The transition from internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is as exciting as it is challenging. The pressure exerted by governments for the adoption of less polluting powertrains, China's intention to play a leading role in this market and the exponential growth of Tesla have increased demand for these cars worldwide.

Preliminary figures for 2023 indicate a total of 9.8 million pure electric light vehicles sold worldwide, representing 11% of global light vehicle sales. All of this is positive, if prices are not taken into account. According to a study carried out by JATO Dynamics in October 2023, the average price of an electric car in the United States is 35% higher than that of a petrol car and 39% higher in Europe. This is not the case in China, where the average price of an electric car is 27% lower than that of a petrol car.

Until the price gap narrows, BEVs will continue to play a lesser role, at least in Europe and North America.

Living with the enemy

The big price difference becomes a major problem when the same customer has to choose between electric, petrol or diesel within the same brand. While Tesla, Lucid, Polestar, NIOXpeng and many others have started out as purely electric car brands, traditional companies are having to face up to the transition, and it's not easy to go from decades of producing cars with internal combustion engines to producing electric cars. Not to mention the need to adapt their know-how and commercial structures to the new reality.

That's why we continue to see a wide range of petrol-powered cars alongside highly publicised electric cars. Although all car manufacturers are aiming to produce and sell only electric vehicles within the next 10 to 20 years, the current reality is that internal combustion engine cars account for around 80% of sales (including mild hybrids and full hybrids).

ICE vs electric

Meanwhile, electric cars are struggling to gain a foothold, partly because of their internal combustion engine counterparts from the same brand. This is one of the reasons why many electric models simply don't take off, or struggle to sell enough. There are many examples:

  • Volkswagen ID.3 vs Volkswagen Golf: Although the current generation of the Golf no longer tops the sales charts in Europe, its electric counterpart, the ID.3, is not dominating the continent with significant volumes. This applies to both Europe and China. In Germany, the popular classic Golf costs on average 17% less than the ID.3, whose design is also more controversial.
  • Ford F-150 ICE vs. Lightning: Why choose the electric version of this pick-up if its average retail price in the United States is 41% higher than that of the same vehicle powered by a combustion engine? In these cases, the consumer is primarily looking for load capacity and interior comfort, not the vehicle's mode of propulsion.
  • Fiat 500e vs Fiat 500: Although the former uses an entirely new platform since 2020 and the latter has been on the market since 2007, they are virtually the same car in terms of interior space and city handling. However, in Italy, the average price of the electric 500 is twice that of the combustion 500. So once again the question arises: are those who buy a city car really looking for 'clean' mobility or simply an easy solution?
  • Mercedes EQA vs GLA, BMW iX1 vs X1: Although the gap is smaller in the higher segments, there are still differences with which we close this review. In the case of Mercedes, the electric version is 9% more expensive than the ICE version (excluding AMG versions) and in the case of BMW, the iX1 costs on average 11% more than the X1.

Two models per brand

Golf 5 door Volkswagen ID.3
Tiguan Volkswagen VOLKSWAGEN ID.4
Passat Variant Volkswagen ID.7 Tourer
Q3 Audi Q4 e-tron
Q3 Sportback Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback
A7 Audi e-tron GT
Q7 Audi Q8 e-tron
Q8 Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback
Leon 5-door Cupra Born
Kodiaq Skoda Enyaq
500 Fiat 500e
600 Hybrid Fiat 600e
208 Peugeot e-208
308 Peugeot e-308
2008 Peugeot e-2008
C4 Citroen e-C4
DS 3 DS DS 3 E-Tense
Corsa Opel Corsa-e
Mokka Opel Mokka-e
Astra Opel Astra-e
Avenger Jeep Avenger
Cooper MINI Cooper SE
Countryman MINI Countryman
BMW Serie 4 Gran Coupé BMW i4
5 Series Berlina BMW i5
Serie 7 BMW i7
X1 BMW iX1
X2 BMW iX2
X3 BMW iX3
GLA Mercedes EQA
GLB Mercedes EQB
GLE Mercedes EQE SUV
GLS Mercedes EQS SUV
E-Class Mercedes EQE
S-Class Mercedes EQS
Clio Renault Zoe
Megane Renault Megane E-Tech
XC40 Volvo XC40
XC90 Volvo EX90
S60 Volvo Polestar 2
F-Pace Jaguar I-Pace
G80 Genesis G80
GV60 Genesis GV60
Kona Hyundai Kona
Sonata Hyundai Ioniq 6
Niro Kia Niro
Sportage Kia EV5
Telluride Kia EV9
X-Trail Nissan Ariya
NX Lexus RX
RAV4 Toyota bZ4X
F-150 Ford F-150 Lightning
Kuga/Escape Ford Mustang Mach E
HR-V Honda E:NY1
Forester Subaru Solterra
Equinox Chevrolet Equinox EV
Blazer Chevrolet Blazer EV
Silverado Chevrolet Silverado EV
Sierra 1500 GMC Hummer EV Pickup
XT5 Cadillac Lyriq
Escalade Cadillac Escalade IQ

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is a specialist in the automotive industry at JATO Dynamics.