2014 Blog Archive
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Sunday December 28, 2014 - Study Says Coal is Problem
Sunday December 21, 2014 – What is the Cost to Charge
Sunday December 14, 2014 – Kia Soul EV
Sunday December 7, 2014 – November 2014 EV Sales
Sunday November 30, 2014 – California EV Sales Growth
Sunday November 23, 2014 - 2014 LA Auto Show
Sunday November 16, 2014 – More Plug-in Choices
Sunday November 9, 2014 – October 2014 EV Sales
Sunday November 2, 2014 – Tesla Repeat Buyers
Sunday October 26, 2014 – Stolen EVSE
Sunday September 19, 2014 - CARB Set to Revise ZEV Mandate
Sunday October, 2014 – William Korthof 1978-2014
Sunday September 5, 2014 – September 2014 EV Sales
Sunday September 28, 2014 – Blink Shifts to KWH Charging
Sunday September 21, 2014 – 2014 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo
Sunday September 14, 2014 - Drive Electric Week
Sunday September 7, 2014 – August 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Aug 31, 2014 – Charger Problems and Solutions
Sunday August 24, 2014 – BMW i8 Arrives
Sunday August 17, 2014 – EVs Getting Tickets at Charger
Sunday August 10, 2014 - July 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Aug 3, 2014 – Casino Charging
Sunday Jul 27, 2014 – Electric Mercedes Hits the Street
Sunday July 20, 2014 – More Chargers than McDonald's
Sunday July 13, 2014 – Tesla Crashes
Sunday July 6, 2014 - June 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Jun 29, 2014 – Toyota Fuel Cell Car
Sunday Jun 22, 2014 – Motorbikes in the News
Sunday Jun 15, 2014 – Opening up on EVs
Sunday Jun 8, 2014 - May 2014 EV Sales
Sunday May 11, 2014 – BMW i3 Hits the Street
Sunday May 4, 2014 – April 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Apr 27, 2014 – Fuel Cell Car Hype
Sunday Apr 20, 2014 – 2014 New York Auto Show
Sunday Apr 13, 2014 – Johnny Green and the Little Green Man
Sunday Apr 6, 2014 – March 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Mar 30, 2014 – Sharing Public Chargers
Sunday Mar 23, 2014 – Plug-in Hybrids Needed Too
Sunday Mar 16, 2014 – New Jersey Blocks Tesla Sales
Sunday Mar 9, 2014 – February 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Mar 2, 2014 – Where Have the Electric Scooters Gone?
Sunday Feb 23, 2014 - January Hot or Cold?
Sunday Feb 16, 2014 - Ending EV Incentives
Sunday Feb 9, 2014 - January 2014 EV Sales
Sunday Feb 2, 2014 – Workplace charging
Sunday Jan 26, 2014 – The Emissary
Sunday Jan 19, 2014 – EV Spotting
Sunday Jan 12, 2014 – December 2013 EV Sales
Sunday Jan 5, 2014 – Predictions for 2014
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Sunday December 28, 2014 - Study Says Coal is Problem - I just read a post on Twitter that pointed me to an article on The Blaze about how President Obama's drive to get 1,000,000 electric cars on the road by 2015 was going to fall far short. The article then followed with some major EV bashing by pointing to a recent Study done by Christopher W. Tessuma, Jason D. Hillb, and Julian D. Marshall from the University of Minnesota.
The study tried to equate the type of fuel used to power a car with the number of deaths that were caused by the use of this fuel. Of course EVs powered solely by coal came out worst. The article in the Blaze used this piece of information to draw the conclusion that "electric cars are more harmful to the environment than gas-powered vehicles because of the amount of coal that is burned to keep the cars running". It's the same old argument that we used to hear when people talked about hydrogen fuel cells. EVs were always charged with electricity from coal while fuel cells are run on hydrogen produced from renewable resources. The article totally ignored the fact that the study found the cleanest cars to be EVs charged from renewable sources.
What the study is really saying is that Coal is the big problem. In most states that use coal as the primary source of electricity generation, the number of EVs is very low since most EVs are sold on the west coast where electricity generation is much cleaner. What is using all this electricity being generated by Coal is industries including oil refining which is a large consumer of electricity, retail and office buildings, and of course domestic uses like running a refrigerator, air conditioning, lights and TV sets. If burning coal is having the sort of impact on our health that this study claims then it is clear we need to move to renewable energy as quickly as possible.
This study does a pretty poor job of quantifying the whole EV v gas debate. A Study done recently by the Union of Concerned Scientists gives a better, although not perfect, view of things. Their study attempts to quantify the difference by regions and also attempts to equate the emissions to the amount of mpg you would need to achieve to be cleaner with gasoline than you would be with an electric car charged based on the mix that is used in each region such as the North West or Mid-West. According to their study even in the dirtiest region, the Mid West, you would need to drive a car that gets more than 34mpg to do better than you would driving an EV.
Part of the problem I have with the study is that they try to factor in the amount of pollution created by the production of EV batteries. I couldn't find anything that specified what they considered the life of the battery but I did see that they used energy from coal as the primary energy source for the creation of the batteries. This might work for the Nissan Leaf batteries which are manufactured in Tennessee, but most other battery plants are located abroad in Japan, China, and Korea so the type of electricity used may not be generated from Coal. The new Tesla Gigawatt factory in Nevada is expected to have a large solar array to supplement their energy use.
The other thing that we have with EVs is that they become cleaner over time while a gas car typically becomes dirtier as it ages. The current boom in natural gas production has led to a number of older coal plants being converted to natural gas which burns much cleaner than coal. There is also lots of research going into making existing coal burning plants cleaner. For example one of the innovations is the introduction of wet scrubbers that remove sulfur from the smoke stack which greatly reduces the impact of acid rain and heath problems caused by particulate matter.
The article in the Blaze was criticizing president Obama's failure to get one million cars on the road by 2015. One of the reasons we haven't reached that goal is that the car makers have not made enough cars nor put them on sale in wide enough locations to make the million car number a possibility. Some car makers such as Nissan, GM, BMW, and Ford have made a true effort to sell plug-in cars nationwide but even Nissan has had lots of problems with lack of inventory at dealerships. Smart has also done amazingly well considering the limited number of outlets it has. Other manufacturers have really dragged their feet making a small number of EVs available in a very limited number of places. Even Toyota, who has sold a lot of Prius Plug-ins only sells them in 16 states.
So what we have is a big problem that is affecting our health; the fact that we are still generating a large amount of our electricity from coal. Sure people can point to this as a problem with EVs but we have to look at the root cause of the problem, the fact that current coal fired power plants are just too dirty. If we can find ways to make them cleaner then great but it is my opinion that we need to move towards the use of renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.
I would like to close with a quote from Chris Tessuma from an interview he did today on Transport Evolved where he said "We have the opportunity to decrease more than 50% air pollution deaths by sticking with EVs and powering them with clean electricity". He added "we need to make sure we clean up the grid as we adopt electric vehicles otherwise we won't see the benefits".
Sunday December 21, 2014 – What is the Cost to Charge – I often see statements in the press that give the cost per charge as about 2 cents per mile but this oft quoted number is typically a low number and in reality it very much depends on what individual utility companies charge for electricity. Where I live, in Southern California Edison territory, we are actually in the service area of one of the most expensive utilities in the country. It is also one of the cleanest.
Of course prices for energy are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission and since this is a government body the price structure is so complex that it takes a PhD in math to figure it out. Still, I will give it a shot.
First let's look at how much energy my Plug-in Prius uses. I can figure this out thanks to Chargepoint. Every time I charge my car at a Chargepoint station it records the amount of electricity it supplied. Now the charge varies a little but for a full charge I typically use between 2.6 KWh and 2.8 KWh. Since home charging at 110 V is a little less efficient and to make calculations easier I will use 3 KWh as the amount for a charge and this gives me around 10 miles of EV range.
Now if I did a full charge every day I would use a total of 30 KWh per month to charge my PIP for a range of about 300 miles. Now, based on my November bill I was able to stay in tier 1 and it would cost me 15 cents per KWh or 4.5 cents per mile for charging. Now we had a very mild November this year but the weather has gotten colder and we are running the heater once in a while. This is quite likely to push me into Tier 3 this month which bumps the cost up to 28 cents per KWh which pushes the cost up to 8.4 cents per KWh. Southern California Edison uses a 4 tier system with the top tier being 32 Cents per KWh which is the equivalent of 9.6 cents per mile.
To put that into the context of gas I get about 50 mpg in HEV mode so at $3 per gallon for gas that is 6 cents per mile. At least in our area the cost to charge is less expensive than current gas prices if you can keep the car in Tier 2 or lower. Tier 2 is 19 Cents per KWh and the cost to charge works out at 5.7 cents per mile.
Now the above calculations assume that all charging is done in the highest tier but that isn't necessarily so. The way the bill is structured you get a big chunk of energy at Tier 1 and this is known as baseline. The problem is that the baseline amount is not the same for everyone and not even the same month over month. The amount varies depending on location, and the time of year, and whether your home is electric only or uses both gas and electric. The billing is done by charging electricity usage up to baseline at the lowest rate, then the energy up the amount for tier 2 is charged at that rate and so on. To calculate the actual cost per month you would have to take the weighted average cost per KWh and use that figure.
There is also a certain amount of public charging in this area and some of it is provided free by cities and businesses that use it as a way to attract customers to their location. Most of these public charging stations use commercial rates and these are even more complex than residential rates. I have to admit that I have been unable to make any sense at all of Southern California's commercial rates but the other main provider in this area is LADWP and their rate structure is a little more understandable.
Commercial rates are usually structured by the amount of electric service that is provided. In the case of LADWP there is an amount that is charged based on the maximum KW that are used in the month. Note that this is the maximum KW not KWh. What is being billed is the maximum amount of power that was pulled at one time during the month. To illustrate let's say that the Mall pulls an average of 100 KW at any given time but at 3pm one sunny afternoon that amount rises to 110 KW because AC use is higher at that time than any other time during the month. The fixed charge will be an amount multiplied by the maximum. On top of that there is a per KWh charge which is typically much smaller than the residential rate and in the case of LADWP it is around 4.9 cents per KWh.
To figure out the cost to the business it is this amount that needs to be multiplied by the number of KWh used to figure out the cost to the business. I typically charge for a little under 2 hours and use about 2 KWh of electricity. In other words my charge costs Westfield's about 10 cents. That's not such a bad investment against an average of abut $50 spent at each visit.
To get some perspective, for the PIP a charge is about equivalent to running a 100W light bulb for 30 hours, running an electric dryer for 30 minutes, or roasting a medium sized chicken in an electric oven. Replacing a few 100W incandescent light bulbs with 23W compact florescent bulbs can cancel out the extra energy needed to charge a PIP. Of course a full sized EV like a Leaf or a BMW i3 needs a lot more energy to fully charge but my calculation above can be scaled up to whatever sized battery the car has,
I think that charging costs are often under-reported especially in areas where electricity is expensive like here in Southern California. Based on my brief look at electricity rates it appears that charging can possibly be more expensive than putting gas in the car given the current low gas prices, but in many cases it is still cheaper and energy use can be offset by reducing energy use elsewhere. Public charging can be even more expensive but the if you look at the numbers it's clear that the cost of providing the chargers far out-weights the marginal cost of electricity.
Sunday December 14, 2014 – Kia Soul EV – With little fanfare Kia put their Soul EV on sale in October of this year and sold 108 cars in their first month of sales. The Kia Soul is a compliance car and a quick scan of the web site shows that it is currently only available in California.
The Kia Soul EV is an electric only version of Kia's popular Soul with a starting price of $33,700 before tax any Federal and State tax incentives. The base price for the equivalent gas model is $17,885 so there is quite a premium for the EV version.
The car is driven by a 27 KWh Lithium Ion battery pack that drives a Permanent Magnet AC Motor capable of producing 109hp and 210 ft-lb of torque. This can propel the car from 0-60mph in about 12 seconds and a top speed of 90mph. The EPA estimates a range of 93 miles on a full charge and a combined fuel consumption rating of 105mpge.
The Kia Soul comes with a 6.6Kw on-board charger that will charge the car in about 5 hours when using a standard level 2 (240V) charger and about 24 hours with the included 110V EVSE. The car also comes standard with a CHAdeMO DC fast charging port that can charge the car from empty to 80% in just 33 minutes..
The car comes with two driving modes, Eco-on and Eco-off and there is also options Drive and brake within each mode that affects the level or regenerative braking.. Regenerative braking is most efficient in Eco-on mode combined with Brake. Stopping is accomplished by a combination of regenerative braking and four wheel disk brakes.
The Kia Soul EV has ample seating for 5 and with the rear seat up provides 18.8 cubic feet of luggage room. With the rear seat folded down this is bumped up to 49.5 cubic feet. The rear seat also has a 60-40 split option to provide more flexibility between passenger and cargo space.
This EV fills the same sort of niche that the first generation RAV4 EV, the small crossover category. The Kia web site contains the following disclaimer, "Soul EV will be a limited production model sold in select U.S. Markets." It's a pity really because I would have expected the Kia Soul to be a very popular model if Kia made an honest effort to mass market the car. The Kia Soul EV is also available in Europe.
Sunday December 7, 2014 – November 2014 EV Sales – While EV Sales were down a little from October we did pass a bit of a milestone this month. For the first year ever sales of electric vehicles topped the 100,000 mark with estimated sales of 106,834 plug-in sales to the end of November. Now, this number is an estimate since we only have Tesla sales for the first three quarters of the year but given that sales are hovering around 10,000 units per month and December has traditionally been a good sales month it is certain that we will be well above 100,000 units by the end of the year.
The Nissan Leaf was once more at the top of the best seller list in November selling 2,687 cars, which was up a little from the 2,589 cars they sold in October but quite a bit behind their all time high sales of 3,186 set back in August. This is still the 22 consecutive month that Nissan set a new sales record for the month. As an example, sales of Nissan for November 2014 were higher than sales of November 2013 which in turn were higher than November 2012.
Ford Narrowly beat out GM for the number two spot selling just 35 more plug-ins at 1,587. Once again their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 752 cars in November just ahead of the 696 they sold in October and 640 sold in September.
Sales of the C-Max Energi hit 644 for the second straight month This was down a little from the 677 cars they sold in September and well behind their record sales of 1,092 set in October 2013.
After breaking the 200 barrier in August, Ford Focus EV sales have dropped once again into the range of 100 to 200 cars per month and November was no exception with 191 cars sold up from the 186 cars that Ford sold in October.
Once again GM saw sales of the Volt drop in November down to 1,336 cars, the third worst sales month of the year. Unless we see spectacular sales of the Volt in December it looks like Chevrolet is going to log the second straight year of lower sales for the Volt. I think this has a lot to do with the rumors and hype that surround the expected release of the 2016 Volt which is widely expected to be cheaper, require regular gas not super, and have a better EV only range. While GM has released teaser photos we will need to wait for the Detroit Auto Show in January to get the our first look. In October GM sold 1,439 Volts.
Dealer incentives saw sales of the Cadillac ELR lift ever so slightly in November going to 155 cars from the 152 they sold in October. The word on the ELR is that production has been halted and there will be no 2015 model leaving the way open for a brand new 2016 model coming late in 2015. It appears that GM has sufficient inventory at about 900 cars to meet demand for several month if you want to buy the current model.
Sales of GM's compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV continues at a reduced pace with 61 cars sold in November up from the 58 cars sold in October.
Tesla still refuses to release month over month sales number which is causing some speculation in the press that their numbers might not be as rosy as their quarterly numbers indicate. This month I am once again going to source my number from the estimate provided by Inside EV who think that Tesla sold around 1,200 cars this month.
BMW had three spectacular months of sales with more that 1,000 i3s sold in August, September, and October. It appears that BMW are currently having trouble with sourcing materials for the carbon fiber they use for the body of the car in the aftermath of Hurricane Haiyan so they are having problems getting enough inventory to their dealers. In November sales dropped from the October high point of 1,159 cars down to a still respectable 816 cars.
Sales of the i8 were also probably affected as sales fell from October's 204 cars down to 126 cars in November. I also suspect that the 204 car number was partly created by dealers in exotic cars who appear to have snapped up a bunch of i8 cars in the hope that a shortage would allow them to sell the cars at a handsome profit.
In all BMW sold a total of 942 plug-in cars in November.
Toyota offended many Plug-in car supporters last month by making the statement that "nobody is asking us to make electric cars" and it appears that they might be working to try and make this a self fulfilling prophecy. Toyota only managed to sell 534 plug-in cars in November.
Prius Plug-in Sales were just 451 cars, down from the 479 cars sold in October. The story seems to be inventory as dealers appear to be very sort of the 2015 model year. It appears that Toyota are taking a leaf out of Honda's book by keeping inventory low to throttle back sales. Remember that the Prius Plug-in is only sold in about 16 states as Toyota has never expanded sales to be nationwide.
Sales of the RAV4-EV were also down over the 97 SUVs that were sold in October with November sales falling to 83. Toyota has sold a total of 2,425 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 175 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.
Now, if you want to see how to sell EVs look at Smart. In November Smart sold a total of 815 cars nation wide. Of these, 38% or 313 cars were the Smart Electric Drive. This month set a new monthly sales record beating their previous record of 298 set in July and crossing the 300 sales mark for the first time. Smart continues to be the leader in the low volume and compliance Plug-in sales group. In October Smart sold 150 Electric Drive cars.
Mercedes set their fifth consecutive monthly sales record for the B-Class Electric Drive selling 193 cars which was well ahead of the 98 cars that they sold in October. I'm sure that this jump in sales represents an improvement in inventory although it looks unlikely that sales will go much higher as inventory should have stabilized by now.
Kia have been keeping pretty low key with sales of their Soul EV which sold 109 in October, their first month of sales. For November Kia chose not to separate out sales of their EV but people managed to figure it out anyway and it appears that 140 Soul EVs were sold in October. The Soul EV should be a fairly high demand car so we will have to see if Kia provides enough inventory to grow sales or if they are going to control sales to just meet CARB ZEV requirements.
October was also the first month of sales for the VW e-Golf but that was only because they auctioned the first car for charity giving October sales of 1 car. The car actually started arriving in select dealerships in November leading to sales of 119 cars for the month.
Porsche has been selling plug-in hybrids for a while now but had a relatively poor month for the Panamera S e-Hybrid in November tying with February as the second worst month of the year at 57 cars. In October they had sold a healthy 97 cars.
November saw the first month of sales for the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid a plug-in hybrid version of Porsche's Cayenne SUV. First month sales were 57 cars but I think this car will be quite popular so I expect sales to rise as dealer inventory builds. The Cayenne S e-Hybrid it technically available nationwide although Southern California is by far Porsche's biggest market.
Chrysler is another company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. In November they sold exactly 100 cars making this the worst month of sales for this sub-compact EV. In October they sold 140 cars. The Fiat 500e is now on sale in Oregon as well as California.
Honda is the poster child for the "We don't want to sell EVs" crowd and it showed in October when they only managed to sell 48 plug-in cars during the month. Honda appears to consider it more cost effective to buy ZEV credits from a company like Tesla that to build and sell plug-in cars.
Their Fit EV was one of the most in-demand electric cars in California but it was a compliance car and Honda has already discontinued production in favor of the Fit FCV which will probably not go on sale in the US until 2016. In October they had sold 23 Fit EVs but in November that number dropped down to just 5. With only about 12 more left to sell we shouldn't see many more sales from Honda.
The Honda Accord Plug-in did better in November up from the 34 sold in October to 43 in November. Over 2014 the Accord hybrid has sold in the 25 to 50 cars per month range and I don't seen them breaking out of this pattern any time soon.
Bringing up the rear again in November was Mitsubishi. They are just not shipping enough i-MiEV to the US to sell more than a trickle. Sales in November where up to 18 from October's 17 cars and they have been pretty consistent over the year. Mitsubishi said at the Los Angeles Auto Show that they would be concentrating on Plug-in Hybrids and given that their Outlander PHEV has been a huge success in Europe I wonder how long it will be before they have a PHEV on sale here in the US. Till then we can only hope that they will begin to ship the i-MiEV in bigger quantities in the near future.
Given that the cost of gas has plummeted in the past few months and is the cheapest it has been for a long time, sales of plug-in cars continue to do well. We also have to keep in mind that only a handful of plug-in cars are available outside Californian and a few other select states and even those that are sold nationwide are not necessarily stocked in numbers at the dealerships. Looking forward, December has typically been a good month for EV sales as people rush to lock in Federal tax credits before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how sales go but it has to be recognized that we are already looking at a record year for Plug-in Sales so December sales are just gravy.
Sunday November 30, 2014
– California EV Sales Growth - This week someone sent me a
link to an article in
Electric Vehicle News with headlines that said "Electric vehicles account for almost 10% of California new-car Sales". This sounded like pretty exciting stuff so I thought I would investigate further.
It turned out that plug-in sales were really not that good which didn't surprise me a bit. What they had done was to lump hybrid sales in with battery electric and plug-in hybrid sales. Still, we should be celebrating these numbers because even though they are not the one-in-ten sort of numbers we would like to see, they are still pretty impressive.
Through the end of September, 2014 sales of conventional hybrids hit 89,486 cars. This represents 6.4% of new car sales in California. Now nobody will deny that conventional hybrids are mainstream vehicles these days since the Prius is now the top selling car in California.
Well as it turns out in the same period this year plug-in hybrid sales hit 23,648 cars which represents 1.7% of new vehicle sales. Electric cars contributed another 20,516 cars by the end of third quarter or 1.5% of new vehicle sales. In total there were 44,164 plug-in models sold which represents 3.2% of new vehicles registered in the state.
Now lets grab a bit of context. It was 1999 when the Honda Insight became the first hybrid car to go on sale in modern times. After the fifteen years that hybrids have been on sale in California they now represent 6.4% of new car sales. The current set of plug-in cars went on sale in California at the very end of 2010 so in the 4 years they have been on sale they have already reached 50% of conventional hybrid sales and 3.2% of total new vehicle sales.
Now California is a special market. It's the only market in the US where you can purchase or lease all available plug-in models. That's part of the reason that this state accounts for about 40% of all Plug-in car sales. Another reason of course is that it is the most populous state so it also has the highest overall vehicle sales of any state. Add to that excellent incentives especially the HOV lane access for single occupancy vehicles and a population that is more environmentally aware than average, and you have a market that is excellent for plug-in cars.
It seems to me that sales growth for plug-in vehicles is going quite well, especially when you consider that while there are lots of plug-in cars available in California most are not available in all but a handful of states. Often, even when they are available, inventory is so low that there are few choices at the dealerships. Even Tesla, who accounts for about 10% of EV sales in California, cannot sell in all states since some insist that new cars can only be sold through franchised dealerships. There are new models on the horizon and the next generation of some models promises better range at a lower price so I think we are developing a robust plug-in market that will continue to grow even with the recent drops in gas prices which can only be temporary.
Sunday November 23, 2014 - 2014 LA Auto Show - This year's LA Auto show was all about high performance cars and SUVs. More than one manufacturer declared their new car was "ready for the race track straight from the dealer showroom". Many other manufacturers used this year's show to unveil new or updated versions of their SUVs. Still if you looked around carefully there was new plug-in cars to be seen.
There was no press conference but when I took a walk through the Concourse hall to take a look at the performance cars, there, merged in with such marks as Aston Martin, Saleen, and Morgan was a distinctly non-performance car. I turned out to be Mullen who had an electric car and a NEV on display along with their Mullen GT sports car.
First they have the Mullen 700e which is a rebirth of the old Coda Sedan. They apparently bought up what was left after Coda went out of business and have made changes to update the styling a little so it doesn't look so out of date. The car is fitted with a 31 KWh LiFePO4 battery that they say will give the car a range of up to 180 miles and a top speed of 85mph.
They Mullen 100e is a two seat NEV that sells for a starting price of just $6,995. The NEV comes with maintenance free lead acid batteries and has hard doors so it could be upgraded to 35mph in states that have medium speed vehicle legislation in place. The rep at the Mullen stand told me that the 100e was capable of up to 50mph although I'm not sure I would want to be driving at that speed in one. Range was only quoted in minutes not miles, and at 72 to 90 minutes you are looking at something like a 30 mile range, pretty normal for a NEV.
There were some new plug-in hybrids that were revealed at the show with entries from Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Volvo, and a new concept PHEV from Mitsubishi.
The Mercedes S550 Plug-in Hybrid comes with a 329hp V6 engine and a 114hp electric motor. The 8.7 KWh lithium ion battery pack gives an electric only range of about 20 miles but does rob the car of some trunk space. Top speed will be governed to 130mph here in the US. The S550 PHEV should go on sale in the second quarter of 2015 here in California with nationwide availability in 2016.
Volvo announced a new 7 passenger SUV called the XC90. The XC90 range includes a plug in hybrid that will be badged as the T8. This car has a 4 cylinder gas engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged to drive the front wheels, and a 80hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. This SUV will have an electric only range of around 25 miles and should appear in showrooms towards the end of 2015.
Porsche already have the Panamera S e-hybrid and the 918 Spyder e-hybrid on sale and they are going to add a new model to the mix, the Cayenne S e-hybrid. This car has a 333hp 3 liter V6 gas engine combined with a 95hp electric motor to give the car a 0-60 speed of 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. The 10.8 KWh battery pack offers an EV only range of 22 miles and the car can run EV only at speed up to 72mph. EPA fuel efficiency numbers have not been set yet but the car is expected to retail starting at a base price of $76,400 when it goes on sale in the US next year.
Mitsubishi has been selling the plug-in hybrid Outlander in Europe for some time now and it has been selling so well that battery production has been diverted from the i-MiEV to the Outlander PHEV which is one of the reasons for very low sales on the i-MiEV. The popularity has also meant that the US version never materialized. At this years LA Auto show Mitsubishi showed off their new Plug-in Hybrid concept car the XR-PHEV. The XR-PHEV is a two door crossover that is powered by a 1.1 liter 3 cylinder engine that can put 134hp to the front wheels. This will be complemented by a 161hp electric motor. The car has a 14 KWh lithium battery pack that offers an EV only range of 53 miles and the car is said to get 63mph in hybrid mode. There was no indication if, or when, this car will go into production.
Finally there was hydrogen. This year's LA Auto show was expected to be about hydrogen but it appears that while car makers are preparing hydrogen fuel cell cars they are backpedaling on putting them on sale.
Honda for example were expect to be readying a fuel cell vehicle for sale next year but have pushed the release date back. They did say that they will show their new prototype at the Detroit Auto show in January, and have committed $13.8 million to enhance hydrogen infrastructure.
Toyota had a couple of examples of its Mirai fuel cell car on the showroom floor but did not have a press conference this year so we will probably have to wait until Detroit to find out what their plans are for actually marketing the car.
Both VW and its subsidiary Audi showed fuel cell cars at their press conferences but both had no plans to begin selling them. Their plans were summed up by VW when they said "When the infrastructure is in place and we can make hydrogen from renewable resources we will be ready with a hydrogen fuel cell car."
I was actually quite disappointed with the offerings at this year's LA Auto Show. It seems that gas prices have fallen to the point where people are now back to shopping from SUVs and the carmakers are responding. It reminded me of how the car companies were six years ago when their focus on gas guzzlers caused them to crash and burn as the economy tanked. Now with the economy is in good shape and gas prices are low they are back to old habits. I hope it doesn't come back to bite them.
Sunday November 16, 2014 – More Plug-in Choices – At the end of October VW shipped the first e-Golf to a customer here in California and since then the number of plug-in choices has continued to climb. If the e-Golf is not your style then the Kia Soul EV was supposed to go on sale in October too but it looks like first deliveries won't occur until later this month, probably after the LA Auto Show media days which start on Wednesday. If motorcycles are more your thing then perhaps the LS-218 from Lightning Motor Cycles will get you flying down the street, and finally for the Fleet Manager Via Motors finally got EPA approval for their eRev electric van and has already shipped about 25 of them to customers.
While VW has a couple of electric models on sale in Europe the e-Golf is the first foray into selling electric cars in The US. In October they auctioned off the first car which was delivered from their dealership in Santa Monica, CA. The car officially went on sale in November. At the heart of this sporty hatchback is a 24.2 KWh lithium ion battery pack that gives the e-Golf an EPA estimated range of 83 miles on a charge. This drives a 115hp electric motor to give the car a 0-62 time of 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 87mph. Charging at level 2 takes about 4 hours and about 18 hours at level 1. The e-Golf also comes with DC fast charging using the J1772 connector.
It looks like the e-Golf is intended as a compliance car and appears to be available in California only at this time. The web site says it will be available in select states but I don't see anywhere were these states are listed. The car is currently priced at $36,265 before federal and state incentives and should appeal to VW enthusiasts who want to go electric.
The Kia Soul EV is an electric version of Kia's populate Soul crossover. It comes with a 27 KWh lithium ion battery pack that drives a 102 HP electric motor offering an EPA range of 93 miles on a charge. Charging takes around 5 hours on a level 2 charger and about 20 hours on level 1. The car also comes standard with a DC fast charging port that appears to use the CHAdeMO standard used by Nissan and Mitsubishi.
The Kia Soul is a compliance car which means that it will initially be on sale only in California. Kia plans to eventually roll the car out to Oregon, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Of course since the car will be for sale it can always be purchased in one of these states and then be shipped to you. There are lost of Plug-in Prius owners that have taken this route since Toyota only sells the car in a limited number of states. The Kia Soul EV starts at a base price of $33,700 before any federal or state tax incentives.
If motorbikes are your thing then you will appreciate the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 that just started being delivered to customers this month. The LS-218 can be described as a superbike. Earlier this year one of their bikes won the Pikes Peak hill climb with a time of 10 minutes flat. The 218 in the bikes name refers to its top speed of 218mph which makes it faster then just about any other bike our there. The LS-218 comes with a selection of battery packs that vary from 12 KWh which offers a range of about 100 miles to 20 KWh with a range of about 160 miles. Charging times will vary based on the size of the battery pack but should be from 2 hours for the smaller pack to about 4 hours for the largest pack. Lightning also offers DC fast charging. Range of course will be quite a lot less if you push it to its top speed.
The LS-218 is available now from Lightning Motorcycles although I suspect there will be a longish wait for them to deliver you a bike. Prices start at $38,888 for the basic bike and will go up from there. I don't believe there are any federal incentives for electric motorbikes anymore and you would have to check with your state for any state incentives.
Finally for those who are looking to purchase fleet vehicles there is a new option, the Via Motors eRev Van. Via Motors takes a GMC Van and converts it to a plug-in hybrid drive train. The base of the system is a 23 KWh lithium ion battery pack that gives the van an electric only range of about 35 miles. This should be enough for many fleet operations but as a backup once the batteries are depleted the gas motor will kick in and the van can be driven as long as there is gas in the tank..
The eRev Van is offered in three configurations, passenger van, cargo van, and utility van. They are offered for lease starting at $752 per month. This is somewhat higher than the equivalent gas model but Via Motors claim that when you take into account fuel savings and reduced maintenance the cost over the eight year estimated life of the truck is substantially lower than the cost for the gas version.
It appears that here in California we are getting more and more options when it comes to plug-in vehicles. It's unfortunate that most of these cars are compliance vehicles that are only offered in a vary limited number of states. If you only have a few cars on dealer lots and you only sell them in a very limited number of outlets then you can't expect to sell many. While the LS-218 and the Via Motors eRev Van are for sale nationwide these small manufacturers can't be expected to produce large quantities of vehicles either. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the two compliance vehicles have on EV Sales over the rest of the year.
Sunday November 9, 2014 – October 2014 EV Sales – Plug-in America's Drive Electric Week, which occurs in September each year, usually leads to a spurt in the sales of plug-in vehicles but this year sales actually fell from the September numbers. It seems that the current low price of gas is moving people back towards gas guzzlers and away from more economical vehicles.
The news wasn't all bad though. While Nissan sold 2,589 cars in October, down from the 2,881 cars they sold in September, they still blew passed their sales total for 2013 of 22,610 cars to a year to date total of 24,411. This also beat the Chevy Volts 2012 peak annual sales of 23,461 to make the Nissan Leaf the best selling plug-in for a single year.
GM had slightly better numbers in October selling 1,649 plug-in cars. This is well below the 2,022 Volts that they sold in the same month in 2013. I think this has a lot to do with recent leaks about the 2016 Volt which should be cheaper and provide a longer EV only range. I think this is also part of a general trend away from plug-in hybrids towards pure BEVs.
Volt inventory was still constrained in October but they did a little better than they had in September selling 1,439 car in the month against September sales of 1,394. Chevy is still on track for having their second straight year of declining sales for their flagship plug-in hybrid.
Sales of the Chevy Spark increased slightly as sales were boosted from 51 in September up to 58 in October. This is a compliance car and GM pretty much control the inventory to keep sales low so you can't read too much into this number.
The Cadillac ELR also saw an increase in sales after posting 111 cars in September sales increased to 152 making this the third best month for sales of this plug-in hybrid. Since the ELR is built at the same plant as the Volt its sales were also probably impacted by slowly recovering inventory after the 8 week plant closure.
After a huge month in August sales at Ford sales have dropped back to more usual levels. Sales increased slightly over the 1,493 cars sold in September to 1,516 cars sold in October.
The Fusion Energi once again became Ford's best selling plug-in selling 686 cars, up slightly from the 640 cars sold in September.
The C-Max Energi lost a little ground dropping below September's sales of 677 cars by selling 644 units.
The Ford Focus EV usually trades in the 100 - 200 car range and this month was no exception. In October Ford sold 186 of its battery electric car up a little from the 179 car sold in September. Ford recently announced a price cut on the Focus EV so it will be interesting to see if that can push sales back above 200 cars for the first time since August.
Tesla does not give out monthly sales numbers but do provide sales on a quarterly basis. In the third quarter of 2014 Tesla sold a total of 7,785 Model S sedans. When asked if they would start giving out monthly sales numbers Elon Miusk said no and the reason he gave was that he didn't want people to read too much into month over month sales. I have news for him, people want to see month over month sales and withholding the numbers only leads to speculation and guessing. In October Insideevs estimated that Tesla sold 1300 cars in the US and since this sounds like a good number I am going to go with it.
One of the big surprises for me is how well BMW is doing with its two plug-in models. They sold 1,080 cars in September, topping this by setting new sales records again in October with 1,363 cars sold.
The BMW i3 set a new sales record in October selling 1,159 cars quite a bit better than the 1,022 cars they sold in September and their previous record of 1,025 cars they sold in August.
September was the first full month for the BMW i8 sales and saw delivery of 58 cars. While I am sure that BMW were very happy with this total October's numbers must have really pleased them with the delivery of 204 cars. Lots of BMW i8 are showing up on eBay so I think that people have been buying up these cars hoping to make a quick profit by selling them at a large amount over sticker. It will be interesting to see if BMW can sustain this kind of rate.
It looks like Toyota has not been able to fix their inventory problem with the Plug-in Prius or perhaps based on recent statements coming out of Toyota they have decided to follow the Honda model of selling as few plug-in cars as possible while trying to push fuel cell vehicles. In October Toyota only managed to sell 586 plug-in cars but that was still a sizable improvement over the 478 cars they sold in September
Sales of the Prius Plug-in improved from 353 cars in September to 479 cars in October. which is the second worst showing for the Prius Plug-in since they delivered 21 cars at the end of February, 2012, the very first month of sales. Of course it is all about inventory and fortunately inventory started to recover during the latter half of October.
The RAV4-EV sales continued falling from 125 cars sold in September to 97 cars sold in October. Toyota is expected to sell just 2,600 of this SUV to meet CARB requirements then the car will be taken from the market. To date they have sold 2,352 cars so that leaves about 250 left to sell before they are taken off the market.
Sales of the Smart Electric Drive had shown month over month sales every month from January until July. Since then we have seen month over month declines in sales and this trend continued going from 182 cars in September to 150 in October. That's still not bad when you consider that overall sales of the Smart ForTwo was just 585 cars in October.
Fiat sales increased slightly going to 140 cars in October up from 137 cars in September. Like the Ford Focus EV, Fiat appear to be keeping the inventory for the Fiat 500e at a level that results in sales of between 100 and 200 cars per month.
Mercedes has their best month to date with their B-Class Electric Drive selling 98 cars. This was quite a bit better than the 65 cars they sold in September. So far they have seen month over month increases in sales since the car first went on sale in July.
Porsche had another relatively good month of sales for the Panamera S E-Hybrid which saw 87 cars delivered to customers, up from the 82 they delivered in September. This made October the third best month of sales for the sporty four door, and is well in line for Porsche's target of the E-Hybrid accounting for 10% of Panamera S sales.
Honda continued its begrudging EV sales with another dismal month notching up just 57 cars sold between its two plug-in models.
Only 23 Fit EVs were sold this month down from 27 cars sold in September. Honda only planned to make 1,100 of these cars and by my calculation they have sold 937 so far so they should only have another 163 to sell before they are all gone. Production has likely wrapped up by now and since dealers have long wait lists it is unlikely that you will be able to get one of the last few cars unless you are close to the top of a dealer list.
The Honda Accord Plug-in is another car that Honda don't really want to sell and the sales results illustrates this with just 34 cars sold in October. In August Honda sold 42 cars.
Another big illustration of the "you can't sell what you don't have" rule is Mitsubishi, They have had the 2014 i-MiEV on sale now for several months but there is almost no inventory in dealerships and as a result they only sold 17 cars this month. That's still up from the 15 cars they sold in August. Mitsubishi is busy building and selling the very successful Outlander Plug-in Hybrid and in October they sold over 3,000 of these cars in Europe, This high sales level means that most battery production is reserved for this model, which is not available in the US, so production of the i-MiEV is very limited at the moment and it doesn't look like this will change any time soon.
Another EV joined the list of those available, at least in California, when VW sold their first e-Golf in the US. They only sold 1 by auction to raise money for charity but the e-Golf should go on sale in November so we will see what sort of sales numbers they get next month.
October is usually a big month for Plug-in car sales so this October was definitely a let down. Still with two months of sales left we are only about 400 cars short of the total sales for 2013 so we should see a decent improvement in year over year sales. December is typically a big month for EV sales as people rush to lock in Federal tax incentives before the end of the year so we will have to wait until January to see if cheap gas continues to inhibit plug-in vehicle sales.
Sunday November 2, 2014 – Tesla Repeat Buyers – I have been seeing lots of used Tesla Model S hitting eBay recently and I began to wonder why people appeared to be dumping their cars. Were people getting disillusioned with their car? Were people moving to another luxury brand? I began to take a closer look at some of these eBay listings and a pattern began to emerge, one that surprised me.
Now people don't often list the reason they are selling their car on eBay. Someone might say "This is the best car I have ever owned" and this leaves me thinking if it's the best car they ever owned why are they selling it? For those that did mention a reason it was always the same and not the reason I expected.
What I expected to see is that they have a Model X on order and were selling the Model S to get a Model X. So far I have not seen one listing that says this and I've looked through a lot of listings. What I am seeing is that people are writing that they have a Model D on order and are selling the Model S to make room for it..
The Model D was recently announced by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. It is a dual motor version of the Model S which is configured for four-wheel drive. The addition of the second motor allows Tesla to add additional punch to an already high performance car. The Model D can accelerate from 0-60mph in a blistering 3.2 seconds while top speed has been pushed to 155mph. To add even more gravy to boat Tesla says the people can expect an additional 10 miles of range over the Model S from a fully charged battery pack.
The Model D was, of course, kept a closely guarded secret until Elon Musk make the announcement on October 9. Some Customers who had recently taken delivery of a Model S were upset with Tesla because they had ordered their car believing that they were getting the best that Tesla had to offer and would have preferred the Model D if they had known that his car was in the offing.
In general Tesla's owners do appear to be firmly in the Tesla camp, and it appears that there is a good number of them planning on replacing their Model S with a Model D as soon as they can get their hands on one. Repeat business is what carmakers fight for. People buy multiple cars over their lifetime so if you can keep them coming back to your brand that keeps building your business. Tesla so far appears to have a lot of brand loyalty.
So what about the Model X? This is a different kind of car; it's a crossover not a sedan. It's the kind of car that will be used to drive the kids to soccer practice and do the carpool run to school. When I began to think about it it's not the kind of car that people will trade in a Model S for. It's the kind of car that people will add to their fleet as the family wagon That's why Tesla has a large order book for this vehicle but I'm not seeing people trading in their Model S for one even though the first trickle of deliveries is scheduled to start in December..
So what about the other challenge to Tesla Sales; the lobbying going on to stop direct sales. So far the automobile dealers have been successful in blocking Tesla sales in several states, the most recent being Michigan where Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a bill that not only blocks direct car sales but also may prevent Tesla from opening a showroom in Michigan to display their cars. The worst thing about all this is that the law appears to have been tacked onto another bill at the last minute so that there was no time for public debate on the issue. While pressure to pass the bill came from Michigan's Automobile Dealer Association GM was also there urging the governor to sign it.
Other States also block direct sales from Tesla but Texas, Maryland and New Jersey do allow Tesla to open galleries so that people can view their cars, talk to a Tesla representative, and go on line if they decide they want to order a car. Michigan is not alone in banning Tesla completely but sometimes Tesla's customers take things into their own hands. Iowa is one of those states that doesn't allow Tesla to even display their cars, so a group of owners from Minnesota took matters into their own hands recently and drove across the boarder into Iowa and displayed their cars at a local shopping center. Buyers can order online but need to take delivery in another state. It says much for Tesla's brand loyalty that their customers are willing to do this.
In Texas something else is happening. A lot of the cars advertised on eBay are being sold by dealerships in that state. Starwood Motors based in Dallas, TX has a number of used Tesla cars on sale ranging from model years 2012 through 2014. They seem like there are way too many to be trade-ins for other cars they sell so they appear to be buying up used Teslas and selling them again. They are actually becoming a Tesla dealership even though they are not franchised to Tesla. With Tesla cars in big demand I expect other dealerships to begin trading in the used Tesla market and, while Tesla cars are still in short supply, going so far as ordering cars from Tesla and reselling them at a premium.
Tesla has done better than any other startup car company in the last 80 years but they are still to become profitable and still have to be careful as serious negative publicity could cause them to enter a death spiral. Fortunately they have a good product that is moving the industry in the right direction. Their future looks good. Now, if we could only get them to report monthly sales instead of everyone having to guess!
Sunday October 26, 2014 – Stolen EVSE - Today my wife and I did our usual Sunday trip to Westfield's Century City and for a change the two charger spaces were both available. This is a very rare occurrence at this location since there are heavily used. As I pulled into one of the spaces I saw a large white notice on the wall.
This notice said that one of the Chevy Volts that parks there on a fairly regular basis has had its EVSE (often called a charger although its actual function is to form a save connection between the incoming power and the vehicle's charger) stolen. Now these EVSEs are pretty expensive so it is not surprising that they should be stolen on occasion.
The notice the wall went on to recommend that people using this location find a way to lock the cable. Taking this notification to hart I parked the rear wheels of the car on a loop in the cable which makes it pretty hard to steal.
The first thing to note is that Westfield's only provides 110 outlets at their Century City mall. There are some Tesla chargers but since Tesla uses a proprietary connector these chargers only work for their cars. The rest of us that can't afford a Tesla have to bring our own EVSE and use one of the two 110V outlets. For the plug-in Prius this is no great problem since the charge I get is enough to get me back home.
It seemed inevitable to me that thieves would eventually begin targeting these EVSEs and I have always stopped by the car once or twice while I am at the mall just to make sure the cable was still there. This is only the second time I have heard of an EVSE being stolen and the other one was in the UK but I think that theft of these devices will rise as plug-in car ownership increases.
There are several ways to secure the EVSE. The standard J1772 connector supplied with most EVSEs comes with a small hole drilled through the handle. Inserting a lock into this hole allows it to be locked so that the connector can't be removed from the vehicle. Of course this is only as secure as the lock that is used and the hole is only thin enough to use a lock with a very thing clasp. People usually use small luggage locks.
Other people have also found inventive ways to lock their EVSE. One Volt owner that uses the charging stations at Westfield's has a pair of heavy duty handcuffs with one end through the carrying handle of the EVSE and the other connected to the conduit that runs the power to the outlet. This works great for the Volt EVSE but wouldn't work for my Prius EVSE which has no carrying handle.
Another technique is the one that I used. Just lay the cable on the parking lot then drive over it. You have to leave enough slack to be able to connect the EVSE at both the vehicle and outlet and you do run a risk of damaging the cable but it does work.
Another technique is to run the cable in and out of the car. To do this you need to open the windows and pass the cable through the car from one side to the other. The windows can then be closed leaving just enough space for the cable to go through. This does have the risk of the windows being cracked open but should keep the EVS safe from most thieves..
It is unfortunate that we have to deal with people who steal and vandalize but it is a fact of life. If you have to use public charging then it makes sense to try and secure your EVSE. The techniques listed above should help keep them safe although there is no perfect way to safeguard them. If anyone has other techniques that can help please send a note using the comments email address below.
Sunday September 19, 2014 - CARB Set to Revise ZEV Mandate - On October 23, 2014 the California Air Resource Board will meet in Sacramento to review a Staff proposal to reduce the number of BEV and TZEV vehicles that must be produced by intermediate vehicle manufacturers (IMV) in the period between 2018 and 2025.
Intermediate vehicle manufacturers are made up of automobile manufacturers that sold an average of between 4,500 and 20,000 cars per year over the last three years. The staff report comes to the conclusion that this is not a good determination of the companies ability to fund R & D into zero emission vehicles so one of the proposals is to determine these companies based on global revenue setting the bar at $40 billion. This sets Jaguar/Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Volvo as the IMV category.
The staff report seeks to reduce the number of ZEVs that these companies are mandated to sell in California and will also allow the companies to meet their requirement with 100% TZEV. For example under the current rules the IVMs would need to sell a total of 570 ZEVs and 3,470 T-Zevs between them in 2018, going up to 3,650 ZEV and 12,530 T-ZEV by 2025. Under the proposed revision they would need to sell 3,250 T-ZEV in 2018 going up to 10,690 TZEV by 2025 with no requirement to sell pure ZEVs.
Of course this is not the actual number of cars they will need to sell. There is a complex system of multipliers that give more points for ZEVs and also gives lots more points for cars that can fully refuel in less than 10 minutes, meaning that the deck is heavily stacked in favor of fuel cell vehicles. The staff report takes another hit at BEVs by requiring that battery swap operations be documented. They want to be sure that the manufacturer doesn't just have one works car having the batteries swapped then claim the increased ZEV credits for this model. Since Tesla is the only manufacturer in the US that currently as battery swap technology, and they are about to start work on their first public battery swap facility, this legislation is probably going to be meaningless other than increasing the reporting requirements for Tesla.
In the end I really don't think that this change will not have any great impact on the move to zero emission vehicles other than to put the IMVs at a huge disadvantage in the future. Mitsubishi has had a BEV on the market in the US since 2011 and has sold over 1,800 in the US. They also sell them in Europe and Japan. In addition they have a PHEV on sale in Europe and Japan and it is selling so well that it is straining battery supplies for the i-MiEV which is why there is currently no inventory to speak of in the US.
Of the others Volvo has already shown a pretty good BEV prototype and have a Diesel based PHEV on sale in Europe. Mazda has made it clear that they consider more efficient internal combustion based vehicles as their future which means that they will eventually drop by the wayside. There are rumors though that they too are working on a plug-in hybrid so all may not be lost. Jaguar/Land Rover and Subaru have also shown PHEV concepts and Subaru did sell a BEV in Japan for a while back in 2009.
In the end I don't think these changes are going to have the slightest impact on the adoption of zero emission vehicles in California. By 2018 we will probably have hit the tipping point anyway so any manufacturer that doesn't have plug-in cars to sell is going to find themselves struggling as they head into 2020.
Sunday October, 2014 – William Korthof 1978-2014 – The EV community here in California is in shock after we received news that one of our own, William Robert Korthoff, had been killed instantly while riding as a passenger on a motorcycle which had been in a collision with a car. Had celebrated his thirty sixth birthday just a few days before the accident.
William was one of those people who was a passionate supporter of environmental issue and a leading proponent of "EV plus PV". It wasn't just words with William either, he "walked the walk". To reduce his impact on the environment he became a vegan, and was one of the most efficient EV drivers I ever came across.
His parents were also strong advocates for the environment and EV drivers too We lost his father, Doug, in 2012 but he is survived by his mother Lisa.
He started driving EVs when he was just a teenager, first his parents EV1 and Honda EV+ then a Ford Ranger EV. When the auto manufacturers began crushing EVs William took his Ford Ranger EV to Sacramento where he and a small group of lessees parked their trucks outside of a dealership and demanded that they be allowed to purchase them. The demonstration was successful and Ford stopped crushing the trucks and allowed people to buy them. He was also a regular at demonstrations outside the GM facility in Burbank trying to prevent the remaining EV1s from being crushed.
While still at school William worked part time at AC Propulsion in San Dimas and it was here he learned an awful lot about EVs. After school he founded two companies, EE Solar in 2001 which installed solar panels around Southern California, and more recently Sustainable Solutions Partners that installed Solar and also other environmentally sound things like gray water recycling systems and rain catchers. His company motto was "We make green living simple" Working with Adopt a Charger he was instrumental in installing EV chargers in many locations including some of California's state parks. He also brought his solar panels to power events like Burning Man and Southern California events such as WorldFest.
I only met William once at a CARB hearing in Diamond Bar many years ago but I would follow his exploits as he pushed the boundaries of EV driving such as when he drove a Honda EV+ from Seal Beach in Orange County to Las Vegas or later on when he drove his RAV4-EV to Lake Tahoe. He could get more range out of his RAV4-EV than any other person I have heard of. If my memory serves me correctly one evening he managed to ring 168 miles out of a charge. Not bad for a car rated at 125 miles range by the EPA. He was also a member of the RAV4-EV 100,000 mile club breaking that barrier in April 2007.
He was a presence on several of the electric vehicle discussion lists that I participate in. He was one of those people that provided answers that could be relied on. I think Alexandra Paul said it best, "William was obviously super smart, and you could ask him anything about EVs or solar and he would answer calmly and knowledgeably, without fuss or ego. I came to rely on him for the last word on issues that got the rest of us heated up and emotional."
Although I hardly new William I feel like I lost a friend and I know that many in the EV community feel the same way. Chelsea Sexton summed up the feeling when she wrote "It seems impossible to imagine the EV movement without a Korthof in it (Doug passed away in 2012), but it will always be an honor to have had William in it".
The Earth has lost a champion and is worse off than it was before Williams passing. To commemorate this remarkable young man stickers saying /WK (the way he signed his emails) have been created and will be attached to many of the chargers that he helped to promote. In lieu of flowers his family has asked that donations in his name be made to Adopt a Charger by mail to 22714 Gaycrest Ave, Torrance, Ca 90505.
Sunday September 5, 2014 – September 2014 EV Sales – After posting excellent sales last month September saw a pullback, although sales were still well ahead of September 2013 thanks to a return of Tesla to US deliveries. The month became the perfect illustration of the old adage "you can't sell what you don't have".
Once again Nissan topped the sales chart selling 2,881 Leafs during the month. This is the fist time that Leaf sales have fallen below 3,000 for the month since June . In August they had sold 3,186 cars.
Tesla has been shipping very low volumes to the US as they concentrated on Sales to Europe and China over the last few months, and while we never know the actual number of cars they ship because they don't report monthly sales, I estimated that they only delivered 500 cars in August. The shutdown of their plat also took longer than planned so deliveries didn't resume until the second week in September but the increased capacity, and a shift back to US sales meant they delivered a estimated 2,500 cars in September.
GM sold just 1,556 plug-in cars in September. This is well below the 1,766 Volts that they sold in the same month in 2013. In part this was caused because they closed their Hamtramck factory for 8 weeks in Late August as they prepare it for the next generation volt and a possible second plug-in possibly a crossover.
Although they had built up inventory ahead of the shutdown Volts became less available on dealer lots during the month and sales reflected this with just 1,394 cars sold in September, their worst showing since January. In the prior month they had sold 2,511 cars, the Volt's best showing for 2013.
Sales of the Chevy Spark showed its second straight month of declines falling from the 80 that were sold in August down to just 51 in September. This is a compliance car and GM pretty much control the inventory to keep sales low so you can't read too much into this number.
The Cadillac ELR also saw a pullback in sales after almost hitting the 200 mark in August with 196 cars sold they only managed to move 111 cars in September. Since the ELR is built at the same plant as the Volt its sales were also impacted by reduced inventory due to the 8 week plant closure.
After delivering sales of over 1,000 for each of its plug-in hybrids in August sales at Ford dropped to just 1,493 cars in September. It is quite likely that the high sales in August lowered dealer inventory enough to impact September sales.
For the first time since December, 2013 Ford sold more C-Max Energi than Fusion Energi cars in September with sales of 677 cars. This represents a huge pullback from the 1,050 cars they sold in August.
The Fusion Energi also faired badly in September with sales falling from 1,022 sales in August to just 640 cars sold in September. This is the worst showing for the Fusion Energi since January, 2014 when 533 cars were sold.
In August the Ford Focus EV had a record month selling over 200 cars for the first time with 264 cars delivered to customers. It is not surprising that sales could not continue at this pace and in September they dropped to a more usual 179 cars.
With the first full month of sales for the BMW i8 just completed BMW reported sales of 1,080 cars in September, an improvement on the 1,034 cars they sold in August.
The BMW i8 sold just a handful less than in the previous month with sales of 1,022 cars in September just shy of the 1,025 cars they sold in August. This is still a pretty respectable total for this luxury hatchback.
The first full month of i8 sales saw delivery of 58 cars. I think BMW will be very happy with this number as the i8 was always expected to be a low volume car. In August they had delivered 9 cars.
Lack of inventory was also an issue at Toyota where they managed to sell just 478 plug-in cars this month.
"Fell of a cliff" is the best way to describe sales of the Prius Plug-in. Toyota only managed to sell 353 cars this month which is the worst showing for the Prius Plug-in since the delivered 21 cars at the end of February, 2012, the very first month of sales. Of course it is all about inventory. The 2014 cars are gone and the 2015 cars are just starting to trickle into dealerships. In August Toyota had sold 818 cars.
The RAV4-EV also saw a strong pull back for the 228 cars they sold in August with sales falling to 125 cars. This is still well within the range of monthly sales we have seen from The RAV4-EV. Toyota is expected to sell just 2,600 of this SUV to meet CARB requirements then the car will be taken from the market. They are getting pretty close to this number so if you want a RAV4-EV better get one while you can.
Sales of the Smart Electric Drive had shown month over month sales every month from January until July. It was clear that this trend could not go on forever and in August sales fell from a record 298 in July to 208 in August. The sales decline continued in September as sales dropped to 182 cars, the lowest showing since February. Sales of the Smart Electric Drive still continues to be a significant portion of overall Smart sales.
Fiat also appears to have had their second worst month of the year with sales of 137 cars. This is below the 166 cars sold in August. Like the Ford Focus EV, Fiat appear to be keeping the inventory for the Fiat 500e at a level that results in sales of between 100 and 200 cars per month.
Porsche had another relatively good month of sales for the Panamera S E-Hybrid which saw 82 cars delivered to customers, up from the 68 they delivered in August. This made September the third best month of sales for the sporty four door and is well in line for Porsche's target of accounting for 10% of Panamera S sales.
Honda continued its begrudging EV sales with another dismal month of sales notching up just 69 cars between its two plug-in models.
Only 27 Fit EVs were sold this month down from the record high for the year of 55 cars sold in August. Honda only planned to make 1,100 of these cars and by my calculation they have sold 914 so far so they should only have another 186 to sell before they are all gone. Production is likely to wrap up by the end of the Fall. Since dealers have long wait lists it is unlikely that you will be able to get one of the last few cars unless you are close to the top of a dealer list.
The Honda Accord Plug-in is another car that Honda don't really want to sell and the sales results illustrates this with just 42 cars sold in September. This still makes September the third best sales month of 2014 for the accord Hybrid. In August Honda sold 46 cars.
Another big illustration of the "you can't sell what you don't have" rule is Mitsubishi, They have had the 2014 i-MiEV on sale now for several months but there is almost no inventory in dealerships and as a result they only sold 15 cars this month. That's down from the 20 cars they sold in August. Mitsubishi is busy building and selling the very successful Outlander Plug-in Hybrid in Europe and Japan so most battery production is reserved for this model so production of the i-MiEV is very limited at the moment and it doesn't look like this will change any time soon.
September was a disappointing month for plug-in sales with inventories falling pretty much across the board and sales following inventory. The big exception of course was Tesla and now that they have expanded capacity at their factory and will be starting production of the Model X soon it will be interesting how sales stack up going forward. Usually Plug-in sales do well in October after people get to see electric cars up close during drive electric week so it will be interesting to see how this impacts sales this year.
Sunday September 28, 2014 – Blink Shifts to KWH Charging – Blink has long been under fire for the way that it charges for the use of its charging infrastructure. Its practice has always been to charge by the hour, usually $1 per hour for members and $2 per hour for guests. The problem was that if the driver ran over the hour, even by one minute, they would be charged for the second hour.
Even as a member a full charge on my PIP would cost me $2 for 11 miles range which works out at the equivalent of $10 per gallon of gas. For this reason I have never actually used the Blink network and I have noticed that usage is very light in this area compared with the other big network, Chargepoint.
Blink has received lots of criticism for their pricing policy in particular rounding up to the next hour even if the user had run only one minute late. To fix this they recently changed their pricing practices. In states that allow it, the company has moved to charging by the kilowatt hour instead of by the hour. In those states where it is still illegal to sell electricity by the kilowatt hour, unless you are a utility, they have moved to charging by the minute.
While on the face of it this looks pretty good the company has used the opportunity to inflict large increases in charging costs. Here in Southern California the Bling network now charges 49 cents/KWH. For me that actually does reduce the cost of a full charge from $2 to about $1.50 since my car fills up with just under 3 KWHs. That's still equivalent of spending about $7.50 a gallon but it is cheaper, and I have not heard what happens to those that squat at the charging station once charging is complete.
Now lets look at the case for the driver of an 2014 Nissan leaf equipped with a 6KW charger. The car would pull about 6KWH per hour or about $3 per hour to charge. An hours charging would give about 24 miles of range and if you compare this with the Nissan Versa at 35mpg then you are looking at about $4.20 per gallon equivalent which is not too bad but still costly when compared to charging at home The thing is that the Nissan Leaf driver is not looking at paying $3 for the hour of charge instead of the $1 he was paying before.
I'm told that the new per minute charge works out about the same amount as the per kilowatt hour charge when a 6KW charger is used.
A survey is currently underway at The Long Tailpipe that asked if Blink were gouging their customers. With just 13 votes cast so far 79% of plug-in drivers thought that they were being gouged which doesn't bode well for Blink. A second question asked if Chargepoint was gouging its customers and the yes count fell to just 31%. So why is Chargepoing doing so much better that Blink in this survey.
The two companies use a different business model. Ecotality, the company that operated the Blink network used a model where they installed the chargers at user sites and then charged the user an hourly rate to use the location. Chargepoint on the other hand installed equipment and charged the location owner a fee to maintain the equipment letting the location owner set the cost per charge. The most costly chargers I know of in Southern California are the ones at MGM place in Beverly Hills which charge $2.00 per hour the same as the guest rate at Blink chargers.
Most location owners have recognized that offering charging helps to pull in customers so they have elected to provide charging for free. Most of the city parking facilities in Beverly Hills have at least two Chargepoint chargers and the cost is free. Beverly Hills realized that offering two hours of free parking was a big inducement for people to come and shop in the city and they have followed on with the addition of chargers at their facilities. Since the introduction of the chargers in the Beverly Hills parking I have personally spent thousands of dollars in the city that would have gone to Los Angeles, West Hollywood or Santa Monica if the chargers had not been there.
In my opinion the Blink model is not sustainable and I personally would not use them unless I was absolutely desperate for a charge and that never happens when driving a plug-in hybrid. Unless the price of gas goes up substantially I don't think that a model that looks to make a profit from the sale of electricity through public charging is going to work. It is possible for people to recover part of the cost through charging reasonable rates but once you get past about 25 cents per KWH you are getting into the point where people will begin to avoid the chargers because of the cost. The new pricing from Blink is only going to alienate its customer base further.
Sunday September 21, 2014 – 2014 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo - Drive electric week has been going well and I had decided to go to the annual Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo instead of going to one of the Pug-in America organized events. It proved to be a bit of a disaster, my fault not the organizers in Santa Monica.
The day started of well enough. Although my wife wasn't really feeling up to it she wanted to go anyway so we decided to get there early ahead of the crowds. We had a great drive there managing to time most of the lights on green and making it all the way using electric only. I started out with an estimated 9.5 miles of EV range but after the 8.3 mile drive to the Santa Monica Civic Center I arrived with 2.9 miles showing on the range remaining display on my Prius Plug-in.
There are several chargers at the solar car port in the Civic Center parking lot but most of them are inductive chargers for the city's collection of generation 1 RAV4-EVs and all the other chargers were busy too so I didn't have a chance to charge. That wasn't unexpected as these have always been in use when I attended past events.
Then things started to go wrong. They usually have a little cafe set up in the Civic Center and my wife likes to sit there then take a look around the exhibits a little bit then back to sitting. This year the cafe area had been set up outside. Not surprising given the heat wave we have had for the last two or three weeks but on Saturday the weather decided to be overcast, cool, and breezy. Not bad for attending the expo but not comfortable for my wife. We finally found her a seat in one of the presentations in the Civic Center, then I went to look at the cars.
Honda was front and center with a display that had the CNG Civic, the Accord Plug-in, and a Fit EV. Given that production of the Fit EV has come to and end, and that they are making very little effort to sell the Accord plug-in this seemed more like green washing than anything else.
I found the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive which looked much larger than the one I saw at last year's LA Auto show. People were being amused by the drop down tray tables in the back seat that made the rear look more like airplane seating. They also had the Smart Electric Drive there and their F-Cell fuel cell vehicle which is currently available for lease in the Los Angeles area. While they were giving test drives in the F-Cell vehicle I didn't find anyone who was handling the B-Class or the Smart test drives.
GM had Volts and a Spark EV there but I didn't see the Cadillac ELR. Nissan also appeared to be well represented and Ford had some test drives going with the C-Max and Fusion hybrids. I think they had some Energi models and the Focus EV there too but I didn't pay much attention. LA Car Guy, who own Toyota of Santa Monica and Toyota of Hollywood, were also there giving test rides of the Plug-in Prius. Since I have already driven most of these cars I wasn't really interested in driving them again.
Finally I found the VW e-Golf. VW were offering test drives but were taking names rather than have people wait in line. I filled out the usually liability form and gave my name to the lady who wrote it on the list. There were three people ahead of me and she told me that the test drives last about 5 minutes so to check back in 15 minutes.
I went back to the Mercedes but still didn't find anyone doing the test drives. I'm sure I didn't really try very hard to locate the person, I just assumed that they had decided on a static display. I grabbed a few pictures then after the 15 minutes had passed I made my way back to VW.
Now came the next surprise. There was a different person manning the desk and when I asked him to check how long it would be before my test drive he looked at the list and I noticed that there were now 5 people ahead of me. That meant that I now had to wait another 25-30 minutes after which there would probably be 15 people ahead of me. I told him to take my name off the list.
I went back to check on my wife and she was ready to leave but wanted to stop in Century City for Lunch. As we drove away from the Civic Center I noticed that there was a B-Class and a Smart being test driven along Main Street so either I was just a little too early or, more likely in too much of a hurry to track down the people giving the test drives.
With just 2.9 miles of range remaining and 6 miles to go to Century City the ICE came on about half way there so I had to drive a few miles on gas. I was expecting the charging station at Century City to be occupied too but both spaces were empty so I was able to get a little bit of a charge while we ate lunch and did some shopping. I was able to complete the trip home on electric only.
I did manage to get a few decent pictures so the day wasn't a too much of a bust but my lesson learned is to take my time and be a bit more persistent when looking for test drives.
Sunday September 14, 2014 - Drive Electric Week - Tomorrow sees the start of National Drive Electric Week and this year promises to be the biggest ever. There are over 100 events going on from Main to Hawaii and if past experience is anything to go by it should lead to a high level of EV sales in October.
Last year's event lead to an increase of sales of about 23% according to Plug-in America who, along with the Sierra Club and the Electric Automobile Association organized this event.
The event will kick off on Monday at Plugshare's office in Venice, CA when Stella, the first solar powered multi-passenger vehicle to run on its own solar cells, makes its first public appearance in California.
Over the following week there will be events held in more than 130 cities in 35 states and Canada. The idea of these events is to allow people to get up close and personal with plug-in cars. Most events not only allow you to talk with drivers of plug-in cars but at most events there will be a ride and drive where people will let you take their car for a spin or get a ride in a car so you can see what it is like to drive electric.
We also had some interesting news to open the week. The number of plug-in cars registered in the US just passed the quarter million mark. Statistics show that of these about 40% were registered in California. Total plug-in cars in this state now exceeds 102,000. This makes California the largest market for electric cars in the world. To put this in context the population of the UK is one and a half times the population of California yet plug-in sales there just passed 13,000 and that is considered good.
Now for my dilemma. I want to see if I can manage to drive electric for the next week, but with only 10.5 miles of EV range on my Prius Plug-in I don't have enough range to make it to the events in the area. It seems odd to take a plug-in car to a drive electric week event and have to use gas for part of the drive. In the end I will probably attend the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo. I don't have the range to make it there and back and it is unlikely I will be able to charge at the solar carport at the Santa Monica Civic Center where the event is being held as is has just a couple of chargers there available to the public.
The Drive Electric Web site has a list of all the events that you can attend. Some, like the event at Huntington Beach is going to be huge while some events will have as few as 6 electric cars on display. If you are trying to figure out if an electric car will work for you then even the smallest of these events will be a great help.
Sunday September 7, 2014 – August 2014 EV Sales – August 2013 was the highest sales month for plug-in cars in 2013 so their were high expectations for a record month in 2014 too. There was an issue though, Tesla had been concentrating on foreign sales for the past few months and had also shut down its plant to retool for the Model X and to allow a higher build rate. While the numbers didn't best the 12,053 cars sold in May they did come out slightly ahead of the 11,273 cars sold in August 2013 with a total of 11,703 making it the third best month so far for 2014.
Nissan broke it's all time record for sales of the Leaf selling 3,186 cars in August. Nissan has broken the 3,000 car barrier for three of the last 4 months with 3,117 in May, and 3,019 in July. Nissan should surpass 2013 sales numbers for the Leaf some time during October.
GM saw increased sales of both the Volt and the ELR this month giving total sales of 2,787cars for August.
GM has seen a pull back in Sales of the Volt but has also seen sales volume increase month over month from a low of 918 in January to a new monthly record for 2014 of 2,511 cars. This was way ahead of the 2,020 cars they sold in July. It should be noted that GM need to keep up this sales volume for the next three months if they are to avoid a second straight year of down sales for the Volt.
In contrast to the Volt their compliance car, the Chevy Spark EV, had is second worst month of the year falling from 128 cars sold in July to just 80 cars sold in August.
There was better news for the Cadillac ELR which posted a new record high of 196 for the luxury plug-in hybrid. This is the fourth straight month of increased sales so the question is can the ELR break the 200 barrier for the first time in September. Sales in July were 188 cars.
Ford is kind of the ignored company when it comes to Plug-in Vehicle sales. I think that while they sell a lot of cars they are spread out over three models so we don't see the really high sales numbers of the Leaf or the Volt. Nevertheless, Ford managed to sell a solid 2,536 plug-in cars in August.
Once again their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,222 cars in August just 4 cars short of the 1,226 cars they sold in July.
The C-Max Energi posted its best sales numbers of the year at 1,050 beating the previous months number of 831 by more than 200 cars. This is the first time that C-Max Energi sales have been above 1,000 since October 2013 where the car has a its record all time monthly sales of 1,092 cars.
The big news for Ford Plug-in sales is with the Focus EV which set an all time sales record of 264 cars sold. The Focus has sold in the range of 100 to 200 cars per month for most of the three years that it has been on sale. In the last two months it has hedged closer to the 200 mark with sales of 197 in June and 198 in July. August was the first month that it has sold more than 200 cars.
One of the reasons that August wasn't a banner month for Plug-in Sales is Toyota who only managed to sell 818 Plug-in Prius for the month, way behind the 1,371 cars sold the previous month. The reason for the low sales can be identified in one word, inventory. Inside EV reports that Plug-in Prius inventory was down to just 40 hours in August and you can't deliver cars if you don't have them in inventory.
The RAV4 EV on the other hand had its second best sales month ever selling 228 cars which was just 3 short of the record set in August 2013 of 231 cars. In July Toyota had managed to sell just 68 RAV4-EVs.
In all Toyota sold 1,046 plug-in cars in August edging it just ahead of BMW for forth place in Plug-in Sales.
Even though BMW have been running ahead of projections in sales of the i3, people have been disappointed with the number of cars that have been sold, even as numbers continued to climb. I don't think people can be disappointed any longer as BMW sold 1025 i3s in August way ahead of their previous record of 336 cars sold in July. We will have to wait for next month to see if this much higher sales level can be sustained of if the sales push depleted inventory too much.
BMW also launched the i8 plug-in hybrid delivering several to customers at the Pebble beach Concourse. In total they delivered 9 of the highly anticipated sports cars in its first month of sales.
The other big drag on EV sales in August was Tesla who hit US EV sales with a double whammy. First they concentrated on building sales in China and also had the plant shut down for two weeks to increase capacity and allow for building of the Model X. Reports are that the restart didn't go too well so less Model S sedans were delivered than expected. Inside EV estimated that Tesla delivered 600 cars but admits that figure is probably be too high. I am going to guess 500 cars delivered in August.
Smart had shown month over month increases in sales of the Electric Drive for the whole of this year but it had to come to an end some time. In August Smart delivered 208 cars down from the 298 cars delivered in July. That's still a respectable total for a car company that normally selling about 750 cars per month.
Fiat, on the other hand, showed an increase in sales from July's 119 cars by selling 166 in August. This is a compliance car and is only sold in California right now. Sales are supposed to start in Oregon by the end of Summer but with Fall just a couple of weeks away I have yet to hear of cars being offered there. Fiat is, of course, one of the companies that is very anti EV so foot dragging is to be expected.
Honda is another company that is clearly anti EV even though it makes an excellent product that has long wait lists at dealerships. The Fit-EV had its best month of the year selling a total of 55 cars, well ahead of the 42 cars they sold in July. This pretty much represents all the inventory that Honda shipped during the month.
The opposite of the Fit-EV is the Accord Plug-in. Honda don't appear to be making much effort to sell this car either and its Sales numbers reflect this with just 46 cars sold. This still ties with May for the highest sales number of the year. In July they managed to sell 41 Accord Plug-ins.
In total Honda managed to sell just 101 plug-in cars in August.
Porsche expects the Panamera S E-Hybrid to represent about 10% of the Panamera S cars sold in the US. It appears that they are tracking fairly closely to this with 68 cars sold in August. This was a little higher than the 63 they sold in July and while sales have varied quite a lot I expect the car will normally sell in the 55 - 65 range each month,
Mercedes Benz managed to sell 51 of their B-Class Electric Drive in the first full month of sales selling just 10 more than the 41 they sold in July. It will take a few months for Mercedes to build up inventory here in the US so we should expect to see gradual rising sales over the next few months. I am a little concerned that the Mercedes Benz sales people aren't interested in selling the car. So far I have seen 5 or so cars advertised on eBay. Of these only one salesman seemed to be able to tell what color the car was. From my experience color is one of the key factors in selecting a car so in this case I suspect the cars that are being advertised are actually in transit rather than on the lot.
Mitsubishi continues to keep very low inventories so they only managed to sell 20 more i-MiEV in August. This still beat the 17 They sold in July but sales are still very slow for this EV. It appears that Mitsubishi has only shipped a total of 250 of the 2014 Model year to the US so dealers just don't have a selection of the cars on their lots.
I Have seen a lot of hype lately about electric car sales falling. This is done by journalists lumping sales of hybrids, which have declined in recent months, with plug-in cars which continue to show robust growth. It is true that now oil prices have stabilized Americans have begun gravitating back to large cars, trucks, and SUVs. I know that gas prices will spike again in the future and these people are going to be complaining about gas prices and wishing they had stuck with a more efficient vehicle when this happens. On the other hand there are those that are predicting another huge month for plug-in sales in October, but let's see what September brings first.
Sunday Aug 31, 2014 – Charger Problems and Solutions – This week I read an article in the Huffington Post about a lady in London who was complaining about having to drive her Volt all around town to find a charging station that worked. She claimed that it was very common for her to arrive to a charging station only to find that the charger was not working. While I haven't heard of extensive outages in Central London before such as situation is quite possible.
It appears that the lady in question lives in a location that does not have off-street parking so the only way that she can charge her Volt is to use public charging. This is still one of the main problems with full acceptance of electric cars. Europe in particular many people live in houses or apartments with no parking so their only option is to park in the street. Even if you have parking in an apartment building it may not be in a location near enough to the apartment to allow convenient parking. In this Lady's case it appears that her only option for home charging would be to get a curbside charger installed which she claimed was very expensive.
For people in this situation I have always recommended a straight hybrid with the caveat that if you really want a plug-in then get a plug-in hybrid rather than a battery electric car so that you can always get home even if you can't find a suitable charging station. Here in California there are lots of people that choose plug-in hybrids to get access to drive solo in the carpool lane. Sadly there are plenty of people that never charge these cars. In California the car of choice for these situations is the Plug-in Prius.
One thing that makes matters worse is that in some locations thieves have been vandalizing public charging station by cutting off the charge cords to steal the copper they contain. I know from experience that rolling up to a charging station and finding it not working is worse than rolling up to a charging station and finding it ICED, in use by another plug-in, or out of order. We all have to share public charging stations and such situations are going to occur from time to time given that the number of plug-in cars is growing at a much faster rate than the number of charging locations. I have been very glad on numerous occasions that I had the ICE to get me home in these situations.
The California state legislature is trying to do something about the situation. There is law headed to the Governor's desk that would require apartment building owners to allow tenants to install electric vehicle charging stations at their parking space. The tenant needs to submit a written application to the apartment owner who would then have to allow the owner to install a charging station.
There is a catch though. One of the conditions for installing the charging station is that the tenant must maintain an insurance policy that covers one million dollars in general liability. This alone is likely to make the cost of installation prohibitive but on top of that you need to install a charging station when all most people really need is a 110V outlet.
The California legislation, assuming the Governor signs it, will at least make the ownership of electric cars easier for apartment dwellers, although I suspect the cost for what may be a short term living arrangement will deter most of them.
In the end what we really need is lots of reasonable cost public charging stations in locations where people are likely to want to hang around for a reasonably long length of time such as movie theaters, malls, and restaurants..
Sunday August 24, 2014 – BMW i8 Arrives – The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the world's premier event for classic cars, but this year's event had something a little newer than the pre-war European cars that usually dominated this event. BMW chose Pebble Beach for the US lunch of the much anticipated i8 plug-in hybrid.
For starter there was a one off version in the auction that went for $825,000. The proceeds from this sale went to the Pebble Beach Company Foundation and will be used to help fund youth programs on the Monterey Peninsular. That was not all, several other people including Rodger Penske and Rick Hammond took delivery of an i8 at the event.
The BMW i8 was first shown a few years back at the LA auto show and also became a film star as the car driven by Tom Cruise in the movie "Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol". The car has always created a lot of buzz whenever it has been shown and is one of the most anticipated plug-in hybrids ever.
The BMW i8 is a sleek 2+2 sports car with scissor doors and looks that just make you say wow. Like the i3 the i8 makes extensive use of carbon fiber to reduce weight. The car is also all wheel drive.
Electric motors power the front and rear wheels driven by a 7.1 KWh lithium-ion battery pack. This is enhanced by a 1.5 liter 3 cylinder turbo charged engine that is capable of kicking out 231hp. Add 129hp from the electric motor and you have a system that can kick out 357hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. This is enough to give an all electric range of 20 miles, or you can punch the accelerator and zoom fro 0-60mph in about 4.2 seconds. Top speed is 155mph.
The US version of the car uses a 3.3KW charger through the standard J1772 connector that will fully charge the car in about 1.5 hours at 220V pulling 16 amps or about 3.5 hours at 110V pulling 12 amps.
The BMW i8 can be ordered now through your local BMW dealer but they probably are not going to have cars on their lots so you may need to wait for delivery. The base price for the car is $135,700 before tax and license fees.
I don't expect the BMW i8 to sell like hot cakes. It's and expensive sports car and so I would expect it to sell in numbers similar to its main competitor the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid. I think BMW will be very happy if they can sell 50-100 per month.
Sunday August 17, 2014 – EVs Getting Tickets at Charger Earlier this week I received the Sustain Transport club News Letter and along with the usual information about upcoming events there was a link to an article about an EV driver who got ticketed while being parked at an EV charging station.
The driver had parked the car but hadn't been able to get the charger to start so had just left the car in the charging spot and gone off to conduct his business. When he came back to the car he had received a ticket. Now the spot was marked "EV Parking Only" and since this was an EV parked in and EV parking spot the ticket was dismissed.
This opened up a whole can of worms however. The problem is that chargers are in pretty short supply right now. There are lots of them around here in Southern California but the growth in EVs means that the demand is rapidly outstripping supply. It is very frustrating to get to an EV charging station and find that it is blocked by an other EV that is either fully charged or isn't connected at all.
The response to this is driving a move from an "EV Parking Only" model to "Only While Charging" model
What that means is an EV will only be allowed to use the charger when it is actively charging. The current California code says that the EV must be "connected for charging purposes" which means it must be connected to the charger but not necessarily actively charging. Some locations have taken this one step further and have passed local bylaws that require the EV to be actively charging. The minute the EV is full the car can be ticketed or in some cases even towed.
To enforce such code requires that the parking enforcement know how each different EV indicates that it is charging or full. Each EV is different and so based on what I have seen with parking enforcement it is quite likely that we will see cars ticketed when they are actively charging.
The city of Beverly Hills has come up with a compromise where they allow a one hour grace period after the car is fully charged. This means that the EV driver doesn't have to be aware that their EV is about to become full and can complete their business before going back to the car, but prevents someone from hogging the charging spot for hours after they have completed their charge.
There are problems though. What happens if someone unplugs the charger. I have been unplugged three times over the last two years. The first time I am pretty sure it was just someone being curious. They had removed the charger head from the car and replaced it but had not clicked it into place properly. The second time I was almost fully charged when a Tesla driver unplugged my car. probably thinking it was full. The Third time it looked like someone unplugged my car, charged for about an hour, the plugged the car back in without activating the charger again.
We also have to take into account what happens when a charger fails. Several times while I have been using my Toyota EVSE on the 110V connection on Chargepoint chargers the charge has failed with a ground fault. This stops charging. Most of the time I was in a medical facility so I was not able to monitor the charge. I doubt that the parking enforcement agent would be able to recognize the fault light on the chargers so they would probably have given me a ticket if they were working under the active charger model.
What happens with hotels? People want to go back to their hotel on a night, plug in their EV, and wake up the next day to a full charge. They don't want to get up at 3am to move their car on the off chance that someone else might want to use the charger. The same goes for long term charging like airports where people leave their cars for extended periods of time.
Public Charging is a way to promote EVs. Some businesses also see it as a way to attract relatively affluent Plug-in car drivers. That is not going to work if the use of public chargers leaves you with the ever present threat of returning to your vehicle and finding it has been ticketed because the charging terminated early.
I think there are better solutions. At the top of my list is that we have more public chargers. If we had enough power to have chargers at every parking space then charger use would not be a problem. This is unlikely to happen for a long time though.
A second solution is to implement a pricing model for the charger that makes it expensive to keep your car connected. One plan I have heard of is that connection is free for the first three hours then increases to $2 per hour after that. In this case the fee is for connection time not charging so it doesn't stop charging a fee once battery charging is complete. IN this case someone can elect to leave their car at the charger all day long but it will cost them. A variation on this would be to start a connection fee once charging is complete. In both cases a charging fault would stop the accrual of connection fees.
The other way is to allow charger sharing. In this situation the charger cord is long enough to reach several EV Only parking spaces. A person coming to the chargers and finding them all busy would check to see if anyone was fully charged. If they were they would unplug the charger and plug it in to their car. If all the cars were actively charging then the driver would park in one of the nearby spaces and leave their charge port door open signaling to the next driver to leave that they wanted to charge. This requires that people co-operate. I can see all sorts of situations where people unplug someone else who has not fully charged. If there are multiple cars waiting for a free charger how do we tell which one was there first?
When this current generation of cars fist rolled out I said that we didn't need the infrastructure to begin selling them. I still think that was a correct statement as most people still charge at home most of the time. Now though, we need to maximize the amount of electric driving that is done and to accomplish this we do need a robust charging infrastructure and we need to make sure that people can use the chargers without constant threat of being ticketed.
Sunday August 10, 2014 - July 2014 EV Sales - We continued to see a pullback in sales in June fired partly by Tesla who are now well into deliveries of right hand drive models in Europe and Asia and also had their factory shut down while they retool the assembly line to increase production and add build capability for the Model X so sales in the US must have been very low in July.
Nissan who had its best sales month ever selling 3,177 Leafs in May had pulled back in June to 2,347 cars. July saw them once again topping the 3,000 mark with sales that came in at 3,019. While they didn't manage to top their May sales they still had a very good month.
GM also saw another uptick in sales of the Volt leading them to total sales of 2,336 plug-ins in May and securing them the number two spot in overall sales.
Chevy Volt sales continued the month over month increases that we have seen since the start of the year and for the first time in 2014 they broke the 2,000 barrier with sales of 2,020 cars up from the 1,777 sales in Jun. Volt sales are still down from the pace they set in 2012 but are catching up slowly. Chevy has committed to a second generation Volt which will be shown at the Detroit Auto show and will probably appear as a 2016 model.
Sales of the Cadillac ELR blew away the monthly sales record of 97 set in June with sales of 188 cars in July. It appears that GM have now added some incentives to move the car and this seems to be helping.
The Chevy Spark also improved sales with a respectable 128 cars sold in July. 85 cars were sold in June. This is a compliance car so GM pretty much controls how many of these cars they sell each month as dealer inventory is typically low.
This month Ford sales dropped to 2,255 plug-ins in July moving then down to 3rd place in plug-in Sales.
Once again their bestselling model was the Fusion Energi which sold a very respectable 1,226 cars in July down from 1,939 cars in June. Sales of the Fusion Energi continue to do well for Ford and once again it was their best selling plug-in.
The C-Max Energi also saw a small drop in sales going from 998 in June down to 831 in July. This was still the second best month for sales of the C-Max Energi in 2014.
The Focus Electric set a new monthly record with 198 cars sold in July improving once again on June's 197 cars. The last time Ford Focues EV sales dropped below 100 was January 2013 but they seem to be controlling inventory to sell in the100 to 200 car range so the question is when will Ford break the 200 barrier?
Toyota saw another drop in Sales in July selling 1,439 cars but still enough to put them in 4th place in plug-in sales.
The Prius Plug fell from 1,571 in June to a respectable 1,371 in July. Now that the green sticker program in California has been extended with the addition of another 10,000 stickers sales can be expected to stabilize in the remaining months of this year.
Sales of their RAV4-EV also dropped from 91 in June from 68 cars sold in May. Toyota has announced that it is ending their agreement with Tesla to produce the RAV4-EV and production will be stopped. So far they have sold 1,811 RAV4-EVs and my best guess is that they will stop production at 2,000.Toyota has been a supporter of Fuel Cell cars and plans to bring one to market next year. Fuel cells earn about three times the number of ZEV points than a pure BEV for the California mandate so expect to see more of these replace compliance cars in the future.
Who knows how many cars Tesla sold in July? Just a few guys at Tesla as the never reports monthly sales numbers. Inside EV estimates that they sold 500 cars in the US this month but that seems la little low to me so I am going to guess 600. This number represents delivery of US cars from before they began to focus on delivery of right hand drive cars in the UK and Japan in July and August.
In its third full month of sales the BMW i3 sold 363 cars, another record sales month. In June they had sold 358 cars which was just a little higher than the 336 cars sold in May. BMW has made plenty of inventory available to their dealers and they appear to be marketing the car aggressively so sales were expected to be somewhat better then they are but we will see if sales continue to grow over the next few months. BMW are not separating out the number of pure electric cars they sell and the number of extended range cars they sell so the number above is the combined sales tally.
Smart is another company that has seen sales numbers grow month over month for each month of the first half of 2014 as inventory has improved now that the factory is building enough cars to meet demand. In June Smart sold 278 cars which set a short lived sales record. In July they beat their previous record by selling 298 of their pure electric cars. July represented a record breaking month for Smart as they sold a total of 1,351 cars in June. Even with this record number the Smart Electric Drive still represented 22% of Smart sales in the US.
Sales of the Fiat 550e have been pretty consistent this year with monthly numbers in the 150 to 180 range but in July we saw that number drop down to just 119 cars. This is quite a bit lower than the 166 cars sold in June and the worst month since Fiat started releasing separate numbers for their electric car. Fiat is one of those companies that is very anti-EV even having the company president ask people not to buy them so perhaps people are finally paying attention, or perhaps it represents inventory being switched to Oregon where the car is set to begin selling soon.
Honda is another company that is known to be anti EV and is putting lots of money into developing fuel cell vehicles. Even with two plug-in models on sale they still only managed to sell 83 plug-in cars in July.
Honda tightly controls the sales of the Honda Fit EV and basically the dealers lease what is available. In July they manage to lease 42 cars, a alight improvement on the 38 cars that they leased in June. Since Honda only build about 40 per month this shouldn't be unexpected. This is one of the best small EVs on the market but sadly Honda plans to discontinue sales in the Fall. There is a rumor that they are working on a replacement but it seems more likely that they will use their upcoming Fuel Cell car to gain ZEV points in California.
The Accord Plug-in is not supposed to be a compliance car but Honda just don't seem to be interested in selling them. June saw just 28 cars being sold, but June saw sales climbed up to the heady level of 41 cars falling just one short of the total for the Fit EV.
Honda obviously wants to say "Look people don't want to buy plug-in cars" but that's going to be difficult as the only reason the Fit EV is not selling in quantities is that there is no supply. Dealers have long lists of people who want them but Honda doesn't want to sell one more than they have to. I suspect that the same is true for the accord hybrid as Ford, Toyota, and GM's offerings are selling quite well.
After and outstanding month for Porsche in June selling 111 copies of the Panamera S E-Hybrid July sales dropped to a more normal 63 in July They do seem to be able to keep tracking to their plan that between 10% and 15% of Panamera sales would be the plug-in.
This month there was a new kid on the block in the form of the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive. The official start date was July 15 and they managed to sell 41 cars in the last two weeks of July. It will be interesting to see how sales do as Mercedes builds inventory over the coming months.
Now that Mitsubishi have started sales of the 2014 i-MiEV here in the US you would expect their sales number to climb but this month saw a drop in sales from 35 cars in May to 22 cars in June to just 17 cars in July. The numbers have to do with a big success for Mitsubishi. The Outlander PHEV is selling so well in Europe and Japan that it is causing supply issues with batteries for the i-MiEV. As a result only 200 of the 2014 model year cars have been shipped to the US which is a big reasons for the low sales totals.
This leaves two questions, when will we see enough inventory of the i-MiEV to drive sales upward, and when will Mitsubishi release the Outlander PHEV in the USA.
Personally I was quite happy with these results. We saw solid sales from both the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf and the Smart EV continues to do well relative to overall Smart sales in the US. Ford are also continuing to do brisk sales with their three plug-in offerings. I was expecting better sales from BMW and have to ask when Toyota will go nationwide with the Prius Plug-in? but overall we are on track to see a sizable increase in EV sales over 2013.
Steve from Atlanta, GA wrote
One 2013 Wheego Life sold. It is old inventory from 12/31/2012. I bought it new for $14,000. After rebates $1500.
Do you have any idea how many of these cars actually exist? I know of 10 that exist. Supposedly they had 100 chassis at the start of production. I wonder how many were actually built. They lost a lot of money on these cars, so they stopped making them after model year 2013. So, mine is a 2 year old new car. There are at least 5 more 2013's on dealer lots that have never sold.
Sunday Aug 3, 2014 – Casino Charging – One of the largest operators of casinos in the nation is Caesars Entertainment who operate brands such as Caesars Palace, Harrah's, and Horseshoe Casinos. Their Code Green policy to run the company in a more sustainable way has been in place since November, 2011. On July 24th they announced that they are going to expand public charging to several more of their properties across the nation.
Casinos are a good place for EV charging since they are a place where people typically spend several hours and they are often part of a hotel complex so people are there overnight. Some of the Casinos here in Southern California already have chargers installed and I have personally charged at both Pechanga in Temecula and at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez. Pala, also in Temecula, has EV charging but while most of the Casino chargers are free their chargers are some of the most expensive in the area.
Another Casino in the Temecula area is Harrah's Rincon which is operated by Caesars. I have never used the chargers there but they do have some of the few free Blink chargers in Southern California. More recently Caesars also installed free charging at nearly all of the resorts they operate in both Southern and Northern Nevada.
Their latest expansion is to add electric vehicle charging stations to Harrah's New Orleans hotel and Casino, Harrah's Philadelphia, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, and Horseshoe Casino Hammond. These chargers will all be part of the Chargepoint network and will be free for hotel guests and Casino patrons.
"We want to make it easy for our guests to continue their green habits while they stay and play at our resorts. Supporting the adoption of electrical vehicles is important to Caesars, and we are thrilled to make convenient charging another great amenity for our guests," said Eric Dominguez, corporate director of facilities, engineering and sustainable operations at Caesars Entertainment.
Other Casinos in Las Vegas are also installing chargers. The best known is the Venetian which has Chargepoint chargers but there are also chargers at other locations along the Strip including New York, New York.
Going in the other directly it just got much harder to charge at one of my favorite locations, Westfield's Century City Shopping Center. Some of the earliest EV charging was installed here back in 1997 when they installed two large paddle inductive chargers and an AVCON unit. One of the LPI units was eventually upgraded to small paddle. After most of the EVs were recalled and crushed these units hardly ever got used so eventually mall management pulled them out and installed a simple box with 4 110V outlets. This provided pretty slow charging and they had only 2 spaces but if you had an extension cord you could usually park close enough to plug in.
Yesterday when I got the mall one of the EV spaces was empty so I was able to plug in without the need for an extension cord. To my surprise I found that two of the 4 outlets have been blocked off with a metal plate. Now, since the two EV spaces are almost always occupied by Mall employees it is now going to be very difficult to get a charge. I spend a lot of money at this mall and go there because I am able to charge. Since it is unlikely I will be able to charge there I will now be going to the mall a lot less often and spending a lot less there.
I applaud Caesars Entertainment for adding EV charging to the facilities that they provide for their guests. Next time I am in the Temecula area I plan on checking out the chargers at Harrah's Rincon and if we ever get back to Las Vegas I will certainly be spending time at some of Caesars' properties. So here is the lesson, EV charging attracts customers. These customers tend to have relatively large disposable incomes so they are the type of people you want to attract.
Sunday Jul 27, 2014 – Electric Mercedes Hits the Street – The much anticipated Mercedes B-Class electric drive is finally making its way into dealerships this week. The car is already showing up on e-Bay although the ads so far just feature stock photos and most don't even seem to know what color the car is so I suspect that these are cars that are still in transit to the dealerships.
The 5 door B-Class Electric Drive opens up a whole new segment for Mercedes dealerships with the introduction of their first luxury economy hatchback into the US market. Daimler-Benz already has an electric car on sale here with the highly successful Smart Electric Drive. While they don't sell in huge quantities the Smart Electric Drive represents between 20 and 30% of total Smart sales.
The first generation Smart Electric drive sold here in the US used technology
from Tesla, and Daimler-Benz has leveraged their relationship with Tesla in
producing the B-Class. The car is basically a B-Class five passenger
hatchback with the usual engine and transmission replaced by a Tesla drive
train. The B-Class platform has also been revamped to offer greater
interior space than the previous generation The car is driven by an electric
motor that kicks out 177hp and 251 lb-ft of torque which lets the B-Class go
from 0-60mph in under 10 seconds with top speed electronically limited to
100mph. Power comes from a 36KWhr battery but only about 28KWhrs is actually
usable. The EPA estimates the range at 87 miles but surprisingly the car
received a fuel compatibility rating of just 84mpge. The additional battery
capacity can be unlocked with the optional range package which allows the driver
to select 100% charge which Mercedes say will drive the car up to 104 miles on a
charge. The EPA numbers do not take this into account as it is an optional
The B-Class Mercedes has a base price of $41,150 and the range package adds another $600 for an extra 17 miles per charge.
The B-Class and the BMW i-3 will be going head-to-head in the luxury compact car segment. The B-Class offers slightly longer range and the capability to seat 5 while the BMW i3 has a slightly lower base price and better overall fuel economy. The BMW i-3 also comes with the option to add a small engine as a range extender. This option is available in the European version of the B-Class Electric Drive but so far there are no plans to bring this to the US. In the end the decision will come down to looks, brand loyalty, and if the driver needs the extra seat provided by the B-Class. I expect both cars to do well in their segment.
There is more to come in 2014. VW should be releasing their e-Golf later this year and the arrival of the Kia Soul EV is highly anticipated. Tesla currently has their factory shut down so they can retool to both increase capacity and begin production of the Model X. I don't expect many Model X to be delivered this year but I do expect a few to begin making their way into drivers hands in December.
Sunday July 20, 2014 – More Chargers than McDonald's – I found an interesting press release from Chargepoint this week. Chargepoint is the leading manufacturer of public charging stations and the press release told me that they now have more chargers deployed than McDonald's has fast food restaurants.
In The US McDonald's has 13,890 fast food restaurants while Chargepoint has now deployed 18,000 EV charging stations. The press release also pointed out that this is more than the 14,958 Starbucks and the 8,160 7-Elevens.
Now there is a constant mantra that I hear repeated over and over again that there aren't enough EV charging stations but clearly they are being rolled out at a pretty fast pace. Let's not forget that Chargepoint is just one of the companies rolling out chargers, although it does have the largest number deployed. Also in the race is Aerovironment, Blink, EVGO, SEMACONNECT, and Tesla. That doesn't even include those places that just provide 110V outlets for charging. This is most common for workplace charging but other businesses also allow customers to charge at outlets in their parking area. Overall there must be at least 30,000 charging stations around the nation.
Now to put this in context the latest statistics for gas stations in the US shows a total of 121,446 and if we estimate an average of 8 pumps per station that gives us a total number of gas pumps in operation of 971,568 serving a fleet of about 240,000,000 vehicles. Given that we have about 200,000 plug in cars on the road the amount of infrastructure seems more that adequate.
We are not comparing apples to apples though. A typical gas car takes about 10 minutes to refuel at a gas pump and runs around 250 miles between fill-ups. I know most cars are quoted with a range of 300 miles but people rarely tend to let the cars get totally empty before refueling so I think 250 miles is a pretty good estimate. On the other hand, Plug-in cars take a lot longer to refill, and typically get anything from 11 miles for some of the plug in hybrids up to 332 miles for a Tesla. A DC fast charger can typically fill a car to 80% in around 20 minutes while a level 2 charger takes around 7 to 8 hours.
So, the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is starting to look a bit inadequate after all. But wait, most charging is done at home overnight when the car is just sitting in the garage anyway. What I see at public charging stations is that most electric cars, that typically have a range of over 80 miles, are not using them. Plug-in hybrids are using them most and that shouldn't be a surprise as they are the vehicles with the shortest all electric range.
I think that we do need to build out charging infrastructure and now that we have a decent base to build from we need to try and get charging stations where people are going to stay for a long time. Having a charging station at a grocery store is OK but a typical stay is around 20 minutes, not long enough to get more than a couple of miles of additional range. Having them at a shopping center, where people may spend two or three hours, makes a lot more sense. Another prime location would be cinemas, again a place where people tend to spend at least two hours.
I've also said that we should try and build out charging at hotels. That's a place where we tend to stay overnight and so a charger should become a prime draw for patrons who drive electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Batteries are improving all the time and I expect that electric cars that can handle long distance driving will become commonplace by 2025.
Sunday July 13, 2014 – Tesla Crashes – The July 4th weekend saw not one but two crashes involving the Tesla Model S and one of them had fatalities. Of course Wall Street over-reacted to the news causing a large pull back in Tesla shares. In both crashes the driver of the Tesla survived but they do leave some open questions about the car.
The first crash involved a Model S that was stolen from a service center in West LA. The car was driven through West Hollywood at speed over 100mph and ended up striking parked cars before hitting a light pole and splitting in half. The rear end of the car finished up wedged into a wall. The amazing thing about this is that the drive of the car survived such a severe crash.
With the car splitting in two the batteries spilled into the road and caught fire. KTLA-TV Los Angeles caught some spectacular footage of the batteries exploding sending chunks into the air making it look like a roman candle. Although the scene looked wild it didn't seem to be causing any risk of injuries and fire crews were able to get the drive and passengers out of a Honda Civic that was struck by the Tesla by cutting off the roof.
The car was reported stolen almost immediately after it was taken and was being chased by police for a time until they backed off after officers were injured in a collision. The question being raised is does Tesla have the ability to remotely disable the vehicle as GM can do with some cars that use on-star? If so why wasn't the vehicle disabled?
The Second collision occurred on the 14 Freeway in Palmdale just north of Los Angeles at about 10:30 pm on July 4th. A Toyota Corolla was rear ended at speed by a Tesla Model S. The Corolla burst into flames. Bystanders at the scene managed to get some of the people out but the crash left the 40 year old driver and two children, one aged 13 and the other 8 dead at the scene. One other adult and a 6 year old child survived the crash and were taken to local hospitals. All 5 people in the Corolla were wearing their seat belts. The driver of the Tesla, who received only minor injuries, was released from the scene so it doesn't look like alcohol or drugs were involved. This is the collision that raised questions.
First lets look at the fire incident. This illustrates just why gasoline fires are much more dangerous than battery fires. Gasoline fires tend to be explosive and it is quite common for the vehicle to be fully engulfed wthinin minutes. On the other had the battery fires tend to build slowly and, as we have seen in other battery fires with the Tesla, the car can warn the driver and give them plenty of time to pull over and exit the vehicle before the fire becomes really dangerous.
There are questions that come out of this fire though. On thing that makes Tesla less safe is the lack of collision avoidance technology. Now it doesn't surprise me that the newly developed car did not have this technology which is just starting to emerge in high end cars and is slowly trickling down to lower end car such as Subaru. I'm talking about the technology that recognizes that you are closing in on an object in front and automatically applies the brakes. The system is not necessarily designed to stop the collision but is designed to reduce the speed, and therefor the energy of the collision making the collision much less likely to be lethal.
It seems to me that Tesla has done an outstanding job of protecting the occupants of the car but if they want to keep the title of safest car a collision avoidance system is going to have to become a priority. I would expect this to be at least an option on the Model X.
What is of more concern to me is the possibility that the problem with the corolla crash was in part design induced driver error. David Noland in a article in Green Car Reports states that he almost had an accident in a Tesla Model S when he hit the brake hard and found that his foot also came into contact with the accelerator pedal causing the car not to slow. He realized what was going on and was able to adjust his foot on the brake pedal so as not to be touching the accelerator and avoided an accident by inches. In the article he also said that his tests showed that if the accelerator was pressed first then the brakes the accelerator was disabled but it did not work if the brake pedal was pressed first,
If this was a contributing factor on the accident with the Corolla then this is going to lead to a recall for Tesla. While increasing the distance between the brake and accelerator pedals would be difficult a relatively easy fix should be to update the software so if the brake and accelerator are hit at the same time then disable the accelerator.
This is pure speculation at the moment and we will have to wait for the full investigation to be completed before we find the true cause of the crash. Given Tesla's past response to other issues I expect them to be taking these two incidents very seriously and they will no doubt deal with any issues that arise quickly.
Sunday July 6, 2014 - June 2014 EV Sales - After the high sales numbers in May it should have been no surprise that we would see a pull back in plug-in sales during June as dealer inventories were reduced. June sales still came in at over 11,000 with an estimated sales volume of 11,893 units depending on just how many cars Tesla actually sold. We also had some new record sales set too.
The surprising leader in sales this month was Ford who sold a record 3,134 plug-ins in June topping the 3,000 mark for the first time.
Once again their bestselling model was the Fusion Energy which sold 1,939 cars in June, up substantially from their previous record of 1,342 cars that they sold in May. Sales of the Fusion Energi continue to improve for Ford and it was the best selling hybrid for the month outselling both the Prius Plug-in and the Chevy Volt .
The C-Max energy also saw an improvement in sales climbing from 782 in May to 998 in June. This was just a little short of their best sales month ever when they sold 1,092 cars in October 2013, it was still the best month in sales this year for the C-Max Energi.
The Focus Electric set a new monthly record with 197 cars sold in June improving once again on May's 177 cars. The last time Ford Focues EV sales dropped below 100 was January 2013 but they seem to be controlling inventory to sell in the100 to 200 car range and fell just 3 cars short of breaking the 200 barrier.
Nissan was coming off its best sales month ever selling 3,177 Leafs in May, This was known to reduce dealer inventory so it's not surprising that we saw a pull back in sales to a still respectable 2,347 cars in June. This still left the Nissan Leaf as the best selling plug-in vehicle for the month of June and now that the 2015 models are making their way to dealer lots we can expect to see brisk sales over the next few months.
Like Ford, GM also has three Plug-n cars on sale and between them they managed to sell 1959 cars this month.
Chevy Volt sales continued the month over month increases that we have seen since the start of the year with sales of 1,777 cars up from the 1, 684 sales in May. This may have been helped in the scramble to get HOV stickers as dealers sold off the cars they had with stickers issued to the dealerships.
Sales of the Cadillac ELR set a new monthly sales record of 97 in June, up from the 52 that they sold in May. Most people consider the ELR to be way overpriced for what is, in essence, a Volt. Right now it appears that GM has almost two years worth of inventory of the ELR on dealer lots so at some point I expect to see some pretty steep discounts on the car.
The Chevy Spark on the other hand pulled back from the 182 cars sold in May to a more normal 85 cars in June. This is a compliance car so GM pretty much controls how many of these cars they sell each month as dealer inventory is typically low.
Tesla never reports monthly sales numbers, just one of the things they do that annoys journalists. Inside EV estimates that they sold 1,800 cars in the US this month and this seems like as good a number as any so I am going to go with that. This number represents a push to deliver US cars before they begin to focus on delivery of right hand drive cars in the UK and Japan in July and August.
After coming off record sales in May it shouldn't be surprising that Toyota saw a pull back in June with sales of a respectable 1662 cars.
The Prius Plug-in fell from its may record sales of 2,692 in May down to 1,571 in June. May sales benefitted greatly from the scramble to get green HOV stickers in California before they ran out and while this occurred in May there were some dealers that still had cars with stickers issued to the dealership in inventory. Now that the green sticker program has been extended with the addition of another 10,000 stickers expect to see sales stabilize in the remaining months of this year.
Sales of their RAV4-EV also to 91 in June from 149 cars sold in May. Toyota has announced that it is ending their agreement with Tesla to produce the RAV4-EV and production will be stopped. So far they have sold 1,743 RAV4-EVs and my best guess is that they will stop production at 2,000.Toyota has been a supporter of Fuel Cell cars and plans to bring one to market next year.
In its first full month of sales the BMW i3 sold 358 cars which was just a little higher than the 336 cars sold in May. BMW has made plenty of inventory available to their dealers and they appear to be marketing the car aggressively. BMW are not separating out the number of pure electric cars they sell and the number of extended range cars they sell so the number above is the combined sales tally.
Smart is another company that has seen sales numbers grow month over month for each of the first half of 2014 as inventory has improved now that the factory is building enough cars to meet demand. In May Smart sold 206 cars which set a short lived sales record. In June they beat their previous record by selling 278 of their pure electric cars. Considering that Smart sold just 673 cars in June the Smart Electric Drive represented 41% of Smart sales in the US.
Sales of the Fiat 550e have been pretty consistent this year with monthly numbers in the 150 to 180 range. June as been no different with 166 cars sold this month just 1 short of the 167 in May. Fiat is one of those companies that is very anti-EV even having the company president ask people not to buy them so he must be pretty upset that the car is selling so well considering it is only available in California.
Porsche continues to do well with the Panamera S E-Hybrid selling 111 copies of the car in June, up from 53 they sold in May They do seem to be able to keep tracking to their plan that between 10% and 15% of Panamera sales would be the plug-in.
Honda is another company that is known to be anti EV and is putting lots of money into developing fuel cell vehicles. Even with two plug-in models on sale they still only managed to sell 66 cars.
Honda tightly controls the sales of the Honda Fit EV and basically the dealers sell what is available. In June they manage to sell 38 cars, a alight improvement on the 33 cars that they sold in May. Since Honda only build about 40 per month this shouldn't be unexpected. This is one of the best small EVs on the market but sadly Honda plans to discontinue sales in the Fall.
The Accord Plug-in is not supposed to be a compliance car but Honda just don't seem to be interested in selling them. May saw just 46 cars being sold, a good month for the Accord Plug-in, but June saw sales drop to 28 cars.
Honda obviously wants to say "Look people don't want to buy plug-in cars" but that's going to be difficult as the only reason the Fit EV is not selling in quantities is that there is no supply. Dealers have long lists of people who want them but Honda doesn't want to sell one more than they have to. I suspect that the same is true for the accord hybrid as Ford, Toyota, and GM's offerings are selling quite well.
Now that Mitsubishi have started sales of the 2014 i-MiEV here in the US you would expect their sales number to climb but this month saw a drop in sales from 35 cars in May to 22 cars in June. The numbers have to do with a big success for Mitsubishi. The Outlander PHEV is selling so well in Europe and Japan that it is causing supply issues with batteries for the i-MiEV. As a result only 200 of the 2014 model year cars have been shipped to the US which is a big reasons for the low sales totals.
We were hoping to see the first deliveries of the Mercedes B Class EV in June but that didn't happen so it may be late July or early August before we see that car hitting the showrooms. I expect the B-Class to be a competitor for BMW when it does finally make it to these shores..
Sunday Jun 29, 2014 – Toyota Fuel Cell Car – This week Toyota released details of the fuel cell car that they plan to begin selling in Japan, Europe, and the USA next year. The car will be a Camry sized car with a Tesla Price.
The car is claimed to have many advances which help to contain costs. The four door sedan will seat four people and will be priced at around $69,000 in Japan. This price is heavily subsidized by the Japanese Government and it should be no surprise that it has been targeted to sell at just a little less than a Tesla Model S.
Toyota claims a range of 430 miles (700Km) and their new fuel stack is rated at 3 KW/L. Hydrogen is stored in two storage tanks at 10,000psi. There is no indication of how much hydrogen the fuel tanks take but it appears that the car can put out at least 70Kwhr of power and based on 3Kw per liter that would require about 24 liters of hydrogen for a complete fill. Toyota says that they can fill the car in 3 minutes but I have to wonder what the power requirement would be to compress 24 liters of hydrogen to 10,000psi in 3 minutes.
The diagram of the car also shows a pretty substantial battery. Toyota state that their FCEV can be started from -30C and I am willing to bet that cold weather performance is one of the reasons for having a large battery pack. I couldn't find any info on the battery pack on the Toyota site but the pack looked at least as large as the fuel cell stack in their diagram.
One of the biggest problems with fuel cell vehicles, apart from the high cost, is the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Part of Toyota's plan is to build out infrastructure across Japan. It is interested that all of their infrastructure plans appear to revolve around reformatting of Natural Gas which just throws us back into the old Fossil Fuel model.
I can see the appeal of the FCEV. Basically you are going electric while keeping the old model that has been around for over a hundred years. You can drive around until your tank gets low then pull into a fueling station and top up and you are ready for another week of driving.
The Toyota site has a graphic that shows that battery electric vehicles are more cost effective in short range driving and that the FCEV becomes more cost effective for longer range driving. Of course this is all smoke and mirrors as the graphic does not have any scale on it. That's probably because at current costs the break even point would lie well above the range of current fuel cell vehicles. That's not to say that this won't come down if they can reduce the costs of fuel cell vehicles faster than the cost of batteries drops. At the moment batteries are winning that race but the race isn't over yet.
Combine that with the idea that most people typically drive less than 40 miles per day. There is a lot being made about the lack of infrastructure for electric cars but the truth is that most EV drivers just plug in at home each night and have more than enough charge in the morning to get where they are going.
I think there will be a lot of uses for Fuel Cells including powering ships and perhaps airplanes but I think that by the time they are viable for most people the Electric car will be entrenched as the car of choice. More people are discovering the benefits of plug-in cars and most won't want to go back to being tethered to a gas pump again, even if it is delivering hydrogen instead of gasoline.
Sunday Jun 22, 2014 – Motorbikes in the News – This past week there were a couple of interesting pieces of news about electric motorbikes that caught my eye.
The first came from Zero Motorbikes based in Santa Cruz, CA. Zero Motorbikes appeared on the scene back in 2006 when they first showed a battery powered dirt bike at the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo. This bike has such acceleration that it really blew people away. Later the company added a street legal version, the Zero S . They now offer four models with ranges of over 150 miles on a charge and 0-60 times as low as 3.3 seconds.
It shouldn't be a surprise that they are now getting into the lucrative fleet market with a Zero MMX which has been designed for use by law enforcement and the military. This week they announced that the LAPD has purchased one of their bikes to add to its fleet of police bikes.
Apart from the obvious advantage of low running costs and minimal maintenance that an electric bike provides the MMX gives the LAPD a distinct tactical advantage. The bike is so quiet compared to any other police motorcycle that it gives the rider the ability to approach closely without being heard. This can be a big advantage in certain situations and makes the MMX stand apart from the other police motorcycles..
Zero Motorcycles is one of a new brand of motorcycle companies born in the early part of this century but the other story that caught my eye this week was from a company that was born in the early part of the last century.
It was 1903 when William S Harley and Arthur Davidson sold their first motorcycle to Henry Myers of Milwaukee, WI. This kicked off what is now the most legendary name in Motorcycle history. Harley Davidson motorbikes are still one of the most popular and iconic motorcycles in the US but motorcycles are not the only thing that Harley Davidson has manufactured. In 1963 they put out their first golf cart under their Golf Cart division.
So while it doesn't seem to fit their image it should not have been too much of a surprise when this week they showed an electric motorcycle prototype.
So far we have very few details about the Harley Davidson LiveWire except that it can accelerate from 0 - 60 in less than 4 seconds. Harley have not yet released information about top speed or the all important range per charge. They are going to be taking a number of these bikes on the road with stops at dealerships across the country so that prospective buyers can check them out.
The big question of course is "will Harley riders accept a bike that definitely does not sound like a Harley?". Harley owners have been known to tune their bikes to make lots of noise even at the cost of fuel economy and performance so I have to wonder if they will accept a bike that is much quieter.
In the end I expect that Harley will open up a whole new customer base who want to be part of the Harley mystique but also want to be more environmentally friendly .
These two announcements are just the tip of the iceberg. It is known that the other major motorcycle makers like Yamaha and Suzuki are working on electric bikes of their own and I expect to see prototypes emerge over the next couple of year.
Sunday Jun 15, 2014 – Opening up on EVs – Tesla's CEO Elon Musk recently announced that they would make their patents available to other EV makers for fair use free of charge. This move is targeted to increase the rate at which electric cars are adopted.
In his blog Mr. Musk said that at Tesla they "felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy their technology and use their massive manufacturing, sales, and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla". it seems that they were wrong and the large manufacturers are just building a small number of plug-in cars while for the most part their production is still based around petroleum.
He also said "Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport" but went on to add, "it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis".
Reading between the lines it appears that Mr., Musk if frustrated at the slow pace at which battery electric vehicles are being rolled out. The problem is the old chicken and egg situation. To make electric cars more acceptable to the American public they need to have longer range. To get longer range pushes up costs so the carmakers are compromising and making cars with smaller battery packs and this means lower range. Those familiar with EVs have long known that a car with 70 miles of range will meet about 50% of all vehicle requirements, even more once we find ways for apartment dwellers and those who have to park on the streets to be able to charge. Putting it another way, of the 100,000,000 cars sold each year about 50,000,000 could be EV without seriously inconveniencing their buyers.
How often have you read in the comments section of an EV Article "when they make an EV that will go 300 miles on a charge I will buy one". I hate to think of the amount of gas these people use to be driving 300 miles every day. Most people still don't understand the concept of overnight charging.
I will take Tesla to task for one thing, they have not implemented the standard charging connector. Instead of using the J1722 standard they are using a proprietary standard connector with an adapter to allow the Tesla cars to charge at public chargers. For fast charging we now have three standards, Chademo used by the Japanese car companies. Tesla's proriatory connector, and the J1722 connector sometimes known as the Frankenplug. One standard would do a lot to help in rolling out fast charger technology.
Personally I am seeing a steady growth in sales of battery electric vehicles and I think that the next generation of vehicles will show longer range at lower cost which should help. I expect to see this growth begin to accelerate in the future. Sharing patents can only speed up this growth.
Sunday Jun 8, 2014 - May 2014 EV Sales - April saw a whole bunch or records being set the most notable being that this month saw the highest monthly total of electric car sales ever. Overall there were 12,053 electric cars sold during the month beating the previous high of 11,273 set in August 2013. In addition several models set new record sales levels while we also saw the first sales of the BMW i3 and Mitsubishi started delivering the first of the 2014 i-MiEV to customers.
Nissan had its best sales month ever and managed to rack up more than 3,000 sales for the first time. In all 3,177 Leafs in May, This didn't quite top the 3,351 Volts that GM sold in August 2013 but it is the seventh consecutive month that the all electric Leaf has outsold the Plug-in Hybrid Volt. It appears that Nissan may finally have fixed their issues with dealer inventory but we will have to see what next month brings. In April Nissan had sold 2,088 Leafs.
Toyota seems to have benefited greatly from the scramble to get the last few green stickers that allow Plug-in hybrid drivers to drive solo in the carpool lane. This pushed sales up from 1,741 in April to 2,692 in May. This is another record sales month for the Plug in Prius. I suspect that the PIP is the car of choice for those that want carpool lane access but can't, or don't want to plug-in. I think that is why we have seen such a jump in sales as dealers who had cars with green stickers on their lots moved them in large numbers.
Toyota didn't quite manage to set a record for sales of their RAV4-EV but they bested the 69 sold in April with a not too shabby for a compliance car 149. Toyota has announced that it is ending their agreement with Tesla to produce the RAV4-EV and production will be stopped. Toyota has been a supporter of Fuel Cell cars and plans to bring one to market next year.
Ford, who has three plug-in models on sale moved a total of 2,301 cars in May.
Once again their bestselling model was the Fusion Energy which sold 1,342 cars in May, almost double the 743 cars they sold in the previous month. May represented the best month ever for the Ford Fusion and even topped the best month for the C-Max Energy also.
The C-Max energy also saw a drop in sales climbing from 525 in April to 782 in May. While this was quite a way off their best sales month ever where they sold 1,092 cars in October 2013, it was still the best month in sales this year for the C-Max Energi.
The Focus Electric moved forward again with 177 cars sold in May tying the amount they sold in March and quite a way ahead of April's 116 cars. The last time Ford Focues EV sales dropped below 100 was January 2013 but they seem to be controlling inventory to sell just in that band of 100 to 200 cars..
GM also has three Plug-n cars on sale and between them they managed to sell 1918 cars this month The Volt has still outsold every other Plug-in offering but the Nissan Leaf is nipping at its heals.
Chevy Volt sales also showed an increase over April which is the fifth consecutive month that sales of the plug-in hybrid have increased. In May they racked up a respectable 1, 684 sales which was up a little from the 1,548 cars sold in April. This may have been helped in the scramble to get HOV stickers in California but I think that most people buying a car just for the HOV sticker opted for the Prius Plug-in.
Sales of the Cadillac ELR saw their second consecutive monthly drop going from 61 in Aril down to just 52 in May. Most people consider the ELR to be way overpriced for what is, in essence, a Volt. I don’t expect to see sales take off unless GM puts some pretty steep discounts on the car.
The Chevy Spark on the other hand broke its monthly sales record selling 182 cars. This is a compliance car so GM pretty much controls how many of these cars they sell each month as dealer inventory is typically low. In April 97 cars were sold.
Tesla never reports monthly sales numbers, just one of the things they do that annoys journalists. Inside EV estimates that they sold 1,000 cars in the US this month and this seems like as good a number as any so I am going to go with that. Part of the reason for the lower sales is that they have finally caught up with the backlog of orders they had, and partly because they have started to build the right hand drive version of the car for sale in the UK and Japan.
There is a new electric car on the list this month as BMW finally stared sales of their i3. The i3 was originally supposed to start deliveries in April but because of delays getting the official EPA sticker deliveries were delayed until May. BMW has a good first month with 336 cars being delivered to customers. BMW has made plenty of inventory available to their dealers and they appear to be marketing the car aggressively. In Europe the car has pulled in a lot of younger drivers who would not normally have bought a BMW so it will be interesting to see if that happens here in the US too.
Smart is another company that has seen sales numbers grow month over month for each of the first five months of 2014 as inventory has improved now that the factory is building enough cars to meet demand. In April Smart sold 203 cars which set a short lived sales record. In May they beat their previous record by selling 206 cars. Considering that Smart sold just a little over 600 cars in May the Smart Electric Drive is now making up a significant portion of Smart sales in the US.
Fiat sold 152 of their 550e in April and showed a slight increase to 167 in May. Fiat is one of those companies that is very anti-ev even having the company president as people not to buy them so he must be pretty upset that the car is selling so well considering it is only available in California. This month the 500e out-sold all of the other compliance cars except the Chevy Spark. The other good news for Fiat fans is that the car will become available in Oregon later this summer.
Honda is another company that is known to be anti EV and is putting lots of money into developing fuel cell vehicles. Honda tightly controls the sales of the Honda Fit EV and basically the dealers sell what is available. In April they manage to sell just 33 cars, an significant drop from the 50 that they sold in April. Since Honda only build about 40 per month this shouldn't be unexpected. This is one of the best small EVs on the market but sadly Honda plans to discontinue sales in the Fall.
The Honda Fit is a high demand car and it is my opinion that if Honda really tried they could post sales closer to those of the Nissan Leaf than to the sales of a compliance car. The Honda Accord Plug-in seems to be just the opposite. The car appears to be way overpriced with very limited range and sales reflect this. They did manage to increase sales from the 37 cars sold in April to 46 in May. That number is still well below the number of Cadillac ELR and Porsche Panamers S E-Active that were sold during the month..
Porsche continues to do well with the Panamera S E-Hybrid selling 53 copies of the car in May, up from this is lower than the 63 they sold in April but the do seem to be able to keep tracking to their plan that between 10% and 15% of Panamera sales would be the plug-in.
Finally, Mitsubishi have started sales of the 2014 i-MiEV here in the US. This month saw a leap in sales from 12 cars leaving dealer lots in April to 35 in May. I expect to see the numbers climb as inventory for the 2014 begins to appear on dealer lots..
Next month may see the first deliveries of the Mercedes B Class EV and it will be interested to see if they can start deliveries in June. It has been reported that production of the US bound model has already started in Germany.
Sunday May 11, 2014 – BMW i3 Hits the Street – The BMW i3 has been on sale in Europe for a while now but it finally hit the streets here in the USA when BMW made their first deliveries on May 2.
The first proud new owner of a BMW i3 was Professor Charles Rabie of Tufts University, who took delivery of his car in Boston. Professor Rabie was a former driver of a BMW Acitve-E.
Here on the West Coast former E! Entertainment correspondent Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, wife of Philippe Cousteau, will be among the first to receive one of the hundreds of cars currently at BMW facilities waiting to be delivered.
The BMW i3 is their first electric car offering. It combines a light body built mostly of carbon fiber with a 170-hp electric motor driven by a 22-KWh lithium ion battery that gives the car an EPA estimated range of 81 miles and is capable of pushing the car to a top speed of 93mph.
The EPA sticker numbers are quite impressive. Fuel economy is rated as an overall 124-mpge, which makes it the fuel efficiency leader for electric cars. Charge time is rated at 4 hours for a full charge for an 81 mile range. This is with the standard level 2 charger of course but the i3 also supports the J1772 standard fast charging plug which would allow an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. The car is also rated at 27-KWh per 100 miles which is excellent.
BMW offers a range extended version that adds a small 2 cylinder engine in the rear and a 2.4 gallon tank under the hood. This should add about 100 miles of range to the car before it needs a re-fuel.
MSRP for the base model starts at $41,350 going up to $45,200 for the base model with the range extender option.
This is a pretty expensive car for a four seat sub compact but after the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit and additional State incentives the price is pretty much in line with a base BMW series 1. For those that want to drive “the ultimate driving machine” and also want to be eco-friendly this is a good entry level BMW. Unlike most of the other small EVs this car is not a compliance car but is being sold nationwide.
I don’t expect these to sell in the same sort of volumes as the Leaf or Volt but I do expect to see a respectable number of cars being sold as long as BMW can maintain a reasonable inventory.
Jim From Chandler AZ wrote
i3 has the SAE Combo Fast Charger which is very rare. It has odd suicide rear
doors. The Roof and Hood are always black no matter what color car you order.
These items should be mentioned.
i3 good items are the great REGEN like a Tesla, no creep when you foot is off the brake.
The lease at zero down is 931 vs 300 for our LEAF. that’s a 3x difference yet range is similar 81 i3, 84 LEAF
Sunday May 4, 2014 – April 2014 EV Sales – After almost 10,000 plug-in sales in March there was somewhat of a pull-back in April as overall sales dipped to 8,605. Once again Nissan lead the pack with Toyota and Ford snapping at their heals.
Nissan managed to sell 2,088 more leafs in April, down quite a bit from the 2,507 cars they sold in March buy still ahead of the 1,937 cars sold in April 2013. Nissan still seems to be selling a little over 2,000 cars per month and the increased capacity at the Smyma, TN doesn’t appear to have increased sales too much although this may also be because production of the 2015 model has already started and these are not yet being shipped to dealers.
Toyota seems to be the one that has benefited from the scramble to get the last few green stickers that allow Plug-in hybrid drivers to drive solo in the carpool lane. This pushed sales up from 1,452 in March to 1,741 in April, well ahead of the 599 that they sold in April 2013. Now that the green stickers are sold out it will be interesting to see if the Prius Plug-in can maintain sales. The good news for Toyota is that there is a strong chance that the stickers will be extended to allow another 45,000 to be issued.
Toyota also managed to sell 69 of their RAV4-EVs in April. Not quite as good as the 73 that they sold in March but still in the sales range we have seen in recent months. The RAV4-EV is, of course, a compliance car sold only in California and Oregon so it is not too surprising that sales are low.
Ford also saw a bit of a pullback in sales with a total of 1,742 cars sold in March spread out across the three plug-in models they offer. The fall in sales dropped them to third place in the Plug-in sales race.
Once again their bestselling model was the Fusion Energy which sold 743 cars in April, down quite a bit from the 899 cars they sold in the previous month.
The C-Max energy also saw a drop in sales falling from 610 in March down to 525. Still not a bad showing for these cars which traditionally haven’t sold well in California and so probably haven’t been impacted much by green stickers running out in the golden state.
The Focus Electric also saw a pullback in sales but still managed to stay in the 100+ per month range that it has lived in for the last couple of years. In April 116 cars were sold, a quite large drop from the 177 that were sold in March but much more in line with the January and February numbers of 100 and 129 respectively.
GM has three cars on offer, the Chevy Volt, its Cadillac cousin the ELR, and their compliance EV the Chevy Spark. In total GM managed to sell 1681 plug-in cars this month, putting them in fourth place in the plug-in sales race.
While sales of the Chevy Volt have not been as good as we might have expected, Chevy did see a fourth straight month of increased sales with 1,548 cars sold, just a little higher than the 1,478 cars then sold in March and well ahead of the 1,306 cars they sold in April 2013.
Sales of the Cadillac ELR dropped from 81 in March to 61 in April. Most people consider the ELR to be way overpriced for what is, in essence, a Volt. I don’t expect to see sales take off unless GM puts some pretty steep discounts on the car.
The Chevy Spark is a compliance car so GM pretty much controls how many of these cars they sell each month. In April it was 97, just a little bit below the 108 cars they sold in March.
Tesla never reports monthly sales numbers, just one of the things they do that annoys journalists. Inside EV estimates that they sold 1,100 cars in the US this month and this seems like as good a number as any so I am going to go with that.
Smart is another company that has seen sales numbers grow month over month for each of the first four months of 2014 as inventory has improved now that the factory is building enough cars to meet demand. In April Smart sold 203 cars, up from the 186 cars they sold in March. The Smart Electric Drive is now making up a significant portion of Smart’s sales in the US.
Fiat had been another company that did not separate out sales of the 500e. Fortunately we are now able to get a good count on the number of cars sold and it appears that they sold 152 electric drive cars in April. That seems to agree with the volume of internet sales I have been seeing. This number means that Fiat is out-selling all the other compliance cars even though they are known to be anti-EV.
Honda is another company that is known to be anti EV and is putting lots of money into developing fuel cell vehicles. Honda tightly controls the sales of the Honda Fit EV and basically the dealers sell what is available. In April they manage to sell 50 cars, an improvement over the 37 that they sold in March.
The Honda Fit is a high demand car and it is my opinion that if Honda really tried they could post sales closer to those of the Nissan Leaf than to the sales of a compliance car. The Honda Accord Plug-in seems to be just the opposite. The car appears to be way overpriced with very limited range and sales reflect this with only 37 cars being sold in April. This still more than doubled the 18 cars they sold in March.
Porsche continues to do well with the Panamera S E-Active selling 63 copies of the car in April, up from 56 sold in March. They seem to be able to keep tracking between 10% and 15% of Panamera sales as the plug-in.
Some how, some way, Mitsubishi seems to be able to find a few more new 2012 i-MiEV to sell. This month was no exception with another 12 cars leaving dealer lots in April. This is down from the 24 they sold in March and I don’t expect to see any large numbers until the 2015 model hits the US toward the end of the year.
Next month should see the first deliveries of the BMW i3 and it will be interested to see how many cars they sell.
Sunday Apr 27, 2014 – Fuel Cell Car Hype – There is an old saying, “hydrogen is the fuel of the future and always will be”. Well, it seems that some carmakers think that the future is coming soon and are planning on introducing fuel cell vehicles in the not too distant Future.
Honda and Daimler already have small pilot projects in Southern California where there is a large enough network of hydrogen fueling stations to support a small fleet of vehicles.
When Honda took the EV+ out of service it crushed some, but about 50 were turned into fuel cell cars and were leased to customers starting around 2005. In 2008 they introduced the Clarity FCV which was available for lease at $600 per month. The clarity is also available in Europe and Japan but it appears that less than 50 have been leased.
Daimler began leasing the F-Cell, based on their B-Class hatchback in the US in 2010 and they have managed to lease about 60 of them to customers in US, Europe, Singapore, and Japan.
Later this year Hyundai plans to enter the market with an FCV version of the Santa Fe which will be offered on a 36 month lease at $2,999 down and $499 per month including free hydrogen. Toyota is planning to enter the market in 2015 and Honda will probably have an updated fuel cell car at around the same time.
Fuel Cell cars sound like the ideal replacement for gasoline powered cars. They have about the same range and they can be refueled very quickly. The carmakers all quote about 3 minutes to refuel but I think that is a best case scenario with 10 minutes being a more likely average. Hydrogen fuel cell cars emit only water so they are pretty clean.
So why are we not all driving fuel cell cars?
Well, there are still some significant hurdles to overcome. One of them is that Fuel Cells require quite a bit of Platinum to make them work. Platinum is a very rare and expensive metal and the need to use this in the fuel cell pushes the price up through the roof. The amount of platinum needed for a fuel cell stack has been falling as the technology improves but the big question is can they get it to fall fast enough.
With current technology it is estimated that each individual fuel cell vehicle will cost between $120,000 and $140,000 to product. That’s why when the Hyundai Tucson FCV goes on sale in Korea later this year it will cost around $144,400 at a projected volume of 10,000 cars per year.
Another issue is that we need to build a whole new infrastructure to support a hydrogen future. Currently there are 121,000 gas stations in US. A new hydrogen fueling station costs around $1M to build. To replace the current gasoline infrastructure with hydrogen would cost 121 billion dollars which is quite a hefty price tag.
Compare that with the cost of electric vehicle infrastructure. Fast chargers cost as much as $100,000 to install but there is no real need to replace all of the current gas stations with fast chargers. Most electric vehicles are charged at home for most of the time and at other times don’t need be fast charged either.
Yesterday for example I took a trip to the Mall. I was there for about one and a half hours and was able to get enough charge from the 110V outlet at their charging station to complete my errands for the day. A 110V outlet is cheap to install and is ideal for places where there is long term parking like in the parking lot at work.
This is one of the things that most people don’t realize about cars, they spend most of their life parked and if you have access to an outlet, you can charge while you are off doing whatever it is that you are doing. Even though fast charging takes about 30 minutes for an EV, by the time you have visited the bathroom and have stood in line to buy a coffee and some snacks the car is charged so you haven’t gained much by filling in 3 minutes instead of 30.
The other big issue is the generation, transportation, and storage of hydrogen. The car makers like to paint a picture of hydrogen being produced from water by electrolysis using electricity generated from solar power or wind energy. It’s true that a lot of renewables, especially wind power, are produced at times when demand is low. Converting water to hydrogen would be a way to store the excess energy from renewables.
The reality is that electrolysis of water is pretty inefficient and most commercially available hydrogen is produced from steam reformatting of natural gas. This too is a pretty inefficient process though more efficient than electrolysis. Once the hydrogen is produced it has to be transported to the fueling station. Hydrogen is very reactive and is usually transported in liquid form and the process to liquefy hydrogen also very energy intensive. Finally it has to be stored onboard the car which means compressing it to 10,000 psi.
What this means is that fueling is not going to be cheap. It is estimated that 1kg of hydrogen, about equivalent to a gallon of gas, is going to cost between $5 and $6.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have shown vast improvements over the last 15 years but there is still a long way to go to make them a viable transportation option. Some of the carmakers think that they can overcome the remaining hurdles and make hydrogen the fuel of the future. Me – I’m not so sure!
Sunday Apr 20, 2014 – 2014 New York Auto Show – The 2014 New York Auto Show is under way at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the show is all about muscle cars and SUVs. It’s like we never learn. The economy is picking up and the auto companies are back to pushing horsepower and big trucks.
Buried along with the gas guzzlers though were plug-in cars and plug-in concepts that might just be on our roads in the not too distant future.
One of the most interesting was the Horseless eCarriage prototype. This is a car that is designed specifically to replace the horse carriages in New York’s Central Park. It will seat 8 people and was made to look like an old brass era car. The car can go 30mph on public roads but would be limited to 5mph within Central Park. It can travel about 100 miles on an 8 hour charge which should be good enough for a day’s work in Central Park.
It is not clear if the horse carriages will actually be phased out of Central Park as the majority of New Yorkers are in favor of keeping them but the Horseless eCarriage would make a viable alternative and would also work in other locations such as theme parks.
The German car companies are just starting to emerge into the Plug-in car space and one of the companies leading the charge is BMW. They are about to begin delivery of the i3 in the US and the i8 plug-in hybrid will be going on sale later this year. Both cars already appear to have outsold production. The i3 was named “Word Green Car of the Year”.
At the New York Auto Show BMW held the US debut of the X4 eDrive which is a plug-in hybrid crossover that is sure to be popular if it makes it into production. The car comes with 245hp turbo charged 4 cylinder engine assisted by a 95hp electric motor. The lithium ion battery pack can drive the car in electric only mode for about 19 miles and can drive the car at speeds up to 75mph. Add to that a 0-60 time of 7 seconds and this SUV should be a winner.
Porsche, with sales of the Panamera e-hybrid now accounting for about 10% of Panamera sales in the US, introduced their new super-car to the American public at this year’s show. The Porsche 918 Spyder can do 0-60 in just 2.6 seconds.
What makes the 918 Spyder different is that it is powered not by a massive V10 like its predecessor but by a 4.6 liter V8 that develops 608 hp. This is coupled to two electric motors, a 125hp motor that drives the front wheels and a 154hp motor that drives the rear wheels.
The electric motors are driven by a lithium Ion battery pack that can run the car in electric only mode for about 20 miles.
The Porsche 918 Spyder does not come cheap. The base model will cost $850,000 and that goes up to $930,000 for the performance model. Porsche is going to do what they call a “Large production run” for this car and it should start showing up in showrooms later this year as a 2015 model.
Mitsubishi also had the 2014 i-MiEV on show. There was not 2013 version of this car shipped to the US but the car is set to return to showrooms later this year although no date has been given so far.
The big news is that the price for the i-MiEV will drop substantially to a base price of $23,845 and this is not for a stripped down version. The base 2014 i-MiEV will come with the same standard features as the 2012 model but will also include a CHAdeMO fast charging port, a battery warming system, and even heated front seats. The new base price will make the i-MiEV the lowest cost EV on the market.
VW showed off the e-Golf. This car made its US debut in Los Angeles last November and they said it would be sold in 2014. News from the NY Auto show is that the e-Golf is due in dealerships next September. The bad news is that it will only be available in a few states such as California, not nationwide. So far they have not released pricing for this car.
The car is driven by a 24.2 KWHR lithium battery pack that should give the car a range of about 80 miles. The car will runs at a top speed of 87 mph and will go from 0-60 in about 10 seconds. The car will come with a 6KW charger that can fully charge the car in 4 hours and will also include the new J1772 connector, sometimes known as the “Frankenplug”, that also supports DC fast charging where the car can be charged from 0 – 80% in around 30 minutes.
It seems that the focus of car makers has moved away from electrification of the power train and back to making big cars with high power engines. They make more money on these cars right now so this shouldn’t be a surprise. We do continue to see the market for plug-in cars grow and many of the car makers are selling all they can build so seeing new companies enter the market is refreshing. I look forward to seeing the cars listed above appear in dealerships across the nation.
Sunday Apr 13, 2014 – Johnny Green and the Little Green Man – When I served on the Environmental Sustainability Committee developing the future plan for the city of Beverly Hills one of the things that we agreed upon was that if we were to really build a sustainable environment one of the keys would be to educate our children on environmental issues.
With Johnny Green and the Little Green Man author Suzan Tyler Decker has created a fun children’s book that does just that.
Suzan Tyler Decker lives in Virginia with her husband Frank who manages the recycling program for the City of Roanoke. Like me she believes that children establish lifelong habits and should be encouraged to develop habits that provide for sustainable living.
“Johnny Green and the Little Green Man” tells the story of a young boy and his encounter with a little green man who teaches him the need to recycle household waste. At the end of the book there is also a page that gives some interesting facts such as how many trees the average family consumes each year and how many plastic bottles are thrown away each hour in the US.
The book’s target audience is children 4 to 8 and it will both entertain and educate children in that age group. The book is beautifully illustrated by Julia Marie Floyd which will make it interested even for those who are not old enough to read yet.
Parents should be aware that after sharing this book with their children they really need to follow up by letting the children help sort the trash then taking them with you to the recycling center. After they have read this book, if you don’t recycle your children are going to want to know why!
Sunday Apr 6, 2014 – March 2014 EV Sales – After a typically slow January and February sales for March picked up especially for Nissan who now seem to have solved their low inventory problems.
In March Nissan out-sold all the other plug-in car makers with their second best month ever at 2,507 cars sold. This was a big jump over the 1,425 cars they sold in February. Now that Nissan appears to have solved their inventory problem it will be interesting to see how there sales track going forward.
Ford slipped to second place in March with total sales of 1686 plug-in cars for the month.
Like the Nissan Leaf, The Fusion Energi also had its second best sales month ever. It continued its recent trend of outselling the C-Max Energi, increasing sales from 779 cars in February to 899 in March.
The C-Max Energy also saw an increase in sales over February’s 552, managing to sell 610 cars in March. This is still well behind it highest sales month of 1.092 in October, 2013 but was much better than the 494 cars sold in March 2013.
While the Ford Focus EV saw sales climb from 129 in February to 177 in March they still fell short of the 180 that were sold in March 2013. Still, Ford appears to be keeping inventory at a level where they sell cars somewhere in the 100+ range and the last time they sold less than 100 cars in a month was January 2013.
GM managed to sell 1,667 cars in March led by disappointing sales of the Chevy Volt but best ever sales for the Spark EV and Cadillac ELR.
Chevy sold only 1,478 Volts, just barely outselling the Prius Plug-in. Sales were still better than the 1,210 car that they sold in February and exactly equal to the 1,478 cars they sold in March, 2013. At this rate the volt looks like it is going to have another year of declining sales. Even the looming end to the California HOV lane stickers program doesn’t appear to have spurred sales that much.
The Chevy Spark on the other hand continues to sell well considering that it is a compliance car being sold only in California and Oregon. 108 Chevy Sparks left dealerships in March, better than the 71 cars they sold in February. This was the best sales month ever for the tiny Spark EV beating the previous best of 103 set in July 2013.
Another surprise from GM was the robust sales for the Cadillac ELR. The $75,000 Plug-in Hybrid had its best month since it went on sale in December 2013 with 81 cars sold. This was better than the 58 cars sold in February and no doubt reflects the buildup of inventory at those Cadillac dealerships that opted to sell the car.
Tesla don’t report month over month sales so I usually go with the estimate from InsideEV.com. This month the folks at insideEV.com guestimated that Tesla sold 1,600 cars in the US and I am going to go with that number. This would be a little higher than the 1,400 that Tesla was thought to have sold in February.
Toyota saw a sizable increase in the number of Plug-in Prius they sold in March going from the 1,041 cars sold in February to 1,478 cars in March. It is likely that the Prius Plug-in benefited most from the scramble to buy cars eligible for California’s green car stickers that allow solo driving in the carpool lane as this car is the one that is the best to buy if you don’t have anywhere to charge it on a regular basis and just want the car for its carpool privileges.
They did see a decrease in sales of the RAV4 EV going from 101 cars sold in February down to 73 cars sold in March. It should be remembered that the RAV4 EV is a compliance car so it is only sold in a couple of states.
Overall Toyota sold a total of 1,552 Plug-in cars in March.
Of the smaller manufacturers Smart continues to do quite well and in March they managed to sell 186 cars during the month. This showed significant increase in sales from the 122 cars sold in February and appears to be a result of improving inventory including the arrival of a small shipment of the Cabriolet. Keep in mind that the Smart brand as a whole sold only 775 cars in the US during March, sales of 186 electric cars represents 24% of total Smart sales
The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid continues to rack up sales with 56 cars sold in March, just one less than the 57 cars they sold in February. Porsche sells about 500 Panamera S each month in the US and expects the E-Hybrid to account for 10-15% of this total so expect to see sales in the 50 – 75 range for this car each month.
Honda is known to be strongly anti-EV and a big proponent of fuel cell vehicles. They are being reluctantly forced to sell plug-in cars because of the California ZEV mandate and it shows with a paltry 55 cars being sold in March.
Their best seller is the Honda Fit EV which is a high demand car and probably the best small EV on the market. Honda is building around 40 per month and will stop selling them as soon as they have sold enough to meet their ZEV mandate requirement. Dealers have long waiting lists for people who want this car but still sales in March were only 37 cars. That’s still better than the 33 units sold in February.
Their second offering is the Honda Accord Hybrid and while this car is technically available nationwide it appears to be the car that nobody wants. It is overpriced and offers only 13 miles of EV range. Just 18 cars were sold in March, and even the lowly i-MiEV, which Mitsubishi is still selling the 2012 model of, outsold this car. Previously in February Honda had sold 24 Accord Plug-ins.
Fiat is another company that is known to be Anti EV and, like Tesla, they don’t report monthly sales, choosing to lump the 500e in with the other Fiat 500 models. Inside EV estimated that they have sold 70 cars in March but based on the sales that I have seen I think this number greatly overstates sales so I am going to use my guess of 40 cars for March.
Mitsubishi did not ship any 2013 models of the i-MiEV so what is included in their sales numbers are 2012 models. Somehow they manage to find new cars each month although sales in January was only 1 car and in February they sold 3 cars so just when I was thinking that they are finally done they manage to sell 24 cars in March.
I expect sales of the i-MiEV to remain low until Mitsubishi brings over the 2015 model later this year.
Apart from the disappointing sales of the Chevy Volt March was a good month for plug-in car sales. Going forward it appears that California will reach the 40,000 limit on green car stickers later this month which may impact sales of plug-in hybrids especially the Prius Plug-in. There is a bill making its way through the state legislature that will expand the number of stickers but there is no guarantee that this bill will get signed into law.
With the first shipment of the BMW i3 on a boat to the US and state incentives beginning to dry up, April will be an interesting month for EV Sales.
Sunday Mar 30, 2014 – Sharing Public Chargers – On Friday I was just pulling into a public charging spot when a Volt pulled into the adjacent spot. The charger in question had a 220V charger and an 110V outlet and since the Volt has a much larger capacity than my Prius Plug-in I let the Volt use the fast charger while I took the 110V.
When I got back to the car the battery wasn’t’ fully charged but there was plenty of charger to meet my driving needs for the rest of the day. They say that no good deed goes unpunished so on Saturday when I got to the charging station in Westfield’s Century City Shopping Center I found that both charging stations were occupied but there was a space close enough to the chargers that I could get to the outlet with my extension cord. The trouble is that the second bank of outlets didn’t have power
The two charging spaces were occupied by Volts and I noticed that one of them was fully charged. I considered unplugging the car but here in California cars parked at charging stations and not connected are subject to being ticketed and sometimes towed. While this is rarely enforced I wasn’t going to put the other EV driver at risk.
I thought it was time to put down my thoughts on Public Charger sharing protocol so here are my rules for sharing public charging.
1. It is never OK for a car to park in a public charging space when they are not charging. It doesn’t matter if it is an ICE car or a Plug-in, these spaces are there to allow people to charge and should never be treated as convenient parking spaces. If you don’t need the charge, or the charger is incompatible with your car, don’t take the space.
2. Move your car as soon as you can after the car is done charging. Cars that sit fully charged for hours at a public charging station are just as bad as cars that are parked and not charging. The exception to this is long term parking at places like airports, train stations, and park and ride lots where people are expected to park for long periods of time.
3 In California and Washington it is never OK to unplug another car as these two states have laws that allow for ticketing or towing cars that are parked without being connected to a charger. In other states it is generally accepted that cars that are full may be unplugged. If you do unplug another car please leave a note saying why you unplugged it. Also be sure you know that the car is full before unplugging. Each car has its own indicator that shows it is full so unless you know how the car displays full don’t assume and unplug the car.
4. If you arrive at a charging station that is in use and want to get a charge and you can find a space close enough that the cable will reach your charge port then park your car in the space and leave the charge port door open. It might also be worth leaving a note on the other person’s car especially if the open charge port is not easily visible. If you see a car with the charge port open plug it in when you are done charging. The exception to this rule is fee based chargers. You should not expect another driver to pay for your charging so leave a cell phone number in this case.
5. Public charging is on a first come first served basis. Just because you have a pure EV (BEV) doesn’t mean that you have first dibs on the charger. However if a BEV driver and a PHEV driver arrive at the same time then the two drivers should figure out who needs the charge the most. If the BEV driver needs to charge to get home then the PHEV driver should let them use the charger even though they were there first. If the BEV driver can get home with their available charge then the first come first served rule should apply.
6. It is never OK to plug in to outlets in parking structures or parking lots without permission. I’m not referring to parking spaces that are marked for public charging but to those outlets that you find around parking structures or in mini mall, hotel, apartment or condo parking lots. For starters these circuits may not be rated for the current required to charge a car so you may end up tripping a breaker. The bottom line is that taking electricity without permission is stealing, so don’t do it. When you ask for permission to plug-in it is also good practice to offer to pay for the electricity you use. Most companies will decline payment but it is nice to offer and you are more likely to get you a positive answer.
It’s nice to have public charging available but the number of chargers being installed is dwarfed by the number of new plug-in cars hitting the roads, especially here in Southern California. The current infrastructure is starting to age too. Of the three public chargers I use the most all of them currently have at least 1 charger out of service. Getting these chargers repaired is slow. One of the Chargepoint chargers in Beverly Hills has been stuck in its holster for at least three months and doesn’t look like it will get fixed any time soon.
It is inevitable that there are going to be issues with public charging as more and more drivers try to use a small and possibly diminishing pool of chargers, but by following the rules above we can make better use of the charging opportunities we have.
Sunday Mar 23, 2014 – Plug-in Hybrids Needed Too – Earlier this week British journalist and EV Advocate Nicki Gordon-Bloomfield tweeted “I'm just going to say this once, so pay attention: not everyone is ready for an electric car. Plug in hybrids are needed too”. As a PHEV driver myself I couldn’t agree more.
The idea that Plug-in Hybrids would lead to more extensive use of electric vehicles has been around for some time. Sherry Boschert advanced this idea in in her 2006 book “Plug-in Hybrids the Cars That Will Recharge America”. It’s an idea that I subscribe to.
As Nicki said, not everyone is ready for an electric car. If you read the comments attached to articles about pure electric vehicles you will more than likely find one from someone who says something to the effect that they commute 60 miles each way so a battery electric car won’t work, like everyone in the world commutes 120 miles per day making electric cars useless.
The truth is that about 80% of people could use an electric car on a regular basis but of those about half have issues such as no access to electricity where they park that make these cars difficult or impossible to use leaving about 40% for which BEV technology would be totally effective.
Now let’s put a little bit of context to his. In 2013 there were about 15.6 million cars and light trucks sold in the US. If the 40% of people who could make use of a BEV actually bought one, that would be a potential market of 6.24 million cars. We actually sold less than 100,000 plug-in cars including Plug-in Hybrids.
A lot of the reason for this is related to supply. Many of the pure electric cars are being sold in just a handful of states and inventory of these is kept so low that they sell in very low numbers. The plug-in hybrids tend to be offered in more markets and with better dealer inventory so they sell better.
Plug-in cars are a bit scary for most people. Battery Electric Vehicles are a complete shift from the way that we have become used to fueling our cars. It’s difficult to get people used to the “full tank every morning” benefit of plugging in at home. This makes range an issue too as they are used to travelling about 300 miles on a fill-up so having only 70 to 80 miles of range makes people nervous. Of course if you travel 22 miles each way each day and have a full tank with 70 miles of range each morning then it soon stops being a concern.
Still, while many families can afford to keep multiple cars there are those that either can’t afford or have no need for a second car. In these situations a limited range pure electric car can be a little hard to live with.
Then there are the people that for one reason or another can’t plug-in every day. For these too the battery electric car becomes something very difficult to live with. This is the 40% of potential new car buyers that I noted above as currently not being able to make use of a BEV at all.
Part of the answer to these issues is the Plug-in Hybrid. There are quite a few of these in showrooms now from the 11 mile range Prius Plug in to the 30mile range Chevy Volt. These cars have a relatively small battery pack that can be plugged in and recharged but also have a gas engine that can drive the car if the battery pack is deleted.
Cars like the Plug-in Prius are true plug-in hybrids and these will make use of the gas motor sometimes even though the battery pack has charge with the object of becoming as fuel efficient as possible. Others like the Chevy Volt are sometimes termed extended range electric cars because they are designed to be driven most of the time in electric only mode and to only use the gas engine on those rare occasions when you need to go beyond the electric only range.
Sherry Boschert’s book took the position that people who were not ready to take the plunge and drive electric could buy a plug-in hybrid which would allow them to drive electric most of the time. Then once they found that they preferred driving electric, and that the range of their electric car was enough for their daily use they would eventually make the transition from PHEV to BEV.
I’m starting to see this a little bit already. Last week a new thread started on PRIUSCHAT from a guy who had just traded in his Prius Plug-in for a Chevy Volt. I know, I know that is going from one PHEV to another but some do consider the Volt an EV. It wasn’t because he disliked the Prius Plug-in; his reason was that he wanted more EV range.
I feel the same way sometimes. When I bought the Prius I considered the Volt as well and decided that the Prius Plug-in was the best choice for my situation. My situation has now changed and sometimes I do which I had more range but the Prius Plug-in actually handles my daily commute in all electric mode so it still works well for me.
I have also heard other PHEV drivers who are watching the development of battery technology but are seriously considering a BEV for their next car.
The process of transition from ICE to PHEV to BEV is likely to be quite slow so we are going to need PHEV as an intermediate form for quite a few years. The transition to electric power is, as Bob Lutz has said on many occasions, inevitable and PHEV is a key component of our move to electric drive technology. We still need PHEV.
Sunday Mar 16, 2014 – New Jersey Blocks Tesla Sales – Tesla was at the heart of the resurgence in electric cars when it launched the Roadster in 2008 and now it is attempting to revolutionize how cars are sold to the public. Current car dealers are not happy about this and have been pushing back across the country.
Their latest victory has been in New Jersey where they have managed to get the state legislature to enforce a law that will ban direct sales from Tesla owned outlets and force Tesla to lay off the 21 staff that currently man their two New Jersey Stores.
Currently car companies do not own and operate sales outlets. Cars are sold through Franchise dealerships. The thought behind this is that it can hold down prices by increasing competition. This leads to the car buying experience that most people dread. It’s not always that way. Remember Saturn which had a no haggle policy where you basically bought at the sticker price. Many people preferred this way of car shopping even if they didn’t like the Saturn cars that much.
Right now Tesla operates a number of stores across the county. They are usually in Malls and people can walk in, check out the Tesla Models, and schedule a test drive. They if they are ready to buy they go online and purchase directly from Tesla.
This cuts out the middle man and so should lead to lower prices as there is one less level that needs to take profits. The car dealers of course see this as a great threat to their livelihood. They argue that buying directly from the manufacturer removes competition and will eventually lead to higher prices for the consumer.
Historically the US automakers sold franchises to raise capital and increase their sales force. The automobile dealers association then lobbied various state governments to set up franchise laws to protect the auto companies from trying to strong arm the franchise owners to sell back the dealerships at pennies on the dollar. This was a just cause but now electric vehicles lurk on the horizon. They represent a radical shift in automobile market. Not more oil change every 5,000 miles (some dealers will try and convince you that it should be every 3,000 miles). No more air filters, no more spark plugs, no more timing belts, no more tune-ups.
Instead it just tires, a battery now and then, and perhaps brake pads every 120,000 miles or so.
This represents a potential huge loss of revenue for car dealerships. While some car dealers have embraced electric cars it should be remembered that it was dealers in California’s central valley that lead the lawsuit that got the original ZEV mandate gutted delaying the introduction of electric cars by almost 10 years. I also hear anecdotal reports of people going into a dealership to by a plug-in only to having the salesman tell them how bad the plug-in is and try to switch them over to a gas car.
It appears for now that Tesla is going to be hobbled in New Jersey. That is until Governor Chris Christy gets booted out of office. There are accusations of back room deals and underhand tactics being floated around and if this is true then a recall election sounds in order.
In any event, people from New Jersey who want a Tesla can just drive over into New York or Pennsylvania and buy the car there. The Tesla has plenty of range to get you home so in the end all that New Jersey has accomplished is to take business out of state, something that Governor Christy is supposedly against.
Sunday Mar 9, 2014 – February 2014 EV Sales – Traditionally January and February have been the worst months of the year for Plug-in vehicle sales and given the harsh winter weather they have been experiencing in the Eastern US I was expecting pretty low number this month but the automakers still managed to sell about 7,060 units in the month of January up substantially from the 5,450 that were sold in February, 2013.
Surprisingly Ford moved back up to the top of the pack with sales of 1,460 plug-in cars for the month. This was led by another good month of sales for the Fusion Energi which moved 779 cars, up from the 533 they sold in January.
They also saw an increase in sales of the C-Max Energi over the previous month’s 471 cars with 552 cars sold in February. This represents the second month in a row that the Fusion Energi has out-sold the C-Max Energi.
Sales of the Focus Electric also climbed in February to 129 cars, up from 100 cars sold the previous month. Ford seems to be controlling sales of the Focus Electric to be in the low 100s range each month.
Nissan also saw a gain in Sales over the January’s 1,252 Leafs, selling 1,425 cars in February. This is well below the 2,000+ cars they had been selling month after month in the latter half of 2013. Part of the reason is that they failed to provide enough cars for dealer inventory in the hot Atlanta market, which impacted sales there.
While Tesla does not report month over month sales they have moved some of their focus back to meeting demand in the US. Inside EV estimated that they sold 1,400 cars this month and that number seems about right to me. If this is true then that would put Tesla in the number three spot with sales slightly above those of GM.
GM sold a total of 1,339 cars in February which was up from the 1052 cars sold in January. Sales of the Chevy Volt were up from the dismal 918 cars they sold in January to a slightly less dismal 1,210 in February, but still well below the 1,626 they sold in February, 2013. Part of the reason for sluggish sales is that they have been building more dealer inventory for the Cadillac ELR and also increasing the number of gas cars built at the plant which reduced availability of the Volt.
Sales of the Chevy Spark EV saw a drop from 93 in January down to 71 in February. Chevy were originally going to sell the Spark EV nationwide but have since made it a compliance car and it seems like they control inventory tightly which restricts sales.
The Cadillac ELR saw a small increase in sales over January with sales jumping from 41 to 58. This is still a pretty low sales number but not unexpected given the price of the car. GM has been building dealer inventory during February and so higher sales numbers are anticipated for March.
Sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-in also climbed above 1,000 again to 1,041 after turning in a meager 803 in January. I think Toyota must be keeping inventory low but I have no idea why they would be doing that. The car still has not been made available to all states although it is selling in more places than the compliance cars.
Speaking of compliance cars Toyota’s is the RAV4 EV and they managed to rack up 101 sales of the electric SUV in February which was quite an improvement over the 63 that sold in January.
Smart continued to do well with sales of 122 cars in February up from 97 sold a month earlier. Smart appears to have solved the problem with shortage of supply and technically they were on sale across all Smart dealerships this month but many of these dealerships still have no inventory but that should change in March and I expect to see higher sales in the coming months.
One of the biggest surprises to me is how many of the Panamera S E-Hybrids Porsche is selling. This month they managed to move 57 cars. This is up slightly for the 47 cars they sold last month and, co-incidentally the same number of cars sold by Honda in February.
Honda sells two plug-in models, the much in demand Fit EV and the overpriced Accord Plug-in. Honda has made no bones about their support for fuel cells over battery electric cars and is reluctantly selling plug-in cars.
The Honda Fit is a car that is much in demand and Honda could sell loads of them but they are treated as a compliance car and Honda only builds about 40 of them per month for the US market meaning that you can’t walk into a Honda dealer and drive off with one even if you live in one of the two states where they are actually available. In consequence Honda moved just 33 cars in February, three more than the 30 they sold in January.
Honda also appears to keep the Accord Plug-in Inventory very low too but since there are few takers anyway for a $40,000 car with an 11 mile all electric range they are probably justified. Sales fell from 27 in January to 24 in February.
Fiat does not give separate numbers for the Fiat 500e so it is difficult to gage how many they are selling. Inside EV estimates that Fiat sold 50 cars this month but I think that number is a little low so I’m going to say 55. This is quite a bit less than the 80 estimated for January. The rumor is that Fiat has not shipped any cars to the US so far this year but they are still running ads so they probably have cars to sell.
Mitsubishi will not have many cars to sell until the 2014 i-MiEV starts to ship to the USA later this year. They still manage to sell 3 cars in February which was more than the 1 they sold in January.
The other carmakers, Th!nk and Wheego also do not announce sales numbers but both will have sold a very small number of cars. It is also rumored that the new buyer of Fisker is also working to try and restart production.
There are two things that are likely to influence sales of plug-in cars over the next couple of months. California set a limit on the green carpool lane stickers issued for plug-in hybrids at 40,000. Currently there have been between 33,000 and 34,000 issued so at a rate of about 2,000 per month the stickers will run out some time in June. I would expect this to cause a rush to buy plug-in hybrid cars for those that want the vehicle purely for carpool lane access and this should benefit Plug-in Prius sales in the short term.
The other issue is the expiration of the $5,000 tax credit in Georgia. It looks like this credit will not end at the start of April but will be continued for a further 3 months but it will go soon and this should mean a hot market for all electric cars in Atlanta will continue until the credit is gone.
Sunday Mar 2, 2014 – Where Have the Electric Scooters Gone? – I monitor eBay pretty closely for electric scooters and a couple of days ago I found someone selling ZAP Zapino. At one time this would not have been an unusual occurrence but lately electric scooters seem to have gone out of fashion.
The two wheel revolution doesn’t appear to have come to America. Even sales of electric bikes appears to have stalled somewhat although that may be due to the freezing weather experienced in much of the Mid West and Eastern US this winter. Here in the sunny South West I have been seeing less and less electric bikes on the streets.
I ran a check on one of the most popular electric scooters, the EVT, and found that most of the dealers have disappeared. Even the dealer page at the EVT web site had dead links.
Other brands that seem to have disappeared include RMartin and Thompson. Even the larger sized scooters from X-Treme seem to have gone. A check of the ZAP web site showed the Zapino but the listing talked of the 2012 model and the scooter didn’t appear on the buy it now page.
Sales scooters seems to have moved to the higher performance bikes like Brammo and Zero Motor Bikes that offer higher performance than the typical 30mph type scooters sold by companies like EVT and can even be taken on the freeway for short distances.
It seems to me that electric scooters are a good option for those that want something relatively cheap to run around town. That is really the role played by gas scooters at the moment. Here in LA scooters are not at all popular but one place they are commonly used is in Westwood where some students at UCLA use scooters to get around campus and to nearby locations like Westwood Village and Santa Monica.
These trips are well within the range of electric scooters so what are the things that keep people buying gas powered models?
The first thing that comes to mind is price. The upfront cost of batteries makes the initial cost of these scooters somewhat higher than a gas model. For example an E-Max scooter would cost around $4,500 where the equivalent Honda Elite could be bought for $3,000. While the electric scooter is going to be much cheaper to fuel and maintain it is going to take a lot of miles to make up that $1,500 difference.
This has a bigger impact on electric scooter sales than on EV sales since people shopping for a scooter are typically looking for very cheap transportation. If you are a student surviving on student loans then spending an extra $1,500 to go electric might not seem like a good idea.
I think there are other issues though. A lot of the electric scooter dealers used to make good money on selling those small Zappy style scooters fitted with a seat. Many states, including California, have made them illegal on public streets and this has greatly impacted sales of these scooters. That makes it all the harder for the dealers to become profitable and many have gone out of business.
Sales of electric scooters have also been squeezed at both the high end with electric motorcycles, and at the low end with electric bikes. An electric bike might not be able to keep up with traffic at 30mph but it can scoot along at 15mph with no effort and in congested urban traffic they can actually get you to your destination just as quickly as an electric scooter at half the cost. Electric motorbikes on the other hand offer up fast acceleration and the ability to ride on faster streets without worrying about not keeping up with traffic.
This means fewer and fewer dealers willing to carry electric scooters, which in turn leads to fewer and fewer sales in a vicious circle that has greatly reduced electric scooter availability. It also doesn’t help that the Federal tax credit for these scooters dried up at the end of 2012.
Personally I think that electric scooters in the 1500 – 2000 watt category would be an excellent commuting alternative for those with round trip commutes of less than 10 miles in urban settings. Unfortunately America isn’t ready for such vehicles and so they are one more missed opportunity for reducing our carbon footprint.
Sunday Feb 23, 2014 - January Hot or Cold? – While here on the west coast we have been enjoying a mild and extremely dry winter the mid-west and parts of the south have been shivering through a terrible cold spell. The cause of this cold spell has been changes in the polar vortex, the system of high altitude winds that circulate around the artic.
This cold snap has sparked lots of articles about the “Global Warming Hoax” and has turned many Americans into skeptics. The bitter cold weather over much of the eastern and southern states would seem to contradict the fact that according to NOOA January 2014 is the 4th hottest January on record (3rd hottest if you choose to believe NASA).
So how can that be; millions of Americans are freezing their tails off and the climate scientists say that the weather is warm?
To understand this you have to first understand that America makes up only about 2% of the whole earth’s surface and the area affected by the polar vortex isn’t the whole area of the US. In fact the western US, and especially Alaska, actually had a hotter January than normal leaving the average temperature across the whole of the USA to be about normal.
The same isn’t true for the rest of the world. Most of the land and ocean mass were at or above average temperatures for the month and some areas were seeing record hot spell.
Of course data from Africa or South America or the middle of the pacific ocean doesn’t really carry much weight for the guy trying to dig his car out of the snow in Minneapolis but it certainly makes a difference to the famers in California’s central valley who are seeing one of the driest years on record adding to a protracted drought that is threatening to devastate the areas farming industry. This is one of the most productive farming regions in the US and a crop failure here will surely get people’s attention at the supermarket checkout line.
There are a few anomalies that still bother people and tend to be used by climate change deniers to back up there claim to a large scale hoax. The biggest of these is that 2012 saw a record expansion of sea ice in the Antarctic. This record was short lived as it was broken again when the ice expanded to cover a slightly larger area in 2013.
So far climate scientists have not been able to explain this although there are several theories. The climate change deniers of course say that it’s just a change in the temperature distribution due to the orientation of the earth’s tilt and means that it’s getting hotter in the Arctic and colder in the Antarctic. Of course then they have to explain the record temperatures in the southern hemisphere which is never addressed except to imply that the data has been fixed to perpetuate the hoax.
The most likely explanation is that the ice over the continent is melting and pushing cold water into the sea surrounding the Antarctic continent and this is then freezing over in the winter. The problem is that there is currently no way to measure the actual volume of ice in the Antarctic to see if it is really increasing of just spreading over a larger area. The Europeans are working on a satellite that will do just that but until it comes online climate science will not be able to adequately explain the growth in sea ice around Antarctica.
It seems to me that we can’t take the impact of something going on locally and project it out globally. We have to look at the whole picture and the whole picture appears to say that our planet is warming at an alarming rate. We can talk about carbon taxes and other methods to reduce global warming but I think we need to do something about if for ourselves and that means cutting our own carbon footprint first.
Sunday Feb 16, 2014 - Ending EV Incentives – In a comment on last week’s blog about EV Sales for January Steve from Atlanta warned me about new legislation being considered in Georgia that would end their generous $5,000 tax incentive on electric cars.
The bill was introduced by Chuck Martin, a Republican who is the state Representative from Alpharetta. If the bill makes it through the state legislature it will remove the EV incentive as early as April 1, 2014.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle quoted Representative Martin as saying “My goal is to make sure that we don’t have an impediment for Georgians (who) wish to purchase this type of new technology, while that new technology is finding its way into the mainstream.” They went on to quote him as saying “If the economics don’t make sense without the tax credits, and automakers wish to keep selling the cars they’ll have to get leaner.”
In a final quote they report him as saying “We’ve accomplished our task, (EVs) are becoming mass-marketable, there are charging stations around the city and the state (EVs) are cost-competitive, and now it’s time for the business to make it on its own.” “I contend that the Nissan Leaf, priced at up to $32,000, is a price-competitive car — you don’t have a fuel cost, you don’t pay a gas tax because of that,” they reported him as saying.
It’s clear that we needed incentives to help plug-in cars become profitable and accepted by mainstream car buyers. The question is when does that happen? Representative Martin clearly believes that we have arrived at a point where these cars need fewer incentives to sell: that they have become mainstream.
Interestingly Representative Martin, who drives a Kia hybrid, also introduced legislation that would allow Tesla to sell more cars via company owned outlet stores. Currently Tesla is selling in Georgia through an exemption for electric cars on the state’s franchise sales law and they are limited to only 150 cars per year. The new legislation would allow them to sell ten times as many cars in the state.
EV Advocates argue that the removal of this incentive would cause sales of plug-in cars in Georgia, currently the 4th biggest market and top market for the Nissan Leaf, to take a nosedive.
The move in Georgia is not the only incentive that may disappear, in fact some already have.
The Federal government still offers tax credits of up to $7,500 on plug-in cars but the credit of up to $2,500 for plug-in motorcycles ended with 2013. So far I haven’t heard if this is hitting sales of the two major electric motorcycle manufacturers, Zero Motor Cycles and Brammo but it certainly isn’t helping them.
Another big incentive is about to go away in California. Currently owners of plug-in hybrid cars are allowed to drive solo in the carpool lane. The cars are issued a green sticker but the legislation only allows 40,000 of these stickers to be issued. It is difficult to say how many stickers have actually been issued since they are not always sent out in sequential order but currently the California DMV is issuing stickers in the 34,000 range which indicates less than 6,000 stickers remain. So far there has been no push to increase the number of stickers and I don’t expect to see the program being expanded.
Pure electric cars are still OK. They get white stickers and there is no limit on these.
I think the biggest impact on these stickers running out will be on the number of Prius Plug-in cars being sold. There are a lot of drivers in California that buy the Plug-in Prius just for access to the carpool lane. It’s worth the premium to some people just for the time it saves not sitting in traffic every day.
People who buy the Volt tend to buy it for the ability to plug in but with the HOV lane access as a secondary benefit. Having said that, I do hear stories about people going into Chevy dealerships asking for the “carpool lane car”. For some reason the Ford plug-in hybrids don’t seem to sell that well in California so the impact on their sales is likely to be small.
Since the white stickers are still available one big beneficiary is likely to be the Honda Civic CNG. People who buy cars for access to the carpool lane with no intention of charging them are not going to go for a pure electric car. A CNG car on the other hand will get you into the carpool lane with the only down side being the need to find a nearby CNG filling station.
It is clear that we need to move to electric vehicles both from the standpoint of urban pollution and for the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Incentives were required so that plug-in cars could build enough sales volume to push down costs and make them price competitive. With the electric vehicle still in its infancy it seems to me that these incentives are still very much needed.
It is also clear that as the cars become more competitive these incentives should be gradually reduced and the cars should be able to succeed or fail on their merit. I don’t personally think that time has come yet. The Georgia tax credit is one of the best in the nation and I could understand if the Georgia legislature wanted to reduce it a little but suddenly eliminating it seems draconian.
We will need to watch carefully as these incentives begin to go away. If sales are not negatively impacted then we will probably see more moves to cut or eliminate incentives if they are impacted, and I believe they will be, then the various government bodies will need to decide if they want to remedy this situation.
Sunday Feb 9, 2014 January 2014 EV Sales – January 2013 was a slow month for EV sales and this pattern was repeated again for January 2014 where only 5,470 cars sold, well below the 9,660 cars sold in December. The reason for that is not hard to find. People rush to purchase plug-in cars in December to get the Federal tax credit with their 2013 tax return. Once January arrives the tax credit will not be paid until 2015, a long time away. The good news is that January 2014 sales were still well ahead of the 4,577 cars that were sold in January 2013.
The best-selling car in January was once more the Nissan Leaf with 1252 cars sold. This is quite a bit down from the average of around 2,000 cars that Nissan had been selling in the latter months of 2013 and well below the 2,529 cars that they sold in December, but still a respectable number for the month.
Ford outsold GM in January to take second place. Both manufacturers now have 3 models on sale but while the Chevy Spark is a compliance car being sold in limited markets and the Cadillac is basically a rebranded Volt, Ford have a better mix of vehicles. Overall in January they sold 1,124 Plug-in cars
For the first time the Fusion Energi outsold the C-Max Energi in January logging 553 cars sold. This was down from the 791 cars that they sold in December but I think Ford will be happy with that number given generally slow plug-in sales in January.
The C-Max energy didn’t fair quite so well, as sales dropped from 837 in December to 471 in January.
The Ford Focus EV also saw a pretty big drop in sales but ford still managed to make triple digits with 100 sold in January. In December they had sold 158 cars. The range of 100 -150 cars per month appears to be what Ford is planning for. Sales of this car are nationwide although not all Ford dealers are currently certified to sell plug-ins.
GM had quite a disappointing month with only 1052 plug-in cars sold during January and well below the 2,474 cars that they sold in December.
Their bestselling car as always was the Chevy Volt which managed only 918 cars sold in January, It’s been over two years since GM sold that few Volts in a month and this was another very disappointing sales result after a fall in year over year sales from 2012 to 2013.
The Spark EV is a compliance car that is only on sale in California and Oregon so Sales are expected to be low. GM did manage to sell 93 cars though and this was quite a bit better than the 76 they sold in December January was the third best month for Chevy Spark EV sales.
The Cadillac ELR sold 41 cars in January which was the first full month of sales. While this number is quite low it still represents quite good sales considering the low dealer inventory for the ELR and the very high price tag.
Toyota with two plug-in models on sale, the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV neither of which are on sale nationwide, managed to sell 866 cars in January.
Sales of the Toyota Prius plug-in had been doing well towards the end of 2013 but there was a drop off in December down to 919 cars. This trend continued in January where just 803 cars were sold.
The RAV4-EV which is a compliance car and only available in California, saw sales leap from 28 cars sold in December up to 63 cars sold in January. Sales were helped by Toyota’s introduction of an unlimited mileage lease.
Tesla does not report sales on a month over month basis so we won’t know how many cars they sold over the last year until they release their fourth quarter numbers later this month, and we won’t know the number of cars sold in January until the first quarter numbers come out in May. Inside EV estimates that Tesla sold about 800 cars in the US in January and this is as good a number as any.
Another new entry into the Plug-in market in late 2013 is Porsche with its Panamera S e-Hybrid. They managed to sell an impressive 141 in January. This was a sizable bump up from the 47 they sold in December. To put this in context, Porsche sells around 500 cars per month in the US so 141 is about 28% of monthly sales.
After a very impressive 167 cars sold in December sales of the Smart EV dropped back to 97 cars in January. Smart is still not selling the cars nationwide, but sales of the Smart EV represents a sizable percentage of their total sales, so I am sure that dealerships in more states will be selling these cars in future months.
Fiat is another company that does not pull out sales numbers for the EVs it sells, but Inside EV estimates that about 80 of these Fiat 500e left showroom floors in January. The Fiat 500e is a compliance car and Chrysler has been one of the companies that is reluctant to sell plug-in cars.
Another company that is only selling plug-in cars reluctantly is Honda who only managed to sell a total of 57 cars even though thy offer two plug-in models.
If Honda wanted they could sell a lot more than the 30 Fit it managed to deliver in January. Many dealerships have long wait lists for this car and most of them have stopped taking additional orders. The compliance car sold 51 units in December.
The overpriced Accord Plug-in on the other finds few takers. With just 27 sold in January after 38 units were sold in December the only question is “Does Honda want to sell these cars?” and the likely answer is no since they think Fuel Cell cars are the future of individual transportation.
Mitsubishi, who are still selling the 2012 i-MiEV, though we have no idea where they get them from, managed to sell a whopping 1 car in January. In December sales were just 11 cars and it is expected that Mitsubishi sales will continue to remain almost negligible until the 2014 cars come to the US around June.
It appears that Th!nk has some previously unsold cars at one of their dealerships but I have no idea how many they sold in January. Wheego is another company that is still building electric cars but does not report how many they have sold. Fisker too has a small number of unsold 2012 models in dealer inventory and these are being sold slowly. There are no numbers for how many cars these three sell but it has to be very a very small quantity.
While the sales numbers for this month were the worst since February 2014 they still show growth over the same period in 2012 and 2013. This shows that we are still seeing positive growth in the plug-in market and we expect that 2014 will show sales well in excess of 100,000 cars.
Steve Powers from Atlanta, GA wrote
Watch EV sales in Atlanta - Feb and Mar 2014. Then April through the end of the year. Legislation is proposed to end the $5k tax credit 4/1/14. You will see a serious decrease in sales come 4/1/14.
Sunday Feb 2, 2014 – Workplace charging – On Jan 19, 2014 the San Jose Mercury News published an article about the problems being faced by some Silicon Valley employers because there were too few chargers and too many plug-in vehicles trying to use them. That brought back into my mind the whole issue of workplace charging.
In these progressive Silicon Valley companies workplace charging is considered a perk to help attract and retain good employees. Some of these companies installed a pretty large number of electric vehicle charging stations but over the last few years the number of plug-in drivers has increased so that there are often two to three plug-in cars for each charger.
Where once cars could park at the charger all day, now there is stiff competition for use of the chargers. In some cases people are getting unplugged while actively charging and companies are scrambling to work out ways to share the chargers so that everyone can get a chance to top up their batteries.
There are ways to deal with this situation. MGM in Beverly Hills charges their employees $2 an hour to use the chargers. That means that only those who really need to charge use them. One MGM employee who didn’t want to be named said “The cost of charging is more than the cost of gas and I can make my round trip on electric only in my plug-in hybrid so I never use the chargers”.
I was reading the comments and someone there had another good solution, instead of installing expensive level 2 chargers just install a bunch of 110V outlets. For most people the car is parked at their workplace for 8 to 9 hours and sometimes longer. Over that time a plug-in car can accumulate enough battery capacity to drive between 40 and 50 miles and this would be plenty to support over 70% of people’s commute to back to their home. All the PHEVs currently available would be able to get a full charge in that time.
For the same amount of money the workplace could install at least three times the number of chargers and the electricity costs would probably be no more than with the level two chargers. This was done by Pacific Life in Aliso Viejo. They were able to add eight EV parking spots in their parking structure each provided with a 110V outlet from 4 dual outlet boxes on each of four columns by the parking spaces. Adding additional spaces with 110V outlets would be easy and relatively cheap.
One thing I did find disturbing is the amount of animosity to electric cars demonstrated by the people who were commenting on the San Jose Mercury article. The shear ignorance about the impact that cars have on our environment and on us continues to amaze me.
I keep seeing the same argument all the time. “Crunch the numbers and you would be better off with a Corolla” but nobody would say that to someone spending $70,000 on a Lexus. “All these electric cars will overwhelm the grid” even though electric utilities like PG&E and Southern California Edison tell me that the forecast growth of electric vehicles is not going to stress the grid.
Then there are the right wing “brigade” who preach free markets but can’t seem to grasp the concept of providing free electric vehicle charging as a way to keep talented employees or to attract customers to your business.
Workplace charging is one way to attract and retain workers. It is a perk that can be offered like free parking or low cost life insurance and becomes just another employee benefit. The problem is that if you are going to provide such benefits you have to make them available to all employees so that means that companies will have to either find ways to expand electric vehicle charging or to take the MGM route and make it something that people can choose to pay for to use like the vending machines in the lunch room.
Sunday Jan 19, 2014 – EV Spotting – When I was a boy and steam ruled the rails in my native England one of my hobbies was train spotting. This week someone posted a picture on Prius Chat of a Prius Plug-in filling up at a gas station and that reminded me that I often watch out to see if I can spot EVs.
I’ve been doing this for many years now. It started out back in 1997 when the EV1 Club had a feature on their web site to try and track where the cars were based on their VIN number. I was working in Santa Monica at the time and would often see EV1s in the area so I began collecting the VIN numbers and posting updates.
I also found myself trying to see how many EVs I could see on my way to and from work each day. I would try and keep track of the different makes, Honda EV+, RAV4-EV, EV1, etc. When these cars were mostly pulled from the streets in 2003 I found myself checking out the various hybrids I saw. Now of course hybrids are so common I just don’t notice them anymore.
LA has always been one of the top markets for EVs. While there are other areas with more EVs per capita there are more EVs sold in the greater Los Angeles area than anywhere else in the country. This gives me lots of opportunity to spot plug-in cars.
Yesterday my wife and I stopped in at Westfield’s Mall in Century City for lunch. It’s pretty much routine for us to visit the Mall on Saturday Lunch and once again when I got to the charging spots both were full but the space next to these was available and I was able to get to an outlet with my extension cord. At the charging station was a Volt that squats there on a regular basis and as usual it was fully charged. Most Saturday lunch times there is a Honda Fit EV charging in the other spot but yesterday the other spot was occupied by a Nissan Leaf that was actively charging.
A few spaces away I saw a second Volt that was too far away to use the outlets. After doing some shopping and eating lunch we returned to the car and as I drove away I drove past two parking spaces next to one another that held two other Plug-in Prius. Then I followed a Smart EV to the exit and headed out to shop at Trader Joe’s and Bed Bath and Beyond in West LA. On the way there I passed a C-Max Energi and another Volt.
The parking lot at Trader Joes was pretty crowded but we lucked into a space close to the entrance. I noticed that I was parked across from another Volt. On the way back home I spotted a Tesla Model S and another Leaf.
This is pretty typical of a day driving around West LA, except I usually see more Teslas.
If you live in one of those areas where EVs are very common then you may not enjoy EV Spotting that much but if you live in an area where Plug-in cars are very uncommon you might enjoy EV Spotting – give it a try it might surprise you how many plug-in cars are actually out there.
Sunday Jan 12, 2014 – December 2013 EV Sales – 2013 has been a banner year for EV Sales. The numbers are in and unfortunately we missed passing the 100,000 car mark by about 4,000 cars with under 96,000 cars sold. This number is provisional since neither Fiat nor Tesla report numbers of EV sales so the total includes estimates for these two companies, and of course there are a few smaller manufacturers like Wheego, Th!nk and Coda who all sold an unknown number of cars this year.
This number also does not include NEVs or Electric motorbikes like the Zero S and Brammo Enertia which, if included, would push sales levels well past 100,000.
In December the top selling car was once again the Nissan Leaf which sold 2,529 cars which made December their best month in 2013. This is quite an improvement over the 2,003 cars the sold in November. For the year Nissan sold 22,600 cars which was more than double the number they sold in 2012. It appears that they have finally managed to increase capacity at their factory in Smyrna, TN so it will be interesting to see how sales go in 2014.
GM managed to sell a total of 2,474 cars in December just a hair less than Nissan.
The Volt made up the vast majority of these sales with a total of 2,392 cars delivered during the month. This was an improvement over the 1,920 cars they sold in November but not enough to push their 2013 sales up to the 23,461 cars they sold in 2012. Inventory constraints as they set up production of the Cadillac ELR pulled Volt sales down to 23,094 cars in 2013.
GM also managed to sell 76 Spark EVs in December. This was a little lower than the 87 units they sold in November but still turned in 2013 sales of 539 cars since this compliance car went on sale in June.
The biggest surprise of the month was that GM announced sales of 6 Cadillac ELRs. The car was not expected in dealerships until January, 2014 but GM shipped out a few cars before the end of the month.
It should be noted that while the Volt’s 2013 sales fell short of their 2012 sales GM did sell 23,639 plug-in cars in 2013 which exceeded their 2012 sales number by 178 cars.
Ford didn’t quite manage to reach their November sales numbers but did sell a total of 1,786 Plug-in Cars during December.
Their best-selling plug-in for the month was the C-Max Energi which managed sales of 837 units. This was a little lower than the 941 cars sold in November. For the year they managed to sell 7,154 cars.
Sales of the Ford Fusion Energi were also a down from the 870 that Ford sold in November as Ford reported December sales of 791 cars, Since the Ford Fusion went on Sale in February Ford has sold a total of 6,089 of the mid-sized sedan.
Sales of the Focus EV saw another increase over the 130 cars sold in November as December sales hit 158. Over the year Ford sold a total of 1,738 Focus EVs.
Overall Ford managed to sell 14,981 Plug-in cars during 2013.
Tesla motors is one of the big unknowns since they don’t report month over month sales so we won’t really know what their sales volume was until they publish their quarterly statement in February.
Tesla appears to be building about 2,500 cars per month but a good chunk of these are now being sold abroad. Inside EV estimates that total domestic sales at 1,500 cars but with very high sales volume in Europe, especially in Norway, My guess is somewhere around 1,300 cars sold in the US.
Total domestic car sales will also not be available until February but Green Car Reports estimates the sales of 18,000 cars which seems to me to be right in the ballpark when projected from the 14,000 sold domestically through September.
Toyota has been one of the most inconsistent sellers in terms of volume but after going through excellent sales months in October sales dropped to just 947 cars in December, mostly driven by low inventory levels.
They managed to sell only 919 Prius Plug-ins during December. This was actually better than the sales numbers that had for the first seven months of the year where the best months were January at 874 cars and July with 817, and just behind the 1,100 they sold in November. Toyota sold 12,068 Plug-in Prius in 2013.
Sales of the RAV4-EV also dropped down to 28, the worst sales month since January 2013 and less than half the 62 cars they sold in November. For the year Toyota sold 1,096 RAV4-EVs
In 2013 Toyota managed to sell 13,184 Plug-in Cars.
Since Daimler’s Smart division started selling the updated Smart ED in the US back in May they have seen sales grow steadily and in December they hit 167, their second best month ever beating the November sales number of 153 by 14.
For the whole year they have sold a total of 923 cars, but 921 of those were sold after the new model went on sale in May.
Fiat is another company that doesn’t give out separate numbers for their Plug-in offering. Inside EV estimates that they sold 120 of their 500e model in December and this seems like as good a number as any.
The best guess is that Fiat sold around 645 cars since the 500e went on sale in July 2013. They have made it very clear that they have no real interest in selling plug-in cars other than to comply with California requirements.
Another company that sees no future in selling plug-in cars is Honda. This is very apparent in their monthly sales numbers.
In December they leased just 51 of their Fit EVs and that was still more than double the 23 cars they leased in November. For the year Honda leased just 569 cars and has made it clear that they only plan to build 1,100 in total.
Sales of the Accord Plug-in fell from 68 in November down to just 38 in December. Since the car went on Sale last January Honda has sold 526 of their plug-in hybrid.
Overall in 2013, with both models available for the entire year, Honda only managed to sell 1,095 plug-in cars.
Porsche had what for them was probably a good month in December selling 47 of their Panamera S E-Hybrid. This was a big jump over the 4 that they sold in November and their best sales month to date.
Porsche has sold 86 Panamera S E-Hybrids since the car went on sale in October.
Mitsubishi is still working through the inventory of 2012 i-MiEV but it looks like they might be getting near the end as they sold just 11 cars, one less than the 12 they sold in November.
For the year Mitsubishi managed to sell 1,046 i-MiEV.
Fisker is now sitting in Bankruptcy and their fate is still up in the air but there were still 36 new 2012 Karma in dealer inventory at the start of December. 6 of these cars found their way into Customer’s hands during the month.
There were a few other car makers that had sales in 2013 including Th!nk, Coda, and Wheego. Of the three only Wheego is actively selling cars in the USA as of December 2013 but they do not report sales numbers and in any event it is assumed that these numbers would be very small.
Sunday Jan 5, 2014 – Predictions for 2014 – As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much”. The count is not fully in yet but it appears that the number of plug-in cars sold this year will fall a little short of 100,000. So what will 2014 hold for plug-in Vehicles?
I think many of us were caught by surprise when the news came out that Cadillac had already started shipping the ELR; it wasn’t expected until this month. I don’t think that this car will sell in large numbers since it is quite expensive, but I suspect it will sell enough to meet GM’s expectations.
Setting up production of the ELR caused a delay in shipping the 2014 Volt and this has been a reason for the lower sales in the last few months of 2013. Now that the production line is humming along again I expect to see an improvement in dealer inventory. I predict that the Volt will continue to be the best selling Plug-in for 2014 and GM will sell more units that they did in either 2012 or 2013.
The Spark on the other hand will continue to languish as a compliance vehicle. The Spark is selling much better than GM expected and I suspect that they are selling planned production so there is no need to sell beyond California and Oregon.
Later in the year there will be more cars coming to the luxury market starting with the BMW i3 and the Mercedes B-Class. Both of these cars are in the Luxury compact car category and while I don’t think they will outsell the Nissan Leaf I do expect that the cars will both do well as long as the manufacturers can keep enough inventory in stock to feed demand.
Of the two I expect the i3 to be the biggest seller since this car will actually be a fairly low cost entry into a BMW and that is going to help sales. More importantly I think the i3 will be a halo car, bringing potential buyers into BMW dealerships. The car is small but is well engineered and drives like a BMW, so it will appeal to many who just want a nippy little compact to zip around town in.
It hasn’t been officially announced yet when the BMW i8 will go on sale but word from some of the product management at BMW is that it may come to the US first at the same time as the i3. The two cars are not going to compete with one another since they appeal to totally different market segments but anyone who is in the market for a two seat plug-in hybrid sports car is going to be looking at the i8. It won’t sell in huge quantities but it will sell as well as similar type cars such as the Z8.
Mitsubishi is eventually going to get the 2014 i-MiEV to the US. They are still working on the 2012 inventory but it is nearly gone now so the 2014 shouldn’t be too far off. I expect them to have an announcement at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Their biggest issue is that they just don’t have enough dealerships, especially in key markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco, to really sell in big volumes so sales will continue to be on the low side.
They have also pushed shipments of their plug-in Outlander into 2015. Their problem is that they are selling so well in Europe and Japan that their battery supplier can’t keep up with demand so the US launch had to be delayed. That’s a good problem to have.
Talking of inventory problems shortage of build capacity is one of the reasons that plug-in sales did not hit 100,000 in 2013. Nissan in particular have been limited to selling about 2,000 cars per month and this has really impacted sales in the last half of this year. I expect them to increase capacity at their plant in Tennessee by the end of May and so next year should see another big bump in sales.
Toyota has also seen inventory supply restricting sales volume on the Prius Plug-in. While Toyota said they would build as much as they needed to meet demand I haven’t seen them pushing production to go beyond the 16 states they are already selling in. I don’t expect them to be selling nationwide any time soon but they may expand sales to a few more states before the end of 2014.
Daimler’s Smart division has also had inventory problems due to higher than anticipated sales in Europe. They are also selling more Smart EVs here than they planned for and they held back nationwide rollout to fill demand at existing dealerships. I expect this to improve by mid-2014 with nationwide rollout sometime around the start of the fourth quarter.
Honda also has very little in dealer inventory for either the Fit EV or the Accord PHEV. This is intentional as Honda have made it clear that their money is clearly on fuel cell technology not battery technology. The good news for Honda is that they are capable of making excellent Plug-in cars so if the fuel cell thing doesn’t work out they have a fallback position.
Talking of fuel cells, Hyundai is going to introduce a fuel cell car in LA County and Orange County California sometime in the second quarter. I don’t expect them to lease more than a handful of cars but it will be an interesting experiment and an indication of how the Honda and Toyota cars will be received in 2015.
Tesla is going to continue shaking up the car market. After more than a year of producing cars they still can’t build enough to satisfy demand. That’s why I don’t see the Model X being launched until almost the end of the year with just a few deliveries in 2014. Tesla will need time to build out capacity before they can launch a new model and that will take longer than they anticipate.
Tesla is also likely to show off their next model at this year’s Detroit Auto Show which starts January 13. This model has the potential to be a game changer but is could also be disruptive of current EV sales if the value is much better than existing offerings.
I don’t expect this to be the case. I am expecting to see a small mid-sized or larger compact sedan with a range of around 160 miles and a price that starts in the neighborhood of $50,000. That would make the car highly competitive but not the game changer that everyone expects. Still, it will be enough to keep Tesla moving along as a successful carmaker.
Sales are going to keep around the same pace for the first half of the year. As the summer driving season gets close I expect to see oil prices spike again and as the price at the pumps begins to climb EV sales will begin to take off just as more manufacturing capacity is coming on line. 2014 will see us blast past the 100,000 cars sales goal by the end of October with sales showing a nice bit of growth over 2013.
On the other hand I think we will see growth in the fee for charging market with installations charging a little too much for the privilege and this will hinder EV Sales. Where 50 cents per hour is about the right amount most new installations will be in the $1 to $2 per hour range and this will put off potential EV buyers. Some states are starting to allow charging station owners to charge by the Kilowatt hour and if we have fees that are not too outrageous then this will be quite successful and more States will begin to introduce similar legislation.
Jim Stack from Chandler, AZ Wrote
For the 2014
The new KIA SOUL EV with 120 mile range was not mentioned,it should be released 2nd QTR 2014 .
Tesla has the model E planned for late 2015 at about $35K before incentives and 200 mile range. I hope to see it in an early 2015 auto expo??
Tesla also has their new battery in the works set for 2015 model S with 40% more range and longer life.
The Tesla Super Chargers are over 50 now in the USA and 14 in Europe. Maybe doubling in 2014! They are still 4 times faster than any in the World. Their cars are number 1 in Norway. Also biggest seller in the US luxury class.
FORD also didn't get mentioned and their FOCUS EV with liquid cooling is very good.I have one and even in Phoenix heat the battery got thru the hot summer where our
LEAF lost 12% and the FOCUS maybe 2% loss. If gas prices rise so could FORD production. Even their hybrid is rated better than Prius because they use lithium batteries.
The new LEAF desert battery designed for extreme heat will be released in April 2014. They have been testing it in 140F day and night for almost a year with good
VW is finally getting on board with a few plugin and the all electric eGolf.
Word is the Aptera should also come out in 2014 under the new owners.
Honda, FIAT and Toyota seems to be doing compliance cars.