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Two reasons this is the biggest year ever for electric cars

by Noah Kulwin
Jul 5 2017, 9:21am

Automakers have been coming around to the inevitability of electric cars for a few years now. But nothing will shove them into an all-electric future like the events of this week.

Two big things happened: Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that the Tesla Model 3 — the company’s first mass-market car — will launch on Friday, two weeks ahead of schedule. And on Wednesday, Volvo announced a 2019 deadline for putting electric batteries in all of its cars, becoming the first carmaker ever to make such a pledge.

“Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars,” the company said in a press release. “It will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high-performance electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm.”

Volvo, which was acquired by the Chinese automotive conglomerate Geely in 2010, has renewed its focus on electric cars as part of a larger push for Chinese domination of the sector; companies like Geely benefit from enormous green-friendly subsidies provided by the Chinese government.

“We are convinced China will become the leading market for electromobility,” a Volkswagen exec said at an April auto show.

Tesla, meanwhile, is attempting the leap from niche luxury carmaker to an eventually fully autonomous and electric car manufacturer of the future. The Model 3, which has a pre-subsidy sticker price of $35,000, is Tesla’s cheapest car yet, and it will be widely viewed as a test of Musk’s ability to put Teslas in the hands of consumers who are not ultra-wealthy.

Wall Street, for now at least, seems to believe Musk can pull it off; Tesla’s current market value of $53 billion is more than that of either Ford or BMW, whose revenue and fleet size vastly exceed Tesla’s.

Analysts, however, predict that Tesla will have serious trouble living up to the hype and meeting production goals. GM introduced its own similarly priced car, the Chevy Bolt, in late 2016, and has sold about 8,000 of them since December.

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