But some are clearly worse than others.
A name can make or break a car. Recognizable nameplates like Camry, Corvette, Mustang, and others have stuck around for decades. Conversely, we've seen many brands struggle to rebrand with forgettable alphanumeric names such as XT5, QX55, and U#&1234. Ok, we made up that last one. This phenomenon has only grown worse as automakers try to assimilate electric vehicles into their lineups where similarly sized and price gasoline-powered cars already exist.
Some brands have done a fine job branding their EVs, keeping them distinctly separate from the ICE vehicles but still making them identifiable. Others have completely botched it to the point where we have to cross-check a manufacturer's website to remember which is which. With the move to electrification still fairly new, many brands are still growing into their EV naming schemes as they add new models.
Here are some of our opinions on which brands have done the best (and the worst) with regard to EV names. Not every brand will be covered here, but we wanted to point out the glaring examples of each. These opinions are based on how easy the names are to remember and how future-proof they seem.
Out of all the brands on this list, BMW came into the electrification race predestined for success. The company's nameplates are all numbered, so it was simple and easy to add a lowercase "i" in front of them. The BMW 7 Series became the BMW i7, BMW 4 Series becomes the i4, and so on and so forth. Repeatable, easy to remember, done. The only exception is the iX, which doesn't have a gasoline equivalent, so we have to give a one-time pass.
But even BMW is not perfect.
By starting with the i3 and i8, which were not electric versions of the gas-powered 3 Series and 8 Series, BMW may have trouble reusing these nameplates in the future. BMW now has a 3 Series-based i3 Sedan, but it's only offered in China. There is also a question of what will happen when BMW goes fully electric. Why would the company need an i4 and a 4 Series if everything is electric? We imagine the German automaker could make a quick pivot back to non-i names when this happens.
Similar to BMW, Mercedes decided that the best way to brand its EVs would be to put some letters in front, in this case "EQ." This makes sense in some cases like the E-Class-sized Mercedes EQE and S-Class-sized EQS, even though the ICE cars and EVs aren't strictly identical.
The naming scheme gets confusing when factoring in multiple body styles. Models like the EQE and EQS are offered as sedans and SUVs with the words "Sedan" and "SUV" being the only distinction between them. Then there are models like the EQB (based on the gas-powered GLB) that don't have a sedan equivalent. The EQB is an SUV, but it's not called the EQB SUV. See how that's confusing?
On the AMG side of things, Mercedes has chosen to drop the numbers from its AMG EQE and AMG EQS models for the American market (Europe gets 43 and 53 versions). This is fine, for now, but it could come back to bite Mercedes if it ever wants to introduce more than one AMG flavor within a single model. Fortunately, these EQ names are only temporary, as Mercedes will eventually drop them when the lineup goes fully electric.
Audi began tagging its hybrid and electric models with "e-tron" branding back in 2009, creating some confusion in the subsequent years. For example, the A3 e-tron was a plug-in hybrid but current Audi PHEV models do not get the e-tron badge. Things got even weirder when the Audi e-tron came out in 2018. Unlike any other Audi SUV, it didn't have the "Q?" naming scheme and thus sat awkwardly in the lineup. We knew Audi would eventually drop the name, recently refreshing the car and rebadging it as the Q8 e-tron. It may not be directly related to the Q8, but at least the two SUVs are close in size and price point.
Audi's EVs are now slotted well into the lineup. The Q4 e-tron is bigger than a Q3 but smaller than a Q5, and the e-tron GT sits to the side as a halo sedan model. Future models like the A6 e-tron will fall neatly into this naming scheme before Audi likely drops the e-tron name entirely when the lineup is fully electric.
It's easy to see that General Motors, perhaps more so than any brand on this list, is going full force with its electrified naming scheme. Aside from the Bolt, which was a ground-up new model created to usher in EVs, Chevrolet's electric lineup will be 100% recognizable. Chevy has already announced electric versions of the Equinox, Blazer, and Silverado that simply have the letters "EV" tacked on. The same is true of GMC with the Sierra 1500 EV and it even brought back Hummer to act as an EV halo sub-brand.
Cadillac is even using EVs as an opportunity to back away from its bland alphanumeric naming scheme with fresh new names like Lyriq and upcoming models such as Ascendiq, Optiq, Symboliq, Celestiq, Vistiq, Lumistiq, and EscaladeIQ. We still have no idea if they will come to the US, but it looks like Buick will revive the Electra name as a series of EV models.
Ford may not have a repeatable naming scheme for its EVs, but that doesn't seem to matter. The Blue Oval went bold by electrifying its two most recognizable nameplates: the F-150 and Mustang. Enthusiasts were furious when the Mustang Mach-E debuted, an electric crossover using the legendary Mustang name. Though it ticked off a few people, the move paid dividends by helping the Mach-E stand out over its forgettably-named rivals like the Volkswagen ID.4. The same is true for the F-150 Lightning, which borrows the name of the highest-performance F-150 model ever produced, perfectly incorporating it on a powerful electric truck.
We look forward to seeing what other historic nameplates Ford might pull from the history books on future models.
Hyundai and Kia have a similar approach to EV naming. Hyundai uses the word "Ioniq" followed by a number while Kia uses "EV" also preceding a number. These schemes are both easy enough to remember but could get trickier as both brands add more EV models. Hyundai already has us a bit confused. Ioniq 5 is a mid-size-ish crossover but Ioniq 6 (a larger number) is a smaller sedan. How does that make sense? The Ioniq 7 makes sense as a larger three-row crossover above the 5 and cements odd numbers representing SUV models.
Kia's names seem more erratic. EV6 is equivalent to the Ioniq 5 for some unexplained reason and the EV9 will be similar to the Ioniq 7. Unlike Hyundai, that means Kia will have one crossover with an even number and another with an odd number. We are curious to see how Kia balances its naming scheme if/when it introduces an electric sedan or hatchback.
It's clear that many of these brands didn't think about how to future-proof their EV naming schemes and nowhere is this more apparent than with Polestar. The company names its cars sequentially as they come out. There's no way that could ever be confusing for consumers, right? The Polestar 1 kicked off this electrified performance brand as a low-volume plug-in hybrid, so the naming scheme seemed doomed from the word go. This was followed by the all-electric Polestar 2, an electric sedan roughly the size of a Volvo S60.
The Swedish brand will soon follow up the 2 with the Polestar 3, a mid-size SUV that will rival the Porsche Cayenne. After that will come the Polestar 4, a smaller Macan-sized model. How does it make any sense that the Polestar 3 is bigger than the 4? It will then get even more confusing with the Polestar 5, a Taycan-rivaling sedan smaller than the 3 and the 4, and the Polestar 6, which will be a convertible sports car.
What happens when Polestar wants to replace a model? Will keeping numbering with a Polestar 8 or create a second generation of the current models?
We could forgive brands for botching the complicated minutia of creating a cohesive naming scheme, but we find it harder to tolerate bland, forgettable names that feel like they weren't run past the simple filter of "does this actually sound like car people would want to buy?" The Toyota bZ4X springs to mind with a name that seems equal parts car as it does fax machine.
Toyota's EVs will all have the letters "bZ" for "Beyond Zero" followed by a number to denote size and a letter to specify vehicle type. We only have two examples so far, including the bZ3 that is only sold in China. It will be interesting to see how Toyota fills out its electric lineup with various trademarks for names such as bZ1C through bZ4C. This scheme has potential, but we'd much rather see Toyota speed up its electrification efforts with recognizable nameplates like Corolla and Camry.
The RZ 450e is less offensive because Lexus has never had evocative names. The Z stands for "Zero," but we can't begin to imagine how Lexus plans to expand this naming scheme cohesively with future models.
Tesla's lineup is not difficult to remember since it currently contains only four vehicles. The Model S is a sedan, which makes sense based on the first letter of the word "sedan" and the Model X is a crossover, a body style that is often depicted by the letter "X" because it looks like a diagonal cross. Elon Musk wanted the Model 3 to be called the Model E because the lineup would spell out the word "sexy" after the Model Y was complete, but since Ford owned the rights to the Model E name, Tesla had to settle for S3XY (the 3 looks a bit like a backward E).
Musk wanted to take it a step further and expand the lineup to read "S3XY CARS" with the remaining four letters designating the Cybertruck, ATV (used at the Cybertruck's reveal), Roadster, and Semi.
Overall, Tesla's names make sense, are easy to remember, and are mostly future-proof, though we can't wait to see what happens when it's time for the existing lineup to be retired. Overall, a job well-done by Tesla.
Despite being tagged with the letters "ID," Volkswagen's EVs are ironically hard to identify. The numbering makes some sense with the ID.4 being a crossover based on the same platform as the ID.3, but then the Europe-only ID.5 breaks that scheme because it's simply a coupe version of the ID.4. The ID.6 is a larger three-row SUV that's only sold in China, so it fits with the numbering scheme, but then VW decided to call its first electric sedan the ID.7, even though it's smaller than the ID.6. Why is the number six a three-row SUV and seven is a sedan? It seems random.
Then there's the issue VW's syntax. Do you know how annoying it is to have a period in the middle of a model name? It's a writer's nightmare. Even more annoyingly, the ID. Buzz puts a space after the period, but the other models do not. What was wrong with Golf, Passat, and Tiguan? Those names were easy to remember and recognizable. Even previous models like the e-Golf were self-explanatory. The ID.4 could be the e-Tiguan, and the ID.7 could be the e-Passat. No one would forget those names.
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