In the next few years, a series of new plug-in hybrid and electric SUVs or pickups are expected to be launched in the US market. Popular Jeep Wrangler SUVs and Ford F-150 pickups will be available in electric versions. GM will even revive the Hummer brand with an electric pickup, people familiar with the matter said. Hummers used to be a symbol of excessive fuel consumption.
Figure: plug in hybrid or electric vehicles launched in the U.S. market over the years.
Auto executives say they are trying to cater to consumer preferences. In recent years, consumers tend to buy bigger pickups and SUVs with more functions. These models are often more profitable than cars, helping manufacturers absorb expensive battery costs.
The progress of electric vehicle technology has also promoted the transformation of the whole market to large vehicles. The current electric vehicle technology enables automobile manufacturers to manufacture more powerful battery packs, making it more convenient for large vehicles to drive, and the driving range of a single charge is longer.
If you really want people to focus on electric cars, you have to cater to their interests, said Darren Palmer, global product director of Fords electrification program
According to Alix partners, a global consultancy, 78 plug-in hybrid and pure electric SUVs will be available to consumers by 2022, up from 38 last year. By contrast, there were only four models of the same type on the market in 2015. Analysts also expect about six electric pickups to be on the market in the next two years. Among them, there are plug-in hybrid vehicles and all electric vehicles.
European luxury car brands such as Audi and Jaguar have taken the lead. They have launched new electric SUVs in the US market. After several years of improvement, the range of these models has exceeded 321 km.
Ford will begin selling its electric SUV, Ford Mustang mach-e, this year. Last month, the company said it would invest $700 million in hybrid and electric F-150 pickups.
Similarly, this year Toyota will launch a plug-in RAV4 compact SUV. RAV4 is also the companys best-selling model.
Figure: SUVs, crossover cars and pickups currently account for more than 70% of total U.S. car sales.
GM is restructuring its Detroit plant to produce new electric Hummers and other electric SUVs. Earlier this month, Fiat Chryslers Jeep brand said it planned to launch an electric version of all models by 2022 and the first plug-in hybrid in the US later this year.
Tesla is also expanding its product line, with plans to start selling a new model y crossover in the US later this year. Rivian, the start-up of electric vehicles, has been committed to manufacturing all electric pickups and SUVs.
Figure: but SUVs and pickups account for less than 20% of hybrid and electric vehicle sales.
However, these products have not gained wider appeal. According to J.D.Power, a market research firm, plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for only about 2.4% of the overall U.S. market last year.
Christian Meunier, global president of the Jeep brand, said automakers realized that if they wanted to stimulate broader market demand for these hybrid or electric vehicles, they would have to go beyond a sales model that simply focused on environmental protection.
Illustration: Ford will start selling its electric SUV, Ford Mustang mach-e this year.
We cant just rely on government subsidies and incentives, Monier said. We need to take the initiative.
According to aribo, the global automotive industry is committed to investing more than $225 billion in more electric vehicles by 2023, and auto companies are eager to see returns and expect more profits from SUVs and pickups.
But analysts say there are risks.
Brandon Mason, head of PwCs U.S. auto business, said it was unclear whether there was enough market demand, given consumers limited interest in electric vehicles, or whether the company could sell enough cars to recover costs.
Figure: Tesla plans to start selling a new model y crossover in the US later this year
Brian Johnson, an auto analyst at Barclays, an investment bank, points out that people who buy large SUVs and pickups are often used to drag other things, but they may have to make concessions on electric models because dragging can run out of mileage.
Mason said the models may also have to deal with many of the same challenges that electric vehicles have faced in the past, such as drivers concern that their batteries are running low or that they cant find a place to charge them.
These are all obstacles that have to be overcome, Mason said. (Chen Chen)