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The cheap electric car mirage

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Overpriced. This is the most common comment when discussing the issue of buying an electric car. The average price of a new model, all engines combined, already exceeds 25,000 euros, but the bill jumps again as soon as we switch to 100% battery. It takes more than 32,000 euros for a Renault Zoe, and the difference between the electric version and the thermal version of a city car such as the Peugeot 208 reaches (before public aid) nearly 15,000 euros. Since its launch in March 2021, the cost of the Dacia Spring, a rare popular model, has increased from 16,990 euros to 20,880 euros.

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It took the arrival of Chinese brands, such as MG, Great Wall Motors or BYD, which charge significantly lower prices than their competitors, for the question to be openly raised about the ability of the major manufacturers to offer less exclusive models, if it is beyond the reach of Monsieur Tout-le-Monde. The problem is not new, but the electrification of the market has accentuated the drift of the expensive car.

Even though a battery-powered automobile is more expensive to produce, the big brands have some responsibility. Between 2015 and 2022, notes the British consultant JATO, the average price of an electric car rose from 48,942 to 55,821 euros in Europe, a difference of 27% compared to a conventional model. In China, on the contrary, the price has fallen from 66,819 to 31,829 euros, and an electric vehicle is now 33% cheaper on average than a thermal one.

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In accordance with the imperatives dictated by the Chinese authorities, local brands have designed and produced models – not just small in size or exclusively urban – capable of reaching high levels of circulation. Conversely, “despite some improvements since 2020, Western manufacturers have favored the most profitable segments and have failed to create an offer of electric vehicles that meets consumer needs”concludes JATO.

“Inability to lower the price of batteries”

The need to rebalance supply has become imperative – even BMW and Volvo are showing their willingness to invest in “the lower range” – because time is running out. The tightening of environmental standards, in particular the gradual generalization, by 2025, of low-emission zones in urban areas with more than 150,000 inhabitants, is accelerating the movement to exclude older vehicles, most often used by low-income households. Without alternative proposals likely to motorize a large part of the population at a lower cost, the transition to all-electric, programmed by the European Union in 2035, risks becoming a politically explosive issue.

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