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Electric vehicles are hard to find at the Chicago Auto Show. Next year will be a different story.

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

The auto industry is betting hundreds of billions of dollars that this is the decade you're going to buy an electric vehicle.

From a sporty Ford Mustang crossover to the rebirth of a brawny GMC Hummer truck, legacy and startup automakers alike have hundreds of electric vehicles in the development pipeline, with industry projections that EV sales will surpass traditional internal combustion engines by 2030.

But at the Chicago Auto Show, which runs Feb. 8 to 17 at McCormick Place, full battery-powered EVs were as few and far between as they are on America's roadways, with only a handful of models on display that you can buy and drive now. Based on EV product launches scheduled for 2020 alone, that should change dramatically by next year's show.

"We feel there's going to be a lot of growth," said Ted Cannis, global head of electrification for Ford, which is featuring the Mustang Mach-E at the auto show. "Once you get that critical mass moving -- and it's going to start moving because of us and others in the industry -- you'll have a whole pipeline of activity then."

Little more than a science experiment at the turn of the century, mass produced EVs began hitting the market around 2010 with early entries such as the Nissan Leaf. But limited range, expensive batteries and the lack of an out-of-home charging infrastructure made them little more than a fringe offering.

In 2012, California-based Tesla disrupted the automotive world when it began delivery of its sleek but pricey Model S, which brought blazing speed, 300-mile range and a new vision of electrification to the industry. Tesla delivered 367,500 electric vehicles last year and although it has yet to turn an annual profit, it surpassed $100 billion in valuation -- more than GM and Ford combined.


While EVs accounted for less than 2% of all auto sales in 2019, automakers are all in for 2020, from Detroit's Big Three to startup electric truck manufacturer Rivian, which is set to begin production later this year in downstate Normal.

Tesla and Rivian were no-shows at this year's auto show, but roughly 10 EV models are on display. Here are some highlights:

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Announced in November, the all-electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E crossover is expected to roll out later this year, with an inaugural production run of about 50,000 vehicles. Built in Mexico, the Mach-E comes in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive and starts at about $44,000, with a high-performance GT version priced at about $60,000. Both qualify for a full $7,500 federal tax rebate.


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