Electric Vans, Delayed by Production Problems, Find Eager Buyers (2023)


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Passenger cars dominate the electric vehicle market, but light delivery trucks could benefit from the cost savings and range E.V.s offer.

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Electric Vans, Delayed by Production Problems, Find Eager Buyers (1)
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Not long after buying a Ford E-Transit van for his plumbing business last November, Mitch Smedley sat down with some receipts and a calculator to figure out how much the electric vehicle was saving him on fuel expenses.

A few minutes of number crunching showed he was spending about $110 to $140 a week on fuel for each of the four older, diesel Transits in his fleet. Then he worked out how much electricity he was using to charge the electric model to drive the same distance — about 300 miles a week. The cost: about $9 a week.

“I knew there was going to be some savings because our electricity here is very inexpensive,” said Mr. Smedley, whose business is based in Blue Springs, Mo., just east of Kansas City. “But I was amazed when I worked it out. It makes it really, really cheap to operate.”

In the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles, passenger vehicles have led the way. In the first quarter of 2023, sales of E.V.s were up 45 percent from a year earlier, to 259,000 cars and trucks, according to Cox Automotive, a research firm. Tesla remains the largest seller by far, while General Motors, Ford Motor, Hyundai, Volkswagen and others are selling multiple electric models. Cox expects the annual E.V. sales total in the U.S. market to top one million this year for the first time.

So far, commercial light vehicles are a small proportion of all electric cars and trucks sold, but in many ways battery-powered vehicles are well suited for work fleets. Since trucks and delivery vans often travel limited distances or established routes each day, they don’t need large and expensive battery packs. Most can get by with enough energy to travel about 100 miles before they need a recharge.

One factor that makes electric cars significantly more expensive than internal combustion models is that consumers want the ability to travel 250 or 300 miles on a single charge because they fear being stranded far from any place to plug in. Commercial vehicles are typically parked overnight in lots where they can be easily charged and ready to go with a full battery in the morning.

Electric trucks also require less maintenance than traditional vehicles. They don’t need oil changes and have no transmissions, mufflers or fuel pumps that can wear out or break down. And they don’t burn fuel when idling.

More so than consumers, commercial fleet owners look closely at the total cost of owning and operating vehicles over several years. That means they are often willing to accept a higher initial price to buy an electric truck to save money over time through lower fuel and maintenance costs.

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Yet commercial E.V.s have had a slower start in sales, in part because of the troubles of several companies that had hoped to make them. Start-ups like Lordstown Motors, Arrival and Canoo have struggled to start or ramp up production, as has Workhorse, a small manufacturer of commercial trucks. Rivian, a start-up backed by Amazon, had hoped to sell thousands of electric vans to the online retailer by now but has fallen far short of its goals.



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The delays created an opening for Ford and G.M., two of the country’s largest automakers, to bring out their own battery-powered work trucks. The E-Transit, a derivative of Ford’s Transit commercial van, is available in various sizes and can be used as a delivery van, a shuttle bus, or a work truck for contractors, repairmen, plumbers and other small businesses.

Ford sold about 6,500 E-Transits last year. In March, the United States Postal Service ordered 9,250 E-Transits that are supposed to go into service by the end of 2024.

G.M. created an independent division, BrightDrop, to make a larger vehicle tailored for package and cargo delivery. BrightDrop produced a test fleet of about 500 battery-powered vans that were delivered to customers in 2022, and started commercial production of its Zevo 600 model at a plant in Ontario this year.

Along with the truck, BrightDrop has developed an electric cart to enable drivers to haul many packages from the truck, reducing the number of trips the driver makes back and forth. One version of the cart is refrigerated for deliveries of produce and groceries.

In Hooksett, N.H., Merchants Fleet, a company that manages vehicles used by delivery services, has been using 150 BrightDrop vans over the past year, and is eager to add more.

Brad Jacobs, the company’s vice president for fleet consulting, said the depreciation cost and the cost of interest on the capital used to buy electric vans were roughly the same as for combustion engine trucks.

“What we’ve learned from the vehicles on the road is that you save anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 a year because the cost of fuel and maintenance is so much lower with electric vehicles,” he said. “If a company is planning on service life of five years, that’s a savings of $50,000 per vehicle. That’s very compelling.”

Merchants Fleet has orders for 750 more BrightDrop trucks and reservations on an additional 17,000, Mr. Jacobs said.

Large delivery companies have been clamoring for electric trucks for years. Amazon hopes to buy as many as 100,000 vans from Rivian, and is considering an electric Ram ProMaster van that Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis, is supposed to start making this year.

UPS has ordered 10,000 electric vans from Arrival, a start-up company based in Luxembourg that has operations in Britain. Arrival has suffered financial troubles and production delays. FedEx, plans to buy only battery-powered vans starting in 2030, and hopes to operate an all-electric fleet by 2040. It has been testing 150 BrightDrop trucks, is taking delivery on 350 more and has reservations for an additional 2,000.

Nelson Granados, a FedEx delivery driver in Inglewood, Calif., has been using a BrightDrop vehicle for the past year, a white van with the orange-and-purple FedEx logo next to a picture of a bright green plug and electric cord.

Mr. Granados gives the truck a thumbs-up. The truck has comforts the diesel vans lack like a stereo and heated seats, as well as a lower floor that makes entering and leaving easier.

“You’re getting in and out all day, so it pays off,” Mr. Granados said. “It’s like a luxury delivery truck.”

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Mr. Smedley, the plumber in the Kansas City area, has noticed benefits from his E-Transit besides fuel savings. At job sites, the truck can power equipment like drain-cleaning machines, eliminating the need to lug around a generator. He began taking the van to Kansas City Chiefs football games — he has season tickets — so he can use its electric outlets for tailgating parties. The truck also secures him premium parking in the spots at Arrowhead Stadium reserved for electric vehicles.

This year, Mr. Smedley decided to add a second electric model to his fleet, a Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. He has also continued tracking the savings he’s reaping from the E-Transit.

“When I look at the cost over five years,” he said with a laugh, “it’s almost like getting a free van.”


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Why are people hesitant to buy electric vehicles? ›

The most common reasons drivers avoid EVs include: fear the battery will run out of charge before reaching their destination, also known as “range anxiety;” fear of too few charging stations, long charge times, and initial higher upfront vehicle costs.

What is the biggest problem for adoption of electric vehicle? ›

In this Industry Insights article, four major barriers to electric vehicle adoption are explored:
  • Charging Infrastructure.
  • EV Performance.
  • EV Availability.
  • EV Affordability.

What is the biggest reason why people aren t buying electric cars revealed a new survey? ›

7, 2021. Nearly half of Americans in a new poll say it's unlikely they would purchase an electric vehicle as their next car, citing the lack of charging options and the high costs as the main barriers to going electric.

What is the major hindrance to electric vehicles today? ›

1. Purchase Cost. The EV industry's biggest challenge is vehicle purchase cost. Electric vehicles are more expensive to build than gasoline-powered ones, primarily because of battery technology.

What are the disadvantages of electric vehicles? ›

Seven disadvantages of electric cars
  • Limited Battery Range. The average petrol car can easily do four or five hundred miles on a tank of petrol. ...
  • Battery Lifespan Concerns. ...
  • Charging Infrastructure Worries. ...
  • Long Charging Times. ...
  • Low Top Speeds. ...
  • More Expensive to Buy. ...
  • Environmental Impact.
Dec 15, 2022

How many Americans own an electric vehicle? ›

The adoption of plug-in electric vehicles in the United States is supported by the American federal government, and several states and local governments. As of December 2021, cumulative sales in the U.S. totaled 2.32 million highway legal plug-in electric cars since 2010, led by all-electric cars.

What is one of the biggest drawbacks of electric vehicles? ›

Disadvantages of electric cars
  • Electric cars can travel less distance. AEVs on average have a shorter range than gas-powered cars. ...
  • Electric cars can take a long time to recharge. Fueling an all-electric car can also be an issue. ...
  • Electric cars can be expensive.
Jan 18, 2023

Will electric cars put oil companies out of business? ›

We found that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. That would create a glut of oil equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis. Compound annual growth rates as high as 60 percent can't hold up for long, so it's a very aggressive forecast.

Is the US government's proposal to boost EV sales is challenging but not impossible? ›

US government's proposal to boost EV sales is challenging but not impossible. The US government is planning to change auto emissions standards in a way that means automakers would need to sell a lot more electric vehicles.

What would happen if most US consumers decided to drive electric cars? ›

There are 68 million multi-car homes in the US. If these households switched one of their main cars to an EV, they could collectively save $36–72 billion in annual fuel costs. Even when accounting for power plant emissions, this switch could reduce greenhouse gases by an estimated 160–320 million metric tons per year.

Why are electric cars bad for society? ›

Making electric cars creates more emissions

The raw materials for making the car have to be mined, and the process of mining creates a lot of greenhouse gases. Then the raw materials have to be refined before they can be used, which again emits more greenhouse gas.

What are the predictions about electric vehicles? ›

S&P Global Mobility forecasts electric vehicle sales in the United States could reach 40 percent of total passenger car sales by 2030, and more optimistic projections foresee electric vehicle sales surpassing 50 percent by 2030.

Why I won't buy an electric car? ›

Although tax breaks could help with the overall cost, 36% of Americans say their major concern is price — this is followed by a lack of charging stations (24%) and driving range (12%). With the average price of an EV at $58,725, income level could be a major barrier to ownership.

Does cold weather affect electric cars? ›

Cold temperatures do affect electric vehicles and steal some of their range. The amount of range lost depends on many factors such as the car itself, its potential range in normal weather, and whether the heat is on.

Are gas cars going away? ›

Last month, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, a move hailed as a significant victory in the fight against climate change.

How Long Will electric cars last? ›

The average lifetime mileage of an ICE vehicle is about 133,000 miles. While experts estimate the average EV battery will last around 200,000 miles, some manufacturers already promise much more than that.

How long will the batteries in an electric car last? ›

Most manufacturers have a five to eight-year warranty on their battery. However, the current prediction is that an electric car battery will last from 10 – 20 years before they need to be replaced.

Why gas vehicles are better than electric? ›

Gas cars are cheaper compared to fuel than electric cars. Electricity is usually more expensive than gasoline, which means that it will cost you more per mile, so gas-powered cars offer better value for money in the long run.

What US state has the most electric vehicles? ›

This chart shows the vehicle registration counts of all-electric vehicles (EVs) by state as of December 31, 2021. California has the greatest number of EVs, approximately 39% of EVs nationwide. Florida has the second highest count, followed by Texas.

Who is most likely to buy electric vehicles? ›

Of those that favoured EVs, 25-34-year-olds were the fondest, as represented by 57% of the age group. Those aged 55-64 were the most likely generation to opt for traditional vehicles (40%). We also found that men were slightly more likely than women to prefer an EV, indicated by 55% of males compared to 48% of females.

Who sells the most electric vehicles in the US? ›

Tesla remains on top by a far margin, accounting for 65% of total EV sales in the United States in 2022. However, other automakers that were fast to react to the rapidly evolving market, like Ford, Hyundai, and GM, are beginning to claim their shares.

What are 5 reasons electric cars are bad? ›

Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles - cons
  • Finding a Charging station - EV charging stations are fewer and further between than gas stations.
  • Charging takes longer.
  • The driving range on a full charge.
  • Higher Initial Purchase Cost.
  • Replacing the Batteries is Expensive.

Are electric cars more unreliable? ›

Electric vehicles (EVs) have fewer moving parts than gas-powered cars. That mechanical simplicity, advocates say, should lead to fewer part failures — and more reliable vehicles — over time.

Do electric cars last longer than gas cars? ›

Generally speaking, electric cars last longer than their gas counterparts (and require less maintenance, too!). So picking up a sleek new electric vehicle (EV) might be your best bet.

What will happen to gas prices when electric cars take over? ›

The bottom line for consumers as EVs become more popular, reduced gas demand likely will not lower prices as refiners constrict supply. In fact, supplies will probably decrease slightly faster than demand, keeping prices high. Any small mismatch between supply and demand could cause considerable price volatility.

Are gas companies worried about electric cars? ›

Even though oil companies may be trying to head off an electric vehicle takeover, insurance companies know that electric vehicles are here to stay. You may qualify for insurance deals if you own an electric vehicle.

How many years of oil is left on Earth? ›

World Oil Reserves

The world has proven reserves equivalent to 46.6 times its annual consumption levels. This means it has about 47 years of oil left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves).

Why electric cars won t save the world? ›

As electric cars are much heavier than gas-guzzlers, they use more energy per person transported, which is environmentally wasteful. Battery metals mining and production are monopolized by China and/or suffer from horrible working conditions. It also harms the soil and causes air contamination.

Can Americans afford electric vehicles? ›

Affordability and Charging

Despite appearing to peak in price in 2022, the average new EV cost $58,940 in March, according to estimates by Kelley Blue Book, an industry tracker—a price tag many cannot afford while the cost of living remains high. By comparison, the average new non-luxury gas car cost $44,182.

What year will only electric cars be sold? ›

The rule establishes a year-by-year roadmap so that by 2035 100% of new cars and light trucks sold in California will be zero-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The regulation realizes and codifies the light-duty vehicle goals set out in Governor Newsom's Executive Order N-79-20.

What three concerns do consumers have with electric cars? ›

A Consumer Reports Survey found that more than 33 percent of those interviewed had similar concerns about buying an electric vehicle. The top three concerns were: range, charging logistics, and cost.

Should we all be driving electric cars? ›

Fewer gas-powered cars and more EVs on the road will ultimately lead to cleaner air and a healthier environment for us all. Swapping out your gas-powered car for an electric car is a great way you can reduce your transportation emissions and help fight climate change.

Is there enough infrastructure for electric cars? ›

Infrastructure may be lacking, but there are still advantages to making the switch to EV delivery vehicles — and technology that can help with journey planning. More than a million new public EV charging stations will be needed in the US by 2030 to handle the rise of electric vehicles, experts say.

Will electric cars hurt the economy? ›

All forms of electric vehicles can help improve fuel economy, lower fuel costs, and reduce emissions.

Is lithium mining worse than fossil fuels? ›

While the hazards of lithium mining can cause significant harm to the environment during its production, it is still more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.

How bad is lithium for the environment? ›

Lithium mining is, like all mining, environmentally and socially harmful. More than half the current lithium production, which is very water intensive, takes place in regions blighted by water shortages that are likely to get worse due to global heating.

Is 2023 a good year to buy a EV? ›

According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), 2023 will see the arrival of 16 all-new models. Visual Capitalist projects that 134 EV models will be in production by 2024, up from 125 in 2023 and 100 in 2022. Also, the electric segment will be more accessible than ever in 2023 despite the effects of inflation.

Will EV price go down in 2023? ›

We are at about $138 per kWh of EV batteries right now, and there was a brief rise in price from 2021 to 2023 due to supply chain shortages. These prices are going to go down from here, though. Visit Torque News homepage for more stories.

Will electric cars get cheaper in 2025? ›

According to Treehugger.com, experts anticipate that EVs and gas-powered cars will cost about the same by 2025. As even more EVs are manufactured, they will become less expensive to produce, with some experts claiming they will be even cheaper than their gas-powered counterparts in just a few years.

How much is a battery for an electric car? ›

Average Battery Replacement Costs

If an EV is no longer under warranty or if its battery is damaged in an accident and isn't covered by insurance, Recurrent estimates the out-of-pocket cost for a replacement ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. The total cost largely depends on the pack, size and manufacturer of the battery.

How long will electric car shortage last? ›

Electric Vehicle Production Expected to Increase

The global chip shortage could be over by 2024—that's the best-case scenario. However, it could take longer than that to be resolved.

Should I buy a Tesla now or wait 2023? ›

Here's what we recommend. Tesla just did some drastic price cuts. Now is the perfect time to buy your 2023 Tesla Model Y if you are in the market for one. The Tesla Model Y long range is $52,990 as a base price and if you buy it before March 2023, the price becomes $45,490.

Is hot weather bad for electric cars? ›

According to CNBC, “lithium-ion batteries like the same sort of temperatures that we do”, and perform best at a balmy 70 degrees. EVs lose power under 65 degrees, and lose it quickly under 50 degrees, however, temperatures in excess of 86 degrees also rob the vehicle of power.

Do electric vehicles work well in extreme cold? ›

Keeping the inside of the vehicle warm in winter is usually the biggest drain on EV range, especially when ambient temperatures plunge below 15° F. Lithium ion batteries used in EVs also do not perform as well in cold temperatures, which can lead to further range reductions.

Do you have to warm up an electric car? ›

Yes. An article in Wired magazine recommends that you warm up the interior and the battery of an electric car in winter before driving it away from the charging station. The effects of cold weather on electric cars include a faster battery drain when using the cabin heater, which reduces your driving range.

Can you still drive gas cars after 2035? ›

But owners of vehicles with internal combustion engines will still be permitted to operate or resell them after 2035. With the average lifespan of a car in the U.S. pegged at about 12 years, there will be a need for gasoline for decades to come. Still, that demand will decline dramatically.

What year will gas be gone? ›

California, the country's most populous state and the center of U.S. car culture, is banning the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035, marking a historic step in the state's battle against climate change.

What will happen to gas stations after 2035? ›

Quintessential small businesses that are often owned by immigrants, as many as 80 percent of stations could be unprofitable by 2035, when the state stops all new gas car sales. Already, fewer cars are gas-guzzlers, reducing demand for fuel. A growing number of cities are banning new station construction.

What are the factors affecting the decision to buy an electric car? ›

Factors influencing the purchase of electric vehicles were set to mileage, charging time, new technology, degree of driving autonomous development, design, price, infrastructure for charging, the phase of maintenance and repair, by the government and local governments.

What was the problem with electric cars? ›

EV batteries don't perform well in extremely hot or cold temperatures. North American winters, for example, can significantly affect EV driving range and charging times. According to a 2022 study by Green Car Reports, EV drivers noticed a 30% reduction in driving range during winter.

Are new electric cars less reliable than petrol or diesel models survey suggests? ›

New electric cars may be less reliable than petrol and diesel models, survey suggests. A survey by Which? finds that a higher percentage of electric car owners reported problems with their vehicle in its first four years, and that electric vehicles also spend longer off the road when they are faulty.

What is the downfall of owning an electric car? ›

These disadvantages include finding charging stations, charging times, higher initial costs, limited driving range, and battery packs can be expensive to replace.

What are the 2 main factors limiting a customer's choice of an electric vehicle? ›

In general, those factors of performance, cost and charging infrastructure, negatively affect consumers to buy electric vehicles.

What features of electric vehicles may hinder success? ›

However, there are substantial technical, social, and economic barriers to widespread adoption of electric vehicles, including vehicle costs, lower driving ranges, long charging times, and the need for charging infrastructure.

What will happen to old batteries from electric cars? ›

Once an electric car's battery has reached the end of its serviceable life – which will most likely be because the car itself has reached the end of the road – its battery pack can find a new purpose, being removed from the vehicle and reused in a number of different deployments.

Are electric cars reliable in cold weather? ›

Cold temperatures do affect electric vehicles and steal some of their range. The amount of range lost depends on many factors such as the car itself, its potential range in normal weather, and whether the heat is on.

How reliable are new electric vehicles? ›

Electric vehicles and gas-powered pickups are the least reliable vehicles sold in America, whereas hybrids and gas-powered sedans are the most reliable, according to Consumer Reports 2022 Annual Auto Reliability survey.

Are electric cars good or bad for the economy? ›

An electric car can save on average $1,000 in fuel each year.2 The cost to fully charge a 60-kilowatt-hour (kWh) EV with more than 230 miles of range at home is less than $8. Plus, energy prices are not as volatile as oil, which makes budgeting for an EV more consistent each year. How much can you save on fuel?


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