The State of the Electric Car Market in 4 Charts and Graphs

, senior policy analyst, Clean Vehicles | October 24, 2016, 5:18 pm EST
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I’m guessing that over the past 3 months (or more), your news feed has been dominated by election-related stories. So you may have missed the recent good news about the electric vehicle (EV) market in the United States. To bring you up to speed (and provide a brief break from election hullaballoo) here are 4 graphs that explain what’s been happening in the world of EVs.

Graph 1 : EV sales are charging ahead (see what I did there?)

EV sales in the US just hit a new record. Over 45,000 EVs were sold in the third quarter of 2016, up more than 60 percent from the same time a year ago.

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EV sales are on the rise, though still represent around 1 percent of national vehicle sales. Source: insideevs.com

The sales increase can be partly attributed to the second generation Chevy Volt, which became widely available in March 2016 and includes 50 miles of electric range along with a backup gasoline engine. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Volt allow many drivers to do all of their normal daily driving purely on electricity, without any fear of running out of juice because they can just fill up with gas if the batteries are drained.

Confused about the difference between PHEVs like the Volt and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Nissan LEAF? Check out this explainer post.

Graph 2 : EVs are selling despite lower oil prices

EV sales reached this new high-water mark despite spotty availability of EV models across most of the country and continued lower-than-average oil prices, a factor often cited as hampering EV sales.

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EV sales continue to climb despite relatively low gas prices. Sources: InsideEVs.com and U.S. Energy Information Administration

Low gas prices do take some of the spotlight off of EVs, despite their lower operating costs compared to gas-powered vehicles. But even with gas hovering around $2.30 a gallon, driving on electricity remains cheaper.

The US Department of Energy estimates that driving on electricity is like paying $1.15 per gallon of gas, and electricity prices have historically been much more stable and predictable than gasoline.

Graph 3: Sales would be even higher if they were more widely available

Generally speaking, EVs are not readily available outside of California. The current lack of availability is due, in part, to the fact that a major policy pushing automakers to offer EVs—the California Zero Emission Vehicle Program—does not require automakers to sell EVs outside of California (yet).

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The requirements of the California program are set to expand to 9 additional states (ME, CT, VT, NY, MA, RI, MD, NJ, OR) in 2018, which together made up 28 percent of combined vehicle sales in 2015. So, the expanded role of policy pushing automakers to sell EVs in major vehicle markets outside of California will likely accelerate aggregate EV sales over the next couple years.

Graph 4 : More automakers are getting in the EV game

2017 should be an exciting year for EVs. Chevy is about to drop the Bolt, an all-electric car with over 200 miles of range and a price tag of around $30,000 after the federal tax credit. Toyota is releasing a new Plug-in Prius, now called Prius Prime, and recent pricing announcements put the cost similar to the price of existing Prius models.

Also in 2017, Tesla is aiming to ship their much-anticipated Model 3, and Hyundai will launch their Ioniq series that will include several electric drive train options. In 2018, Audi is slated to launch an all-electric 300-mile range SUV. Check this post for more detail on other EVs coming to showrooms soon.

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Consumers are now able to access many more electric vehicle options compared to 2011. More EV offerings from more automakers are planned in the next couple years, which will help the EV market continue to grow. Note that all BMW i3s were considered BEV, though some were the range-extender models that are PHEVs. Source: ucsusa.org

Overall, more EV options mean more choices for drivers to choose a vehicle that is cheaper and cleaner than a comparable gasoline model (and fun to drive). Though the EV market still has to overcome some hurdles , the state of play right now provides real reason to be optimistic about where EVs are headed.

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