Tesla CEO Elon Musk apparently revealed a new line of business for the company: selling or leasing lithium-ion battery packs for home energy storage.more>>
Tesla CEO Elon Musk apparently revealed a new line of business for the company: selling or leasing lithium-ion battery packs for home energy storage. more>>
By John Voelcker
Have patience, all you SUV and crossover fans who desperately want one that plugs in and runs electrically.
They're coming, but you've got a year to wait -- or perhaps a bit less, with luck.
Only two vehicles remotely qualify today as plug-in crossovers or SUVs, and neither offers all-wheel drive -- a necessity for many, many utility-vehicle buyers.
The first is the low-volume Toyota RAV4 EV -- of which only 2,600 will be built for model years 2012 through 2014, and which is sold in California only as a compliance car -- there aren't any crossover utility vehicles or SUVs that plug in.
The second is the Ford C-Max Energi, a compact hatchback plug-in hybrid launched in 2013 whose electric range and efficiency ratings were lowered last week by Ford.
That will change next year. Here's our rundown of what's coming:
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PLUG-IN HYBRID: January - June 2015?
The struggling Japanese automaker actually launched the world's first plug-in hybrid SUV more than a year ago, and it too has sold well in Asia and in Europe.
The company is now constrained both by battery-pack supply and by the need to modify the plug-in hybrid Outlander to meet U.S. regulations.
Its plug-in SUV has been delayed a number of times, although a Mitsubishi source suggested that it will arrive in the U.S. more quickly than the most dire predictions that delayed it to Fall 2015.
We suspect that when the plug-in Outlander arrives, it'll include updates to equipment and perhaps even styling that launch that model's mid-cycle refresh. The current model has been on sale in gasoline form in the U.S. for two years now.
TESLA MODEL X: Volume deliveries start April - June 2015
The second volume model from electric-car startup Tesla Motors has, like its earlier models, been somewhat delayed from the originally announced schedule.
On an earnings call several weeks ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that volume production of the Model X -- originally scheduled for around now, then postponed to the last quarter of this year--would ramp up in the second quarter of 2015.
It's still possible that handfuls of early-production Model X electric crossovers will trickle out of the second assembly line at Tesla's assembly plant in Fremont, California.
UPDATE: Tesla just mailed Model X reservation holders to assure them that deliveries would, in fact, begin in early 2015. All-wheel drive will be standard, and a folding third-row seat will be optional.
But unless you're on the Tesla board or a very early depositor indeed, you likely won't have a chance at delivery until next spring -- or thereafter.
In fact, Tesla still hasn't shown the final production version of the Model X, though prototypes have been seen testing in a variety of locations.
The Model X, built on the same underpinnings as the Model S sedan but with a second electric motor up front to give it all-wheel drive, is the sole all-electric SUV in the group.
All the rest have battery ranges that will likely come in at 12 to 20 miles, with a gasoline engine for maximum power or for use in hybrid mode once the battery pack is depleted.
VOLVO XC90 PLUG-IN HYBRID: Spring 2015
The next generation of Volvo's legendary large SUV, the XC90, will be unveiled sometime next month, hitting showrooms before the end of the year. And Volvo executives told us in May that the plug-in hybrid model would arrive "a few months after" the gasoline version -- not years later.
Volvo's done very well in Europe with its diesel plug-in hybrid model of the V60 wagon, but plug-in hybrids for the U.S. will use a gasoline engine.
The company likely feels, with some justification, that the complexity of its first-ever U.S. model with a plug is enough to manage--without the added challenge of introducing diesels, which it hasn't sold here in decades.
BMW X5 e-DRIVE: Fall 2015 or Winter 2016?
In April, we drove a prototype of the plug-in hybrid BMW X5 crossover utility vehicle. BMW execs said then that it would be more than a year until it arrived on the market, so we're figuring fall of next year, perhaps into the following winter.
It won't be the first plug-in BMW by a long shot, since the 2014 BMW i3 battery-electric car (with a range-extender option) is now on sale, and the 2014 BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe will follow within a few months.
But the plug-in hybrid X5 will be the first plug-in adaptation of an existing model to be sold in volume, not to mention the first to be built in the U.S.
Whether it reaches the market before or after the 2016 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class plug-in hybrid that's expected sometime during Fall 2015 or Winter 2016 remains to be seen.
NOTE: Other auto makers as well will be launching plug-in hybrid SUVs in the next three or four years. They include Audi, Bentley, Range Rover, and most likely several others as well.
The four vehicles above are the ones we're most sure will arrive during the next 18 months.
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