Tesla got a head start in the premium electric vehicle segment.
The original, Lotus-based Roadster was an appetizer. Starting with the Model S in 2012, it demonstrated it’s possible to make an electric car that’s fast, luxurious and desirable. Led by its energetic co-founder Elon Musk, the California-based company has faced relatively little competition but that’s set to change in the next few years.
From the well-known to the obscure, here are some of the models that rival manufacturers big and small hope will create a headwind for the start-up.
Jaguar I-Pace (2018)
Jaguar took the first serious shot at Tesla when it released the I-Pace. Unveiled at the 2018 Geneva motor show, the I-Pace stands out with a bold, tradition-breaking design and up to 298 miles of range according to the WLTP cycle. The dual-motor layout enables through-the-road all-wheel drive while the battery pack lowers its centre of gravity.
Jaguar wisely slotted the I-Pace below the Model X in terms of size, performance, range and price. Pricing starts at £58,995 (UK) and US$69,500 in America. In comparison, Tesla asks £72,700 (UK) and US$80,700 in the US for the base Model X. It’s a strategy that places the I-Pace in a segment of its own for the time being but it won’t enjoy its monopoly for much longer. We've just driven the I-Pace; we think it's the best all-electric model out there right now.
Audi E-tron Quattro (2018)
Audi will introduce the E-tron Quattro in August 2018. While it will compete in the same segment as the I-Pace, Audi took a much different path to the electric car segment than Jaguar. From what we’ve seen of it, there isn’t much in the design that alludes to the electric powertrain lurking under the sheet metal. It’s fairly conservative with styling cues borrowed from other members of Audi’s SUV family like the Q5 and the Q7.
The E-tron Quattro has a neat trick up its sleeve to maximize range. In some markets, it will be offered with cameras in lieu of traditional mirrors, a technology already seen on the Volkswagen XL1 but offered on a volume-produced car for the first time. They help reduce the SUV’s aerodynamic drag to just 0.28 while giving driving range a boost. Audi quotes a 248-mile range on the WLTP cycle.
Faraday Future FF 91 (2018)
Funded by controversial Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, Faraday Future vociferously declared its intention to tear Tesla to shreds by making an electric, semi-autonomous SUV-saloon cross named FF 91. It promised the highest level of technology available and an eye-poppingly quick claimed 0-60 time of 2.4sec. All the company has delivered so far are Hollywood-worthy plot twists.
Faraday cancelled plans to build a grandiose factory on the outskirts of Las Vegas and retreated to California where it leased a former Pirelli factory. Several lawsuits, millions in debt and a crippling staff exodus threatened the company’s existence until it miraculously received a last-minute lifeline from an anonymous Hong Kong-based investor in early 2018.
It still plans to launch production of the 1050hp FF 91 by the end of 2018.
Aston Martin RapidE (2019)
Aston Martin teamed up with Chinese firm LeEco (a company with ties to Faraday Future) to make its vision of an electric Rapide a reality. Citing deep-rooted financial troubles, LeEco backed out of the deal in 2017. Aston stresses the project remains on track but officials have considerably scaled back their ambitions.
Aston will make 155 cars, about one third the number it originally planned, and it has pushed back the car’s launch from 2018 to 2019. The firm envisions a saloon positioned above the Tesla Model S, which explains why we reckon pricing will start at about £200,000 (UK) and US$230,000 (US).
Nio EP9 (2018)
Tesla largely stayed out of the supercar segment until it announced plans for a second-generation Roadster in late 2017. The specifications sheet places it in direct competition with the world’s best-established sports car brands. It’s not the only company that wants a piece of the pie, however.
China-based Nio is currently testing an electric two-seater named EP9 capable of lapping a race track without a human driver behind the wheel. The limited-edition model promises 1360bhp, all-wheel drive and twice the downforce of a F1 car.
Nio already sold six examples of the EP9 to its investors. It plans on making 10 additional cars for the public. Pricing starts at US$1.2 million, a sum which represents approximately £900,000. Looking ahead, Nio wants to build an entire portfolio of electric cars including an SUV and a big hatchback.
Bollinger B1 (2019)
Many upcoming electric vehicles place an unabashed focus on technology, comfort, luxury and performance. New York-based Bollinger is taking a vastly different approach. Instead of delivering speed and touch screens, it wants to pick up where the original Land Rover Defender left off by building a back-to-the-basics off-roader with the aerodynamic properties of a Tonka toy.
The B1 promises to deliver a 200-mile range in the US testing cycle and a usable 5000lb (2272kg) towing capacity. It’s an off-roader in the vein of the Jeep Wrangler but it was also designed to work. It doubles as a power supply for tools, for example, and the front grille folds down to reveal a pass-through that extends through the tailgate.
Bollinger’s bet is paying off. As of June 2018, the company has received over 12,000 pre-orders from buyers in the US. The company promises to deliver the first examples in 2019 but it hasn’t revealed pricing yet; we estimate it will start in the region of US$60,000. Sales in regions like Europe and Australia will begin after the initial launch in America. Is is strictly a Tesla rival? Well, Tesla is planning a pickup truck, which we expect to see available for sale in 2019 or 2020.
Elextra EV (2019)
Switzerland-based Elextra wants to achieve nothing less than electric car supremeacy with a sleek, futuristic-looking saloon it calls a four-door supercar for four passengers. The Hot Wheels-esque design hides a 670hp electric drivetrain made up of a motor over each axle, an increasingly common configuration in this segment of the market. They give the car a 0-62mph time of less than 2.3sec – at least in theory.
We haven’t see a fully functional prototype yet. If that time is accurate, the saloon will take the 0-62mph crown from Tesla’s Model S.
Elextra boldly aims to start producing its first car in 2019. Pricing will start in the vicinity of €450,000, a sum which represents about £394,000 and US$525,000.
Lucid Air (2019)
California-based, China-backed Lucid plans to offer saloon named Air with an S-Class-like interior and an E-Class-sized body. The company told Autocar it will achieve this by miniaturising the size of the electric powertrain. Still at the prototype stage, the Air has a 400-mile range and up to 1000bhp in its most powerful configuration.
Production will start in 2019 in Arizona. Lucid lists China and the US as its main markets but it hasn't ruled out selling cars in Europe.
Mercedes-Benz EQ C (2019)
Like rival Audi, Mercedes-Benz decided not to explore new design avenues as it penned its first purpose-built electric car. Though we haven’t seen the SUV yet, official spy shots released by the firm suggest it borrows a substantial number of styling cues from the GLC. Autocar expects the EQ C will offer up to 310 miles of range and a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds.
Mercedes-Benz will reveal the EQ C in 2019 and the first examples will arrive in showrooms the following year. When it lands, it will slot below the Model X to compete in the same burgeoning segment as the Jaguar I-Pace, the Audi E-tron Quattro and the BMW iX3.
Volkswagen I.D. (2019)
Volkswagen will replace the e-Golf with a carefully toned-down version of the I.D. concept (pictured) shown in 2016. Hailed as the brand’s first dedicated electric car, the yet-unnamed model will ride on a modular platform called MEB and it will look a lot like the design study introduced in Paris. It will come with a single, rear-mounted electric motor in its standard configuration, a layout vaguely reminiscent of the original rear-engined Beetle. In a way, Volkswagen is going back to its roots.
Volkswagen hasn’t announced pricing yet, though it recently pledged to sell the I.D. hatchback for about the price of a Golf. That’s roughly £18,000 in the UK and US$20,000 in America today. If it keeps its promise, Volkswagen will come a lot closer to delivering a so-called mass-market electric car than Tesla has with the Model 3, which starts at US$35,000 in America.
Volvo electric hatchback (2019)
Volvo wants electric cars to make up a full 50% of its sales volume by 2025. It will leap into the battery-powered car segment in 2019 when it launches an electric hatchback inspired by the 40.2 concept (pictured). Think of it as Volvo’s answer to the Tesla Model 3. Production for global markets will take place in China.
Audi E-tron Sportback (2020)
Audi will keep the electric car momentum going by introducing a second battery-powered model named E-tron Sportback in 2020. It’s one of 10 electric cars the brand plans to launch in the next seven years.
Though it hasn’t been shown to the public yet, Autocar learned the E-tron Sportback will draw inspiration from the eponymous concept (pictured) unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai motor show. It will take the form of a four-door SUV with a rakish, fastback-like roof line. We expect the Sportback will share several powertrain components with the E-tron Quattro.
BMW iX3 (2020)
BMW entered the electric car segment well before its main rivals but failed to keep a firm grip on its leadership position. It’s not expected to introduce the iX3, its answer to the I-Pace and the E-tron Quattro, until 2020 at the earliest.
The iX3 concept shown at the 2018 Beijing motor show gave us an accurate preview of what to expect from the car. It’s very discernibly based on the standard X3 but it gets a handful of powertrain-specific styling cues like a redesigned grille and reprofiled bumpers. BMW predicts the 270bhp SUV will give drivers up to 249 miles of range on the WLTP cycle.
Byton SUV (2020)
Byton designed its SUV for motorists who buy a car like they buy a smartphone. It places a much bigger emphasis on how occupants can enhance the time they spend in the car than on performance and handling. To that end, it will come with a touch screen embedded into the centre of the steering wheel, where you’d habitually expect to find an airbag, and a second screen that stretches the entire width of the dashboard to replace the instrument cluster and the controls normally found on the centre console.
Company boss Carsten Breitfeld told Autocar the SUV is about 85% ready for production. Built in China where Byton is based, the yet-unnamed model will offer up to 469bhp when it goes on sale in 2020. Prices will start in the vicinity of £32,000 (UK) and US$45,000 (US).
Porsche Mission E (2020)
For years, we heard rumours of a Porsche saloon positioned directly below the Panamera. Insiders referred to it as the Pajun. We know now it’s code-named Mission E, it runs on batteries and it will have the Model S in its cross hairs when it arrives on the market in 2020.
Porsche previewed the Mission E in 2015 with a close-to-production concept (pictured). Recent spy shots suggest the overall design hasn’t drastically changed since, though Porsche tweaked numerous little details in the name of safety regulations and production costs. The basic Mission E will offer 592bhp and 800V charging technology that gives the battery an 80% charge in 15 minutes.
Rimac C_Two (2020)
Tesla faces stiff competition in its quest to electrify the supercar segment with its upcoming Roadster. Croatian manufacturer Rimac has competed in this space since its inception in 2009 and it has learned a great deal along the way. The C_Two it introduced in 2018 could be a game-changer.
Designed as a successor to the Concept_One, the C_Two turns the performance dial up a notch with a 120kWh lithium-battery and four electric motors that join forces to deliver 1888bhp and 1696lb ft of torque. It has a claimed 0-60mph time of 1.85sec, a figure that makes it a few tenths of a second faster than the Tesla Roadster. Hypothetically, at least; neither company has started production.
Rimac proved it’s just as able to make waves as its California-based rival. The 150-strong production run scheduled to start in 2020 is nearly sold out in spite of a base price that falls in the vicinity of about £1.5 million (UK) and US$2.09 million (US) before buyers add options.
Rivian A1T (2020)
Rivian remains one of the more obscure entrants in the race to mass-produce electric cars. Founded in 2009, it decided not to follow the path blazed by Tesla to avoid competing with the likes of Audi, Jaguar and Porsche. Instead, it wants to apply the Tesla model to the world of off-roaders.
It plans to design an electric pickup truck capable of beating a Jeep Wrangler on the trail, racing ahead of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo on track and embarrassing most cars in the 0-60 exercise. Then, it wants to use the same chassis to build an SUV. It will start production of both models – called A1T and A1C, respectively – in 2020 in a former Mitsubishi factory it purchased in Illinois.
We haven’t seen either model yet but Rivian recently promised to show both cars at the 2018 Los Angeles motor show. While it’s not making a Model S, its pickup will lock horns with the truck Tesla has long promised to bring to the market sooner or later.
Volkswagen ID Crozz (2020)
So far, Volkswagen has approved every one of its ID-badged concept cars for production. The Crozz is no exception. It’s an important car, too. While the ID hatchback is largely packaged for Europe, the Crozz will lure Chinese and American buyers into the brand’s showrooms when it arrives in 2020.
Technical specifications remain vague. All we know so far is the concept used a dual-motor electric drivetrain that delivers about 300bhp and on-demand all-wheel drive. Volkswagen will position the ID Crozz in the same segment as Tesla’s upcoming Model Y.
BMW i Vision Dynamics (2021)
The i Vision Dynamics concept (pictured) BMW unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show will spawn a production model in 2021. We don’t know much about it yet other than it will compete in the same segment as the Model S and offer a high degree of autonomy from the get-go.
When it arrives, the i Vision Dynamics – a name BMW will likely ditch in favour of i5 – will receive a powertrain derived from the unit found in the iX3. We expect the saloon will offer more driving range thanks to its sleeker, lower design and its lighter weight.
Maserati Alfieri (2021)
Maserati wants to position itself as a credible alternative to Porsche and Tesla. Part of its model offensive includes an electric sports car inspired by the Alfieri concept introduced at the 2014 Geneva motor show. The Italian brand promises 800V battery technology for quick charging times and a 2sec sprint from zero to 60mph.
Maserati will tentatively release the Alfieri in 2021. Its triple-motor drivetrain will also find its way under the replacements for the Levante and the Quattroporte. The strategy will give the company an answer to the upcoming Roadster, the Model X and the Model S. Note Maserati will also offer plug-in hybrid variants of its three electric models to satisfy buyers not interested in a pure electric car.
Porsche Mission E Sport Turismo (2021)
Porsche didn’t build the Mission E Sport Turismo concept just for fun. It calls the rugged-looking estate a feasibility study made to determine whether a market exists for a so-called cross utility vehicle. The firm tellingly noted taking the concept from the auto show floor to the showroom would present no significant technical challenges because it’s based on the Mission E’s J1 architecture.
Our crystal ball tells us the Sport Turismo concept will morph into Porsche’s second electric vehicle. Don’t expect to see the production model unveiled until 2021 at the earliest, though.
Volkswagen ID Vizzion (2022)
Volkswagen hasn’t offered a flagship saloon since it axed the Phaeton. It will return to the segment by 2022 with a production version of the ID Vizzion introduced in 2018. The S-Class-sized four-door will offer up to 400 miles of range from a huge 111kWh battery pack bigger than any unit currently in Tesla’s arsenal. But while the concept boasted a lounge-like cabin without a steering wheel, Volkswagen confirmed the production model will launch with a more realistic interior.