BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN there are only one or two car makers ploughing a somewhat lonely way through the electric car field, it’s hard to get momentum. This has been the case for many years with the Renault-Nissan alliance. Their models Leaf and Zoe had that field to themselves.
Then along came Koreans in the form of Hyundai’s Ioniq and Kona electric, Kia’s e-Niro and the Continental Tyres Irish Car of the Year winner e-Soul. The Kona electric is the one that made serious inroads in Ireland, matching sales of the Nissan Leaf in 2019. Between the two of them, they garnered close to two-thirds of the electric car registrations for the year.
That was a worthwhile figure, with in excess of 3,400 electric cars registered, that field is no longer a lonely one.
Renault’s Zoe electric supermini is in third space in the Irish sales, in relatively small numbers compared to the top two, perhaps reflecting the preference for the compact family segment here. The Volkswagen e-Golf has also done well in the last 12 months.
Tesla’s Model S is also on the local market now, offering ‘affordability’ in its brand. That has worked already, lifting Tesla to third in the electric brands league, and just after the e-Golf amongst the models.
BMW might privately be unhappy with the place occupied by its i3, given that it has been around for more years than most of the newcomers. There’s a lesson here, that going for an avant garde style to make a point of being special isn’t necessarily what the customer is looking for.
Kia pretty well matched BMW’s performance in brand terms with its late to the party e-Soul and e-Niro, which registered in roughly similar numbers.
Tesla’s Model S and X, Audi’s e-Tron, and Jaguar’s I-Pace filled out the serious sales for the year, all high end and expensive. The Mercedes-Benz EQC only registered a few demonstrators, pending availability of product for 2020 itself.
For this coming year, the electric battle is going to heat up. At the ‘ordinary’ consumer end, Volkswagen’s ID 3 will be the first dedicated electric car from the brand, Golf-sized and likely to push out eventually the e-Golf itself.
Also from Peugeot and its now familial Opel, the electric versions of the new 208 and Corsa respectively are already being strongly promoted. Developed in tandem by the owner of both brands, PSA Group, they’ll have marketing punch behind them.
An upgraded Ioniq from Hyundai has just arrived, offering a range closer to the competition both from in-house and the French-Japanese brands. And the Renault Zoe with an uprated 52kWh battery gets the car’s range close to the 400kms which makes it competitive with everything else. You can also now order an electric Porsche, the Taycan , and we will be seeing two more Audi electrics, a smaller version of the e-Tron and also a coupé variant. Ford will launch its electric SUV Mustang Mach-E. A new Mini Electric is imminent. As also is the Polestar 2 from Volvo, targeting the Tesla Model 3 space. Tesla is also launching a Model Y towards the end of the year, a 7-seater on the Model 3 platform. Not yet revealed is an electric BMW X3.
At the last count, I figure 2020 buyers interested in going electric will have no less than 25 models to choose from. Does that make electric mainstream? Remains to be seen. It also remains to be decided whether availability of the segment is sustainable. Battery materials are expensive and come too often from politically unstable places, perhaps also with unethical labour practices. There’s also the question mark over the total carbon footprint of an electric car from manufacture to disposal.
None of which was ever an impediment to us accepting fossil fuels for our personal transport, which often came with similar baggage. In the meantime, there’s more and more electric choice.