Cheaper electric vehicles coming despite high battery costs

Electric and hybrid cars charging at public charging stations in Gothenburg, Sweden. [iStockphoto]

Even though battery costs are rising, auto companies are rolling out more affordable electric vehicles that should widen their appeal to a larger group of buyers.

The latest came Thursday from General Motors, a Chevrolet Equinox small SUV (sport utility vehicle) with a starting price somewhere around $30,000 (Sh3.6 million) and a range-per-charge of 250 miles (400 kilometres).

You can get a range of 300 miles (500 kilometres) if you pay more. GM won't release the exact price of the Equinox EV until closer to the date it goes on sale, about this time next year. But the SUV is at the low end of Edmunds.com's list of prices for electric vehicles sold in the US, where the average cost of an EV is around $65,000 (Sh7.8 million).

Hitting a price around $30,000 (Sh3.6 million) and a range per charge close to 300 miles is key to getting mainstream buyers to switch away from gasoline vehicles, industry analysts say.

“You're kind of at that sweet spot,” said Ivan Drury, director of insights for Edmunds.com. “You're basically at the price point that everyone is clamouring for.”

Auto industry analysts say that if the Equinox makes efficient use of interior space with plenty of cargo and passenger room, and if it is styled similar to current gas-powered small SUVs, it should be a hit in the most popular segment of the US auto market.

About 20 per cent of all new vehicles sold in the US are compact SUVs. “It's a perfect vehicle for a lot of different users, whether it's a small family, maybe an empty nester,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area consulting firm.