Battery Electric Vehicles Make Up 0.3% of Current U.S. Auto Sales
By our count, automakers have sold roughly 2.5 million vehicles in the U.S. through the end of February. Our tally of the number of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf sold year to date is about 7,000. We have not counted vehicles that can use gasoline to drive the car directly, or charge a battery pack. Add those in and the number is roughly double that or about 14,000 vehicles overall. We rounded up to get the 0.3% number for the BEVs.
Note that the BEV percent number is not a single percent, but rather, a fraction of one percent. In order to surpass the one percent of vehicle sales mark, BEVs would have to roughly triple or quadruple their sales rate. As time goes on it is getting harder for BEVs to reach this mark, not easier. Having been on sale for about six years in the U.S., electric vehicle sales grew from 2010 through 2014, but have plateaued. By comparison, vehicle sales, in general, have been growing strongly year over year.
As new electric vehicle models are added to the fleet helping sales, some previously strong sellers like the Nissan Leaf are way off their prior highs in terms of sales. The Leaf, which was recently refreshed, has sold less than 1,000 units in each of the past two months. At its peak back in mid-2014, the Leaf was selling nearly 3,000 per month. Tesla’s Model S is running at a little less than its 2015 average sales rate of 2,000 units per month. However, that model could jump up in any given month to about 3,500 units if Tesla opts to make more of it and less of the new Model X, which has had an extremely slow launch and is only selling at about a 350 unit per month rate so far (and that’s being generous). The BMW i3 which is available in BEV and also extended-range EV versions has died on the vine with sales down to about 200 units per month after having sustained a pace of nearly 1,000 units per month for well over a year.
Most automotive analysts and EV advocates point to low gas prices as the main reason EV sales are down, and that is hard to argue. A gasoline-powered hybrid like the Prius now has a lower cost per mile for energy (fuel) than does an EV according to the EPA. So what could boost EV sales? A successful new model affordable to the masses. Chevy's new 200-mile range Bolt could succeed, but would GM build it in big numbers or just enough to meet its CARB mandates? Tesla Motors also plans to announce a more affordable vehicle this month. However, the plant at which it plans to build its battery is still under construction, and Tesla's workers walked off the job site this week. They will return eventually, but it is hard to see how battery electric vehicles get to the one percent of U.S. sales rate in calendar 2016.