Are Electric Cars Ready To Go Mainstream?

Electric cars have been lurking around the automotive periphery for a very long time. Since the advent of the environmental movement in the mid-20th century, the electric car has often been offered up as a cleaner transportation option, capable of one day replacing the mainstream internal combustion engines that drive the majority of the world’s automobiles. As recent concerns regarding harmful greenhouse gas emissions have caused some to reevaluate the use of gasoline and diesel, and the ongoing crises in the Middle East have contributed to a spike in the volatility of oil prices, consumers are reevaluating the electric car as a viable option.

Consumer Reports recently made a startling announcement as part of its review of the new Tesla Model S. This EV received a 99/100, the top rating, after being put through its paces by a group of testers. Testers were impressed not only by the car’s luxurious touches, but also by its sheer practicality – a quality rarely associated with electric cars. The Model S was already named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. Most impressively, the vehicle also outsold all of its gas-powered German competitors last quarter – Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Audi A8.

Traditionally, one of the foremost criticisms of EVs is that they lack the range necessary to make them daily drivers. For example, the Nissan Leaf, another electric vehicle that has received a huge amount of press, has a range of roughly 75 miles. While this may be more than adequate for a quick trip into town or even for a longer work commute, it rapidly falls short when longer distances are mandated. This is where the Model S begins to shine. The car has an average range of roughly 200 miles, but has been known to reach up to 225 miles in temperate climates.

The elimination, in large part, of range anxiety, has made many consumers take a second look at EVs such as the Model S. Consumer Reports found during their review that, “[it’s] easily the most practical electric car we’ve ever tested.” The elimination of the extremely aerodynamic styling and questionable design language of traditional electric cars has also made them much more appealing to the modern consumer.

The avant-garde styling of the Model S, with its emphasis on luxury and futuristic technology, has made the $62,400 asking price far more palatable to consumers, who have long resisted paying the large asking prices typical of EVs. Now that Tesla has proved that an EV can properly compete in the luxury market, many consumers who would previously shun such a car in favor of rivals from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes may now be far more willing to migrate over to a car like the Model S.

The Model S is the first car since 2007 to receive Consumer Reports’ highest ranking. Consumer Reports best summarized its reactions to the vehicle when they wrote, “Is the Tesla Model S the best car ever? It comes close.” Cars like this are paving the way for EVs to hit the mainstream auto market. While the Model S occupies a definite luxury niche, its astounding practicality and artful styling may finally convince consumers to give EVs a try.


[Sources: Tesla, Consumer Reports, Auto Week, Detroit News]