EVs Are The Last Chance For Station Wagons To Succeed

Opinion / 26 Comments

Wagons offer the perfect solution to range anxiety.

When designing and engineering an electric vehicle, there are many factors that impact the vehicle's range. Obviously, a larger battery will enable a longer driving range, but elements such as curb weight, rolling resistance (tire width and type), and aerodynamic drag can drastically lower that range number. Take the new 2022 GMC Hummer as an example; it features a massive 212.7 kWh battery pack that weighs 2,923 pounds, but can only go around 329 miles on a charge. By comparison, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS can go 350 miles despite having a 108 kWh battery pack.

It's pretty obvious that smaller, lighter EVs will go further than larger trucks and SUVs without needing overly large batteries. Just like how small gas cars like a Honda Civic are more efficient than a Chevrolet Suburban. But what if people need an EV that can carry a family and their stuff without being a charge hog?

The answer already exists: the station wagon.

Audi Driving Front Angle Porsche Rear-Facing View Porsche Volkswagen
Driving Front Angle
Rear-Facing View

Why A Wagon?

Let's remind ourselves what can ruin an EV's range: curb weight, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics. Know what's heavier and less aerodynamic than a regular car? You guessed it, an SUV! Crossovers and trucks are heavier than their sedan/wagon counterparts, so they aren't as efficient. And because they are taller, they don't cut through the air as well. Wagons are the perfect solution to EV range anxiety because they offer a longer wheelbase with room for more battery cells, like an SUV, but without the added height compromising aero.

Consumers want the best of both worlds, but they can't have it with an electric SUV. If the vehicle rides lower and weighs less (assuming other factors are equal), it will almost certainly go further on a charge. Tesla is the perfect example, because the company sells two SUVs that are essentially lifted versions of their sedan counterparts (same batteries and same motors).

The Model 3 (334 miles) and Model S (375 miles) both go further than their heavier and taller SUV counterparts, the Model Y (318 miles) and Model X (333 miles). In this example, opting for the SUV sacrifices between 16 and 42 miles of range.

2017-2022 Tesla Model 3 Front View Driving Tesla 2020-2022 Tesla Model Y Front View Driving Tesla Tesla 2021-2022 Tesla Model X Driving Front Angle Tesla
2017-2022 Tesla Model 3 Front View Driving
2020-2022 Tesla Model Y Front View Driving
2021-2022 Tesla Model X Driving Front Angle

What's Available Now

Sadly as of this writing, there are only two electric station wagons available to purchase in the US, and they are both expensive. The 2022 Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo only comes in sporty GTS guise stateside, ringing in at $133,300 before any pricey options. Porsche also offers the Taycan Cross Turismo, which starts at a more reasonable $93,700 and peaks at an outrageous $187,600 for the Turbo S variant. The Cross Turismo is essentially a higher ride height version of a conventional station wagon, offering around 1.2 inches more ground clearance than the standard Taycan.

The EPA hasn't rated the Taycan GTS yet, so we don't know the range estimates for the Taycan Sport Turismo. Looking at the Taycan 4S and Taycan 4S Cross Turismo, we see a drop from 227 to 215 miles. That's a smaller decrease than we noted moving from the Tesla sedans to the SUVs, and we expect the Sport Turismo to offer even better range, if only slightly. Though the Cross Turismo isn't the largest wagon on the market, it still offers 15.8 cubic of storage in the trunk compared to 14.3 cubic feet in the standard Taycan.

2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Forward Vision Porsche 2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Rearward Vision Porsche Front Angle View Porsche Side View Porsche Trunk Space Porsche
2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Forward Vision
2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Rearward Vision
Front Angle View
Side View
Trunk Space

What's Coming

Though there isn't much selection for electric wagons today, there's hope for the future. Audi just showed off the stunning A6 Avant e-tron, which will arrive sporting a 100-kWh battery offering a 435-mile range on the WLTP cycle (around 305 miles on the EPA cycle). With 496 horsepower on tap, the A6 Avant e-tron will hit 60 mph in less than four seconds. For buyers who still want more speed, a 600-hp RS version will likely follow. In a much lower price bracket, Volkswagen has teased a future EV wagon with the ID.Space Vizzion Concept packing an 82 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 300-mile range.

Mercedes, makers of the E63 Wagon (one of the coolest wagons of all time), doesn't seem keen, citing slow sales, but has hinted future EV crossovers will look more wagonlike for the reasons mentioned above. The company recently showed off the EQXX Concept, which features an incredible 0.17 drag coefficient enabling a 625-mile driving range - these coupe cues will seep into the rest of the brand's EV portfolio.

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The Hurdles

As Mercedes knows, there are obvious hurdles to getting buyers (especially American buyers) back into station wagons. It doesn't matter which company tries to sell them - Audi, Buick, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Volkswagen - wagons are sales poison in the US. In fact, one model makes up over 85 percent of US wagon sales: the Subaru Outback, which is only a wagon by EPA technicality. Even if automakers can convince buyers that a wagon can haul all their stuff and provide a longer driving range, it feels like an uphill battle to stray them away from taller crossovers.

There's also a regulatory issue to consider. The upcoming Clean Energy for America Act (which is subject to revisions) includes a larger federal tax credit for EVs than the current $7,500. However, the potential $12,500 credit includes various stipulations, including pricing limits. For example, if the EV is a sedan, hatchback, or wagon, it needs to cost less than $50,000 to qualify for the full credit. Trucks and SUVs have a much higher threshold of $80,000. Why buy a $50,001 station wagon when you can get a larger credit for a pricier SUV?

Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz 2022 GMC Hummer Front Angle View GMC
2022 GMC Hummer Front Angle View

Last Chance For Wagons

In our opinion, the upcoming push towards electrification is the last gasp for the station wagon. The body style makes perfect sense for the transition to EVs because it offers a long wheelbase (necessary to cram in lots of batteries) and a sleek body that can cut through the air more efficiently. It's up to automakers to help sell this idea to the consumer. Worried about range anxiety but still want tons of cargo space? You need a wagon. Plain and simple.

Audi CarBuzz 2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Trunk Space with Seat Folded Porsche
2021-2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Trunk Space with Seat Folded

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