Now that the Chevrolet Bolt is just 3 months away from production, its twin sister Opel Ampera-e will reach Europe in the first semester of 2017.
The Chevrolet Bolt should get a 215 EPA miles range in the USA and the Opel Ampera-e will most likely will be advertised in Europe with an unrealistic 500 NEDC km range. Usually I don’t use the NEDC range in my articles, but since this is about European market and NEDC is what is given to consumers to compare different electric cars, that’s what I’ll use.
I’ll only consider as Ampera-e alternatives, electric cars with at least 300 km NEDC range, available in 2017 and priced at less than 40.000 €.
With an expected price before incentives in Europe from 35.000 € to 39.000 €, depending on the trim level, this is the electric car that is getting all the attention (if we ignore Tesla Motors). With a 150 kW motor and a 60 kWh battery it goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 7 seconds, it will be hard to beat. I expect it to be advertised with 500 km NEDC range. It will also have important safety features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) that is now required to get 5 star Euro NCAP’s safety rating.
The question is how many does GM wants to sell? If we consider the company’s reputation with electric cars, the answer would be not many. But, there is a big but. Not only traditional automakers don’t want to lose the big emerging market of electric cars to Tesla Motors, but also GM is getting cheap kWh price for their batteries because they promised LG Chem many electric cars to be sold. So I believe that the Bolt/Ampera-e will be a mass market car, like Nissan Leaf already is. And yeah, I kind of like the new GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, she seems truly excited with this project.
Now the alternatives…
Renault Zoe R400
With the battery capacity increased to 40 kWh, the upgraded Zoe is already rumored to be called R400 and will be advertised with 400 km NEDC range. It’s still unknown if the battery is the only thing to be upgraded, but I suspect that the internal charger will continue to be 22 kW and for fast charging it will support CCS (Combined Charging System). One thing is for sure, it will finally get heated seats (remember the announced Swiss Edition?)
Visually I hope it remains the same, the Zoe is the best looking affordable EV in existence. I do hope that Renault can make the Zoe’s rear seats fold flat in 60/40 configuration.
There are some rumors – that I hope to be true -, that Renault will give the opportunity to buy the batteries to the customers that are currently leasing them. Leasing the battery should always be optional, not mandatory. With battery included the R400 could compete with the Ampera-e if priced from 28.000 € to 32.000 € (depending on the trim level).
Nissan Leaf with 40 kWh battery
If the information coming from Canadian dealers is true, later this year (November) we will be able to buy the Leaf with 30 kWh and 40 kWh battery capacities (depending on the trim level). But a 40 kWh isn’t enough for the Leaf to compete with the Ampera-e, it needs a facelift. Not only for aesthetics but also to improve aerodynamics/efficiency.
The facelift Nissan Leaf could be advertised with 330 km NEDC range, or even 340/350 with minor aero tweaks. Nissan has the capacity to drop the price fairly easily since it produces it in big scale in 4 factories around the world (counting with the Venucia E30 clone in China). To compete with the Ampera-e, the 40 kWh version price should stay between 29.000 € for Acenta and 31.000 € for Tekna.
BMW i3 (94Ah)
The BMW i3 with the new 33,84 kWh (96 x 94 Ah x 3,75 V) battery will get 300 km NEDC range with 20-inch wheels or 312 km with 19-inch wheels. Even with a similar price to the Ampera-e and a lot less range the BMW i3 can survive because it has the BMW badge in it. The internal 11 kW charger is also a good bonus.
I do expect that the i3 will get the 120 Ah cells in late 2017 or early 2018. With the new 43,2 kWh battery it can have a 400 km NEDC range. The sales of the 94 Ah version will dictate of how soon the 120 Ah will come, because the 120 Ah Samsung SDI cells already exist… and Samsung SDI didn’t even tried to hide them.
Volkswagen e-Golf with 36,63 kWh battery
The Volkswagen e-Golf with the improved battery capacity will have a 300 km NEDC range. Technically it’s a great car and it would be a good alternative if Volkswagen lowered the price. But I think that currently Volkswagen hasn’t the will or the ability to make it compete with the Ampera-e or even the 40 kWh Leaf. Only with a big production increase they could make it price competitive with upcoming alternatives. Truth to be told, Volkswagen already announced the construction of a big battery plant for electric cars, but it’s too little, too late (Volkswagen talks a lot, does very little). The best they can do now is a big deal with LG Chem, similar to what GM did by outsourcing the EV components to LG Chem. Usually I’m against outsourcing and I think that the Nissan’s strategy of building the Leaf in large scale around the world is much better, but now is too late.
What was left out?
The sad case of the Korean electric cars. Kia Soul EV and the Hyundai IONIQ EV need urgent battery upgrades to survive. The IONIQ EV case is the saddest, because it isn’t yet on sale and it’s already obsolete. Hyundai did promised a battery upgrade (great way to sell it now), but shouldn’t they did it before the launch?! The Hyundai IONIQ EV with at least a 45 kWh battery – as it was originally planned – could compete with the Ampera-e, since it’s a very aerodynamic and light car it doesn’t need a battery as big.
Tesla Model 3
I don’t consider it an alternative to the Chevrolet Bolt/Opel Ampera-e because of the launch date and price. Even If I think that the first Model 3 cars will be on roads in 2017, it will be the 50.000 € versions. I don’t expect 40.000 € versions to reach Europe before the 2018 summer. Two years away, yet Tesla makes great electric cars and already proved that many people will wait to have one. So in reality the Model 3 can take some customers from the Bolt/Ampera-e.
If I had to bet, I would bet on both Nissan Leaf 40 kWh and Renault Zoe R400 outselling the Opel Ampera-e in Europe. And If Renault terminates the mandatory battery lease of the Zoe it will easily outsell the Leaf.
The German automakers really need to learn something from Nissan and start building the electric cars where they are sold, North America, Asian and Europe. It’s the only way to remain price competitive with the increasing competition. With this strategy Nissan can easily increase production and drop the prices to always be on top of the leadership. Nissan could already price the 40 kWh Leaf at 20.000 € and still make a lot of money selling it.