This list is subject to periodic updates, of course, but this is how I see it now. I predict both the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf will sell in sufficient numbers to make them, if not runaway hits, at least modest successes. They have the greatest consumer awareness, the most utility, the best pricing and are supported by solid dealer and promotional bases. The Fisker Karma and the Tesla Model S are also likely to do well, though both will need to meet high quality and performance standards to stay afloat.
I’m bullish about the Ford Focus electric (which will benefit from the company’s strong reputation and marketing clout) and the BMW Megacity Vehicle (for the same reasons). Audi could do well with limited numbers of high-end performance-oriented electric and plug-in hybrid cars, as could Porsche. I especially like Daimler’s A-Class battery car, though it may not appear in the U.S. or become a regular commercial entry. Chrysler/Fiat’s 500 electric may also be a very small, image-burnishing program.
A number of other cars face a tougher time in the market. The Smart car has had a troubled run in the American marketplace, and its “electric drive” version hit the showrooms with a high lease price. A new version is coming, and with Mercedes alone in control it might be a huge improvement. Like Smart, Think (which just survived a near-death experience and now has a Russian owner) has an inherent two-seater limitation, plus a relatively high price. The new owner needs to lower the price, and maybe offer the battery pack in a separate lease offer.
Coda has many hurdles, from a high price to plain-Jane styling. Most of its original executives (including the high-flying CEO, Kevin Czinger) have left, and it’s on indefinite hiatus. Wheego’s ace in the hole is Mike McQuary’s can-do attitude and very low overhead, so it could make it with sales of a few thousand cars a year.
China’s BYD, which intends to import both a battery electric and a plug-in hybrid, has a good chance of making it in the U.S. if it keeps prices low, and brings quality, design and safety up to Western standards (big if). Aptera, well, that one requires a leap of faith. The company, which just returned deposits to customers, is highly dependent on a federal Department of Energy loan that is a bit of a longshot. But Aptera insists it’s still a viable enterprise. But isn’t that Aptera’s dashboard on the DOE home page?
My list is a snapshot in time, capturing a moment in a fast-moving terrain.