Segmenting the Current EV Market
In my last post, I complained about not having many currently-available EVs from which to choose in order to preview what EV car ownership might look like by 2035. That’s about to change, though, and soon.
Today as I write this, a bunch of YouTube reviews of Ford’s Mustang Mach-E just posted. Until I viewed them, I wasn’t the least bit interested in Ford’s electric “Mustang”, but I have to admit I’m somewhat intrigued. Meanwhile, VW is readying their first 200+ mile-range EV for the market, the ID.4 (with more on the way, including, I hope, an electric take on the beloved Microbus). And promising EVs in the truck segment are on the horizon, including Rivian’s RT1 truck and R1S SUV, GMC’s ridiculous Hummer EV, and the ultra-cool, ultra-expensive Bollinger Motors vehicles.
Of all these soon-to-be-available vehicles, only the Mach-E and perhaps the Microbus would meet my specific search criteria, which I’ll recap here for reference:
I am going through the motions of researching, test driving, and considering the costs were I to own, drive, and insure an electric vehicle here in California. To focus my efforts, I’ve set the following parameters:
Since California's 2035 goal would only allow the sales of zero-emission vehicles, I am only looking at all-electric vehicles (as opposed to hybrids).
I am researching vehicles that could serve as my one-and-only rather than as just a grocery-getter. That translates to 4+ passenger cars with at least a 200-mile range.
To keep it realistic, I’m researching cars generally within my budget. As much as I’d love to test drive a Taycan or Polestar, I’m (sadly) limiting my behind-the wheel research to cars I can theoretically afford.
I’m also looking at EVs that I would actually be interested in driving, which means no SUVs or huge sedans.
This search initially led me to test-drive the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, but the exercise still left me wanting. Were I in the market for an EV as my only car, I would crave options that are driver-focused and engaging, and the current market simply doesn’t really deliver that right now. That’s changing, but will what’s coming satisfy driving enthusiasts like me?
As more electric vehicles become available, I’m seeing a few segments emerging for EVs that differ from their gasoline-powered brethren. These are not expert takes or comprehensive--just my own (quirky) observations:
1. Small, short-range urban runabouts
Where it all began for EVs (at least since about 2009). Until the Tesla Model S was released, these were the kinds of EVs that probably came to mind for most people. The Nissan Leaf, which has been in production for ten years(!), is a great example of such a short-errand go-getter.
Though I haven’t test-driven any cars in this segment because they wouldn’t meet my search criteria, I suspect they’re quite fun to drive. Indeed, during our conversation about hydrogen-powered cars, Tom Voelk singled out the MINI E as one of his favorite cars of the year, citing the MINI’s great driving dynamics. Sadly, the MINI, along with other cars in this segment, just don’t offer the range that a lot of potential buyers would want.
Cars in this segment include MINI E, Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, BMWi3
2. Do-everything, plug-in appliances
These cars aren’t exciting--and that’s perfectly fine, as most passenger cars aren’t exciting to drive. It’s a “normal” car, and that’s part of their appeal. They’re functional and practical but still expensive relative to gasoline-powered variants.
Some cars in this segment: Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq, all those cursed CUVs
3. The “anything your car can do mine can do better” segment
Some people--perhaps a lot of people--need convincing to purchase EVs at this point. It’s no wonder, then, that manufacturers tout stats and features that champion these EVs as do-it-all übercars that are fast, practical, fun, and awash with high-tech. Zero to sixty in five seconds! Practically drives you! Lots of cargo space! A waterproof frunk for all those times you wished your car was also a cooler! Falcon doors and strange door handles! Some of these features do impress me; others, like the cooler-trunk, seem like they’re gimmicks more than anything. All of these cars are pricey ($40K+).
Non-“ludicrous” Teslas, Polestar 2, maybe the Mustang Mach-E
4. The “this is truckier than a truck” segment
See #3 above, but aimed at folks who would otherwise buy Ford F150s, Ram Whatevers, Jeep Gladiators, and the like. I must admit, as someone who wouldn’t be interested in buying a truck or SUV, some of these rigs look very interesting. And if the press materials and initial reviews prove true, these ETs (get it?) will perform on- and off-road in ways that could rival the trucks available today. I even went so far as to configure a Rivian R1T, just for the heck of it.
Rivian, Hummer EV, Bollinger, and yes, the Tesla Cybertruck
5. The “this is what you want but can’t afford” segment
The Porsche Taycan: now that’s a car I would want to drive, to own. It’s actually designed for driving. And it’s far too expensive for folks like me.
These cars are aspirational, as Todd & Paul would say, and include Porsche’s Taycan, the Polestar 1, and the Tesla Roadster (though I’ll believe it exists when I see it)
Imperfect as these subjective EV “segments” are, they do help me understand what kinds of EVs are available now or will be available in the next couple of years. They also help me recognize which segments are conspicuously absent for the time-being. No somewhat-affordable, smallish sportscars or performance coupes. Not one. No convertibles (Mazda, please. PLEASE). No hot e-hatches (and something called a Mustang with a hatch doesn’t count). No vans to speak of (though the Microbus might be coming). In other words, EVs will not rescue segments that are on the wane in the gasoline-powered world.
We’re still in early days, of course, and as the market for EVs inevitably grows, so too will our options. There’s hope for the e-86 platform yet.
Erik JP Drobey lives in San Francisco. He chronicles some of his culinary and vehicular adventures on Instagram as @zjpd.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.