Tesla took a big wager when it decided to launch the Model 3. Being a vehicle intended for the mass market, the sheer gauge of the car’s manufacture was something that Tesla has not dealt earlier.
It took more time than anticipated and trip through “production hell,” but the Model 3 has now been ramped, with Elon Musk noting that manufacturing 5,000 of the vehicles for each week is now no big deal for Tesla.
The market’s reception to the Model 3 has been encouraging. The vehicle has been performing well in the United States, ranking among America’s top-selling passenger autos. In September alone, the Model 3 became the 4th top-selling vehicle in the US based on sales volume.
Based on income, the Model 3 was even more impressive, ranking first among passenger vehicles sold in the nation. Tesla does not appear to be planning on pulling back from its Model 3 push either, as the electric carmaker has begun rolling out shows of the vehicle to Europe and Asia this month.
In the midst of the obvious achievement of the Model 3 and Elon Musk’s high-stakes wager on the electric car, another class of vehicles has started to show notable signs of a decline — the plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are armed with both an electric engine and an internal combustion engine.
PHEVs have mostly served as the “gateway” vehicles for clients looking to make the jump to electric transportation. Being armed with a gasoline motor, owners need not worry about any of the initial drawbacks of pure EVs, such as limited range.
Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center director Gil Tal noted to a news agency that in a way, PHEVs are like the “training wheels” of the electric car movement. That said, Tal noted that as practical, capable EVs like the Model 3 emerge, customers may simply skip PHEVs and adopt all-electric cars instead.
“A full electric (car) is a much more elegant solution. It’s very simple to build and very low maintenance. It’s just a much more simple story. Plug-in hybrids are just the training wheels in the industry’s preparation for electric cars,” Tal said
In a way, the seeming demise of the PHEV appeared to have been forecasted by Elon Musk eight years ago. In an announcement to the media in the opening ceremony of the Fremont factory, Musk compared PHEVs to amphibians in the process of development. And just like amphibians, Musk noted that the number of PHEVs would probably decrease as the market moves into the full-electric period.
“(PHEVs are) similar to an amphibian. In the transition from the oceans to land, initially, there were a lot of amphibians. Now there’s not that many amphibians. So the only reason you’d ever need that gasoline engine is if the battery pack does not have enough range, if the recharge times are really slow, and all those things will get solved. So there’s a medium-term role for a plug-in hybrid, but in our view, not a long-term role. I think there’s a role for plug-in hybrids today and there’s a role for electrics, but I think long-term, it all goes electric.”
The apparently impending death of the plug-in hybrid is not just the result of electric vehicles likeTesla’s Model S, 3, and X. Earlier this year, a Forbes report earlier this year noted that the efforts (or lack thereof) of manufacturers such as GM are partly to blame for the decline of PHEVs.
That said, GM appears to be taking its EV initiative seriously this time around. Earlier this month, for one, VP of global strategy Mike Ableson boldly declared during a press conference that GM is looking to “lead the industry in EVs sometime in the next decade or so.” The next years will determine if these words will be true.
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Categories: Automobile Industry