Tesla's Model X Will Have Lots of German Competition

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Dec 10, 2014

As Tesla is getting closer to bring its crossover Model X to market next year, it’s finding it’s not likely to have the field to itself—as it did with the Model S. The Germans, for one, are hot on Tesla’s trail.

The Model X: Unique now, but maybe the field will be more crowded next year. (Tesla photo)The Model X, with its famous “falcon wing” doors, is adding features, including dual-motor all-wheel drive, autopilot and, usefully, towing capacity—the first EV so equipped. The more than 20,000 enthusiasts who have pre-ordered the Model X will start taking delivery in the third quarter. People ordering the car now will get it sometime in 2016.

By then, there could be several high-end plug-in hybrids on the market, some of them crossovers. The Germans were somewhat slow off the mark getting into hybrids and electrics, but they're making up for that now. BMW, which recently said it wants to offer plug-in hybrid versions of all its core models, showed a 5-Series GT with so-called “Power eDrive” offering 670 horsepower. That’s not a misprint. There are two big electric motors, a 20-kilowatt-hour lithium battery (offering 62 miles of pure electric travel), and a two-liter turbocharged four. It’s “purely a concept,” BMW says.

BMW showed off this hatchback 5 Series GT with 670 horsepower. Not a production car today, but maybe tomorrow. (BMW photo)BMW is developing plug-in versions of the 3-Series (with a turbo four) and an X5 eDrive. According to Toronto’s Globe & Mail, “Future eDrive BMW models will get much more powerful electric motors and batteries with twice the capacity of present versions. The next milestone for the company: an all-electric driving range of up to 100 kilometers [62 miles], making all day-to-day trips emission-free in pure electric mode.”

Audi is directly going after Tesla with a zero emission vehicle, its first. Battery versions of the A3 have been developed, but Audi CEO Rupert Stadler says the actual production car “is probably going to be a crossover, but development work is still ongoing.” Audi’s $115,900 R8 etron, another plug-in hybrid, is now confirmed for production, and the sporty A3 Sportback etron (which I drove in Austria and Germany) is headed for the U.S. this year. And let's not forget the new version of the big Q7 SUV, which will offer a plug-in hybrid version running on diesel fuel.

Audi's A3 etron battery car visits New York. The A3 production vehicle is actually a plug-in hybrid. (Jim Motavalli photo)Porsche just debuted the $96,100, 416-horsepower Panamera S E-Hybrid, another ultra-fast plug-in hybrid for luxury customers.  By late September, Porsche had sold 1,500 of them, and the electric Panamera was accounting for 10 percent of the company’s global sales. And don’t forget that other exotic Porsche plug-in hybrid, the 918 Spyder, which offers…get ready for it…887 horsepower.

Porsche's Panamera S E-Hybrid is selling like German hotcakes. (Porsche photo)The 918 is more of a halo car than a profit center, since only 918 of them will be built. But, come to think of it, maybe that $847,000 price tag means it actually will make money. The production run is likely to be sold out out this month, despite the lofty price of entry. And in the “ouch” department, one of them has already burned up in a fire.

Space doesn’t allow getting into all the high-end electric cars in the pipeline, but just one is the Tesla Roadster-like and long-delayed Detroit Electric SP:01, which is supposed to go into production next year. The company’s name is venerable, dating back to 1907, but the car is aimed at up-to-the-minute, high-end buyers—155 mph and high-end electronics are claimed.

The Detroit Electric SP:01 is a kind of like a hardtop version of the Tesla Roadster. (Detroit Electric photo)The point is clear—Tesla will be tested with competition next year. Did anyone mention the Renovo?

If you missed the Model X reveal last year, here it is with all the excitement packed in, including a cameo from California Governor Jerry Brown:


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