close-up of compact EV charging

As global demand for electric vehicles grows, more automakers are shifting their manufacturing efforts to EVs. In the first part of our four-part series about the new electric models, we look at compact EVs expected to be available in the U.S. in 2022.

Toyota is investing over $13 billion in EV batteries, and BMW says EVs will make up 50% of its sales by 2030. General Motors pledges to sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. But while many new EV models will soon hit the market, the lineup of new compact EVs for the U.S. market is comparatively modest.

Many New Electric SUVs Hitting the Market but Few Compacts

Although many of the top-selling EVs have historically been compact or performance cars, that trend is changing. Many exciting new EVs on the horizon — in particular, SUVs and CUVs (crossover utility vehicles) — should be available in 2022. In contrast, 2022 promises very few new compact EVs for the U.S. market.

Tesla says it has an economical compact EV in the works for the Chinese market with some distribution globally, but it will likely be released in 2023. Tesla reportedly plans to sell this car for just $25,000, which could make it very appealing as an entry-level vehicle.

But in general, for the U.S. market, there are few major modifications to existing compact EVs compared to their 2021 models.

Good Compact EV Options in 2022

The popular 2022 Chevy Bolt received an interior and exterior facelift. It’s also $5,500 cheaper than the 2021 model. Chevy made no changes to the 2022 model’s driving range, which is the same as the 2021 model’s.

Other good compact EV options with moderate price tags are the Nissan Leaf and the Mini Cooper Electric, although they have a relatively small range compared to other EV models. The Tesla Model 3 has a longer range than most sedans — although it is competitive with Chevy’s Bolt. It also has a smaller price tag than the compact BMW i3, which seems to be on its way out with no named successor.

Chevy Bolt
2022 Chevy Bolt. Credit: Chevy

Many of the EVs available on the Chinese, European, and Indian markets are not sold in the U.S. For example, Nio, which manufactures a sports car and a few SUV models, sold 66,000 electric vehicles in the first three quarters or so of 2021 in China, but these models aren’t available to the U.S.

Similarly, Tata Motors vehicles, including the compact Tigor EV, are not available in the U.S. The company has sold over 10,000 EVs in India where it dominates the EV market.

The Global Semiconductor Shortage & the Auto Industry

Indeed, 2021 has been an odd year for vehicle sales, primarily due to the global shortage of semiconductors. Because all modern vehicles contain microchips, this impacts all classes of vehicles. Legacy automakers are reporting sales are down 24 to 26% in September due to the shortage. It is mainly due to a backlog created from the pandemic but could take a long time to resolve.

Automakers, including Ford and GM, have temporarily shuttered their factories due to the chip shortage. As a result, analysts predict automakers will not manufacture 4 million cars this year that they would have otherwise. And, chip shortages could easily continue into 2022, if not longer. Because internal combustion engines and EVs use semiconductors, the shortage impacts both categories.

“If we’ve got an ongoing chip shortage for an extended period of time, that means those [electric] vehicles can’t get built, and they can’t get sold, and we continue to have more older vehicles staying on the road longer,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at the market research firm Guidehouse Insights in an interview with Scientific American. “So that’s definitely a problem.”

Aptera Solar EV Enters Mass Production

The release of Aptera’s revolutionary car after a decade of work is long-awaited because it redefines the idea of basic transportation. The 2022 Aptera is a three-wheeled passenger car with solar cells on the roof, hood, dash, and tail, and it is certainly turning heads.

Whereas many potential EV owners have range anxiety, Aptera’s design resolves that issue. The battery in its vehicles ranges between a 25 kWh option to 100 kWh, with the range and weight varying accordingly. This solar electric vehicle (SEV) with the largest battery can travel 1,000 miles on a single charge.

Depending on their daily driving habits and available sunshine, drivers may be able to recharge using sunlight to reduce or eliminate the need to take power from the electric grid. According to Aptera Motors, the vehicle provides up to 40 miles of solar-powered driving daily. However, this is a best-case scenario; cloudy weather or shaded parking areas could interfere.

The exceptional range is possible due to the car’s aerodynamic design, efficient drive-train, and lightweight composition combined with solar panels covering 32 square feet of the body. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds and has top speeds of 110 mph.

Aptera Solar EV. Credit: Aptera

According to the Aptera website, nature inspired their SEV designers. “Aptera’s undercarriage swoops like a dolphin’s belly. This reduces drag, or the force of air flowing against the motion of the vehicle. Aptera is curved at the nose, wide along the sides and tapered toward the trunk — like a small, speedy aircraft.”

The vehicle even has side cameras instead of mirrors to reduce drag.

It also features a skin-cooling battery thermal management system that circulates coolant fluid throughout the vehicle’s skin to give the coolant a larger surface area in which to disperse heat. Why is this system necessary? Temperature plays a critical role in peak battery performance. So, it’s important to keep batteries within the ideal range for optimum performance and efficiency.

Aptera’s designers were certainly thinking outside of the box when designing this vehicle. “Luna symbolizes our wish for beauty and functionality,” said Jason Hill, Aptera’s vehicle designer regarding its alpha vehicle. “It represents our desire to leave behind a better world and greener planet for future generations.”

The company is based in San Diego, California, and just found a location in Carlsbad, California, for its production facility. Now, it is preparing for mass production and filling its 13,000 pre-orders. Aptera Motors told Electrek that it plans to officially ramp up production and deliveries in 2022.

Another Solar EV for 2023

There is another solar-assisted EV on the horizon, and it is available for preorder but only in Europe. The Scion Solar Car by Sono Motors is also covered with solar cells to help reduce the need to plug in, although it has a more conventional shape than the Aptera. The company plans to start production in 2023.

More New EVs on Tap for 2022

Besides the Aptera, most of the other buzz in 2022 will center around SUVs and sports EVs, with new electric vehicles from BMW, Rivian, Mercedes, and Nissan, among others.

In part two of our four-part series about new EVs for 2022, we look at some of the options for all-electric SUVs and CUVs.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.