By: Christian Okolski
Electric vehicles have been consistently growing on American consumers since the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF were introduced to the U.S. auto market in late 2010. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, annual Passenger electric vehicle sales have jumped 445 percent from 17,735 units sold in 2011 to 96,702 units sold in 2013. Moreover, that trend is continuing into 2014.
Among other great research and reports, Hybridcars.com posts market “Dashboards”, which record the number of EVs sold each month by make and model. Hybridcars notes that last June, 11,493 plug-in electric cars were sold, up 31 percent from June 2013. As for total 2014 sales, there have been 54,973 so far, and five out of the six past months have seen greater electric vehicle sales than their 2013 counterparts. The only month this year that saw a year-over-year decline in sales was April, but that decline was only 2.9 percent from April 2013.
Those numbers bode very well for the U.S. electric car market, since 2014’s sales are on pace to eclipse those of 2013 by 14 percent, even though 2013 was a very strong year. However, if you consider the compound monthly growth rate of electric vehicles sales this year and the fact that the best months for automotive sales are still to come in the late summer and fall, total 2014 sales could be as high as roughly 167,000 cars! Although that estimate may very well be an “optimistic” forecast, it is surely not beyond the realm of possibility. At the end of the day, it would be not be surprising to see overall 2014 electric vehicle sales resting somewhere between 110,000 and 167,000
Amidst these growing sales numbers, another reason to be optimistic about the future of electric cars is that more automakers are placing more electric vehicles on the market. What was once a market dominated by the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF, has become one with 17 different electric car models to choose from. While some of them are indeed compliance cars, such as the Fiat 500e, and limited to buyers primarily in California, the majority are widely available to consumers. In addition, some of the new entrants are remarkably different from the pioneers of this market. While the LEAF and Volt were introduced as relatively affordable energy savers, the Cadillac ELR and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, for example, are sporty, luxury vehicles that “break the mold” and show a willingness of automakers to develop exciting, new plug-in technologies.
As electric vehicle sales continue to rise and new models become available to consumers, their successes still need to be put into context. Plug-in cars still represent less than one percent of the total U.S. auto market, which sold over 1.3 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles this past June alone. In order for electric vehicles to really make their presence known, their costs must come down, their battery ranges must go up, and a comprehensive, high-powered charging infrastructure must be built. These improvements will likely play a big role in how fast and to what extent the electric vehicle market continues to grow, but for now, sustained, high growth since 2011 is certainly encouraging.