January 15 (UPI) — Car makers have high hopes for plans to develop electric vehicles, according tomedia reports. Given the existing market reaction and consumer preferences, they are focusing on electric SUVs and pickups to meet consumer demand for large family cars. In the next few years, a series of new plug-in hybrids and electric SUVs or pickups are expected to be available in the U.S. market. Cars such as the popular Jeep Shepherd SUV and the Ford F-150 pickup will be available in electric versions.
GM will even revive the Hummer brand with electric pickups, people familiar with the matter said. Hummers were once a symbol of excessive fuel consumption.
Graphic: Plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles that have been on the market in the U.S. over the years.
Auto industry executives say they are trying to pander to consumer preferences. In recent years, consumers have tended to prefer larger pickups and SUVs with more features. These models are often more profitable than cars, helping manufacturers absorb expensive battery costs.
Advances in electric vehicle technology have also driven the shift from the market to larger vehicles. Today’s electric-electric technology allows automakers to build more powerful battery packs, making it easier for large cars to drive and longer ranges for a single charge.
“If you really want people to focus on electric cars, you have to cater to their interests,” said Darren Palmer, global product director for Ford Motor Co.’s electrification program. “
By 2022, 78 plug-in hybrids and pure electric SUVs will be available for consumers, up from 38 last year, according to Alix Partners, a global consultancy. By comparison, there were only four similar models on the market in 2015. Analysts also expect about six electric pickups to be on the market in the next two years. Among them are plug-in hybrid vehicles, but also all-electric vehicles.
European luxury car brands such as Audi and Jaguar are already at the forefront. They are rolling out new electric SUVs in the U.S. market. After several years of improvement, these models have a range of more than 321 kilometers.
Ford will start selling its electric SUV for the Ford Mustang Mach-E this year. The company said last month it would invest $700 million in hybrid and electric versions of the F-150 pickup.
Similarly, toyota will launch an plug-in RAV4 compact SUV this year. The RAV4 is also the company’s best-selling model.
Graphic: SUVs, crossovers and pickuptrucks now account for more than 70% of total U.S. auto sales.
GM is restructuring its Detroit plant to produce new electric Hummers and other electric SUVs. Earlier this month, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand said it planned to launch an electric version of all models by 2022 and the first plug-in hybrid in the U.S. market later this year.
Tesla is also expanding its product line and plans to begin selling a new Model Y crossover in the U.S. market later this year. Electric car start-up Rivian has been working on all-electric pickups and SUVs.
But large cars such as SUVs and pickups account for less than 20% of hybrid and electric car sales.
For years, most car companies have largely made electric cars as so-called compliant or fuel-efficient models, just to meet stricter emissions regulations. Most customers who buy electric cars will opt for smaller models such as the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf.
However, these products have not gained wider appeal. Last year, sales of plug-in hybrids accounted for only about 2.4 percent of the U.S. market, according to J.D. Power, a market research firm.
Christian Meunier, global president of Jeep brands, says carmakers realise that if they want to stimulate wider demand for these hybrids or electric vehicles, they must go beyond a sales model that is purely green-only.
Graphic: Ford will begin selling its electric SUV, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, this year.
“We can’t just rely on government subsidies and incentives,” Monier said. We need to take the initiative. “
The global auto industry has pledged to spend more than $225 billion on more electric vehicles by 2023, according to Aer Of, and car companies are eager to see returns and expect to make more money from SUVs and pickups.
But analysts say there are risks.
Brandon Mason, pwypwpw’s head of U.S. automotive, said it was unclear whether there was enough market demand or whether the company would be able to sell enough cars to recover costs, given the limited consumer interest in electric vehicles.
Pictured: Tesla plans to start selling a new Model Y crossover in the U.S. market later this year
According to the International Commission on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the price of electric and plug-in hybrids is still much higher than that of fuel cars. Depending on the range and model, consumers will spend an extra $6,000 to $20,000. Analysts say that while tax credits are available at the federal and state levels to close the price gap, the price gap for many of the larger models remains large.
Brian Johnson, automotive analyst at Barclays, an investment bank, points out that people buy large SUVs and pickups often tow other things, but they may have to make concessions on electric models because towing can exhaust the car’s mileage.
Mr. Mason said the models may also have to deal with many of the same challenges electric vehicles have faced in the past, such as drivers worrying about running low or finding a place to recharge.
“These are obstacles that must be overcome,” Mason said.