Startup EV manufacturer VinFast has already pledged to have vehicles on sale in the US by the end of this year. The Vietnamese automaker is taking a unique tack to market, however, by separating the cost of batteries and making them available solely by subscription. That's right, batteries are not included.
On the heels of its recent US plant announcement, at Wednesday's New York Auto Show, the automaker announced pricing for battery subscriptions for its VF 8 and VF 9 all-electric SUVs, as well as updated model pricing. There are two battery pricing structures for both models, the Flexible Plan for more occasional drivers and an unlimited Fixed plan for heavier users.
Why is VinFast doing this? Batteries are the single biggest fixed cost in EVs, and the company is hoping that by separating the cost of the pack from the vehicle, customers will find the pricing of the company's vehicles more attractive. Additionally, by taking responsibility for the battery, VinFast is also hoping to head off customer concerns about pack degradation and maintenance costs.
VinFast VF 8 and VF battery subscription pricing
Here's where things get a little complicated. The monthly cost for the Flexible Plan runs $35 for the smaller, five-seat FV 8 and $44 for the three-row VF 9, which has a larger battery. That's the monthly rate for the first 310 miles of travel. From the 311th mile on, the subscription fee is about 11 cents for the VF 8 and 15 cents for the VF 9 on a per-mile basis. That means if a VF 8 owner drives a further 300 miles in a month, they'll spend an extra $33, or $68 for 610 miles in a single month. Similarly, a VF 9 user would spend an extra $45 or a total of $89 for 610 miles of driving in a month.
It seems safe to assume that VinFast's unlimited-range monthly Fixed Plan will be more popular, as these packages are still reasonably priced at $110 for the VF 8 and $160 for the VF 9. Provided charging is both accessible and fast, that's an attractive deal, particularly in a world of $4-per-gallon gasoline.
That said, the stability and convenience of Vinfast's charging network feels like a bit of a wildcard. The automaker's just-announced officially charging partner is Electrify America, a company whose rapidly-expanding network has been serially dinged for its inconsistent service. What's more, the deal only calls for new VinFast owners to receive two complimentary charging sessions -- far less than other automakers' welcome spiffs that often include many months of free charging.
2023 VinFast VF 8 Is an Ambitious Electric SUV From VietnamSee all photos
This subscription pricing is guaranteed for those who reserve and make a deposit for a 2022 model-year SUV, and interestingly, the lease is also transferable to the next owner, should the initial buyer choose to resell their vehicle. What's more, the battery carries a lifetime warranty with no maintenance costs, and VinFast vows to replace the battery when the pack degrades below 70% usability.
This sort of battery subscription/lease model hasn't been tried in the US at scale before. France's Renault has found some success with a similar scheme for its Zoe EV, but it remains unclear how interested American consumers will be in this sort of arrangement. It's a bold gamble.
VinFast VF 8 and VF 9 pricing
Of course, the battery subscription cost is on top of the price of the vehicle itself. The automaker has just released updated pricing on the 2022 VinFast VF 8 and VF 9, as well. Both models come in two trims, Eco and Plus, with different standard equipment levels. Confusingly, both models also feature two different available battery capacities and resultant range estimates, albeit at strangely minimal price differences:
VF 8 Eco Battery Version 1 (260-mile range): $40,700
VF 8 Eco Battery Version 2 (292-mile range): $41,000
VF 8 Plus Battery Version 1 (248-mile range): $47,700
VF 8 Plus Battery Version 2 (277-mile range): $48,000
VF 9 Eco Battery Version 1 (279-mile range): $55,500
VF 9 Eco Battery Version 2 (369-mile range): $56,000
VF 9 Plus Battery Version 1 (262-mile range): $60,500
VF 9 Plus Battery Version 2 (360-mile range): $61,000
*Note: The final delivered costs of all models will be higher, as VinFast has not yet disclosed destination fees for the above models.
To underline the above, that means there's a paltry $300 difference between VF 8 trims with materially different ranges or $500 on the VF 9, where the range difference can be up to 98 miles. Why on Earth would anyone choose a Battery Version 1 of either model? Why would an automaker go to the trouble and expense of developing two different battery versions with such minimally different pricing?
If you're considering buying a VinFast but the "batteries for rent" idea is a turn-off, the automaker says it will eventually allow for the purchase of a battery with a vehicle in the future, just like every other manufacturer. The company anticipates offering a 50/50 split between models with battery subscriptions and models with battery sales after the end of 2023.