the age of record smashing, here’s one that will give pause: In June, the estimated average monthly payment increased to $730, which is a new record high. A new car monthly payment now costs as much as rent in many parts of the country. We’re seeing more and more car payments over $1,000 a month. The insane records don’t end there.
More cars are being repossessed as more auto payments are going past-due. With the way things stand today, either EVs will have to become more affordable, or their luxury pricing will soon risk worsening the auto loan crisis.
Avoid the Next Shortage: Batteries Will Be the New Oil
Earlier this year, Rivian CEO and Founder RJ Scaringe predicted that battery shortages would be the next disruption that the automotive industry would face. In fact, automakers are already rationing the batteries they have, and those they have lined up. Ever wondered why there are so few electric full-sized SUVs? Building those at scale would require a lot more batteries.
The average EV contains $8,255 of raw materials according to CNBC. That’s more than double the amount in combustion-powered counterparts. President Biden has even authorized use of the Defense Production Act to aid the situation by increasing domestic EV production and related supply chains.
For the most part, automakers don’t make their own batteries. They rely on contracts with battery manufacturers like Panasonic, LG Chem, and CATL to supply what their lofty plans for electric vehicles will need. That’s changing little by little. Tesla has started to produce small quantities of its new 4680 battery cells next to Giga Austin.
General Motors just received a $2.5 BILLION dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Energy for manufacturing the Ultium battery in Tennessee. Slowly but surely, some OEMs are taking control of their own battery supply chains. This will be key to avoiding battery shortages.
Over 62% of Americans support building out a nationwide charging network, and 39% of American drivers are considering buying an electric vehicle next time they’re in the market for a car. Frugal drivers are welcoming the fuel savings, albeit at a higher upfront cost. At current residential electricity rates, charging up is equivalent to spending about $1.00 per gallon of gas. The most expensive public chargers may approach $2.50 per gallon equivalent.
However, many Americans live in a charging desert. What good is the EV revolution if there’s nowhere to charge? Most EV drivers plug in at home, but not everyone can do that. From apartment dwellers to rural residents, owning an EV simply isn’t viable if there aren’t chargers for road trips, family visits and work transportation needs. When it makes sense for consumers, electric vehicles offer plenty of benefits. Cheaper fuel, less maintenance, sporty performance and no tailpipe emissions to name a few. But EVs risk remaining a symbol of luxury and impracticality if it doesn’t get a lot easier to charge up in America.
2021’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act included $7.5 billion for the build-out of a national charging network. In summary, federal funding is supposed to get the ball rolling, and the private sector will take it from there. EV charging stations, particularly DC fast chargers, are really expensive to install. On top of upfront costs, America’s electrical grid is not ready for the demand that would be generated by mass adoption of EVs.
The deadline is nearing for states to submit their plans for how they will spend their allocated funding for EV charging. Will they use the funding to install reliable, standardized fast charging stations along major transportation corridors and rural areas alike? We’ll soon find out.
Public Education: Tell the World What It’s Like to Drive Electric
The following are all things I’ve encountered at Electrify America charging stations:
A driver standing in pouring rain for five minutes trying to charge
Using the wrong connector type on a $60k car
Many, many Chevy Bolts, Audi e-trons and VW ID.4s using the 350 kilowatt stations, despite their cars only accepting half of that.
We need to do better to educate EV buyers and prospective EV buyers about how to drive electric without the hassles. We can’t blame the consumer, EVs bring a very different ownership experience. But whose responsibility is it to educate drivers? The dealership? The automaker? The driver themself? Guys like me?
In reality, it will need to be all of the above. General Motors is leaning heavily on the success of what they call affordable EVs to dominate sales by the end of this decade. In the first real sign that OEMs might be taking their newfound responsibility seriously, Chevrolet just launched a great live chat and immersive experience on their website that is entirely devoted to educating the public about their EVs, with an emphasis on the ownership experience. We need more of that, and soon.
The woman I met who arrived at a charging station with 0% state of charge and no A/C should, in my opinion, be upset with her Kia dealer. She loved the car, but no one had explained to her how to plan for interstate travel in an EV. Dealers sell most vehicles in America, but the dealership sales model is under serious threat from the rising popularity of direct-to-consumer sales. Everyone wants to be Tesla. If legacy automakers are to stand a chance in the EV race, more OEMs need to prepare their dealer networks for the public education that comes along with selling EVs.
Don’t Forget the Power of Innovation
Does the lack of affordability, charging infrastructure and public awareness mean the electrification of the auto industry is doomed for failure? No, not at all. That’s because there’s still time to right wrongs, and to build out the nation’s charging infrastructure the right way. EVs are still under 6% market share in the U.S. (See the latest EV market share numbers here.) If these same problems persist when we exceed 15%, that will be real cause for concern.
It’s true that the electrical grid isn’t ready for mass adoption of EVs, but it’s getting there. Grid-scale battery megapacks (also pioneered by Tesla) are already being deployed to provide grid stability in times when the supply of electricity is not keeping up with demand. The sun only shines in the day, the wind is intermittent, but grid-scale batteries store and supply power from these renewable sources whenever they are most needed. Now, it’s like the sun is shining at night. These changes take time. Plus, the push for grid-scale battery storage could throw a wrench in EV battery supply chains. Nothing is certain, but things are moving in the right direction.
5 Innovations On the Way
These are some innovations that have the potential to make electric vehicles more affordable with longer ranges, faster charging and improved safety. These innovations also make EV supply chains less damaging to the environment and less harmful to vulnerable communities worldwide.
Solid-state batteries are expected to enter mass production in just a few years. They promise higher energy density, lighter weight, and less rare earth metals for production.
Cobalt-free batteries are entering production now, reducing the need for this element that is too often associated with child labor and environmental degradation
Newer battery technologies are more energy-dense, meaning that more range is powered from the same-sized battery. In reality, automakers are likely to keep range figures around 250-350 miles, but they’ll require fewer batteries to get there.
EVs burn through tires quickly. Michelin, Goodyear and others are designing EV-specific tires that will have longer lives on the road.
Battery recycling and reuse efforts have recently received more attention as automakers and environmental health agencies work to avoid batteries ending up in landfills.
How can the nation as a whole get to where it needs to be by, say, 2025? I’ll leave you with my own suggestion for legacy automakers and policymakers: don’t be afraid to learn from Tesla. A seamless, almost hassle-free EV ownership experience already exists in America, from plug-and-charge, reliable fast charging to the peace of mind that comes with the vast Supercharger network. I encourage all policymakers and engineers to learn from Tesla’s successful growth strategies. Will automakers and politicians have the courage to consult Elon Musk’s Tesla, or will they try to figure it all out on their own? What do you think?