One of the keys to Tesla's success so far is that it has existed for quite a while with bountiful tax subsidies and little or no competition from other plug-in electric vehicles. Until the Chevrolet Bolt came along with more than 200 miles of range on a charge, the most any other electric cars could muster was barely 100 miles.
Now it looks like the competition for electric car buyers is heating up with several well-engineered luxury vehicles from well-funded manufacturers heading for dealerships across the country.
Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar are all launching production vehicles — crossovers, no less — that will create some real competition for Tesla. And this happens as the federal tax incentives begin to wind down for Tesla, which has reached the 200,000-sale threshold where federal EV credits start to phase out.
Consumers are going to be able to visit their local dealership and decide whether they find the newest crop of electric cars appealing, and we are going to learn a few things as these entries come on the market.
Are consumers more interested in electric cars when they are available from a franchised dealer? And now that cars will be available from luxury brands such as Audi and Mercedes, in addition to Nissan and Chevrolet, will that put Tesla at a disadvantage?
As distribution increases nationwide, is there a broad market for electric vehicles, and will consumers become more interested in them?
Up to this point, a great deal of the activity surrounding electric vehicles was clearly motivated by governments, through a combination of regulation and incentives. And with few choices, it was hard to determine the true size of the consumer market.
Now it appears that electric vehicles are about to become a more mainstream option. Whether consumers are as interested in EVs as governments have been remains to be seen. But for now, we have an interesting contest between electric and internal combustion engines.