Tesla unveils the Model 3, but EV market share still abysmal

Tesla Model 3Despite a lack of enthusiasm for electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States, CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model 3 yesterday, a car that may finally be affordable and help the still-flagging market. Coming in at $35,000 MSRP (before federal and state tax credits), the Model 3 sedan made its world debut at an event in Los Angeles. The car, Musk said, will get 215 miles per charge, and go from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds. One standard feature will be “Supercharging,” which allows the car to be charged in under an hour.

There’s only one problem: Supercharging stations are still scattered and not readily available. According to Tesla’s own distribution map, Massachusetts has only four “Superchargers,” with two on the Mass Pike (a toll road). Rhode Island has even fewer with only one in Warwick. There are more “destination chargers” available, but they require a longer charging time. 

Tesla notes that two outlet adapters are included: one for a standard household outlet and a second adapter for a 240 volt outlet. It says on its website you will need to hire an electrician to install the 240 volt NEMA 14-50 outlet “near where you park your Tesla, convenient to the charge port location in the driver’s side rear tail light.” This will charge your Tesla vehicle at a rate of about “30 miles of range each hour.” If you use the household outlet adapter, it will charge at only three miles of range per hour, or about 72 hours to charge a dead battery that has a 215 mile range.

Currently the Tesla’s closest competitor is the Chevy Bolt, which has a range of over 200 miles, and is also in the mid-$30,000 range and qualifies for a subsidy. The Bolt, though, doesn’t have the Supercharger, just a standard charging inlet, and is expected to hit the markets in late 2017. Chevy also makes the Volt, a hybrid vehicle, has been on the market since 2010.

Critics point to the fact that while the Tesla doesn’t emit any carbon dioxide emissions, it still requires electricity from fossil fuel power plants. With less than 5 percent coming from solar and wind energy, the majority of our power is provided by affordable natural gas, oil, and coal. As of December 2015, the EV’s “market share fell to 0.66% of new car sales,” with the all-electric segment essentially flat at 0.42%.

So why get an e-vehicle? Federal tax credits. No other gas or diesel-powered car gets a generous federal tax credit (a discount for being an electric or hybrid vehicle), paid for by taxpayer dollars. This tax credit was renewed in last year’s December budget bill by both chambers of congress. Currently, the car’s base price will be $35,000, before the $7,500 federal tax credit is offered.

There’s also a catch on the tax credit. “The government tax credit phases out for any manufacturer that sells a cumulative total of 200,000 electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids in the U.S.” And since Tesla only makes EVs, it may hit that mark sooner than expected. “Over the last three years it has sold more than 80,000 of its Model S in the U.S.” Analysts expect it could surpass 200,000 in 2017.

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