2020 — The Year Of The Tesla Model Y & Other ICE-Killing Crossovers

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The Tesla Model Y on unveiling night in Hawthorne, California
The Tesla Model Y on unveiling night in Hawthorne, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

I’m a big fan of the Tesla Model Y. I’ve written about the Model Y’s 3rd row being the key to it becoming the best selling vehicle in the world, the Model Y beating the Lamborghini Urus (which is over 3 times the price), styling tricks that Tesla used to make an SUV looks like a performance sedan, and most recently Tesla cutting Model Y prices.

I wasn’t originally a big fan of the crossover, but after doing the research for an article on “crossovers for dummies,” I decided that they are just what I need. All the good things I love about my Model 3 — safe, fun to drive (or not drive with Autopilot), and economical) — with the added bonus that: I can throw more cargo in the back (so I don’t have to rent a truck to pick up something I buy or sell), I can fit my whole family in the car at once (with boyfriends), and it is easier to get into and out of as I age. It took me about a month after the unveiling to order it because I considered it a small upgrade to my Model 3, and since I’m waiting for the 7 seat option, I won’t be getting it early anyway (the 7 seat option isn’t expected till 2021). For contrast, I ordered the Model 3 before it was unveiled, because it was expected to be a large upgrade over my 2012 Nissan LEAF (and I was not disappointed, as I have made clear in my many articles since Zach drafted me).

The point of this article is that, unlike the Model 3, which came to market with its gas and diesel competitors running away and discontinuing sedans (not because of the Model 3, just because they were shifting production to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks), the Model Y will come to market in the white hot midsized crossover category. Gas and diesel crossovers are currently selling very well. While the Model 3 didn’t have (and still doesn’t have) any cars that really compete in its class (electric small/midsized sports sedan), the Model Y will have lots of competition from gas vehicles, such as the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Ford Escape, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Compass, Honda Pilot, and others selling over 4.5 million cars a year in the US alone and many more worldwide. But unlike the Model 3, it will have many competitive EVs to compete with. This 2020 crop of crossover EVs won’t be Tesla killers, they will be ICE killers!

Tesla Model Y white reveal

We don’t know enough about these cars to know which will be successful and which will be flops. Even when other companies make great EVs, like our 2019 Car of the Year, the Hyundai Kona EV, it can be a real disappointment when the company has only sold 577 this year in the US, compared to 94,250 Model 3 sales. So I’m just going to mention what I know about the crossovers coming in 2020 (and a few in 2021 too). We will have lots of later articles about which is the best as we learn more about them.

I’m confident of one thing after this next year. The genie won’t go back into the bottle and Pandora isn’t returning to her box. This crop of EVs will prove to the biggest doubting Thomases in the industry that EVs aren’t just small economy cars like the LEAF, expensive luxury cars like the Model S and Model 3, and more expensive electric SUVs like the Model X and Audi e-tron. There will soon be many choices right in the middle of the segment every family in America is looking to buy. No longer will I hear from person after person after riding in my Model 3, “I’d buy it in a second, but my spouse wants a crossover.” Next year my response will be, “Great, you have so many great choices for electric crossovers, why even consider a gas car?”

Byton M-Byte

Byton M-Byte
The M-Byte at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

This car is for more daring individuals (like me) who are willing to buy a car from a company that not only is unknown to US customers, but also a car that is one of the first cars imported from China. Originally intended to be available in the US in 2020, it has slipped to 2021. The car was just unveiled this week at the Frankfurt Auto Show, and Kyle covered it here and here. I covered a first drive of the M-Byte in this article.

Byton might sound like a fly-by-night company, but it’s backed by the Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings and has many former BMW executives from the i3 who were frustrated by BMW’s lack of commitment to electric vehicles.


Image courtesy BMW

This will be BMW’s first fully electric SUV, and although the company had a huge lead on the industry when it came out with the designed-from-scratch i3, management blew it and is now just converting the long wheelbase X3 (that was designed to be a gas and diesel car) to an EV by replacing the drivetrain. It is likely to have less range, less power, less autonomy, and less room than the Model Y, yet cost more. Since it is shipping first to Europe in 2020 and later to China and the US, it will likely also be late to the party in the US. For BMW fans, it may take many sales away from BMW gas and diesel cars, but it is unlikely to tempt many owners of other brands.

Chevy Menlo

Chevy Menlo
Image courtesy GM

This crossover that we first reported on in August should be coming to China soon and the US sometime in 2020. This will make a nice low-end option for some. For me, I guess it seems like when you compare the Bolt to the Model 3. The Bolt has good specs, but you just get so much more with the Model 3 for a few thousand more dollars. I expect this to be the same when comparing the Menlo to the Model Y. It will be missing the performance, safety, autonomy, style, and over-the-air updates that I’ve fallen in love with on my Model 3.

Mustang-Inspired Crossover from Ford

Ford crossover
Image captured from Ford YouTube channel

Ford is making some bold claims about its first electric SUV, due out next year as a 2021 model. This week the company unveiled this website, where they claim it will have 600 km (370 mi) range using the WLTP standard, which might convert to about 330 miles EPA range. This would be the highest range in the class! Since this in a Mustang-inspired vehicle, and from watching the YouTube video they released last week, I’m expecting this crossover to be fast. Since it is branded a Ford and not a Lincoln, I’m expecting it to be affordable. Will they sell it nationwide or only in Europe, China, and California? Will they make a few or will they make enough to satisfy consumer demand. Will they advertise it or will they just put it in the back of the lot like happens at many dealers with today’s EVs? I don’t know, but I’m hoping this is a good affordable option and widely available.

Mercedes-Benz EQC

Mercedes-Benz EQC
220 Mercedes-Benz EQC | Image courtesy Mercedes

Mercedes, like BMW, is basing its first electric SUV on a gas and diesel cousin, in this case the GLC. It appears to be about a year ahead of BMW, since Mercedes is giving journalists review vehicles this summer already. It’s expected to be between the benchmark Model Y and the laggard BMW in power and range. It should be similar to BMW in price and autonomy, meaning almost double the price of the Model Y and less autonomy. For those who drive a lot, the savings over the gas- and diesel-powered GLC in fuel and maintenance should be huge and should pay back the premium price quickly. The busy traditional interior will appeal to traditional Mercedes owners, but will feel too cluttered for Tesla fans. Don’t expect it to steal many buyers from the Tesla pool, but it could displace a lot of gas/diesel Mercedes sales.

Nissan IMx

Nissan IMx concept electric SUV
Nissan IMx electric SUV Concept | Image courtesy Nissan

This week we covered the upcoming electric SUV shown to Nissan dealers. We will know more when it debuts next month at the Tokyo Auto Show. Like BMW, Nissan had a huge lead in EVs with its LEAF, introduced in 2010, and has not done as much as is needed keep its lead. The IMx is expected to have second-generation ProPilot and an advanced interior like a Tesla. It should have a good price, but I’ve been very disappointed with the lack of effort Nissan has expended to promote its new LEAF, which has decent range and an attractive mainstream design. I don’t know if it is because of the company’s CEO trouble or if it is just very hard to train dealers to promote EVs that will reduce their service income.

We also don’t know if the IMx has active battery cooling. In Florida, I just wouldn’t take the chance on a new Nissan without active battery cooling after my experience with my 2012 LEAF and the lack of support Nissan provided until it was forced to do so by a class action lawsuit.

Despite concerns, I’m hoping Nissan surprises me and knocks it out of the park.

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Obviously, my money is on the Tesla Model Y, but I think the Byton and Ford (and even the Hyundai Kona EV if Hyundai expands production and makes it available in Florida) have some chance of causing me to buy their models instead of the Model Y, since they would all be affordable EVs with decent range. The Chevy Menlo and the Nissan IMx will find buyers, but it is unlikely I will buy them. The Mercedes EQC, BMW iX3, and already available Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-PACE are just too much money for a small SUV for me to purchase them. They are good cars and will find buyers looking for a more exclusive image and a premium traditional interior, though, as long as their dealers work to sell them.

Use my Tesla referral link before October 1st to get 2,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3 (you can’t use it on the Model Y yet). Here’s the link: https://ts.la/paul92237 (but if someone else helped you, please use their link).

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Paul Fosse

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code: https://ts.la/paul92237

Paul Fosse has 232 posts and counting. See all posts by Paul Fosse