A Quick Look At What Made 2019 A Huge Year For Electric Cars

Image by: Jason Torchinsky using photos from automakers. Yes, that’s the concept Taycan but it looks good head-on, OK?
Image by: Jason Torchinsky using photos from automakers. Yes, that’s the concept Taycan but it looks good head-on, OK?

In a few years, when much of the world’s highway system is dominated with electric cars, we’ll all look back upon 2019 as a pivotal year. Perhaps not the pivotal year, but an important one nonetheless in the automobile’s transition away from internal combustion. Let’s have a quick peek at what happened in the EV world in 2019.

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It’s 2020, and I bet if most of you look out of your window at the cars in the street, you’ll see only gas cars. But in time, that’s going to change, and that’s thanks in part to significant groundwork laid in 2019.

VW ID.3 Debuts In Frankfurt And Goes On (Pre)Sale

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I don’t think I can overstate how promising the Volkswagen ID family is when it comes to furthering electrification in the auto industry. Here’s an enormous automobile manufacturer with huge market reach and in impressive supply chain investing billions of Euros into electrification.

VW’s platform is impressive, and will underpin not just VW Group cars, but also Fords. The Blue Oval announced that it was planning to use VW’s MEB electric platform earlier this year.

Toyota And Subaru Show Off New EV Platform Plans

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Toyota’s executive vice president Shigeki Terashi announced in June that his company is working alongside Subaru to develop a new e-TNGA modular electric platform.

Honda Gets In On The EV Platform Game

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In July, we learned about Honda’s plans to build a modular electric car platform of its own, with Automotive News writing:

Unlike the e, the U.S.-bound products will ride on a modular platform that can accommodate a wide range of body shapes and sizes as well as different batteries and motors.

“This new architecture is designed to achieve smooth driving and highly efficient packaging,” said Ayumu Matsuo, Honda’s managing officer in charge of power unit development. “We believe it will meet the needs of customers who like our C-segment and D-segment models.”

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Honda E Electric City Car Debuts

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Everyone got excited when they saw Honda’s Urban EV concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, so when the production version debuted in 2019 looking just as good, and promising a decent 152 horsepower and 137-mile range, the world became a little brighter.

The Audi E-Tron Hits The Streets

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In 2019, Audi launched its first high-volume EV, the E-Tron. It’s a ~$75,000 luxury SUV with about 200 miles of range, which isn’t much, though charging speeds are quick.

Ford Debuts The Mustang Mach-E

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At the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Ford debuted its first high-volume electric vehicle built on a dedicated platform: the Mustang Mach-E. Fans weren’t thrilled with the “Mustang” name, but a handsome crossover seems like the right segment for Ford to start its electrification plan.

The Porsche Taycan Enters Production

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In 2019, we got our first look at the quickest and best handling mainstream electric car on earth, the Porsche Taycan. It’s a feat of engineering, even if its range is disappointing.

Mazda Debuts Its First EV

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The Mazda MX-30, Mazda’s first EV, is a pretty good looking crossover. It offers roughly 130 miles of range thanks to a 35.5 kWh battery pack, and it makes 143 horsepower. Seems fine.

Volvo Shows Off First EV

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Volvo also got its feet wet in the EV world with its 402 horsepower, 200 mile range XC40 Recharge crossover

Chevy Debuts Its New ‘Menlo’ For China

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That little crossover you see in the preview above is called the Menlo, a new Chevy offering in China based on the Bolt platform. It’s been an interesting year for China, the country that has seen perhaps the most drastic increase in EV adoption anywhere.

Don’t forget, though, that a lot of that growth was a result of government subsidies, which the country slashed significantly in 2019:

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Existing EVs Receive Range Improvements

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Just as important as the debut of new models is improvement in old ones. The Chevy Bolt got a range update to bring its figure above the base Model 3's.

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Tesla also changed up its Model S and Model X to crank up range.

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And then the Nissan Leaf Plus debuted with its bigger battery pack.

Rivian Grows From Small Startup To Major EV Contender

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Early in the year, we learned about Michigan-based EV startup Rivian getting a $700 million investment from Amazon.

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Then we heard that Ford was pouring $500 million into Rivian’s piggybank.

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After that, we heard about Amazon buying a crap-ton of vans from Rivian.

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And just recently we learned about a huge investment in Rivian from a number of sources. From our story:

Rivian, the electric pickup and crossover startup based in Plymouth, Michigan, has seemingly gone from nothing to quite something in 2019 alone. Today, the company announced a new investment from T. Rowe Price, Amazon, Ford, BlackRock Inc., and others worth $1.3 billion.

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Rivian might not have a production car out yet, but in 2019, Rivian became a contender.

Harley Davidson Launches First EV Motorcycle, The LiveWire

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Harley released its first electric motorcycle in 2019 as the company tries to modernize its brand. The bike is apparently a lot of fun.

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Unfortunately, it seems like sales could be better.

GM Promises To Crank Up Its EV Game

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We learned early in the year that Cadillac would take point as GM’s main electric brand in the U.S. (in China, Buick has been busy with electrification) as the company makes heavy investments in EV tech.

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Part of that investment will include turning the Detroit-Hamtramck plant into an EV truck facility.

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Whether we’ll see electric Hummers in the near future, we don’t know. But remember that 2019 was the year that such a once-absurd idea actually began sounding feasible.

Formula E Makes A Profit For The First Time

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Exciting times: An all-electric racing series is making a profit! To those who say electric cars are boring, apparently they’re not!

BMW Sees Major Leadership Change Due To Cautious EV Strategy

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If you wanted play in the automobile world in 2019, you had to have a strong electric vehicle strategy. EVs are the future, so if you want investors to think you’re on the cutting edge, you have to be a significant player in the electric car field. Just look at what happened to BMW’s CEO. From our story:

According to AP News, Krueger is under fire for losing BMW’s lead in luxury car sales, and for failing to capitalize on an early lux EV start.

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We had a feeling BMW was playing it a bit too safe safe:

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Tesla Shows Off The Cybertruck

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Tesla showed off an electric pickup truck with flat body panels and no paint. The debut was a bit silly, and the vehicle’s looks definitely take some getting used to, but we’ll see how the production version looks—hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Electric Pickups Are Coming

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The Cybertruck and Rivian R1T aren’t the only EV trucks slated to hit the market this decade. In 2019, Ford showed off prototypes of its EV F-150. And GM also announced that it’s hard at work in that space:

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These are just a few electric vehicle highlights from 2019, and I didn’t even get into infrastructure improvements, which have—between all the new charging stations that Electrify America and Europe’s Ionity have installed—been significant.

Just looking at this list should make it clear that a shift towards electric vehicles and away from ICEs is very much in progress.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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Why is Sebulba driving the Cybertruck?