The New Electric Vehicles Now Hitting the Road

Source: By Ben Foldy, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Monday, February 15, 2021

Auto giants and startups alike hope to spark a boom

For car companies with big electric ambitions, 2021 is going to be a make or break year.

More than a dozen new electric-vehicle models are set to arrive in U.S. showrooms this year as Silicon Valley-inspired startups and established auto makers like General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG VOW -1.04% show drivers the results of billions in spending on the technology.

For consumers, that’s going to mean more plug-in options on the new car lot than ever before. But whether car makers can persuade buyers to ditch fossil fuels for good is still uncertain.

Many challenges remain for electric vehicles: not enough places to charge, limited travel range and sticker prices that are still higher than similar rides powered by conventional gasoline engines. An existing federal tax credit worth $7,500 aims to help bridge the price gap and industry representatives have said they hope to expand the benefit through new legislation.An influx of new electric-car models helped boost sales of battery-powered vehicles in Europe and China last year. But in the U.S., where buyers had fewer choices and less in the way of government-backed incentives, electric-car sales fell around 10% in 2020, industry analysts say.

Tesla Inc. currently dominates the U.S. plug-in market, selling four out of five all-electric vehicles purchased in 2020, according to industry consultant EV-Volumes. Tesla doesn’t break out its U.S. sales separately.

Other auto makers’ commitment to electric vehicles has only intensified in the past year, despite the global pandemic’s depressing effect on vehicle sales.

Wall Street continues to up its bet on the technology, rewarding new startups that have yet to produce a single electric car but are commanding eye-popping valuations. The Biden administration is also throwing its backing behind electric vehicles, pledging to build a half-million public chargers by 2030.

Chief executives like GM’s Mary Barra and VW’s Herbert Diess have staked their legacies on successfully shifting their businesses to electric vehicles. Lucid Motors Inc., Rivian Automotive LLC and other well-capitalized startups are also joining the race, aiming to roll their first models off U.S. assembly lines this year.

The stakes are high, with legacy car makers struggling to prove they can build electric cars that compete with Tesla and upstarts eager to show they too can carve out a place in the market.

Here is a look at what hits the market this year and why it is significant:

Photo: James Lipman/Ford Motor Co./Associated Press
Ford Mustang Mach-E

Built in: Mexico

On Sale:Available now

Ford Motor Co. took a risk in tying its all-new electric SUV to the famed Mustang sports-car line. The company is hoping the rapid off-the-line acceleration delivered by the model’s electric motors will give it the feel of a muscle car—without the emissions-spewing guilt. The vehicle starts around $43,000 before tax incentives and is loaded with technology that Ford hopes will appeal to millennials who might otherwise buy Tesla’s Model Y SUV. The company will also bring out an electric version of its Transit van, a popular model with contractors and commercial fleets.

Photo: Volkswagen
Volkswagen ID.4

Built in: Germany; Tennessee starting in 2022

On Sale:March

Volkswagen, battered by the Dieselgate scandal, is trying to transform itself into a car company that cannot only take on Tesla but bring electric vehicles into the mainstream with more affordable and appealing models. It is placing one of the industry’s biggest investments on the technology: about $42 billion over the next five years. The ID.4, which starts around $40,000 before tax incentives, is the VW brand’s first all-electric SUV to be sold in the U.S. Company executives are hoping it will resonate with American buyers much like the Volkswagen Beetle did in the 1960s.

Photo: Lucid LLC
Lucid Air

Built in: Arizona

On Sale:Spring

Lucid Motors Inc. is one of several electric-car startups getting attention from investors these days. The Lucid Air is its first model, a high-end sedan that its executives say will outperform Tesla on top speed and acceleration and take aim at BMW and Mercedes-Benz with premium interiors meant to compete with their top-end models. The Air will start around $80,000 before tax incentives, with the first top-end versions selling for about $169,000. The company claims some Airs will be able to drive over 500 miles on a single charge, a figure that if certified by the Environmental Protection Agency would lead the industry, beating the 402-mile range of Tesla’s Model S Long Range Plus, the current range champion.

Photo: Rivian LLC
Rivian R1T & R1S

Built in: Illinois

On Sale:R1T in June; R1S in August

Rivian Automotive, another electric-vehicle startup based in California, plans to release its first electric pickup truck, the R1T, this summer, taking direct aim at Detroit’s long-held dominance in the U.S.’s highly lucrative truck market with models starting at $67,500 before tax incentives, with the first models selling for $75,000. The 12-year-old firm, whose backers include Inc., Ford and asset manager T. Rowe Price Group Inc., also plans to debut a fully electric SUV this year, called the R1S. Both are aimed at shoppers with a love of the outdoors, who will buy their vehicles from the auto maker directly, rather than from dealerships, similar to Tesla’s sales model.

Photo: Daniel Wollstein/Audi/Associated Press
Audi e-tron GT

Built: Germany

On Sale: Summer

Audi’s e-tron line of electric vehicles has so far only offered SUVs. No longer. With the GT, Audi offers a four-door luxury sports car that shares underlying engineering with the Taycan made by Porsche, also owned by VW Group. The new model, which will start at about $100,000 before tax incentives and is being built at the same factory where Audi makes its race cars and R8 supercar, is targeting a rising part of the market: high-performance luxury cars powered by electric motors. The brand will also debut the Q4, Audi’s luxury take on the VW ID.4 by the end of the year.

Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg News
Lordstown Endurance

Built in: Ohio

On Sale:September

Like Rivian, Lordstown Motors Corp. is trying to break into the pickup-truck market with its first model, the Endurance, a fully electric work truck that it plans to sell directly to commercial customers (not individuals in showrooms) starting at $52,500 before tax incentives. The startup, which purchased GM’s shuttered Lordstown, Ohio, factory in 2019, is hoping its battery-electric truck will appeal to businesses that operate large vehicle fleets because they typically have lower maintenance costs.

Photo: Daimler
Mercedes-Benz EQS

Built: Germany

On Sale: Fall

Mercedes-Benz first planned to bring its EQC SUV to the U.S. early last year, but those plans were derailed because the company said it needed to meet rising electric-car demand first in Europe. Now, it is giving the U.S. another go with the EQS, a large luxury sedan that likely will be priced at the top end—similar to the brand’s S-Class that starts at more than $100,000. The car will feature a 56-inch curved display in the dashboard the company is calling a “Hyperscreen.”

Photo: GMC/Stanley
GMC Hummer

Built in: Michigan

On Sale: Fall

GM is plowing billions into electric-vehicle development, having set a target of phasing out gas and diesel-powered vehicles from its showrooms by 2035. The all-electric GMC Hummer, a revival of a nameplate once associated with environmentally-disinterested excess, is among the first in a wave of 30 new battery-powered models the Detroit auto giant plans to release globally in the next four years. The 2021 model-year truck will be priced around $112,000. A $100,000 version is expected to arrive the following year. GM is also set to introduce a new SUV version of the Chevrolet Bolt this year.

Photo: Yonhap News/Zuma Press
Hyundai Ioniq 5

Built in: South Korea

On Sale:Expected Fall

Like other major car companies, Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group is making big bets on the technology, aiming to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025. It has promised to debut 23 new plug-in models by that year and plans to sell electric vehicles under a new subbrand called Ioniq. The Ioniq 5, a midsize SUV that will compete with similar mass-market models from VW, Tesla and others, will launch the new subbrand.

Photo: kazuhiro nogi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Nissan Ariya

Built: Japan

On Sale: By the end of 2021

Nissan Motor Co. was an early pioneer of the mass-market electric car when it debuted the Leaf in 2010. But since then, it’s slipped behind faster-moving competitors. The Japanese auto maker is hoping to reverse that trend with the new all-electric Ariya, a compact SUV that like the VW ID.4 and Ford Mach-E aims to tap buyers’ growing appetite for battery-powered SUVs with lots of new tech.

Photo: Dylan Stewart/Image of Sports/Newscom/Zuma Press
Tesla Cybertruck

Built in: Texas

On Sale:Targeting late 2021 or 2022

Tesla plans to further expand its lineup with the much-anticipated Cybertruck, a triangle-shaped electric pickup that is to hit the market not long after the Rivian R1T and Lordstown Endurance.


What would you need to see in an electric vehicle to decide to buy one? Join the conversation below.

Tesla has said the truck will start at about $40,000, with a higher-end model capable of traveling more than 500 miles on a single charge costing around $70,000. The model’s design, which CEO Elon Musk said was influenced by sci-fi films like “Blade Runner,” has so far received mixed reviews. But in the electric-car market, Tesla’s brand equity continues to trump that of better-established car companies, and Mr. Musk’s bold bets have paid off in the past.

Write to Ben Foldy at