While Tesla intends to move down-market with the probable launch of a $30,000 electric car in 2016, Cadillac will likely attempt the opposite.
The company’s first plug-in hybrid, the $75,995 Cadillac ELR, doesn’t launch until early next year, but a larger, more expensive plug-in hybrid is already under consideration. That would give General Motors a plug-in hybrid in three market segments, starting with the $35,000 Chevrolet Volt.
“I’m so optimistic about how well [the Cadillac ELR] will do, especially on the West Coast and in the Northeast,” Cadillac’s global sales chief Bob Ferguson told The Detroit Bureau. “It will bring us a lot of new customers, I’m sure.”
Ferguson certainly sounds confident, but the Cadillac ELR’s price puts it in the crosshairs of the Tesla Model S – a pure electric car with around 250 miles real-world range and the kind of performance the ELR can’t hope to match. The Cadillac’s only saving grace is it’s ability to travel over 300 miles in one go and refuel at gasoline stations.
Even that advantage is under threat, however, now that Tesla has Supercharger stations – capable of providing a 150-mile charge in just 20 minutes – up the entire West Coast. By 2015 Tesla says that 98 percent of the US populace will be within range of a Supercharger.
Range-extender drivetrains – whereby electrical power comes from a pre-charged battery and an onboard gasoline generator – are very much here to stay in GM’s portfolio, however. GM chairman Dan Akerson recently said that he wanted to challenge Tesla directly and that Cadillac was the brand which with to do it.
“We’re bullish on this technology,” echoed Ferguson, adding that there will be a number of electrified cars in future GM lineups. “I could certainly see a larger vehicle, something even more luxurious [than the Cadillac ELR].”
Whether than means the Elmiraj could get electrified for production is open to debate, but here’s how General Motors’ plug-in hybrid lineup could look in 2016.
Gen II Chevrolet Volt (c. $30,000)
The second generation Chevrolet Volt could get as much as 60 miles electric range, up from the current model’s 38 miles. Build cost per unit may be as much as $10,000 lower, too, meaning that with incentives the new Volt might just drop below $20,000. Hopefully, Chevrolet will also use a more refined onboard gasoline generator than the noisy unit currently in service. A two-cylinder engine has been touted.
Cadillac ELR (c. $70,000)
The Cadillac ELR will be GM’s premium green offering and it comes with a premium price-tag. The interior will be more luxurious than the Volt’s and extensive sound-deadening (including speakers that play a cancelling frequency for outside noise) will make it more refined, too. Unfortunately the ELR shares the exact same ‘Voltec’ drivetrain as the Volt, so electric range remains relatively modest and so does power, which is 150hp.
Cadillac Elmiraj ($100,000+)
This is pure speculation at this point but, given what Bob Ferguson told The Detroit Bureau, many at GM are keen to see the Elmiraj – which was universally well received – make production in some form or another. If the ELR is as much of a hit as Cadillac are hoping then a production version could get GM’s latest plug-in hybrid hardware with more power and a larger battery pack than either the Volt or ELR.