NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When investing in the car business, it is important to understand not just what the competitive landscape looks like today, but also what it will look like more than two years from today.
This goes especially for the electric car market because it is still in its early stages, with lots of non-linear leapfrogging likely over the next few years.
I'm using "electric car" in this definition: Any car that has a plug. This means all-electric cars, obviously, but also plug-in hybrids. These hybrids combine a battery for the ability to drive anywhere between six and 80 miles on electricity, with a gasoline engine for longer distances.
The other definitional focus of this article is in terms of price and volume. I am not interested in very expensive or too exotic cars. For example, Audi has said that it is working on an electric version of its mid-engine two-seat R class. However, the price is expected to be somewhere above $130,000.
What's a relevant price for the broader market? Some would say $30,000. I think a first step is up to $45,000 and a second step is up to $70,000 -- before any tax adjustments. Therefore, the focus of this article is to identify models that may be in production by the end of 2016 at prices below $70,000.
With those caveats in mind, let's go down the list and engage in some educated speculation:
General Motors (GM): A Chevrolet Volt 2.0 is expected to be announced in less than a year from now, probably only a few short months before going into production. It will retain the performance formula of the current 1.0, but cost a lot less to manufacture. It will obviously have a more refined interior and perhaps be offered in multiple (mini-minivan) body styles.
On the pure electric side, a longer-range electric car from GM would likely have to be introduced together with a major charging infrastructure initiative. One could envision a 200-mile EV as well as a longer-range, 300-mile EV flagship launched under this kind of major EV initiative near the end of 2016. This would be naturally done under the Buick and Cadillac brands. One might surmise these cars would be priced near $50,000 and $70,000, respectively.
Ford (F): There is no hint about Ford's future electrification plans. By extrapolating from today's offerings, one can assume more plug-in hybrids to be offered. As far as an all-EV with 200-, let alone 300-mile range, there is no indication anything is forthcoming until late 2016 at the very earliest.