Shopping for a new electric vehicle can seem a bit like the Wild West. While most people are familiar with Tesla and established automakers, they’re less likely to know much about all-new companies looking to replicate the success of Tesla and take a share of the quickly growing market. From a consumer perspective, buying a vehicle from a startup company presents some advantages and possible drawbacks.
Because these companies aren’t tied to traditional automaking, their vehicles often boast innovative features and standout designs. However, a shopper might hesitate to buy a vehicle from a brand with a limited track record of reliability. A lack of nationwide service support might be another issue. With that, Edmunds highlights five EV startups for shoppers willing to take the plunge.
This adventure-bound, U.S.-based EV startup was founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, the company’s CEO. Rivian operated secretly for several years until 2018 when the electric R1T truck and R1S SUV were revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Rivian started delivering the R1T to customers in the fall of 2021 and the R1S SUV last year. It also manufactures electric delivery vans for Amazon, one of its largest investors. Last year, the company delivered a little over 20,000 vehicles and plans to increase that to 50,000 this year.
The R1T was the first all-electric truck to hit the market, and the company followed that up with the R1S three-row electric SUV. Both models are highly rated by Edmunds because of their innovative storage space and robust performance.
Starting price: $74,800 for R1T; $79,800 for R1S
Lucid was founded in 2007 under its former name Atieva. The company initially produced electric powertrains for other EV manufacturers. When it rebranded to Lucid Motors in 2016, this U.S.-based startup started to develop the Air, an electric luxury sedan. Deliveries started at the end of 2021. Lucid produced over 7,000 Air models in 2022 and plans to manufacture more than 10,000 by the end of the year.
The company sells five versions of the Air, with price tags mostly topping the six-figure mark. The Grand Touring model’s 516-mile EPA-estimated driving range is the longest of any EV, and the top-spec 1,200-horsepower Sapphire model is one of the most powerful production vehicles in the world.
Starting price for Air: $89,050
Fisker Inc. was started in 2016 by automotive designer Henrik Fisker, who formerly ran the now-defunct Fisker Automotive. The company’s first EV, the Ocean small SUV, was revealed in the fall of 2021. Fisker plans to begin delivering the Ocean to U.S. customers in the summer and intends to produce over 30,000 vehicles this year. Unlike most EV startups that manufacture their vehicles in a company-built factory, the Ocean is being built in Austria by Magna Steyr, a vehicle contract manufacturer.
The Ocean will initially be available in four models and is projected to have a driving range of up to 350 miles. An available solar panel roof and rotating center touchscreen are the Ocean’s more interesting features.
Starting price for Ocean: $37,499
Before the Sweden-based EV startup was founded as a stand-alone company by Volvo in 2017, Polestar was known for developing performance versions of Volvo cars. The Polestar 1, a 619-horsepower plug-in hybrid coupe, was the brand’s first vehicle, but production was limited to only 1,500 models. The company’s first all-electric vehicle, the Polestar 2 sedan, launched for the 2021 model year. Over 50,000 were sold globally last year and the startup is aiming for 80,000 this year. Polestar recently unveiled its first electric SUV, the Polestar 3, which will go on sale next year. The Polestar 4, a performance electric SUV, will follow.
Starting price for Polestar 2: $49,800
Many haven’t heard of VinFast, but the company began delivering its VF 8 City Edition SUV to U.S. customers this year and plans to deliver an improved version of the VF 8 this summer. Part of a large Vietnamese corporate conglomerate, VinFast initially got its start with gasoline-powered vehicles. For the U.S., the company will have an all-electric SUV lineup that includes the VF 6, VF 7 and VF 9.
When Edmunds recently drove the VF 8 City Edition, it found the vehicle lacked the refinement expected from a modern EV. But VinFast is taking the U.S. market seriously by offering a long warranty and starting a manufacturing facility in North Carolina starting this year.
Starting price for VF 8: $50,200
With a possible recession looming and potential future EV battery supply chain shortages, these EV startups aren’t out of the woods yet. But their ability to develop and produce EVs as fledgling startups shows they are competent enough for continued success.
Michael Cantu is a contributor at Edmunds and is on Instagram.
Michael Cantu, The Associated Press