Electric Cars Are Coming on Strong

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Change takes time, but sometimes not as much time as one would have thought. A few short years ago, the idea of electric vehicles seemed like a tiny speck on a distant horizon—a toy for technophiles and early adapters. But even the Wall Street Journal says the EV’s will be here sooner than you think. And by here, they don’t mean on the fringes.

The numbers seem to bear this out. Worldwide, some 312,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in the first half of this year. That’s a 49% increase compared to last year. That growth rate, says Clean Technica, is roughly ten times that of the overall vehicle market. The biggest action was in China, where they grew 128% with home grown BYD vehicles providing the lion’s share. Japan came in second, and Europe, taken as a whole comes in third, with 21% growth before we get to the 18% growth seen here in the US.

Here at home, some 64,296 were sold through June. That is about one for every 150 cars sold. The top five models were Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi PHEV, Tesla Model X, and Nissan Leaf with Tesla Model S sales roughly double that of the Leaf. Leaf sales have dropped recently in anticipation of a new model with significantly improved range, a phenomenon that has become common in the rapidly-changing EV world.

The tipping point, says WSJ, is the 200 mile range mark, which Tesla has already hit, and others, including the soon to be released Chevy Bolt, will meet and improve on.

Car makers have seen this as both the future and the promised land. Pasquale Romano, chief executive of ChargePoint Inc., the world’s largest maker of electric-car charging stations, is in a good position to know what car companies have in mind. He says they plan, “to just electrify everything.”

Indeed, both Volkswagen and BMW have pledged to make every model available as a plug-in hybrid by 2025. Hyundai will offer eight plug-in hybrid models by 2020, plus two all-electric vehicles. And Toyota Motor plans to overhaul their plug-in Prius, boasting twice the range, arrives before the year is out.

Plug-in hybrids tend to cost more than straight electrics, but they seem to be the most versatile. All-electrics are fine for any type of commuting, but what about that drive across the country? Tesla continues to assert that with their exclusive SuperCharger network, that this is not a problem as confirmed by a number of customer testimonials. But for non-Tesla drivers it can continue to be a challenge, at least in the near term.

Another aspect that sets Tesla apart is the question of depreciation. Tesla has the slowest rate of depreciation in their segment, even when compared with their gasoline counterparts. That is not the case for any other EV. Some, like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have seen their resale value drop quickly when new models were introduced with improved range any other features, Tesla models, to date, have not competed with each other.

The other tipping point lies in the number of charging stations. As costs come down, which they have, the number of locations increases. Today there are 30,000 stations just in Chargepoint’s network. PlugShare has over 50,000 charging stations listed on their website. Without getting into the various levels of fast and slow charging, that compares favorably with the 90,000 gas stations according to Gasoline & Automotive Services Dealers of America.

In short, the pieces are all in place. More government action, such as a "Green for Guzzlers" campaign, similar to the Cash for Clunkers, would certainly help, as would the carbon tax we’ve all been waiting for, but even without these steps, the segment will continue to grow robustly. It remains to be seen whether our climate thinks that’s fast enough.


Image courtesy of iStock