Will consumers buy BEVs with less than around 250 miles of range based on the EPA test cycle?
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, doesn’t think so — or at least doesn’t think they should be offered — and recently declared that 300 miles was the new normal. Underneath my recent article on this topic, “Is Elon Musk Wrong About An Under-250-Mile Range Model Y?,” I’d venture that the vast majority of the 200+ comments agreed with Musk.
While my article and arguments (both for and against) were focused mostly on the US market and consumers, one of my points was that a shorter range (equivalency of less than 250 miles of EPA range) Model Y would probably sell well in Europe. I wrote:
Europeans need less range: A lower range Model Y could be a massive hit in European countries where trains and regional flights provide a convenient alternative to long road trips in a car. With access to great train systems, most Europeans clearly can get by with a shorter range BEV. Although, surprisingly, they expect more range than North Americans, according to a recent CleanTechnica survey.
While I’ve traveled a a decent amount in Europe and my daughter currently lives in London (without a car), I’ve never actually lived there and CleanTechnica chief editor, Zachary Shahan, who lived in Europe for more than 10 years shared several contrarian thoughts, including:
When it comes to road trips, Europeans with cars do tend to go on far away road trips in their cars — if they don’t fly or, less commonly, take a train.
So, I was intrigued to look at the charts in the July 29 article from José Pontes, “Record EV Sales In Europe.” For the first 6 months (January through June) of 2020, European sales of EVs were led by the Renault Zoe, which has a WLTP range of 245 miles (roughly equal to 219 miles under the EPA test cycle).
Hmm. Not far behind the Zoe and likely to surpass it in the next few months is the Tesla Model 3. Now, as far as I know, data doesn’t exist on sales by the different variations of the Model 3 (and other EVs with different battery pack options), which has three range options of 348, 329, and 254 WLTP miles of range. So, I used the top range available on all BEVs if they were available in two or more battery pack options.
Out of the top 10 fully electric vehicles (BEVs) in José’s chart, 7 of the BEVs had a range of fewer than 280 miles (WLTP), the rough equivalency to 250 EPA miles on most BEVs using the 1.121 conversion ratio derived from analysis by InsideEVs.
With a WLTP range of a paltry 144 miles, the VW e-Golf has sold the third most units so far this year. I then compared the sales volume of the three BEVs with at least 280 miles of WLTP range (Model 3, Hyundai Kona EV, and Kia Niro EV) to the other 7 BEVs with fewer than 280 miles of WLTP range.
And those 7 lower range BEVs outsold the other 3 by more than two to one — 109,509 to 53,186. The average sales for the 6-month period and range for the 3 longer-range BEVs is 17,729 units/307 miles versus 15,644/204 for the 7 shorter-range BEVs.
Now, what about price? The Model 3 and Audi e-Tron had the 2nd and 4th most sales YTD, but also were the two highest priced EVs of the top 10 BEVs. But the Model 3 Long Range also has 100 miles more range than the Audi e-Tron.
Lower-range and lower-cost BEVs do well across the board, with the Zoe and e-Golf having the first and third position, and the Peugeot 208 EV and Nissan LEAF ranking 5th and 6th in terms of most unit sales this year. In the US in the last few years, we’ve seen 250–300+ EPA mile range models from Tesla dominate the top of the sales chart, while lower-range BEVs sales generally have declined or simply never grew to a significant level.
What Does the European Sales Data Tell Us?
So, what, if anything, does the data mean? It likely depends on how you interpret it.
For me, the fact that the lower-range EVs outsell the longer-range ones 2 to 1 in aggregate at minimum suggests that in Europe there is indeed a significant market for shorter-range BEVs. The lesser-range BEVs are selling well in part because they are priced lower, of course, and many European consumers are clearly comfortable with the tradeoff of less range in exchange for a much lower price.
And that was entirely the point in my previous article about a lower-range Model Y — at a lower price point, it could potentially sell in much greater volume, especially in Europe.
It is also possible, of course, that if those other lower-range models had more range, they might also sell in higher volumes.
But it is difficult to extract too many concrete insights from the price to sales and range correlations, as availability of models, brand attractiveness, and other factors could also greatly affect sales volume.
A year from now, however, the sales charts will likely have a very different mix, with longer-range BEVs such as the Model Y, VW ID.3, and ID.4 probably dominating the top of the sales charts.
But if longer range BEVs of 300 miles or more of EPA range (the equivalency of about 336 miles under the WLTP test cycle) were the new normal (as Musk declared) in Europe, then Europeans would mostly be buying the only BEV that met that range minimum — the Long Range (including Performance) version of the Model 3. (Yes, I know there are supply issues for the Model 3.)
As I outlined in my previous article, there are multiple business and brand reasons for Tesla to not offer a Model Y Standard Range. But in Europe, with a different competitive mix of EVs and brands combined with perhaps a different consumer mindset, a Model Y Standard Range could potentially dominate the sales charts for the next several years.