2015 Blog Archive

   


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Sunday December 20, 2015 New Tax Credits in Spending Bill

Sunday December 13, 2015 Agreement on Global Warming in Paris

Sunday December 6, 2015 November 2015 EV Sales

November 22, 2015 2016 LA Auto Show

Sunday November 15, 2015 UCS Study Says EVs Cleaner

Sunday November 8, 2015 October 2015 EV Sales

Sunday November 1, 2015 BMW Adds a Plug-in SUV

Sunday October 25, 2015 2016 Volt Arrives in California

October 18, 2015 Did I Charge on Solar

Sunday October 11, 2015 Charger Usage Study

Sunday October 3, 2015 September 2015 EV Sales

Sunday September 27, 2015 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Sunday August 16, 2015 VW Not So Clean Diesel

September 13, 2015 Model X on its Way

Sunday September 5, 2015 August 2015 EV Sales

Sunday Aug 30, 2015 EV Speed Record

Sunday August 23, 2015 2015 Heats up

Sunday August 16, 2015 EV Model News

Sunday Aug 9, 2015 July 2015 EV Sales

Sunday August 2, 2015 New Electrics

Sunday July 26, 2015 FCEV Fueling Problems

Sunday Jul 19, 2015 Quikbyke

Sunday Jul 12, 2015 Climate Deception Report

Sunday July 5, 2015 June 2015 EV Sales

Sunday June 28, 2015 Good Deeds and Headaches

Sunday June 21, 2015 Honda Pulls the Plug

Sunday Jun 14, 2015 EV The Next Generation

Sunday Jun 7, 2015 May 2015 EV Sales

Sunday May 31, 2015 Getting the Word Out

Sunday May 24, 2015 EV v PHEV Charging

Sunday May 12, 2015 PIA Report on EV Promotion

Sunday May 10, 2015 April 2015 EV Sales

Sunday May 3, 2015 Toyota v Plug-ins

Sunday April 26, 2015 eBay on EVFinder

Sunday March 19, 2015 Solar Charging Stations

Sunday May 12, 2015 Large Scale Solar

Sunday April 5, 2015 March 2015 EV Sales

Sunday March 29, 2015 Family Plug-ins

Sunday March 22, 2015 California Drought

Sunday March 15, 2015 Which Goes Furthest EV or PHEV

Sunday March 8, 2015 February 2015 EV Sales

Sunday March 1, 2015 The 50K Miles EV

Sunday February 22, 2015 Study on Emissions Effects

Sunday February 15, 2015 News from Chicago

Sunday February 8, 2015 January 2015 EV Sales

Sunday February 1, 2015 - Tesla Sales Reporting

Sunday January 25, 2015 Cheap Gas

Sunday January 18, 2015 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Sunday January 11, 2015 December 2014 EV Sales

Sunday January 4, 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

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Sunday December 20, 2015 New Tax Credits in Spending Bill Last week Congress passed a large funding bill, that would prevent the shutdown of the government, and President Obama signed the bill into law.  Included in the bill were some tax credits that should help the adoption of renewable energy, and some additional assistance for plug-in vehicles.

 

Included in the bill was a three year extension of the 30% investment tax credit for Solar. This extension should make sure that the expansion of Solar will continue. This extension is expected to help add 100 gigawats of solar by 2020 which should make a huge impact in the amount of renewable energy being generated.

 

Wind was another beneficiary of this bill which saw the 2.3% production tax credit being extended until the end of next year.  This should also help add a pretty good amount of additional wind energy into the renewable mix.
 
Other renewable source of energy also benefit. Geothermal, incremental hydro, marine hydro and landfill gas also benefit from the 2.3% production tax credit.  These may also be eligible for the 30% investment tax credit.

 
Plug-in vehicles benefitted from this bill too.  While tax credits for plug-in cars have been in effect the credit for two and three wheel vehicles expired at the end of 2013.  This tax credit has been reinstated for 2015 and 2016 and will be retroactive for any qualified vehicle purchased in 2015.  According to a press release from Zero Motorcycles the tax credit will be 10% of the purchase price up to a maximum of $2,500.  To qualify the two or three wheel vehicle must be capable of a top speed of at least 45mph and must have a battery capacity of at least 4 KWh.

 

There are several motorcycles, including the Zero Motorcycle range, that meet this criteria. It will also help with some three wheel vehicles that may be available by the end of 2016 including Arcimoto and the proposed electric version of the Morgan Three-Wheeler.

 

The tax credit for EV Infrastructure was also extended from the beginning of 2015 through the end of 2016 and this should help with the acceptance of plug-in vehicles.
 
The new funding bill showed that when things mattered the Democrats and the Republicans can work together to get things done. I hope that they continue to work together in the best interests of the country in the coming years.


Sunday December 13, 2015 Agreement on Global Warming in Paris For the past two weeks the world's leaders have been meeting in Paris to hammer out an agreement to combat global warming.  It's been tried several times before with limited results but this time all of the 195 countries attending finaly came to an agreement.

 

In the end the countries agreed to balance CO2 generated with CO2 absorbed by the environment some time in the second half of this century.  They also agreed to make changes to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees C and to try to limit temperature growth to 1.5 degrees C.  Finally the developing nations agreed to kick in about $100 billion per year to help the developing nations to move to carbon free energy sources.
 
If countries can actually stick to this agreement then we should be able to contain global warming but it appears to me that the proposals submitted by most of these nations would not even be able to make the 2 degrees C target let alone 1.5 degrees.  Also, the US fought very hard for the agreement to read "should" rather than the original "shall".  This was so that they did not need to get approval from a republican controlled Senate.  It also means that the agreement is not legally binding which makes it even less likely that countries will actually reach their target.

 

As I read the comments on articles about this agreement it was obvious that the energy companies had their anti-global warming campaign in full gear.  I found almost no comments that were not totally negative with most of them sending the message that this was a left wing conspiracy to redistribute the world's wealth, or a scheme to keep grant money flowing to the scientists studying global warming.. 

 

It is often said to follow the money so lets see who has the most to loose.  According to the EIA proven reserves of crude oil as of the end of 2014 was 1,656 billion barrels.  At the current price of around $40 per barrel we are looking at $66,240 billion of money in the ground.  That number does not include the massive amounts of natural gas and coal reserves.  It's not really suprising then that the energy companies are fighting hard to prevent the world from moving away from the use of fossil fuels.  This vast amount of resources, which the agreement would move toward leaving in the ground, dwarfs the few billion dollars that are spent on climate research.

 

Personally I don't think that this agreement has much chance of making a difference.  The other nations are going to look to the US to take a lead in reducing CO2 emissions and I expect the republican controlled house and senate to try and do everything they can to neutralize this agreement.  If we get a republican president in the next elections then the agreement will be ignored for sure and if the US is not doing its part then countries like China and India are going to continue to grow emissions and all but the EU are likely to follow.

 

We can all do our bit to help without changing our lifestyles too much.  We can make changes to improve energy efficiency.  Next time you change a light bulb get a compact florescent or LED.  When you change an appliance get a more energy efficient one than the one that you replace.  When you get a new car get one that gets better mpg than the old one.  These changes don't require a lifestyle change, just a commitment to do better.  In the end such changes will end up saving you money too.


Sunday December 6, 2015 November 2015 EV Sales EV sales have been lagging all year as people waited for the new models with longer range to become available.  In November we saw a slight improvement. Led by strong sales from Tesla and the Chevy Volt, and with the longer range 2016 Leaf finally arriving at dealerships November became the second best month of the year.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating the overall number.  In November they estimated that Tesla delivered 3,200 model S cars in the US which is their best sales number of the year. This was a result of increased production capacity.  In October they sold and estimated 1,900 cars. 

 

They also delivered another 5 of the founder series Model X in November which was one more than the 4 cars that they delivered in October. It looks like Tesla is not ramping up production of the Model X yet and I suspect we won't see any large numbers of Model X until next year. 

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 3,205 cars in November which was almost one third of the total number of EVs sold in the US during the month.

 

For the first full month of sales of the 2016 Volt November saw a slight drop from the 2,035 cars sold in October to 1,980 cars in November.  While these sales numbers might seem disappointing it should be remembered that the 2016 Volt is only on sale in a small number of states and also that November was a short sales month due to the Thanksgiving holliday.
 
With the 2016 model still in transit from Korea GM still managed to sell a respectable 166 Spark EV.  This was down a little from the 177 cars sold in October.  It will be interesting to see how sales do in December assuming the 2016 model clears customs ad gets onto dealer lots.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR Continues to disapoint as dealers shy away from carrying a large inventory.  With just 82 cars sold in October sales fell again down to 67 cars in November.  The lower price and improved performace of the 2016 model still doesn't appear to be enough to pull in customers.

 
In November GM sold a total of 2,213 plug-in cars.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while they don't have a model that sells in big numbers, when you put sales of their three plug-in models together they still manage to sell a good number of plug-in cars.  In November they sold 1,676 cars, 6 more that the 1,670 plug-in cars sold in October.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which improved on the 849 cars sold in October by racking up November sales of 944.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi fell a little, dropping from 695 cars sold in October to 639 cars sold in November.  Now that the plug-in Prius has almost totally sold out we may see some additional sales of the C-Max Energi which is the closest alternative.
 
Ford Focus EV sales missed their usual sales in the 100 to 200 range with sales falling once again from 126 cars in October to 93 cars sold in November.  It seems like sales of this car is being impacted by people who might be expecting a new version with longer range being announced soon.

 

Nissan finally began to deliver the 2016 Nissan Leaf, which has an increase range to over 100 miles on some trim levels.  The cars didn't arrive soon enough to save the month though as sales dropped from 1,238 cars in October to 1,054 cars in November.  We will have to wait until the December sales numbers are in to see if the longer range Leaf can restore tje car to previous sales levels.

 

After selling an all time high 1,892 cars in September BMW sales dropped back to 1,270 cars in October and continued the drop in November down to 1008 cars.
 
BWM i3 sales in September had set a new all time record of 1,710 cars blowing the roof of the previous record.  I expect that such a high number of sales would have seriously depleted dealer inventory so I was pleasantly surprised when sales numbers came in at a more normal 986 cars in October which was more than I expected.  The high sales in September finally appears to have impacted sales as they only moved 723 cars in November.

 

While the BMW i8 continues to sell well but sales did fall again for the third straight month going from 182 cars in September down to 149 cars in October and 118 cars in November.  It looks like the BMW i8 is going to follow the Ford Focus EV and trade in the 100-200 cars range in coming months.

 

Sales of the X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid version of their X4 SUV improved in November where 167 cars were sold.  In October BMW had sold 117 cars.

 

With no Diesels to sell VW dealers are now getting a reasonable supply of the e-Golf and in October they sold a record 596,  November didn't quit match up but still they sold a pretty impressive 472 cars.

 

Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 425 cars in October, sales fell to 390 cars in November.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales have been falling over the last few months but that trend ended in November as Smart managed to sell 178 cars.  This was quite a big improvement over the 75 cars sold in October.

 

Porsche  Sales this month were up to 156 plug-in car sales after selling 153 in October.

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid fell in November to 121 cars from the 125 cars sold  in October.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and November was no exception going from October sales of 28 cars to 33 cars in November.

 

By my calculations all the 918 Spyders that were destined for the US have already been delivered but Porsche reported that they delivered 2 more in November. 

 

After selling 109 Soul EVs in October Kia saw a drop to 83 cars in November.  The Kia Soul is a pretty unique vehicles right now, basically being the only compact fully electric SUV currently available so it's sales should be going much better than they are.  I hope Kia decide to send a few more copies of this car to the US in future months.

 

Sales of the Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive continued to fall, dropping to just 41 cars in November from 81 cars in October and 147 cars in September.  This is another car that is waiting on the arrival of the 2016 model which failed to show up in dealerships. 

 

July also saw the introduction of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV with 10 cars being delivered.  I expected to see sales of this car increase in August as cars became more available at dealerships but they tied with July by selling another 10.  In September sales did increase a little going up to 17 cars and October saw a further increase to 25 cars.  This rate was not sustained in November however and sales dropped to 21 cars.  Since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold just 62 Plug-in cars in November.

 

Toyota is no longer making a plug-in car for sale in the US as production has stopped on both the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins and have begun sales of  the Mirai fuel cell vehiclle..  Not surprisingly sales dropped again in November when Toyota managed to move just 44 Plug-in Prius down from the 91 Prius Plug-ins they sold in October.  I expect sales to continue to fall until the remaining inventory is sold.

 

There is a new plug-in hybrid that went on sale in November when Hyundai started delivery of the Sonata PHEV.  In the first month they managed to sell 15 cars. 

 

The first deliveries of the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV occurred very late in August with 4 sales but it appears that these were just demo models. as was the 1 sale that occured in October.  True sales to the public began in November but only 7 made it into customer hands.  It will be interesting to see how sales go in December although I don't expect a large sales volume on this model.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold down from the 9 cars sold in October.  It appears that the life of the i-MiEV is limited and will probably be dropped from the Mitsubishi line in 2016 as they focus on sales of a plug-in SUV.

 

After returning no sales in October Honda managed to sell 1 Plug-in Accord in November.

 

Lots of people seem to think that November sales were bad but in my opinion we had a good month although this was a result of very high sales from Tesla and I expect another good month from Tesla in December as they try to hit their 2015 sales targets. Overall sales topped November 2014 and when you look at this in light of very low gas prices sales look pretty good.  December is traditionally a good month for plug-in sales as people try to lock in tax credits before year end and hopefully next month will follow this pattern.


November 22, 2015 2016 LA Auto Show   This week I attended the media days at the LA Auto show, at least I attended the first press day.  I have been attending the show since 2008 and this one was the worst since the Auto makers stopped focusing on SUVs and trucks.  Still, there were a few plug-in gems in the mix.
 
Nissan called this year the year of the sedan while BMW called it the year of the SUV but in my opinion it was really the year of the convertible as several manufacturers showed convertible versions of some of their cars.  Fiat and Mercedes both showed new roadsters and the Fiat 124 Spider became one of the favorite cars in the show.  The 2017 MBZ SL Roadster was also pretty hot and the AMG S63 Cabriolet is another performance oriented convertible.  VW also had a convertible version of the Beetle and while GM launched the redesigned Buick La Cross I found their Cascada convertible a much more attractive vehicle.  Too bad that none of these came with a plug.

 

In fact the first company to show a plug-in car was VW late in the afternoon when they showed their Golf GTE Sport concept car.  This is a plug-in hybrid with an all electric range of 31 miles before the gas engine turns on, and it also boasts a 0-60 time of 4 seconds.  As VW rolled the new Passat and Beetle convertible I got a call that my  wife was feeling ill so I had to head for home meaning I missed the best press conference of the day.

 

Audi followed VW and what they said was interesting.  First they said that they expect 25% of all Audis sold in the US will be plug-in by 2025.  They are about to launch the A3 e-Tron sportback which should be arriving in dealerships toward the end of December, and they also had the North American debut of the e-Tron Quatro which is an all electric SUV prototype that has a range of 311 miles and should be going into production starting in early 2018.

 

What was more interesting was some of the vehicles that were being shown by companies that did not have a press conference this year.  The most interesting of these was the BMW 330e eDrive sedan.  This plug-in hybrid is reported to have an all electric range of 25 miles from its 7.6 KWh battery pack.  This is enhanced with a 4 cylinder twin turbo gas engine.  The car should go on sale some time next spring at a base price of $44,697.

 

Toyota didn't have a press conference so I spent some time at the Toyota stand and got a first look at the next generation Prius.  The early photos of this car made it look pretty ugly but in real life, while it's not a good looking car, it isn't that bad.  It should sell well.  The other big display was the Mirai fuel cell car which is now on sale in California.  Personally I'm not a big fan of fuel cell technology but I can understand the appeal of maintaining our current model of filling up at the gas station for many people.

 

Speaking of fuel cell vehicles Honda had the US premier of the next generation Clarity FCV.  This was done in a display at the Honda stand rather than at a press conference.  The Clarity FCV is a five door about the same size as an Accord.  The car will go on sale in the US towards the end of next year.  What was more interesting is that Honda is also developing a plug-in hybrid on the same platform as the Clarity.  They say that the car will probably be a stand alone model not a variant of the accord and will have an all electric range of around 40 miles and will stay in EV at faster speeds than the Accord plug-in does.  This car should go on sale nationwide in 2018.

 

I also spent some time at the Chevy stand as I went in search of the Bolt concept.  I was very disappointed to find that I wasn't there.  I overheard someone say that one of the reasons was that an announcement was expected at the Detroit Auto Show so they didn't want a prototype here.  I got a chance to talk with Steve Majoros who is the Marketing Director of Cars and Crossovers.  My first question to him was about the Bolt and he told me that as this was a prototype there was very limited number and they had a lot of demand to show this car.  They just didn't have enough time to get one showroom ready before the LA Auto show and the car had already been show at the LA Drive Electric week meeting and also at the Santa Monica Alt fuel Expo.  He said that what they wanted to show this time was the range of cars and trucks at Chevrolet that you could buy now.

 

My interest was primarily in the 2016 Volt, and Steve told me that they had spent a lot of time going over what their customers had told them about the first generation Volt.  People had asked for more range so the range was increased from 38 miles to about 53 miles.  They had also requested more control over the regenerative braking so Chevrolet have introduced regen on demand.  They also asked for a sportier ride and the Volt delivers even though it also gives better fuel economy.  LA is the largest single market for the Volt and so far they have sold over 900 2016 Volts in the LA area alone.  Steve told me that his main problem at the moment was getting enough cars to their dealers.  It is interesting to me that the Volt won the Green Car of the Year award this year from Green Car Journal who, in the past, have favored diesel cars.  Steve also pointed out the new Malibu hybrid.  This is a conventional hybrid not a plug-in but it does use the same Voltec system that drives the Volt and provides a combined fuel economy of around 47 mpg.

 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the media day on Thursday so I missed my chance to drive the 2016 Volt.  I also missed the green car of the year award and the launch of the Elio Motors P5 prototype.  The P5 is a three wheel car that is powered by a 900cc three cylinder engine and is designed to give a combined fuel economy of 84mpg.

 

The Lack of big presentations of electric vehicles at this year's LA auto show probably means that these cars are becoming so mainstream that they don't generate the big media buzz that they did in previous years.  It also appears that car companies were cutting back with fewer press conferences while those that did do press conferences tended to keep them short with few manufacturers showing several cars.  I was quite disappointed with this year's show but hopefully next year we will start to see more of the next generation plug-in vehicles.


Sunday November 15, 2015 UCS Study Says EVs Cleaner This week the results of a 2 year study on cradle to grave emissions by the Union of Concerned Scientists came to the conclusion that driving an EV is cleaner than driving most gas cars in all 50 states. The study was based solely on the emissions of CO2.

The study looked at emissions from the ones needed to produce the vehicle, the emissions produced over the years that the vehicle is driven its lifestyle and the emissions produced in disposing of the vehicle at the end of its life.
 
The found that the emissions for the production of electric vehicles is much higher than that to produce a conventional vehicle mostly due to the large amount of energy and materials needed to produce the battery pack. They found that manufacturing an EV with a range of around 80 miles produced about 15% more emissions than that of a conventional gas vehicle and when they went up to an EV with a range in excess of 200 miles emissions could be 68% higher than a conventional gas car.
 
Once the car was driven the emissions picture changes dramatically. The amount of pollution that is generated by the EV depends heavily on the source of electricity. In areas like the pacific north west where the bulk of electricity is generated by hydro power then emissions are very much lower than the conventional gas car. In areas where coal provides the biggest portion of grid power the difference is not so great.
 
At the end of their life, disposal of both types of cars produces about the same amount of CO2 when the re-use or recycling of the batteries is excluded. Unfortunately this study doesn't have good information on the recycling and re-use of lithium ion batteries once they are no longer good enough for use in an EV. Their appendix gives a potential saving in future manufacturing emission of 17% by using recycled materials and since projects that re-use batteries are only just beginning there is no real data on how much this will be able to spread out the manufacturing costs.
 
Like any study of this type that has to make assumptions about the life of a vehicle because not enough data has been accumulated yet in real world driving. Some of the assumptions that are made in this study are the lifetime projections of the various vehicles. Usually the average life of a vehicle is assumed to be 10 years or 150,000 miles but this has changed in recent years and the study does reflect these changes. The life cycle of the equivalent gas cars was assumed to be 15 years and 179,200 miles. This seems to be more realistic to me. They also assumed that the life of a typical long range EV (200 miles plus) would be the same as the gas car and that EVs with the equivalent of 80 miles range would have a life of 15 years and 134,400 miles. They also assumed that the battery pack would last the life of the car.
 
I think some of these assumptions may be wrong. A basic gas engine can function for around 200,000 miles but will need to be re-built or replaced at some point. A typical electric motor is capable of at least 500,000 miles and so we are likely to see EVs that will need to have their battery packs replaced but will be otherwise in good condition so I expect these cars to stay on the road longer than the typical gas car. The issue here is the significant cost of a new pack and if people will be willing to either take the shorter range of an aging pack or spend the money to replace the pack rather than junk the car and buy new. I also have my doubts that current battery packs will last as long as the study projects.
 
One thing that I do is to try and keep an eye on the used EV market. This gives me the chance to see how many miles people are doing on their EVs. What I have noticed is that EVs tend to have lower utilization than the equivalent gas car. This is not true for Plug-in hybrids which tend to get higher utilization. I think that this is because EVs like the Leaf are typically bought as commuter cars with a family gas car to do the wrong distance drives. In this case the shorter distance EVs may get to last longer than 15 years.
 
Personally I know that driving electric has big health benefits that extend well beyond their CO2 emissions. Having no emissions at a local level greatly improves air quality and cleaning up the grid makes things even better. This study does allow people to get a better idea of the benefits in relation to CO2 emissions and given that the average fuel economy of the US personal vehicle fleet is about 25.2mpg, EVs are going to produce less CO2 that the fleet average everywhere.


Sunday November 8, 2015 October 2015 EV Sales EV sales have been lagging all year and October sales were somewhat of a disappointment even though sales came in slightly higher than October 2014.  A surge in sales of the Volt, was offset by lower sales at Tesla, BMW,  and Nissan.  There have been a number of new plug-in cars introduced over the last few months, the latest being the BMW X5 xDrive40e which went on sale in October but so far these have been very low volume cars.

 

The good news is that mid October saw the first deliveries of the 2016 Chevy Volt in California.  We expected a boost in volt sales and were not disappointed.  Sales of the Volt climbed from the modest 949 cars delivered in September to 2,035 cars in October.  This is the first time that Volt sales have passed the 2,000 mark since August of 2014.  It remains to be see if this sort of pace can be maintained through the rest of the year as the car is only going to be made available in a limited number of states and won't go nationwide until 2016.
 
We also saw another good month for the Chevy Spark with 177 cars sold, besting September's 157 cars by 20.  It appears that GM are going to keep shipping the Chevy Spark from Korea for the next year or so until it is replace by the Chevy Bolt for the 2017 model year.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR is also constrained by dealer inventory with an average of about 60 cars on dealer lots throughout the month..  With just 36 cars sold in September Cadillac was coming off the worst sales month of the year but with a regular supply of the 2016 model sales went up to 82 in October.

 
In October GM sold a total of 2,294 plug-in cars.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating the overall number.  In October they estimated that Tesla delivered 1,900 cars in the US which is lower than the 2,500 that they sold in September but September was a quarter end and Tesla always does a big push to get cars out of the door to meet their quarterly production projections. 

 

They also delivered 6 Model X in September and while I wasn't expecting to see a large number of cars being delivered in October I must say that I was very disappointed that they only pushed 4 more cars out of the door.  It shouldn't have been too much of a surprise as they haven't gotten cars to their stores yet either.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to begin volume production of the Model X.

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 1,904 cars in October.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while they don't have a model that sells in big numbers, when you put sales of their three plug-in models together they still manage to sell a good number of plug-in cars.  In September they sold 1,672 cars and just 2 less, 1,670 plug-in cars, in October.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 849 cars in October up a little from the 808 cars sold in September.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi fell a little, dropping from the 719 cars they sold in September to 695 cars they sold in October.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales falling once again from 145 cars in September to 126 cars sold in October.  Ford have just released their first advertising campaign for the Focus EV so it will be interesting to see if this boosts sales figures in November.

 

After selling an all time high 1,892 cars in September BMW sales dropped back to 1,270 cars in October.
 
BWM i3s sales in September has set a new all time record of 1,710 cars blowing the roof of the previous record.  I expect that such a high number of sales would have seriously depleted dealer inventory so I was pleasantly surprised when sales numbers came in at a more normal 986 cars which was more than I expected.

 

While the BMW i8 continues to sell well but sales did fall again for the second straight month going from 182 cars in September down to 149 cars in October.  It looks like the BMW i8 is going to follow the Ford Focus EV and trade in the 100-200 cars range in coming months.

 

BMW has a new plug-in that arrived at dealerships with little fanfare in October.  The X5 xDrive40e is a plug-in hybrid version of their X4 SUV.  Like some other carmakers BMW have chosen to not separate out sales numbers for this variant so once again I am going to rely on the good folks at Inside EV to figure out how many they sold.  They estimate that 135 of the X4 xDrive40e were driven off dealer lots in October.  If this number is accurate then this is a pretty good start for this vehicle.

 

The biggest disappointment for October was the failure of Nissan to begin deliveries of the 2016 Nissan Leaf, which will increase range to over 100 miles.  I think this is the reason that in October they only managed to sell 1,238 Leafs which was just a few cars lower that the 1,247 cars they sold in September.  The good news is that according to a recent tweet from Nissan the 2016 went on sale starting last week so we will have to wait until November sales numbers come out to see how this will affect sales.

 

hThe VW diesel engines scandal might just seems to be getting worse and worse with implications that the problem may also impact the 6 cylinder diesel engines and even some gas models.  This might actually be a boon for sales of the all electric e-Golf as people looking for a green car abandon diesel.  e-Golf sales Jumped from 343 in September to 596 in October, their best sales month ever. 

 

Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 635 in September sales fell to 425 cars in October.

 

The Cayenne S e-hybrid was once again the best selling plug-in at Porsche.  Sales this month were higher at 153 plug-in car sales after selling just 115 in September which included the last 4 918 Spyders.

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid increased in October to 125 cars from the 70 cars sold  in September.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid fell in October down to 28 cars from the 41 cars they sold in the previous month.

 

After selling 105 Soul EVs in September Kia saw another increase in sales to 109 in October,  This was the same number as they sold in June tying for the best sales month of the year  The Kia Soul is a pretty unique vehicles right now, basically being the only compact fully electric SUV currently available so it's sales should be going pretty well, and in truth Kia says that sales are better than expected but it should be doing so much better.  I hope Kia decide to send a few more copies of this car to the US in future months.

 

Sales of the Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive fell again in October from 147 cars sold in September down to just 81 cars.  This is another car that is waiting on the arrival of the 2016 model which failed to show up in dealerships in October. 

 

July also saw the introduction of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV with 10 cars being delivered.  I expected to see sales of this car increase in August as cars became more available at dealerships but they tied with July by selling another 10.  In September sales did increase a little going up to 17 cars and October saw a further increase to 25 cars.  Since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 106 Plug-in cars in September.

 

Toyota is no longer making a plug-in car for sale in the US as production has stopped on both the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins before introducing  the Mirai fuel cell vehicle.  Not surprisingly sales dropped again in October when Toyota managed to move just 91  Plug-in Prius down from the 216 Prius Plug-ins they sold in September.  I expect sales to continue to fall until the remaining inventory is sold.

 

The big surprise was that Toyota also listed the sale of 1 RAV4-EV.  I'm not sure if this had just been sitting in dealer inventory somewhere or if it had been used as a demo vehicle but this 1 sale puts Toyota's overall sale of plug-in cars for October to 92.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales have been falling over the last few months and October proved to be no exception with sales dropping from 94 cars sold in September to 75 cars sold in October.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After turning in their best month of 2015 in June with 24 cars sold, Mitsubishi sales dropped back to a more normal 12 cars in July but plummeted down to 6 cars in August and to just 3 cars in September.  October saw a little bit of a recovery with sales climbing back up to 9 cars.

 

Like Toyota Honda has stopped production of plug-in cars and didn't sell any in September, but in October they reported the sale of 1 Fit EV.  Since these cars have been sold out for months and were very popular I'm not sure where this one came from.

 

Where is a new Plug-in SUV on the block as Volvo began shipping the XC90 T8 PHEV.  This car is a luxury SUV and is in competition with the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid and the Tesla Model X.  The first deliveries occurred very late in August so only 4 SUVs made it into customer hands.  There were no sales of this SUV in September so the 4 sales in August were probably just cars that will be used as demo cars.  It appears that another 1 car went into the demo pool in October with true sales to the public beginning in November.  It will be interesting to see if we have any actual customer sales next month.

 

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the October sales numbers mostly because the 2016 Nissan Leaf did not make it into dealerships and Tesla didn't ramp up production of the Model X as expected.  We will have to wait until November when to see if there is a bump in sales..  There are some other plug-in vehicles that are likely to show up in dealerships soon including the Audi A3 e-Tron which should start deliveries in November and is expected to sell reasonably well.


Sunday November 1, 2015 BMW Adds a Plug-in SUV Remember back in 2010 and 2011 when manufacturers began selling plug-in cars it was done with much fanfare.  Press conferences would be called and the press would feature pictures of the first buyer getting the keys to his shiny new car.  Well things have changed quite a bit since then so when BMW began shipping their latest Plug-in to dealers there was so little buzz that I missed the event completely and only found out the car was available when I found one on eBay.

 

Part of the issue was that while the other BMW plug-in cars have been specialized models sold under the i designation, i3 and i8, the new car is a variant of the X5 and is being designated the X5 xDrive40e.  It appears that the xDrive shows that has inherits its heritage from the BMW i8 while the 40 says that it has a 4 cylinder engine and the e indicates that it is a plug-in.  We will see additional cars from BMW with this designation as it produces plug-in variants for its entire line over the next few years.
 
The X5 xDrive40e is almost identical to the standard X5 but with a charge port on the front fender and model specific badging.  At its heart is a 2 liter turbo charged gas engine coupled to an electric motor integrated into the 8 speed automatic transmission.  Driving the electric motor is a 9 KWh lithium ion battery pack that takes about 3 hours to fully recharge from a level 2 charger and a little more than 8 hours from the supplied level 1 charger.

 

The gas motor can produce 240hp while the electric motor is rated at 111hp with a combined power output of 308hp.  This can propel the car from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds.  The top speed is electronically limited to 130mph and the SUV can do 75mph in electric only mode before the gas engine kicks in. 

 

On the European test cycle the X4 eDrive40e is rated at 19 miles in electric only mode.  The official EPA number, which more accurately reflects real world driving here in the USA gives the electric only range at 13 miles.  Running on gas only the vehicle offers 24mpg with an overall fuel economy rating of 59mpge.  This is not bad considering the curb weight is 2,230 pounds.  The battery is stored under the rear hatch and slightly reduces cargo capacity over the gas version.  There is also no 3rd row seat option for the plug-in.

 

The base price for this car starts at $62,100 which is considerably more than the $53,900 for the gas model but for those able to take advantage of the $2,500 tax credit this difference moves to about $5,000.  It should also be noted that these prices assume that the two base models are both come with the same standard equipment but this may not be the case.  The base price for the diesel version is $57, 500 so after tax incentives the plug-in version is going to be the better buy,  If you are interested in buying one you can configure your X5 Here

 

Once there were few choices when it came to buying a plug-in SUV but now the field is becoming pretty crowded.  I think that the X5 eDrive40e will appeal to those who like the BMW brand but given the large gap between the price of the PHEV and the base model, and the current low cost of gas, this car will have limited penetration into the market.


Sunday October 25, 2015 2016 Volt Arrives in California On Friday I was at the Beverly Hills Public Library, which is one of my favorite places to charge as they have a large solar array.  Both level 2 chargers were in use and one of the level 1 chargers looked to be blocked so I grabbed the other available charger and plugged in my EVSE.  There was a couple that were moving stuff around in the trunk of the car blocking the other level 1 charger and I was about to chase them out of the space when the husband came over and looked at how I was connected.

 

It turned out that the reason I didn't recognize the car parked in the spot was that it was a 2016 Volt and they weren't blocking the space they were trying to figure out how to use it.  They had just taken delivery of the car the previous day and were not familiar with charger set-up and didn't have a Chargepoint card.  I told them about the card and that they could call the number on the charger and they would unlock it and set them up with a card.  When I returned to my car about 45 minutes later their car was charging away happily. 

 

The 2016 Volt has been highly anticipated since it was announced late last year and it is expected that sales of the Volt, which have been lagging for quite some time now, should begin to pick up as cars get shipped out to dealers.

 

The Volt has had a total upgrade from the previous generation including some of the things that many people wanted especially more range.  The previous generation Volt had an EPA estimated range of 38 miles but that has risen to 53 miles for the new generation.  While the first generation Volt was an excellent car much loved by its owners, it did have a couple of failings.  The first was that the engine required 92 Octane fuel instead of the cheaper 87 Octane.  This is one of the key reasons I went with a Prius Plug-in instead of a Volt back in 2012.  Fuel economy has also been improved and the new Volt gets an estimated 42mpg combined when the gas engine is running.  The other omission, the lack of a third seat in the rear, has only been partially fixed.  There is now a seat over the transmission tunnel but reports are it is OK for short trips but is not going to be comfortable for longer trips.

 

There are a few other enhancements that came with the 2016.  For starters the car shed about 200 pounds which is part of why they get better fuel economy.  Taking a leaf out of Cadillac's ELR they also included a paddle that can be used to increase regen without touching the brake.  This also engages the brake lights so the driver following close behind doesn't find themself slamming into the back of you.  There is no way to manually select the level of regen but at least this is a step in the right direction.

 

Availability for the 2016 Volt has also been somewhat confusing since GM have done a staged roll-out.  The order book for the Volt was opened up in California back in May with deliveries beginning this month.  The other states that follow the California emission rules (CARB states) were able to start ordering in late August, and nationwide ordering begins at the end of this month with production starting in November.  It was rumored that the 2016 would only be available in CARB states and the rest of the country would have to wait for the 2017 model but it appears that deliveries nationwide will now start in early 2016.

 

Now I have a dilemma.  Do I stay with the Prius Plug-in which has extremely low miles but also extremely low miles per charge, or go for a new Volt.  When I look at my bank balance I think that the Prius will last me for a lot of years but each time the gas engine kicks in I think that I'd be still running on electric if I had a Volt.  I am also curious how the new Volt will sell over time and if the longer range and better looks will pull in more people to the electric revolution.


October 18, 2015 Did I Charge on Solar This week I was at the Beverly Hills public Library and managed to find a charger that wasn't either blocked of in use.  In the library they have a couple of large displays that show the output of the solar array that the city installed and I have walked passed it many times without paying too much attention but that day they had a graphic showing the location of the array and it caught my eye.
 
I always thought that the array was at the city facility on La Cienega Blvd but it turns out that the array is actually at the City Hall complex and it is much bigger than I thought.  The bulk of the array covers the rooftop parking at the library providing both shade for the cars parked up there, and a decent amount of electricity. It also stretches across the bridge to City Hall and partially covers the City Hall roof.  On the day I first noticed this the array was producing a spot output of around 283 KW.

 

Now, this led me into thinking about how I would classify my charging session.  Since the chargers at the library get power from the solar array I must be charging on solar.  Well, things are never that simple and the people who are trying very hard to stop the spread of plug-in cars are going to tell you that the array adds solar to the grid and then you pull charge from the grid so you are charging at grid mix not on Solar.

 

It's the same thing with people who have home solar.  The idea is that during the day you generate solar energy and bank it to the grid.  At night you pull that energy back from the grid and use it to charge your car.  The anti-EV lobby will say that since you are charging at night when your solar array is not producing electricity then you are charging from baseline energy which is mostly derived from coal and that is where they get the EVs are charged from coal stuff they like to use to prove that EVs are not as clean as gas burners..

 

Another wrinkle in the fabric of solar is the market for SRECs The Renewable Energy Credit is an electronic certificate granted to anyone who produces 1 megawatt of electricity from renewable sources.  An SREC  is a REC produced by solar and these SRECs can be traded.  A company can buy SRECs to meet their obligation to use a certain amount of renewable energy and this attributes usage of the energy created by solar to that company. SRECs are accumulated irrespective of energy usage so if someone generated energy from their rooftop solar and sells the SRECs then they are giving up the usage of this energy and in this case an EV charged overnight should be attributed to the grid not to the banked solar which has already been sold.

 

Back to my question, did I charge on Solar.  Well the simple answer is that I don't know.  I don't know if the city of Beverly Hills is selling SRECS or not.  My guess is that they are not since they are probably expected to consume a certain level of renewable energy so are more likely to be buying rather than selling so I will choose to believe the answer is yes until I can prove otherwise.


Sunday October 11, 2015 Charger Usage Study This week the results of the most comprehensive study to date on how plug-in drivers charge their vehicles has been released. The study seemed to come as a surprise to most members of the media but for those of us that have been following plug-in vehicles for any length of time there were actually not much that could be classified as unexpected

The study was conducted by the Idaho National Laboratory and lasted for three years. Over that time they evaluated a large group of plug-in owners through over 6 million charging sessions and 125 million EV miles driven. The 8,000 drivers who participated in the study drove the all electric Nissan Leaf or the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt and each had a Level 2 charger installed at home. In addition they tracked about 17,000 charging stations that included both public charging stations and workplace charging.

While this study was the biggest one yet it dealt only with those that had level 2 chargers installed so it failed to take into account those that use the level 1 charger that came with the car, or those that are not able to charge at home and realied totally on public charging so it still doesn't present the whole picture.

Still, there were five major conclusions that came out of this study that are worth reviewing.

1. Most charging happens at home or at work.

Nissan Leaf drivers, on average, charged at home 65% of the time while Chevy Volt drivers charged at home 57% of the time. The majority of charging outside of the home was at the workplace where Nissan Leaf owners charged on average 32% of the time while Chevy Volt drivers charged 39% of the time at work. The rest of the time, 3% for the Leaf and 4% for the Volt was done at public charging stations.

These numbers are not surprising. One of the great benefits of plug-in car ownership, which is not well understood by the general public, is the ability to plug your car in at night and wake up in the morning to a "full tank". The difference between the Volt and the Leaf in numbers is easy to understand too since the Volt has much less range than the leaf it is more likely to need charging outside the home.

2. Chevy Volts are matching the Nissan Leaf in EV miles.

This too has been documented before. The study found that on average the Leaf drivers put on 9,697 EV miles while Volt owners put on an average of 9.112 miles. Average miles per year for Volt drivers was higher at 12,238 miles which reflects the fact that Volt drivers can switch to the gas engine when they run out of range. The conclusion they drew is that plug-in hybrids with high EV range are critical to the adoption of plug-in vehicles. This idea was advanced by Sherry Boschert in her 2006 book "Plug-in Hybrids the Cars that will Recharge America".

I have seen statistics that show that Chevy Volt drivers actually drive more EV miles per year than EV drivers but it has always been a close run thing as 38 miles is enough range to meet the daily driving needs of most people. I also wonder if these numbers are not affected by the fact that many people leased their leaf and if they have a 10,000 mile per year limit on the lease they may be keeping mileage down to avoid mileage chargers at lease termination.

The fact that they didn't include lower range plug-in hybrids such as the Prius Plug-in in this study is one of the biggest areas where the study is flawed. I don't think that this will make too much difference though as the trend is going to be toward adding grater range to plug-in hybrids as battery costs fall.

3. Where charging is fast, public stations are popular.

The study found that DC fast chargers were most popular when they were located in convenient places such as interstate exist. This would allow the EV driver to attempt trips that are beyond their EV range and also allow them to get a quick charge during the day if they needed the car to run errands that would take them beyond their EV range

Their recommendation is to put these fast chargers in convenient locations and they will get a lot of use, but seen the next section about charging costs.

This section only pertains to the Leaf drivers since the Volt does not have fast charging capability. One other omission from this study is that it does not include Tesla in the mix and this would have been a big help in understanding the changes we could expect as higher range EVs such as the 200 mile range Chevy Volt come to market.

4. High charging station fees are limiting EV use.

The study found that the usage of a charging station went down as the cost to charge went up. In particular the Chargepoint network, where prices are set by the individual station owner, showed that he higher cost chargers were used very infrequently. They also mentioned the Blink network which was used heavily when they originally started out as they were free, but once they changed them to be fee based, and set the charger fee really high, then usage plummeted.

This should not be much of a shock to anyone. A gas station that charges high gas prices will sell less gas. The same principal applies to charging stations. If the cost is more for a charge than it takes to fill up on gas then the charger isn't going to get used. I see that every day at work where the chargers are set at $2 per hour. The chargers are rarely used and when they are used the cars are usually high cost luxury cars like Tesla and Porsche where cost is less of an issue to the owner than convenience.

The hardest part of building EV infrastructure is getting the pricing right and so far I have seen very few places that have managed to get it right. I think that in many locations the model being promoted by Voltec, which provides free charging supported by advertising is the model that makes most sense for many locations especially places like Malls and shopping centers where the adverts can be used to pull people into stores.

5. Public charging is critical to EV adoption.

The study states that the "chicken and egg" conundrum is driving EV adoption. The lack of charging infrastructure they say is limiting EV adoption. This appears to be contrary to their findings that most charging is done at home. Also we have seen in recent months that lack of dealer inventory has been a major factor in limiting sales.

Their is truth in their conclusion though but not for the reasons they bring up. There is a large number of people who are not able to purchase plug-in cars because they have no place to charge. These are people that live in apartment buildings or who have no parking at home and have to park on the street. This is not an insignificant number of people and it does impact EV adoption rates. The advent of reasonable priced charging at work is one way that these people can adopt plug-in hybrids an switch much of their driving to EV mode.

For long distance travel one thing that is needed is much more charging availability at hotels and motels. Hilton recently announced that they are going to install chargers at 50 properties across the nation by the end of the year and will have chargers installed at double this number by the end of 2016. Still, that is a very small percentage of the thousands of Hilton properties but it is a good start. If these chargers attract plug-in car drivers than it will influence other hotel properties to install chargers.

Much of the conclusions from this study just represents things that EV advocates have been saying for a long time. It's good to get confirmation that we were on the right track.


Sunday October 3, 2015 September 2015 EV Sales Plug-in Sales improved somewhat over August sales of 8,972 turning in a respectable 10,134 cars even though the new Volt and Leaf have yet to hit showrooms.  Sales were bolstered by big sales from Tesla as they pushed out cars ahead of their third quarter earnings report, and big numbers from BMW.

 

While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US, Inside EV do a pretty good job of estimating how many cars they sell each month.  In August they estimated that Tesla delivered 1,300 cars in the US as they prepared for Model X production.  In September there was a big push to get cars out of the door and inside EV estimates that they sold 2,500 Model S.  They also delivered 6 Model X in an event held at their factory on September 29.  It is not believed that they delivered any on September 30 and deliveries are expected to be very low for the third quarter. Tesla also released third quarter sales data noting that they delivered 11,580 vehicles world wide which was slightly ahead of planned sales.

 

After selling 1,002 cars in August BMW sales hit an all time high in September with 1,892 cars sold led by big sales of the BMW i3.
 
BWM i3s sales grew from  792 cars in August to a n all time record high of 1,710 cars in September.  This number crushed the previous record high of  1,159 cars sold in October 2014.  I expect that these big sales numbers will have seriously depleted dealer inventory so I expect sales in October to  be considerably lower.


While the BMW i8 continues to sell well it couldn't quite keep the pace set in July and August.  Sales fell from 210 in August down to 182 cars in September but still their third best month of the year.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while they don't have a model that sells in big numbers, when you put sales of their three plug-in models together they still manage to sell a good number of cars.  In September they sold 1672 cars down from the 1,848 plug-in cars they sold in August.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 808 cars in September down from the 949 cars they sold in August.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi were pretty stable dropping just 4 from the 723 cars they sold in August to the 719 cars they sold in September.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales falling from 176 cars in August to 145 cars in September.

 

The pending arrival of the 2016 Nissan Leaf, which will increase range to over 100 miles, appears to be hurting sales  In September Nissan sold 1,247 Leafs, down a little from the 1,393 cars they sold in August.  While we expected the 2016 model to show up at dealerships in September it now looks like they won't be available in any numbers until late October so I expect to see another slow month before sales pick up in November.

 

When you consider that GM has stopped production of the current generation of Volt as they gear up for the release of the 2016 model, sales of the Volt in August were higher than expected with sales of 1,380 cars.  Right now GM has no Volts to deliver so dealer inventory of the 2015 model has been depleted and only 949 cars were delivered in September.  The 2016 models should be arriving at dealerships in late October but they are only going to sell the 2016 in a limited number of states so we may not see big numbers until the 2017 model goes nationwide.
 
Low inventory continues to impact sales of the Chevy Spark but they still managed to sell 157 cars in September which was a little bit better than the 135 they sold in August.  This came as a surprise since indications were that only 75 cars remained inn dealer inventory at the start of the month and the new shipment which was expected from Korea in September still hasn't arrived in port.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR is also constrained by dealer inventory.  Going into August there were less than 200 cars on dealer lots.  It was no surprise then that GM managed to sell just 45 cars in August, and even less at just 36 in September. It appears that production of the 2016 ELR is now underway and there were about 70 of them in dealer inventory going into October. 
 
In September GM sold a total of just 1,142 plug-in cars.

 

Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 620 in August they topped this number in September by selling 635 cars.

 

VW is in big trouble after being caught rigging the emissions results for its 2 liter diesel engines which really impacted their sales in September. This caused sales at VW to tank towards the end of the month.  Their all electric e-Golf didn't appear to be too badly impacted by this though with sales falling from 381 cars in August to 343 in September.  e-Golf sales seem to be settling in the 300 to 400 cars per month level.  The 2016 models have just started to arrive in dealerships and it will be interesting to see how the current scandal surrounding VW affects sales in the coming months.

 

Toyota is no longer making a plug-in car for sale in the US as production has stopped on both the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins before introducing  the Mirai fuel cell vehicle.  Not surprisingly sales dropped again in September where Toyota managed to move 216 Plug-in Prius down from the 344 Prius Plug-ins they sold in August.  I expect sales to continue to fall until the remaining inventory is sold.

Sales of the Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive fell again in September from 172 cars sold in August down to 147 cars sold in September.  This is another car that is waiting on the arrival of the 2016 model which may be affecting sales. 

 

July also saw The introduction of their first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV with 10 cars being delivered.  I expected to see sales of this car increase in August as cars became more available at dealerships but they tied with July by selling another 10 cars in August.  In September sales did increase a little going up to 17 cars.  Since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 164 Plug-in cars in September.

 

The Cayenne S e-hybrid was once again the best selling plug-in at Porsche.  Sales were considerably lower this month with 151 plug-in car sale as deliveries of the 918 Spyder come to an end.

 

After two straight months of declining sales for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid sales increased to 93 cars in August.  Porsche could not keep up the momentum though and sales dropped back to 70 cars sold in September.

 
Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction and September was no exception with sales increasing from 36 cars sold in August to 30 cars sold in September.


Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche had delivered 293 cars to the US up to the end of August and the last 4 were delivered in September according to my calculations we should not see anymore of these sold in the US.

 

After selling 93 Soul EVs in August Kia saw another increase in sales to 105 in September falling just 4 cars short of June, their best month of the year so far.  The Kia Soul is a pretty unique vehicles right now, basically being the only compact fully electric SUV currently available so it's sales should be going pretty well, and in truth Kia says that sales are better than expected.  Kia is expected to release a lower cost base model when the 2016 cars arrive at dealerships so hopefully they will provide more inventory which should drive sales.

 

Smart had a slightly lower month in September falling to just 94 cars, down from August sales of its Electric Drive of 106 cars, Things look even worse when you look at overall sales at Smart which was 750 units which means that the electric drive sales fell back to a around 12.5% of total Smart sales.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After turning in their best month of 2015 in June with 24 cars sold, Mitsubishi sales dropped back to a more normal 12 cars in July but plummeted down to 6 cars in August and to just 3 cars in September.

 

There is a new Plug-in SUV on the block as Volvo began shipping the XC90 T8 PHEV.  This car is a luxury SUV and is in competition with the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid and the Tesla Model X.  The first deliveries occurred very late in August so only 4 SUVs made it into customer hands.  There were no sales of this SUV in September so the 4 sales in August were probably just cars that will be used as demo cars.  It will be interesting to see if we have any actual customer sales in October.

 

Honda has now stopped making plug-in cars and the only plug-in left in dealer inventory is the Accord plug-in, the car that seems to appeal only to die-hard Honda fans that crave a plug-in car. After three straight months of selling 5 cars, the Accord Plug-ins total fell to 4 in June and down to just 1 car in July and 2 cars in August,   In September  Honda managed to sell no plug-in cars at all so it may be that there are now no Plug-in Accords left.

 
I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the August sales numbers but the September numbers were much better although still slightly down from September 2014.  We will have to wait until the 2016 Volt and Leaf become available to see how they sell.  There are some other plug-in vehicles that are likely to show up in dealerships soon including the Audi A3 e-Tron which I suspect will sell reasonably well.


Sunday September 27, 2015 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show Today is the last day of the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show and this year's show  featured a larger variety of plug-in cars than we have ever seen.  With ever tightening emissions and fuel consumption standards being set around the world it has become clear that the majority of European carmakers are beginning to focus on Plug-in cars as the future.

 

VW has been in the news this week for rigging its 2 liter diesel engines to detect when they are being tested and run cleaner.  While this scandal has rocked VW they did redeem themselves a little at Frankfurt by showing a whole new batch of plug-in cars..
 
The biggest buzz at the show was created by their Porsche division which showed the Mission E concept.  The press hailed this as a Tesla killer as the four-door, four-seat sports car boasts a top speed of 155mph and 0-60 in just under 3.5 seconds.  VW quoted a 310 mile range on the European test cycle and also say that the batteries can be charged to 80% in just 15 minutes. If Porsche gets the go-ahead to produce this car then it will probably won't make it to production until 2019 at the earliest.

 

Another VW group, Audi, also showed a concept car that was dubbed as a Tesla buster by the press.  The Audi Quotro e-tron concept should offer 310 miles of range on the European test cycle.  Its top speed will be 130.5 mph and it will be capable of 0-60 in about 4.2 seconds.  The all wheel drive Crossover has three electric motors with one driving the front wheels and two more driving the rear wheels.  The concept also had solar panels on the roof.  Audi says that sales of this car are expected to start in early 2018.   


Audi also showed off the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid.  This car is a hatchback with a 30 mile electric only range on the European cycle.  The problem I see with this car is that it sports a diesel engine and given the current problems with diesel it is questionable if this car can move forward in its current configuration.

 

VW also showed off two new plug-in concepts.  The first of these was a plug-in hybrid version of the Tiguan crossover.  This car comes with the standard 31 miles of EV range on the European cycle  The concept also had solar panels on the roof although most people don't expect these to be available on the production version.

 

Another interesting concept from VW is a scissor door version of the VW Golf, the GTE Sport.  This is also a plug-in hybrid with a 31 mile range on the European cycle.  It offers a sporty 0-60 in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 174mph.  So far there is no indication if this car is going to make it to production.

 

While it was good to see plug-in cars from the VW group the cost of correcting their issues with the 11 million diesel engine cars that have the emissions test fake out software may mean that many of these concepts get delayed or dropped if funds become tight..

 

While the auto industry appears to be targeting the upstart, Tesla, the company that has sold more electric vehicles than any other is Nissan and they showed the latest version of the Nissan Leaf that should increase range to over 100 miles on the US test cycle.  This car should be available in the US before the end of the year.

 

Of more interest was their GripZ concept.  This car is a crossover and while there was no indication that is would be a plug-in, the car is powered by a 3.7 liter gas engine that does not drive the wheels.  Instead it produces power to charge a battery which in turn is used to drive and electric motor powering the wheels; similar in concept to how the Volt works.  Unfortunately Nissan gave no indication of if this car would be a plug-in but given Nissan's focus on electric power trains I expect that if such a concept made it to production it would be a plug-in.

 

BMW also had a couple of new plug-in cars to show.   The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid version of their 3 series sedan.  It is driven by a 2 litre 4 cylinder gas engine combined with a 65KW electric motor.  The 7.6 KWh battery offers an all electric range of around 25 miles on the European test cycle so I would expect 18 miles on the more stringent US test cycle.  It is very likely that the 330e will become the third BMW plug-in offered in the US.

 

The BMW 225xe is a five door 5 seat car.  It has a 1.5 liter gas engine powering the front wheels and an electric motor powering the rear wheels giving it on-demand all wheel drive.  It has a top speed of 126mph and will do 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.  The car can be driven for 25 miles on a charge based on the European test cycle.  While this car will go on sale in Europe it is unlikely that BMW will bring it here to the US.

 

There were lots of other plug-in cars being shown in Frankfurt including some from small manufacturers but the ones above are the ones that were causing the buzz.  I expect to see some interesting reveals at the LA and Detroit auto shows this year that may shed more light on the plug-in cars that will make it to the US.


Sunday August 16, 2015 VW Not So Clean Diesel This past week was National Drive Electric Week and while I managed to drive most of the week on battery power, due to family circumstances I was not able to attend any of the events this year.  It's the first time that I have missed the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo since its inception 10 years ago.  However, there was news toward the end of the week that VW is in big trouble with the EPA over the emissions on it's 2 liter diesel engines which shows one of the reasons we need to move to battery electric vehicles.

 

The EPA is accusing VW of putting software in their cars that will recognize that the car is undergoing its emissions test and will enable certain emissions controls to allow it to pass the test.  During normal driving these controls are disabled meaning that the car produces much higher levels of emissions of Nitrous Oxide than the car is supposed to.  Press reports indicate that VW is co-operating with the EPA  in its ongoing investigation. 

 

If the allegations prove true the impact on VW will be great.  For a start they will need to recall about 482,000 cars and fix the problem.  Then the EPA will levy a fine which could theoretically be $18 Billion but will probably not be that much.  There is already a class action law suite in the works too as the fix is expected to reduce power and acceleration,  which will not thrill current owners.

 

There is another potential problem.  Although the cars will be recalled it is likely that many owners will choose not to have the recall done.  Let's face it, most people are not voluntarily going to take their car into the dealer to have a fix installed that will reduce the power and acceleration of their car.  The only solution to this is that they will need to have a system that tracks the recall such that if the car has not had the recall done it will fail its next smog test.

 

I have always said that the "Clean Diesel" was not so clean.  The very fact that they always have to repeat the mantra "clean diesel" should be a clue to the fact that it is not so clean.  The cars do great on fuel economy and produce less CO2 than equivalent gas cars but CO2 is not the only pollutant that these cars emit and if you look at overall pollutants like oxides of nitrogen which are smog forming pollutants that promote lung disease, and fine particulates which have been linked to heart disease in multiple studies, you find that these cars are not clean at all.

 

The best solution to cleaning our air is still battery electric vehicles to eliminate pollution due to vehicle emissions followed by a clean up of the electric grid to remove pollution at the source.  Trying to clean up internal combustion engines is a good thing but it can only take us so far.  If VW did include software in their cars to reduce emissions during testing then they deserve what they get.


September 13, 2015 Model X on its Way While doing my daily scan of the eBay listings last week I came across one for a Tesla Model X. Since the Model X is not yet available I reviewed the listing and found that the seller was someone who had a reservation for one of the signature series Model X and was trying to sell his place in the queue. Since Tesla doesn't allow transfers of reservations I didn't add the auction to my eBay listings but it does signal that sales of the Model X is imminent.
 
The Model X has been a long time coming. It was first shown at Tesla's Santa Monica store back in February 2012 and Tesla's original plan was to start selling the car in late 2013. Back then people placed deposits of $40,000 to reserve a model X. The deposit was fully refundable but many people have left the deposit on file with Tesla and the these very early depositors will be able to configure a top of the line Model X. If they want a more basic model then they will have to wait a bit longer. The seller of the Model X registration didn't want to wait but was hoping to profit from the amount of money that is bid above his $40,000 deposit.

 

I noticed earlier in the month that the configuration system had been opened up for the early reservation numbers to configure their Model X.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed last week that deliveries will begin on September 29.  As they did with the Model S the first deliveries will be from the Tesla headquarters in San Jose and those with the earliest reservations will be invited to the event which will culminate with them picking up their cars.

 

The Signature series Model X will cost around $144,000 depending on what options are added but will include Ludicrous mode which allows acceleration from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 155mph.  The SUV will come with a 90KWh battery pack that will give an estimated range of 240 miles.

 

There are currently just a little under 27,000 reservations for the Model X.  Tesla's web site says that reservations made now will be delivery in early 2016 but given the number of existing reservations I expect that it will be more like the end of second quarter before you would get one depending on how quickly Tesla can ramp up production.

 

This year sales of plug-in cars has been lagging behind 2014 levels but the arrival of the Tesla Model X along with the 100+ mile range Nissan Leaf and hte 50+ mile range Volt should give a welcome boost to sales in the last quarter of this year.


Sunday September 5, 2015 August 2015 EV Sales Plug-in Sales continued to falter in June with estimated sales of 10,365 cars and it didn't get any better in July as only 8,951 plug-in cars were sold during the month. The slow sales continued into August with overall sales of just 8,972 which beat July by 21 cars but was still the worst August since 2012. The wait for new models arriving in showrooms this month and the low gas prices across the most of the country have been contributing factors in the low sales for plug-in vehicles.
 
A good indicator that the slow sales at GM and Nissan are related to the pending arrival of new models can be seen at Ford which continued to buck the trend by selling 1,848 cars in August, improving on the 1,680 plug-in cars they sold in July.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 949 cars in August up from 852 cars sold in July but still short of their best month of the year, May, when they sold 986 cars.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi also increased from the 693 cars sold in July to 723 cars sold in August making this their best month of the year so far.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales increasing to 176 cars, up from the 135 cars that sold in July.
 
When you consider that GM has stopped production of the current generation of Volt as they gear up for the release of the 2016 model, sales of the Volt in August were higher than expected as incentives to clear inventory of the 2015 Volt still appears to be pushing sales. In July the Volt actually outsold the Nissan Leaf with sales of 1,313 cars. They didn't quite manage it this month but still managed to sell 1,380 Volts from what must now be quite low dealer inventory.
 
Low inventory continues to impact sales of the Chevy Spark so it was quite a surprise that they managed to sell 135 cars in August which was quite a bit better than the 57 sold in July. This left about 75 cars in dealer inventory but a new shipment is expected from Korea in September.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR is also constrained by dealer inventory. Going into August there were less than 200 cars on dealer lots. It was no surprise then that GM managed to sell just 45 cars in August. In July they had sold 66. It appears that production of the 2016 ELR is now underway and a few cars started to arrive at dealerships at the end of the month so we should see better sales in September.
 
In August GM sold a total of 1,580 cars pushing them up to second place in overall plug-in sales for the month.
 
Nissan Leaf recovered in August with sales of 1393 Leafs after just 1,174 cars were sold in July. This was enough to move them back up to the number 3 position in sales and made the leaf the best selling plug-in car in August after loosing that crown to the Volt in July. Since the leaf is sold nationally its sales are being impacted by low gas prices but the 2016 is expected to offer a longer range option and these cars should start to arrive on dealer lots in September.
 
While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US, Inside EV do a pretty good job of estimating how many cars they sell each month. In July they estimated that Tesla delivered 1,600 cars in the US. In August, with work in high gear for Model X production, sales were estimated to be lower at 1,300 cars. This pushed them back into forth place in overall plug-in sales. Tesla has announced that delivery of the Model X is set to begin on September 29th so this will probably have little impact on September sales but should drive sales higher for the rest of the year.
 
After selling 1,152 cars in July BMW couldn't quite maintain the momentum and sales dropped back to 1,002 in August which was enough to keep them in 5th Place but almost 300 short of the number sold by Tesla.
 
BWM i3s sales fell from 935 cars in July to 792 cars in August. This was about the average level for the year so far which is 772 cars per month.

 
The BMW i8 on the other hand continues to sell well. In August they sold 210 down a little from the 217 cars in July but still their second best month of the year.
 
Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 485 cars in July sales increased to 620 in August making this the best selling of the compliance cars. This was enough to put them in sixth place in plug-in sales. Considering that Fiat Chairman Sergio Marchionne is on record as asking people not to buy the Fiat 500e they do appear to make a decent effort at selling them.

The e-Golf, which is one of the best selling plug-in cars in Europe, has been selling pretty well in the US too. In August VW saw sales rise from 313 cars in July to 381 cars in August. This was enough to put them in 7th place in plug-in sales, even outselling Toyota. VW do appear to be attempting to sell these cars rather than just treating them as compliance cars.
  
Toyota is no longer making a plug-in car for sale in the US as production stopped on the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV. They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins before introducing the Mirai fuel cell vehicle. They still manage to sell 344 Prius Plug-ins in August down from the 548 They sold in July. Now that production of the Plug-in Prius has ended, and dealers reporting that they are not able to get more cars, I expect to see sales tail off over the next few months as Toyota joins Honda with very few cars to sell. Toyota were in eighth place in plug-in sales in August after being outsold by VW.
 
Sales of the Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive fell again in August from July's total of 196 cars down to 172 cars in August.
 
July also saw The introduction of their first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV with 10 cars being delivered. I expected to see sales of this car increase in August as cars became more available at dealerships but they tied with July by selling another 10 cars in August. Since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.
 
Overall Mercedes Benz sold 182 Plug-in cars in August which was enough to place them ninth in overall plug-in sales for the month.
  
Sales of the Cayenne S e-hybrid appears to be coming mostly at the expense of the Panamera S e-Hybrid but Porsche had a better month this month with 151 plug-in car sale even with lower deliveries of the 918 Spyder.
 
After two straight months of declining sales for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid sales increased to 93 cars in August, up from the 77 cars they sold in July. This was still below the all time sales record set in May when they sold 105 SUVs.
 
Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction but August was an exception as sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid also increased from July's 23 cars up to 36 in August. This was the best month for the Panamera S e-Hybrid since they sold 40 back in March.
 
Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 22 more cars in July. So far Porsche has shipped 293 cars to the US leaving 4 more still left to be delivered by my count.
 
Smart had a slightly lower month in August with sales of its Electric Drive falling to 106 cars, Just three less than the 109 cars they sold in July. Things look even worse when you look at overall sales at Smart which was 617 units which means that the electric drive sales fell back to a around 17.5% of total Smart sales.
 
After setting their best sales numbers for 2015 in June at 109 cars , sales of the Kia Soul EV dropped in to just 57 cars in July. August showed somewhat of a recovery though as sales climbed back up to 93 cars. The Kia Soul is a pretty unique vehicles right now, basically being the only compact fully electric SUV currently available so it's sales should be going pretty well, and in truth Kia says that sales are better than expected. Kia is expected to release a lower cost base model when the 2016 cars arrive at dealerships so hopefully they will provide more inventory which should drive sales.
 
Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US. After turning in their best month of 2015 in June with 24 cars sold, Mitsubishi sales dropped back to a more normal 12 cars in July but plummeted down to just 6 cars in August. They have also announced yet another delay in the launch their Outlander PHEV in the US which we won't see now probably until 2017 if at all. Mitsubishi plug-in sales will probably stay very low for the next year or so.
 
There is a new Plug-in SUV on the block as Volvo began shipping the XC90 T8 PHEV. This car is a luxury SUV and is in competition with the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid and the Tesla Model X. The first deliveries occurred very late in August so only 4 SUVs made it into customer hands. The arrival of the XC90 T8 PHEV has been highly anticipated so it will be interesting to see how it sells as inventory begins to build at dealers.
 
Honda has now stopped making plug-in cars and the only plug-in left in dealer inventory is the Accord plug-in, the car that seems to appeal only to die-hard Honda fans that crave a plug-in car. After three straight months of selling 5 cars, the Accord Plug-ins total fell to 4 in June and down to just 1 car in July. In August Honda doubled sales to 2 cars. Honda, like Japanese rival Toyota think that hydrogen is the fuel of the future and are putting all their investment dollars into rolling out a fuel cell vehicle.
 
I have to say that I was very disappointed with the July sales numbers and even though the August sales numbers were slightly better they were still below August 2013 and August 2014. There are many factors that are driving this including the exit from the plug-in market of both Honda and Toyota. I think we are going to see sluggish sales for one more month until enough 2016 car arrive at dealerships. I am hoping that sales begin to return to more normal levels in October. I also expect to see sales of the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi do better in California as these cars become the ones that commuters buy to get carpool lane access now that the Plug-in Prius is becoming scarce.


Sunday Aug 30, 2015 EV Speed Record Who says EVs are slow?  Certainly not the guys from Monaco based Venturi Automobiles.  On August 19, with their partners from Ohio State university, they set a new world speed record for an electric vehicle.

 

Their speed, which has not yet been certified by FIA, was a one mile average of 240.34 mph.  What makes this even more remarkable is that track conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats where the  record breaking attempt took place were terrible.  So bad that even the Bonneville Festival of speed had to be cancelled because July was so wet. 

 

The 3,000hp  Venturi VBB-3 was run over a shortened track and while it did not manage to best the record top speed of 307.6 mph it did manage to set a new 1 mile average speed.  The Venturi VBB-3 is expected to be able to reach 400mph if conditions allow so we may see it back for an attempt on the top speed record too.

 

We have always know that one of the benefits of an electric motor is that it gives maximum torque instantly allowing for exciting acceleration. Owners of Tesla cars, which can go from 0-60 in less than 4 seconds, know this first hand.  The limiting parameter is usually the maximum rpm of the electric motor which limits top speed although as Tesla has show this top speed can be above 100mph. 

 

Fast EVs have been around for a long time too.  In fact, the first car to exceed 60mph was electric.  In 1899 Belgian car racer Camille Jentzy drove his electric car Le Jamis Contente (never content) to a top speed of 65.79mph setting a new land speed record.

 

We have to ask ourselves why the perception of electric cars as slow.  There are many reasons the most common being that electric cars, for the most part, have been designed to go slowly.  In the UK the best known electric car for many years was the Milk Float.  Thousand of these slowly and silently travelled the streets of Britain delivering Milk.  In the US most people's introduction to an electric car has been the NEV.  The NEV is basically a fast golf cars.  It is legally limited to a top speed of 25mph and so the perception has been that this is the best and electric car can do..

 

Not we have electric cars that can out-accelerate a supercar and can easily hit 100mph.  Once people drive these cars they begin to realize how much better it is to drive an electric car instead of a gas car.  Now companies like Venturi are beginning to push the envelope.  How long can it be before we had an electric car going over 400mph?


Sunday August 23, 2015 2015 Heats up This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told us that July, 2015 had been the hottest July since 1880 when temperatures first began to be monitored.  In addition, they stated that the first seven months of 2015 were also the hottest since records began.  Unless something very unexpected happens in the last part of the year we are on track for 2015 to become the hottest year on record.

 

In July the average global land and ocean surface temperature was 61.86F(16.61C)  which was 1.46F(0.81C) above the average surface temperature for the twentieth century.  July was also 0.14F(0.08C) hotter than the previous record set in 1998.
 
The land surface temperature global-average was 1.73F (0.96C) above the twentieth century average and was the sixth hottest on record.

 

Global-average sea surface temperature was 1.35F (0.75C) above the twentieth century average and 0.13F (0.07F) higher than the previous high record set in July 2014.   


Sea ice also shrank in the Artic this year to an average of 350,000 square miles which was the eight smallest extent since records began in 1979.  There was also a reduction in Antarctic sea ice over the record extent in July 2014 with ice extending to 240,000 square miles.  This was still the fourth largest area since records began in 1981.

 

The reason for the hotter temperatures is no mystery.  For years the air temperature has remained pretty stable as most of the excess heat was absorbed into the ocean.  This is a normal phenomena and at some point the warmer waters come to the surface and we get an El Nino condition.  One threatened in 2014 but fell apart before forming completely.  This year it appears that we are building up a huge El Nino which if it continues to build will be as large or larger than the giant one that occurred in 1997 leading to the super hot temperatures in 1998.

 

If the current pattern continues, and people who study El Nino think it is 99% likely, then we are in for a record breaking 2015 and will probably see an even hotter 2016 as the heat built up in the ocean gets pumped into the atmosphere. Eventually we should expect the El Nino to become La Nina, a cooling of the Pacific Ocean which should lead to some respite from the rising temperatures.

 

The people who have been pushing the idea that Global Warming isn't real are going to have a hard time downplaying the hotter temperatures we are going to see this year and probably next.  They are already trying very hard with a concerted attack on the NOAA data claiming that the data outside the US is coming from unreliable sources.  I even saw one comment suggesting that some of the data was provided by ISIS.

 

One thing I hadn't seen for a while was the comparison between Global Warming and the year 2000 where someone pointed out that there was a scare about the year 2000 which proved to be a none event.  Of course they failed to state that the reason it was a none event is that companies and governments around the world spent billions to fix the year 2000 issues before 1999 rolled over to become 2000.

 

Now we have to do this with global warming.  It worries me that of all the candidates running the Republican Party primaries only a small number of them have any firm belief that global warming is real.   A few of them think it is some kind of hoax while most hedge their bets by saying the science isn't settled.  Just a few say that it is real but these seem to think that fixing the problem will be too painful so we should just dump the whole mess on our kids.  The democrats for the most part do seem to acknowledge that global warming is real and I expect most of them will try and tackle it if they get into office.

 

For my part I am just trying to keep my carbon footprint as small as I can and hope that the people of the US get wise to the issue and begin to act responsibly towards our planet.


Sunday August 16, 2015 EV Model News If you follow EV sales like I do you might have noticed that sales in 2015 has fallen way behind the pace set in 2014.  This is partly due to the price of gas which, while staying above $4.00 per gallon here in California has fallen below $2.00 per gallon in some parts of the country.  Some of the slowdown has also been caused because older models are being phased out and new models have not yet hit showrooms.  There are also a few new models that are just on the horizon.

 

Production has already stopped on the Chevy Volt and the Cadillac ELR to get ready for production of the 2016 model.  The Volt is expected to show up in dealerships in California in September and the new model will show improvements in both range and mpg with a slightly cheaper entry point.  Chevy recently released the EPA sticker and the big news is that the 2016 Volt is rated at an all electric range of 53 miles.  That means that the car will be able to run in EV mode most of the time for more people.  Couple this with a new engine that does not need super gas and is rated at 42 mpg giving a fuel economy rating of 106 mpge and we should have a winner.  The car can currently be ordered at California dealership and a base price of $33,999 and should be on sale nationwide by the end of the year. 

 

There will also be a 2016 Cadillac ELR but it is only expected to get 40 miles of electric only range and Cadillac is specifying a base price of $65,000.  Other details have not really been released yet but the car is expected to appear in dealerships later this year. 

 

Nissan is also in the process of doing a mid model upgrade of the Leaf which is expected to up the range of the car to over 100 miles.  There has been very little firm information on this car but Nissan has already added incentives to clear the 2015 inventory and while some rumors say that the 2016 will be in dealerships by the end of this month I don't really expect to see it until September.

 

Another new model that just hit the showrooms in the first plug-in hybrid from Mercedes Benz, the S550 PHEV.  The car offers an all electric range of about 20 miles and works similar to the Plug-in Prius so you have to drive it with a light foot to stay in electric mode.  The lithium ion battery pack is 8.7 KWh and can be recharged on a level 2 charger in about 2 hours.  The car can be quite sporty and offers a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds. Pricing for this car has an interesting twist, there is no premium for buying the PHEV.  Both the conventional model and the PHEV start at $95,325 so the question is why would you buy the regular model over the PHEV which will give you better fuel economy and probably better performance.  It is currently available in California but will be available nationwide by the end of the year.

 

Audi has had the A3 e-Tron on sale in Europe since late last year and have been showing plug-in cars on a regular basis at the LA  Auto show for the last few years.  Finally the car is headed to the US and is expected to begin showing up in dealer showrooms in late fall at a starting price of $38,825.  The official EPA numbers won't be released until closer to the release date but indications are that this sporty hatchback will offer a 30 mile all electric range and about 43mpg when running on the gas engine.  This should translate out to rating of around 95 mpge.

 

The big news that came out lately was from Tesla.  The much delayed Model X is now close to production and Tesla announced that first deliveries will occur in September.  Of course 20,000 people have already plunked down a deposit of $5,000 to reserve one  of these electric SUVs so it is unlikely that you would be able to get one this year unless you have a very early position in the order list.  The 7 seat Model X is expected to come in two battery configurations, 60 KWh with an expected range of about 230 miles and 85 KWh offering a range of around 300 miles. 

 

Another Plug-in expected to show up in dealerships this fall is the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV.  White official EPA numbers are not yet available it is expected to give 17 miles of EV range from the 9.2 KWh battery pack. This will add yet another luxury SUV to those available. Price for Volvo's first plug-in in the US should start at $68,100.  While this will compete head to head with the Porsche Cayenne S e-hybrid, the lower price and three row seating my boost sales.. 

 

Going a bit further out, Mitsubishi is expected to launch the Outlander PHEV in the Spring of 2016 as a 2017 model.  The Outlander PHEV has become the best selling plug-in in Europe but this success led to battery shortages and delayed the arrival in the US. With a 30 mile all electric range and CHAdeMO as a standard feature this car is destined to be a popular model although the lack of third row seating may put some buyers off..

 

Finally word has been coming out about the rebirth of another PHEV company, Fisker Automotive.  After their bankruptcy Fisker was taken over by Chinese automotive parts maker Wanxiang America, Corp.  They have stated that they want to restart production of the Karma.  They have already begun to provide support for the existing Karma owners and have recently broken ground on a factory in Southern California and are expected to start production on the new Karma there in 2017.

 

On the down side production of the Toyota Prius PHEV has stopped as Toyota gears up for the launch of the next generation of Prius.  They do claim that there will be a PHEV version but it is not expected to see the light of day until 2017.  There is a rumor running around that this car will have an electric only range of around 35 miles..

 

It will be interesting to see how the arrival of these new models increases sales of plug-in cars in the final quarter of 2015.  I expect the Volt to be a big seller and Leaf sales to climb back up to the 3,000 per month level once the new versions become widely available but I also think that they will come come late to make much of a difference in 2015 sales which I expect to come in well behind the numbers sold in 2014. 2016 should see sales improve again as the new models start to arrive in volume.


Sunday Aug 9, 2015 July 2015 EV Sales Plug-in Sales continued to falter in June with estimated sales of 10,365 cars and it didn't get any better in July as only 8,951 plug-in cars were sold during the month. When you compare that with the 11,242 cars that sold in July, 2014 the numbers are extremely disappointing. A combination of cheap gas, the anticipation of new models expected later this year and the general low inventory of cars from some major manufacturers have combined to make electric car sales very weak.
 
This month has been a pretty bad month for plug-in sales but Ford seems to have bucked the trend by selling 1,680 plug-in cars in July which was better than the 1,545 cars they sold in June making then the top the list of plug-in sales for the month.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 852 cars in June up from 727 cars sold in June but still short of their best month of the year, May, when they sold 986 cars.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi also increased from the 667 cars sold in June to 693 cars sold in July but again short of the 715 cars sold in May, their best month of the year so far.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales falling to 135 cars, down from the 152 cars that they sold in June.
  
While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US, Inside EV do a pretty good job of estimating how many cars they sell each month. In July they estimated that Tesla delivered 1,600 cars in the US. Tesla has announced that delivery of the Model X is set to begin in September and the plant in Northern California is now being reconfigured to support production of the new model so I expect sales in August to be low too.
 
GM have stopped production of the current generation of Volt as they gear up for the release of the 2016 model which can already be ordered here in California. They have introduced incentives to begin clearing down the inventory of the 2015 Volt and this appears to be pushing sales. For the first time in a long time the Volt actually outsold the Nissan Leaf with sales of 1,313 cars. Given the ever lowering inventory this can be considered quite a success. Previously in June GM had sold 1,225 Volts.
 
Low inventory continues to impact sales of the Chevy Spark and it appears that the next shipment of cars from Korea won't happen until September so it's not surprising that thy managed to sell just 57 cars in July. This was well below the 226 cars they managed to sell in June.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR is also constrained by dealer inventory. Going into July there were less than 250 cars on dealer lots and GM is no longer making the 2015 model. It was a surprise then that GM managed to sell more cars in July than they did in June increasing sales from 62 up to 66. As there are now less than 200 ELRs on Cadillac lots I expect sales in August to be quite low.
 
In July GM sold a total of 1,436 cars pushing them up to third place in overall plug-in sales for the month.
  
 Nissan Leaf sales plunged in July from 2,074 cars sold in June to just 1,174 cars in July. This dropped them down to the number 4 position. Sales of the Leaf are being constrained by two factors, the existence of a large number of low mileage lease returns that have dragged down the used car price, and the anticipated arrival of the mid cycle refresh in September which is expected to push the range of the Leaf to over 100 miles for the same price point.
 
After selling 688 cars in May sales at BMW climbed back above the 1,000 mark in July selling 1,152 plug-in cars which was enough to keep them in 5th Place just 22 cars short of Nissan's total.
 
BWM i3s sales climbed from 551 cars sold in June to 935 cars in July. This was their second best month of the year after the 1,089 cars they sold in February and brings the back to more normal sales levels.

A typical BMW i8 will sit on the lot just 25 days before it is sold so sales are obviously inventory constrained. In June they sold 137 cars and this number climbed to 217 cars in July making it the best month since the car went on sale in August 2014.

 
Toyota continues to constrain inventory of the Prius Plug-in and with RAV4-EV apparently sold out and production of the Prius Plugin halted they still manage to sell 548 Plug-in Prius this month besting the 464 cars sold in June. I think this increase has a lot to do with the California HOV sticker program which was expanded again in July. Still, now that production of the Plug-in Prius has ended, and dealers reporting that they are not able to get more cars, I expect to see sales tail off over the next few months as Toyota focuses on sales of their fuel cell vehicle.

 
Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 363 cars in June sales increased to 485 in July making this the best selling of the compliance cars.


Even the e-Golf, which had been setting monthly sales records each month since it first went on sale, failed to surpass the 410 cars that VW sold in May but still saw sales rise from 293 cars in June to 313 cars in July. VW do appear to be attempting to sell these cars rather than just treating them as compliance cars.
  
Mercedes Benz couldn't quite reach June's total of 242 cars but they still managed to sell 196 B-Class Electric Drive cars.
 
July also saw The introduction of their first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV with 10 cars being delivered. I expect to see sales of this car increase in August as cars become more available at dealerships but since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.
 
Overall Mercedes Benz sold 206 Plug-in cars in July.
  
Sales of the Cayenne S e-hybrid appears to be coming mostly at the expense of the Panamera S e-Hybrid, Porsche had a relatively poor month this month with just 140 plug-in car sales, being rescued only by higher deliveries of the 918 Spyder.
 
For the second time month over month sales for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid failed to increase with sales of 77 cars down from 88 cars in June, and well below the all time record set in May when they sold 105.
 
Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction but July was the exception as sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid fell from June's 34 cars down to 23 in July.
 
Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 40 more cars in July. So far Porsche has shipped 271 cars to the US leaving 26 still left to be delivered.
 
Smart had a slightly better month in July with sales of its Electric Drive rising to 109 cars, Just a little better than the 93 cars they sold in June. Things look even better when you look at overall sales at Smart which was just 441 units which means that the electric drive sales went back to a more normal 25% of total Smart sales.
 
After setting their best sales numbers for 2015 in June, sales of the Kia Soul EV dropped in July, going from the June level of 109 cars down to just 57 cars. The Kia Soul is a pretty unique vehicles right now, basically being the only compact fully electric SUV currently available so it's sales should be going pretty well, and in truth Kia says that sales are better than expected. The issue has to be inventory so I took a quick look to see what is available in a 50 mile radius of LA and came up with only 3 cars. Mitsubishi and Honda have already proved that you can't sell what you don't have and here is further proof. Hopefully this is just a lull until the 2016 model begins hitting showrooms.
 
After turning in their best month of 2015 in June with 24 cars sold, Mitsubishi sales dropped back to a more normal 12 cars in July. The problem has always been twofold. First Mitsubishi has a limited number of dealerships across the country compared to most manufacturers and dealer inventory has been almost none existent. They are expected to launch their Outlander PHEV in the US later this year so I hope they manage to keep inventory high enough for this plug-in SUV to be as much of a success as it has been in Europe where it became the best selling plug-in this June.
 
The only plug-in offering from Honda is now the Accord plug-in, the car that seems to appeal only to die-hard Honda fans that crave a plug-in car. After three straight months of selling 5 cars, the Accord Plug-ins total fell to 4 in June and down to just 1 car in July. Honda, like Japanese rival Toyota think that hydrogen is the fuel of the future and are putting all their investment dollars into rolling out a fuel cell vehicle. They have announced that the Accord Plug-in is being discontinued but hint that new Plug-in Hybrid and all electric models are being developed.
 
I have to say that I was very disappointed with the June sales numbers and the July sales numbers were even worse. I think we are going to see sluggish sales for the next couple of months as older models are phased out and the new models begin to arrive in dealerships in September. The Chevy Volt is selling slowly right now but the 2016 model, with an EPA rating of 53 miles of all electric range and 42mpg on 87 octane gas the 2016 model should once again become a best seller and with the longer range Nissan Lead and the Tesla Model X also expect to begin deliveries in September the last quarter of 2015 should prove to be very interesting.


Sunday August 2, 2015 New Electrics It seems like I haven't had time to do updates on the evfinder web site for a while apart from adding eBay sales information and classified ads.  In addition almost media these days is focused on the large vehicle manufacturers who now have plug-in cars on sale and others that are about to be launched, but there are still people trying to get new NEV offerings and three wheel electric vehicles to market so I thought I would highlight some of those today.

 

A company that is already up and running is ecoCentre based in Riverside, CA.  They sell a whole range of NEVs and one electric scooter through two dealerships in California but are looking to add dealerships. Their cars include the Eco M which is a fully enclosed NEV designed to provide mobility for those confined to wheelchairs by allowing a wheelchair to be driven into the vehicle from the back to become the driver's seat.  There is also the Eco E which is a conventional 2 seat NEV.  The line-up is filled out by the Eco Truck, which is a drop side truck, and the Eco Van which has sliding doors on both sides and can be configured as either a panel van or a passenger carrier with two rows of bench seats in the back.  For the two wheel enthusiast they offer the Eco Cycle which they say has a range of about 60 miles and a top speed of 65mph.

 

Another NEV that is starting to show up is the Urbee which is manufactured in China by ZAP-Jonway.  This NEV comes in 2 seat and 4 seat variations and has hard doors.  The NEV is also being sold by Mullen Technologies as the Mullen 100e for the two seat and Mullen 100e4 for the 4 seat.  I think there may be other companies that are taking the Urbee body and adding US made parts to make it a road worthy NEV in the US but so far I haven't had time to track them down..

 

One other NEV that is in development looked like a really cool car to me; the Autokart.  The Autokart is designed to look like an electric car from the Brass era and does look like a horseless carriage.  So far the company only makes an off road version of the car but they do eventually plan to obtain NEV certification.  I think it would be very neat to drive down to run around town in such a car and it would certainly get people's attention.

 

There has also been a resurgence in interest for three wheel cars which was enhanced when English carmaker Morgan began to sell an updated version of their classic Morgan 3 wheeler.  They have been experimenting with electric drive trains and recently announced that they are planning to put an all electric version of the 3 wheeler into production.

 

Another car that may be rescued from the grave is the Corbin Sparrow.  At one time this was about the only non-NEV electric car that could be found but Corbin only managed to produce about 300 of the little single seat 3 wheeler before they had to shut shop.  The car was picked up by Myers Motors who made some remarkable improvements to the car and completed about 40 bodies that they acquired from Corbin but did not follow up by making additional cars.  Now a Vancouver company is planning on bringing back the car although to date there are few details that are available.

 

Finally one man is trying to raise the $50,000 to put the Indy One into production.  The Indy One is actually going to be a Kit car. It uses electric drive train parts recycled from a Toyota Prius.  The claim is that this car will get 100 miles of range and can be built for a little as $9,500.

 

While organizations like Plug-in America advocate for full freeway capable plug-in cars I have always said that there is a place for electric vehicles that fit niche areas such as NEVs and are perfect for running around town, and three wheelers that can be used for short range commutes.  These cars don't need to be overly expensive but they can provide a lot of electric only miles when used for the purpose they were intended.


Sunday July 26, 2015 FCEV Fueling Problems This week John Voelcker reported in Green Car Journal that people who had leased the Hyundai Tucson FCEV were having problems finding working hydrogen fueling stations.  This came as a surprise as these cars are only leased in Southern California because that is the place that has the hydrogen refueling stations. 

 

Well it turns out that the roll-out of the early fuel cell vehicles has not gone exactly as planned and drivers have been plagued with fuel station issues that is some cases has meant that the cars have had to sit in driveways because there was no place available to fuel them up.  That's not what you want to hear when you are paying $499 a month to lease a car. 

 

In general fuel cell vehicle drivers like their cars.  Nothing unusual here since these people are early adopters so they will be more enthusiastic about their rides that the average Joe.  It should also be remembered that these are really extended range electric vehicles where the battery pack is charged by a fuel cell vehicle instead of a gas engine.  The major difference though is that the battery pack cannot be charged separately so you are totally reliant on being able to get hydrogen to drive the vehicle. They do have all the advantage of electric cars though, like smooth acceleration and instant torque.

 

Hyundai Tucson FCEV drivers have been finding more and more that they arrive at a fueling station only to find that it is out of order.  In some cases the station is working but can only handle about two cars per hour so in some cases they have to wait for a while before the hydrogen pump is ready to refuel the next vehicle.  Several of the older stations were also built to provide hydrogen at 5000psi but today's fuel cell cars require 10,000psi.  This doesn't stop fueling but will only deliver about half a tank which means range is also cut in half.

 

Part of the problem is that the roll-out of new fueling stations has been slower than expected.  To make matters worse some older stations have been taken off line to upgrade them so instead of more fuel  stations being available there are actually less.  According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership there are 48 new stations in various stages of construction with three of these ready to be commissioned.  Why they took stations off line to upgrade before these new stations were ready is a mystery.

 

They likened the roll-out of the hydrogen stations to the early roll-out of electric vehicle charging stations.  There is a big difference however.  With an electric car all you need is a place to plug in.  Since most people have electricity in their homes it becomes pretty easy for them to install a charger and for many people all they need is a dedicated 110V receptacle.  This means that most electric car drivers don't need public chargers most of the time.  FCEV drivers on the other hand cannot fuel at home so they are tethered to the filling stations just like gas car drivers have been for more than a hundred years.

 

I am still very skeptical about hydrogen fuel cells.  Toyota claim that they have the ability to build them at reasonable cost once the refueling infrastructure is in place.  There is also a lot of hype about getting hydrogen from water using electrolysis but the reality is that to be cost effective hydrogen is created by steam reformatting natural gas which puts us right back with the fossil fuel industry,  The only benefit of FCEVs is that they can be refilled in a short time and offer a range of over 300 miles.  With the improvements we have been seeing for battery electric vehicles I think that fuel cells will become irrelevant long before the FCEV becomes a viable alternative.


Sunday Jul 19, 2015 Quikbyke For many years Bill Moore and his web site, EV World, has been thee source for information about all things EV.  Over the years he has struggled to provide quality stories on a shoestring budget and has been one of the most influential sources of information in the growing world of electric vehicles.  Electric bikes have always figured prominently on his web site and now he is preparing to take things to the next level with Quikbyke.

 

His Kickstarter campaign just got underway as he attempts to raise $275,000 to get the first phase of the Quikbyke project off the ground.
 
Quikbyke is an electric bike rental scheme targeted at the tourist market.  The idea is to re-purpose containers as a rental location for electric bikes.  The containers can then be easily shipped to various tourist destinations at times of peak demand.  For example they can be moved to the north during the summer then be shipped south in the winter to accommodate the snow birds who are visiting the warmer southern states during the winter months.

 

Each container, known as a Pod, can accommodate 15 electric bikes.  Three options will most likely be offered.  The cheapest will be a grid tied pod, there will also be an intermediate pod that has solar panels with a back-up generator in case the bikes are rented and canno  Once set up in a location the bikes can be rented for 2 hours, half a day, or the whole day.   


The pods will contain a variety of bikes from fully electric to regular pedal bikes.  This will allow a family to rent bikes where one person rides a regular bike but those who don't want to do all the pedaling can choose an electric assist bike or a bike that can be run on electric power only.  One of the goals set by Bill is to help people become more familiar with electric bikes and perhaps this will make them think more about their mobility options.

 

Bill's  Kickstarter campaign is different from other campaigns in a pretty interesting way.  Instead of opting to raise funds to complete a number of pods he decided to start by using some incentives so those that contribute $30 will get a Quikbyte t-Shirts.  The main incentive is that for $1,975 you can get a K15 electric bike.  The plan is to raise enough money to build 150 of these bikes with enough left over to fund the first pod.

 

The K15 itself is an interesting electric bike.  The bike is made from bamboo and recycled aluminum.  Power comes from a ZeHus motor.  While the bike is on the expensive side it will be the lightest full sized electric bike currently available.

 

The idea seems sound so I hope that Bill raises enough money to make this a reality.  With 25 days left to go the campaign has raised $5, 170 of the $275,000 required.  Contributions can be made at Kickstarter Quikbyke campaign


Sunday Jul 12, 2015 Climate Deception Report This week I saw a report produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists that alleges that there has been an ongoing campaign by the fossil fuel industry to spread doubt about the validity of global warming science.

 

The report, based on leaked memos from a variety of fossil fuel companies, further alleges that these companies knew about the validity of the science of global warming but still continued to work to prevent legislation that would do anything that would reduce the use of fossil fuels, the primary cause of global warming. 

 

Tactics outlined in the report include building bogus groups that appeared to be grass roots movements but were really fronts for the fossil fuel companies to work against legislation and sway public opinion against global warming science.  The report includes a leaked slide that shows some of these organizations.  One such group led the opposition to the installation of public charging back in the days of the EV1.

 

There is even worse in the report which alleges that people from the coal industry actually sent letters to congressmen that appeared to be from organizations like the NAACP suggesting that they were opposed to certain legislation in an attempt to fool these congressmen into giving a no vote..

 

Another allegation is that the fossil fuel industry funded researches who would create papers that shed doubt on the science of fossil fuel caused global warming.  They site the case of Dr. Wei-Hock Soon who did research into variance in solar legislation through a Smithsonian contract, but the report shows evidence that his funding was provided totally by the fossil fuel industry and the contract with Smithsonian included none-disclosure of the source of funding and the right for the fossil fuel companies to see an advance copy of the report.

 

Another strategy allegedly used by the fossil fuel industry was to change the public's opinion of climate science by making it seem that the science of global warming was just a theory that was still highly debated among climate scientists.  In particular they targeted the media who would print opposing views from a small group of scientists with each article it published about the rise in global temperature. 

 

So how long has the fossil fuel industry known about the effects of carbon emissions on climate change?  According to information on the Union of Concerned Scientists web site an email from a former Exxon employee has turned up that indicates that they were factoring climate change into their decisions on new fossil extraction in 1981.

 

If these allegations are true, and there seems to be credible evidence to back them up, then we are looking at a massive conspiracy to keep the business as usual, even with the threat of dire consequences for future generations.  The effort pretty much models what the tobacco industry did when the health impacts of smoking became apparent.  It shouldn't be a surprise then that some of the same individuals are behind the two campaigns.

 

If you want to decide about this then just take a look at the comments following recent articles on climate change.  You will find the same old comments fed to the public over and over again. 

 

That the 97% consensus among climate scientists that human use of fossil fuels cause climate change is wrong.  Actually according to a recent study the number is more like 99% of those publishing articles on the subject. 

 

That the increase in temperature stopped some number of years ago.  The number of years given varies but is usually around 18 years ago.  This comes from scientists who looked at only NASA satellite data that measures the temperature in the lower atmosphere.  This has been extensively investigated and it turns out the heat is being absorbed in lower layers of the ocean.

 

Climate scientists often work from elaborate climate models and of course these will be brought into question in the comments.  However, studies of these climate models have shown that they are actually pretty good at identifying trends in the climate.

 

There will usually be a post that claims the problem is really the need for population control.  This is one of those things that is true but is just a red herring having little to do with the amount of carbon being pushed into the atmosphere every day.

 

It is now pretty clear that the climate is warming at an alarming rate and that it is mostly caused by human factors especially the burning of fossil fuels to create the vast amounts of energy required by life in the 20th century.  Yet still the attacks continue, the latest being an attempt to get the federal tax incentive for electric cars repealed by having a group of economists create a paper that says that EVs are worse for the environment than gas cars.  It's funny how the conclusion is that because plug-in cars are charged using coal which produces more pollution that running cars on gas the federal tax incentive should be dropped, rather than the obvious conclusion that if coal is so dirty we should stop using it to generate electricity.

 

It is clear that we need to work to prevent catastrophic global warming and if the fossil fuel industry knowingly tried to derail efforts to address the problem then the need to be held accountable.


Sunday July 5, 2015 June 2015 EV Sales Plug-in Sales continued to falter in June with estimated sales of 10,365 cars which was almost 2,000 shy of the number sold in June 2014.  Worldwide sales did continue to climb with both Europe and China selling more plug-in cars than the US for the first time ever.  Meanwhile US buyers seem to be gravitating back to large SUVs and Trucks.


While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US they did release world wide sales numbers for the second quarter, delivering a total of 11,507 vehicles. This exceeded what Tesla's target by about 500 vehicles and represents average world wide sales of about 3,800 cars per month.  Based on this number, sales estimated by Inside EV of 2,800 cars seems to be reasonable so I am going to go with their estimated for this month.  This is also a big improvement on the 2,400 cars they were estimated to have delivered in May and was enough for them to retain the number one spot for monthly plug-in Sales.
 
Nissan Leaf sales dropped slightly from the 2,104 cars sold in May to 2074 cars in June. This is the second time in 2015 that Nissan sales has topped the 2,000 mark that was so common in 2014. This pushed them up to the number 2 position and the leaf is still the overall number one selling plug-in in the US. Sales of the Leaf are being constrained by two factors, the existence of a large number of low mileage lease returns that have dragged down the used car price, and the anticipated arrival of the mid cycle refresh which is expected to push the range of the Leaf to over 100 miles for the same price point.  There are rumors that the improved range Leaf could appear in dealerships as soon as August

Ford sold a total of 1,545 plug-in cars in June which was lower than May's total of 1,866 cars but was still enough to move them into the number three slot in total plug-in sales.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 727 cars in June down from 986 cars sold in May
 
The C-Max Energi lost a little ground from the 715 cars sold in May with 667 cars leaving dealer lots in June.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with the second best month of the year sales number of 152 cars. This was just a little down from the 165 cars sold in May.
 
GM have stopped production of the current generation of Volt as they gear up for the release of the 2016 model which can already be ordered here in California. They have introduced incentives to begin clearing down the inventory of the 2015 Volt and this appears to be pushing sales. Like the Leaf, the Volt continued to sell at more normal levels again this month selling 1,225 cars which is still a sizable drop from the 1,618 cars they sold in May.
 
After selling an astounding 920 of their Spark compliance car in April, depleted inventory meant that sales of this car would be expected to be much lower until a new batch of cars come in from Korea. Still, GM managed to sell 226 cars in June, down from the 283 cars in the month of May. which was their second best month ever. Going into June there were only about 100 cars left in inventory os more cars must have arrived from Korea and it will be interesting to see how this affects sales for July.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR is constrained by dealer inventory.  Going into June there were less than 300 cars on dealer lots and GM is no longer making the 2015 model.  It should be no surprise then that sales dropped from 116 cars in May down to 62 in June. I expect numbers to continue to fall in the coming months as dealer inventory gets lower and lower.
 
In June GM sold a total of 1,512 cars dropping them in forth place in overall plug-in sales for the month.
 
After selling 935 cars in May sales at BMW dropped down to 688 plug-in cars for June which was enough to keep them in 5th Place.
 
BWM i3s sales fell from 818 cars sold in May down to 551 cars in June.  BMW appear to be keeping enough cars in inventory so this car looks like it is a victim on the American consumer's move back to less fuel efficient cars which is being driven by cheaper gas prices.

A typical BMW i8 will sit on the lot just 20 days before it is sold so sales are obviously inventory constrained. In May they sold 117 cars and this number climbed to 137 cars in June  I don't expect BMW to ship this car in large numbers so the i8 is likely to be the next Ford Focus EV selling in the 100 to 200 range each month.
 
Toyota continues to constrain inventory of the Prius Plug-in and with RAV4-EV apparently sold out and production of the Prius Plugin halted they sold just 464 plug-in cars in June.
 
In May Toyota had their best sales month of the year for the Prius Plug-in selling 727 cars. With the California HOV stickers now sold out sales in June dropped to 464 cars, about the same level as the number of cars sold each month in 2015 other than May.

Toyota have reported no sales of the RAV4-EV so it looks like this car will now only be available on the used market.

 

Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 420  cars in May sales fell to a still respectable 363 in June.
 

Even the e-Golf, which had been setting monthly sales records each month since it first went on sale, failed to surpass the 410 cars that VW sold in May with sales falling to 293 cars, the worst month since they sold 195 cars back in March.  This was even after dealer inventory at the start of June had increased a Little with about 800 cars on dealer lots.

  

Mercedes Benz couldn't quite reach May's total of 278 cars but they still managed to sell 242 B-Class Electric Drive cars, the second best month of 2015.  They are planning to introduce new plug-in hybrid models over the next few months so we should see sales increase unless, like Porsche, the new models pull sales from the older model.
  

Even though sales of the Cayenne S e-hybrid appears to be coming mostly at the expense of the Panamera S e-Hybrid, Porsche was one of the bright spots in plug-in sales this month as they sold 151 cars, 5 more than they sold in May.

 

For the first time month over month sales for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid failed to increase with sales of 88 cars, down from the all time record in May with 105 cars sold.

 
Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid seem to go in the opposite direction and June was no exception as sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid increased from 21 cars in May to 34 cars in June.

 
Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 29 more cars in June. So far Porsche has shipped 231 cars to the US leaving 66 still left to be delivered.

 

Sales of the Kia Soul EV continued to climb in June going from the May level of 108 cars to 109 cars this month. This is the best sales numbers for 2015. Kia has said that sales of the Soul EV have been better than expected and will begin selling in more states later in the year. Since then sales seem to have declined from their best month of 140 that they sold in November, 2015. I expected much better sales than this, especially since this car fits into the small SUV niche and should have benefitted from the demise of the RAV4-EV, so I think that once again sales are being constrained by inventory.

 

Smart had another bad month in June with sales of its Electric Drive falling to just 94 cars, 8 less than the 102 they sold in June.  What makes it a bad month is that overall sales at Smart were 774 units which means that the electric drive sales fell to around 12.1% of total Smart sales, well below the 25-30% sales numbers we saw last year. Sales of the Smart Electric Drive still make up a much bigger percentage of overall sales than for any other manufacturer that sells plug-in cars in America except Tesla who only sell plug-in cars.

 

Mitsubishi had their best month in 2015 but that's not saying much as they only sold 24 cars in June but it still beat the 18 cars sold in May.  The problem has always been twofold. First Mitsubishi has a limited number of dealerships across the country compared to most manufacturers and dealer inventory has been almost none existent. They are expected to launch their Outlander PHEV in the US later this year so I hope they manage to keep inventory high enough for this plug-in SUV to be as much of a success as it has been in Europe where it became the best selling plug-in this month.

 

The only plug-in offering from Honda is now the Accord plug-in, the car that seems to appeal only to die-hard Honda fans that crave a plug-in car. After three straight months of selling 5 cars, the Accord Plug-ins total fell to 4 in June. Honda, like Japanese rival Toyota think that hydrogen is the fuel of the future and are putting all their investment dollars into rolling out a fuel cell vehicle.  They have announced that the Accord Plug-in is being discontinued but hint that new Plug-in Hybrid and all electric models are being developed.
 
I have to say that I was very disappointed  with the June sales numbers.  There are many factors that are influencing these sales numbers including yet another study from a right wing organization that concludes that plug-in cars are worse for the environment than gas cars instead of concluding that we really need to clean up the electric grid, the low cost of gas luring people into buying SUVs, the end of the California HOV  lane benefit for plug-in hybrids, and the expectation that new models with improved range at current prices.  This leaves us with some questions.  How much pent-up demand is waiting for the upgraded Leaf and 2016 Volt?  How much demand will there be for the new PHEVs expected to launch later this year from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Mitsubishi?.  How much damage to sales will the pull out of Toyota from the plug-in market do?  I guess we will find out as the year progresses.


Sunday June 28, 2015 Good Deeds and Headaches This week I passed 1,200 miles on the current tank of gas in my Plug-in Prius (PIP).  I also found out that effective June 19 my Prius has also become just a little bit cleaner.

 

There was a recent paper that was produced by four notable economists that once again used the old "charged from coal" argument to say that plug-in cars are worse for the environment that gas cars.  This isn't what gave me a headache though and although the right wing conservative press was saying "take that you environmental lefties", this type of article only shows that we need to clean up the electric grid not go back to gas cars.  It also had less credence because it was published through an organization that is supported by four right wing conservative foundations. 

 

The grid is actually getting cleaner and the reason my PIP just got cleaner is that BHE Renewables just put the world's largest solar power plant on line.  Their 579 Megawatt Solar Star power plant is located in the Antelope valley just north of Los Angeles and will supply energy to Southern California Edison, the utility company that supplies energy to the area where I live and charge my car.

 

On Wednesday afternoon when I took my wife to her physical therapy session I charged at the public charger on North Beverly Drive which is supplied by Southern California Edison.  I entered the parking lot on Cannon Drive and there was a Fiat 500e just leaving.  He must have just finished charging because one of the level 2 chargers was available.  The other was in use by a Tesla and the two level 1 spaces were both blocked by cars not using the chargers.

 

When we returned to the car about an hour later there was a Nissan Leaf parked in the space next to mine.  I took a quick look at the front of his car and noticed that the charge port door was open.  For those that don't know, this is a request to connect the charger when you are done.  I connected the charger and, my good deed for the day being done, set off for home.  I checked my Chargepoint report and the Leaf charged for just over two and a half hours and took thirteen kilowatt hours so the car must have been pretty low on charge.

 

My wife's next physical therapy session was on Friday and when I arrived at the parking structure on North Beverly Drive all 4 EV charging spaces were full.  There was a Tesla and a Volt using the level 2 chargers with a C-Max Energi and another Tesla blocking the two level 1 spaces.  I got lucky though as the person parked right next to the charging spaces pulled out and that space was close enough for me to get to the Level 1 with an extension cord.

 

I got the cord out of the back of the PIP and began to run it along the space between the parking stops and the wall.  Then bang, I hit my head on a pipe that was hanging low.  It hurt quite a bit and I had a headache for a couple of hours afterwards.  Fortunately I did no serious damage although as I write this I still have a lump and it hurts if I touch it.

 

Now the sad part.  The Toyota supplied EVSE drops the charger current to zero during charging.  The Chargepoint chargers seem to interpret this as a ground fault and give an error.  In the end I only managed to get 4 miles of range out of the charge instead of the 6 I was expecting.  Still, it was more than enough to get me home.

 

Now a little bit of a rant.  I have often praised the City of Beverly Hills for their support for EV charging.  They have the best rules that I have seen so far to control the use of these chargers.  Their rules say that you must be connected for charging purposes, They give you an hour grace period after the charge has completed, and they do not allow people to reserve the chargers by parking on the cable or using a charge timer.  The problem is that they are not enforcing these rules.  EV drivers have learned that they are not going to be ticketed or towed for parking there without charging so it is not unusual to find cars parked in these spots blocking the chargers.  I've seen all four chargers being blocked with not a single one of these EVs being connected to the chargers.  Worse yet, last week I saw a charger being ICED by an SUV.  This is the first time I've seen ICING in a long time and I hope this is not going to become a regular thing.  Perhaps it's time for me to contact Parking Enforcement in the city to see if I can prod the to start enforcing the charger rules.


Sunday June 21, 2015 Honda Pulls the Plug This week we had a big announcement from Honda that it was pulling the plug on plug-ins: at least for now. 

 

We all know that Honda is not a big fan of plug-in vehicles and, while proving that they could build an outstanding EV, chose to only sell it as a compliance car.  The Honda Fit EV was an excellent electric car but taking a leaf out of the 1997 EV+ playbook the car was never offered for sale, just for lease.  To Honda's credit they are allowing owners to re-lease their cars and are also allowing people to lease cars that are returned at the end of their initial lease.  The sad thing is that the Fit EV was an outstanding vehicle that could have sold well if it had been given a chance.. 

 

The Fit EV was produced in a limited number and new leases ended once those cars had been placed in the hands of customers.  Honda also has a whole set of cars that were more environmentally friendly including the Civic Hybrid, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and the Civic CNG.  Honda's latest announcement says that all of these cars are going to be axed..

 

Now the Civic Hybrid has been around for a lot of years but Honda says that the new Civic will get close to the same gas mileage, around 40mpg, as the hybrid so it is not worth keeping that in production.  The Accord Plug-in was always over priced and inventory has always been kept low so it never sold well.  Pulling the plug on that model should come as no surprise.

 

The decision to pull the plug on the Honda Civic CNG is a different matter.  Honda say that the re-fueling infrastructure just never grew to support the car.  Since Honda was about the only company that built a CNG car for none-fleet use this is not anything unexpected but still, Honda had a nice niche with this vehicle which I would have expected it to try and hold onto.

 

Honda's plans going forward center around the release of the next generation Civic which should have improved fuel efficiency.  They are also planning to introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2016.  I think that infrastructure is going to be an issue with this car too.  While Honda and Toyota are investing a lot in adding new hydrogen fueling stations older stations have already shut down.  The public station in Burbank closed a few months ago and when I drove past the one in West LA last week I noticed that the hydrogen pump had gone from there too.  The issue here is not just to have the fueling stations in place they have to do enough business to remain and on-going concern.

 

Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid drive will head into the history books along with the Civic hybrid but they will continue to offer none plug-in hybrid versions of the Accord and the Acura NSX. These will be based on a multi electric motor system more on the lines of those used by Toyota and Ford..

 

In the future Honda plans to introduce a new electric car which will be designed from the ground up to be electric.  They also held out the possibility of another plug-in hybrid at some time in the future.  These cars are likely to be introduced no earlier than 2017 when the competition for cars with a 200 mile range will begin to heat up as offerings from Nissan, GM and Tesla begin to hit showrooms. 

 

I've been very disappointed with Honda recently.  They were once the company with the best green credentials but with this latest announcement they seem to have surrendered the environmental leader crown; at least for now.


Sunday Jun 14, 2015 EV The Next Generation The usual life of a car model in the US is about 5 years but it's still hard to believe that the current generation of EVs are coming to the end of their models life,  Starting this year we will begin to see revamped versions of some of our best known models with new and improved cars coming down the production line by 2017.

 

Of course some carmakers are just getting their first generation machines into showrooms and we should be starting to see new plug-in hybrids from Mercedes Benz, Volvo, and Audi beginning to make an appearance by the end of this year.  It is also possible that Mitsubishi will finally put the Outlander PHEV in sale here in the US.  It is promised for late this year but has been delayed several times in the past.  Tesla is also promising that the long awaited Model X will start deliveries in late September.
 
The big news though has been the revamp of three of our most sold models, the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Prius Plug-in.  These should begin rolling into dealerships starting in a few months.

 

Chevy showed the updated Volt back in January at the Detroit Auto Show.  The big news here is that all electric range is set to increase from the current generation's 38 miles up to around 50 miles.  The Volt should sell for slightly lower than the original model due mostly to battery improvements.  It also has a third seat added over the battery tunnel but this is not going to be very useful.  I expect the EPA will come out with a range number a little lower than the 50 miles GM has been saying, probably 48 miles but this is still a very useful range for most people.  Volt production has already been shut down to enable the switch over to the new model which can currently be ordered in California only and I anticipate deliveries starting in early September.


Cadillac is also revamping the ELR with the new model expected to debut at the LA Auto Show in November.  Rumor has it that the ELR won't get the range boost given to the Volt but will more than likely see a sizable cut in the base price instead.  Still, I will be surprised if we don't see a range boost for the new model.  I expect deliveries of the updated ELR to start in the second half of 2016.

 

Nissan is also revamping the Leaf and I expect the next generation to show up at the Tokyo Auto Show in November, or possible at the Detroit Auto Show in January.  The expectation is that the Leaf will get a range boost up to around 100 miles while staying at about the same base price.  It is possible the higher range will be an option rather than an across the board update.

 

Toyota is also in the process of refreshing the Prius and will halt production of the Plug-in Prius at the end of this month.  The next generation is not likely to hit these shores until late 2016 as a 2017 model but the expectation is that the new model will have a longer EV range.  EV range has been on the top of most peoples wish list for the next generation plug-in especially with owners who post on Prius Chat.  I don't expect much boost in range with a possible bump up to 20 miles, making it competitive with the two Ford plug-in hybrids.  Of course Toyota has no real love for plug-ins so we may also see the car with little or no extra range.

 

Looking a little further out Chevy is developing the Bolt (as in Lightning Bolt) a compact crossover which has a targeted range of 200 miles.  At present only the luxury segment Tesla Model S, and probably the Model X when it finally makes its appearance, offers this sort of range.  GM drivers have been seen out test driving the Bolt recently so I expect that we will have more news at this year's LA Auto Show. GM hasn't priced the Bolt yet but prices are expected to be competitive with the Leaf and the BMW i3.  It looks like the Bolt will go on sale towards the end of 2016 as a 2017 model.  It is expected to be a replacement for the Sprint EV but should go on sale nationwide rather than being just a compliance car.

 

Both Nissan and Ford are also supposed to be working on their own 200 mile range EVs too but as yet there has been no announcements.  We may see something at the next LA or Detroit Auto show.

 

The most anticipated new EV is Tesla's model 3 which is currently projected for launch in late 2017.  There is no solid information on the range of the model 3 but it is widely expected to have around 200 miles, and there are hints that the range may be even longer.  However, given Tesla's track record it is quite likely that the model 3 will also have delays and if Chevy, Nissan, and Ford beat them into the reasonable cost 200 mile range EV space then they may have problems building market share.

 
In the mean time Tesla have announced an upgrade to the Roadster that will bump the range up to the 400 miles.  I wonder how many Roadster drivers will take advantage of this.

 

It does appear that we are starting to see impressive improvements in electric cars with range going up and costs coming down.  I fully expect the 200 mile range EV to really drive the conversion to electric vehicles.


Sunday Jun 7, 2015 May 2015 EV Sales I'm not sure if I should be happy about the number of EVs sold in May or not. The big EV makers returned to a more normal level and several models set new sales records but still sales were down almost 7% from a year earlier showing that lower gas prices and the impending arrival of the next generation of Volt and Leaf are having an impact on plug-in sales.

While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US They have at least started publishing quarterly world wide sales. While this should make it a little easier for analysts to gage sales during the month, sales estimates are still vary wildly from as low as 750 cars to 2,400 cars. Inside EV was the ones who estimates that the actually delivered 2,400 cars this month which would be enough to put them in top place for plug-in car sales. Based on the sales numbers in Europe and the build rates at Tesla I think this is probably a good number so I am going with their estimate. In April Tesla sold an estimated 1,700 cars.

Nissan Leaf sales rose from the 1,553 cars sold in April to 2,104 cars sold in May. This is the first time in 2015 that Nissan sales has topped the 2,000 mark that was so common in 2015. This pushed them up to the number 3 position and the leaf is still the overall number one selling plug-in in the US. Sales of the Leaf are being constrained by two factors, the existence of a large number of low mileage lease returns that have dragged down the used car price, and the expected arrival of the next generation Leaf which is widely expected to offer range above 100 miles for the same price point.

GM have stopped production of the current generation of Volt as they gear up for the release of the 2016 model which can already be ordered here in California. They have introduced incentives to begin clearing down the inventory of the 2015 Volt and this appears to be pushing sales. Like the Leaf, the Volt returned to more normal levels this month selling 1,618 cars which is a big improvement over the 905 cars they sold in April.

After selling an astounding 920 of their Spark compliance car in April, depleted inventory meant that sales of this car would be expected to be much lower in May and that is what we saw. Still, GM managed to sell a remarkable 283 cars in the month of May which was their second best month ever. Going into June there were only about 100 cars left in inventory so unless the get a big shipment of cars from Korea early in the month sales are likely to be much lower in June.

Sales of the Cadillac ELR also did better this month with sales going from 104 cars in April to 116 cars in May. There are now less than 300 ELR still in dealer inventory and GM is not currently building anymore and probably won't restart production again until the 2016 model which is set to arrive in late summer.

In June GM sold a total of 2,017 cars keeping them in third place in overall plug-in sales for the month.

Ford also retained their position as the number 4 seller of plug-in cars in May with plug-in sales of 1,866 cars spread out across their three models.

As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 986 cars in May up from 711 cars in April. This was their best numbers for 2015 but still fell just a little short of the 1,000 mark.

The C-Max Energi also had a good month selling 715 cars which tied their previous best month of the year, March. This was also an improvement over the 553 cars they sold in April.

Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with the best month of the year sales number of 165 cars. This was well ahead of the 124 cars sold in March.

After BMW sales tanked in April dropping to just 544 cars they recovered somewhat in May reaching 935 cars and placing them 5th overall in plug-in sales.

BWM i3s sales climbed back close to the 922 cars they sold in March reaching 818 cars sold in May, more than double the 406 cars they sold in April.

A typical BMW i8 will sit on the lot just 20 days before it is sold so sales are obviously inventory constrained. In April they sold 138 cars and this number dropped to just 117 cars in May but this is not a reflection of demand but more a reflection of lack of supply. I don't expect BMW to ship this car in large numbers so the i8 is likely to be the next Ford Focus EV selling in the 100 to 200 range each month.

Toyota continues to constrain inventory of the Prius Plug-in and with RAV4 EV apparently sold out they sold 727 plug-in cars in April.

After selling just 428 Prius Plug-ins in April sales in May jumped to 727 cars. I think this may have more to do with the fact that the California Green sticker program will reach it's maximum and stop issuing stickers in early June. Last year Toyota sold a massive 2,692 plug-in Prius which dwarfed the numbers currently being sold. The latest news from Toyota is that Prius Plug-in production will end in June and won't resume again until they begin building the generation 4 Plug-in which is not expect to arrive in the US until toward the end of 2016. Toyota say there will be plenty of the current generation to sell going forward but there hasn't really been enough to sell since the 2015 model came out so I expect sales to weaken still further going forward.

Toyota have reported no sales of the RAV4-EV since March so it looks very like they have ended the program after selling 2,475 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they originally planned to build.

Chrysler is a company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e. They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information. After Fiat sold an estimated 717 cars in April sales fell to a still respectable 420 in May.

VW set yet another monthly sales record in May selling 410 e-Golf. The previous sales record was 309 cars sold in April. The e-Golf recently became the best selling plug-in in Europe so US Inventory is still a problem as most of the cars VW build are being kept for the European market. At the start of June inventory had increased a Little with about 800 cars on dealer lots so it will be interesting to see if this translates to a new record high for the coming month.

Mercedes Benz also set a new high as the 2015 models started to arrive in numbers on dealer lots. The B-Class Electric Drive managed a respectable 158 cars in April but May saw this number jump to 278 cars, even beating the 240 cars they sold in January. They are also looking at introducing new plug-in hybrid models over the next few months so we should see sales continue to increase.

The shift in sales at Porsche away from the Panamera S e-Hybrid to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid continued in May with another monthly sales record for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid up from the 88 cars sold in April to 105 cars sold in May, the first time they have gotten into three figures. I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV currently on offer now that sales of the RAV4-EV have stopped

Unfortunately Porsche appear to be taking sales from themselves. As sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid increase sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid go in the opposite direction falling from 30 cars in April to just 21 cars in May.

Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 20 more cars in May. So far Porsche has shipped 202 cars to the US leaving 95 still left to be delivered.

In all Porsche sold 146 plug-in cars in March, 20 more than they sold in April

Sales of the Kia Soul EV continued to climb in May going from the April level of 73 cars to 108 cars this month. This is the best sales numbers for 2015 and the first time they crossed into three digit numbers since last year. Kia has said that sales of the Soul EV have been better than expected and will begin selling in more states later in the year. Since then sales seem to have declined from their best month of 140 that they sold in November, 2015. I expected much better sales than this so I think that once again sales are being constrained by inventory.

Smart had a bad month in May with sales of its Electric Drive falling to just 102 cars, one less than the 103 they sold in March and 22 less than April's 124 cars. What makes it a bad month is that overall sales at Smart were up to over 800 units which means that the electric drive sales fell to around 12.5% of total Smart sales, well below the 25-30% sales numbers we have seen in past months. Sales of the Smart Electric Drive still make up a much bigger percentage of overall sales than for any other manufacturer that sells plug-in cars in America except Tesla who only sell plug-in cars.

Mitsubishi had their best month in 2015 but only accounted for 18 cars being sold in May. That still comes in ahead of the 16 cars they sold in April but way behind the 35 cars they sold in May 2014. The problem has always been twofold. First Mitsubishi has a limited number of dealerships across the country compared to most manufacturers and dealer inventory has been almost none existent. They are expected to launch their Outlander PHEV in the US later this year so I hope they manage to keep inventory high enough for this plug-in SUV to be a success.

The only plug-in offering from Honda is now the Accord plug-in, the car that seems to appeal only to die-hard Honda fans that crave a plug-in car. For the third straight month in a row Honda sold just 5 Accord Plug-ins in May. Honda, like Japanese rival Toyota think that hydrogen is the fuel of the future and are putting all their investment dollars into rolling out a fuel cell vehicle.

May continues to be a good month for plug-in sales and although sales were lower this year than last, there was also one less selling day in 2015 than in 2014. At this point year to date sales are running neck and neck with those in 2014 with a handful more electric cars being sold this year than last. I expect sales numbers to pick up once the 2016 Leaf, and more importantly the 2016 Volt start to show at dealerships in large numbers.


Sunday May 31, 2015 Getting the Word Out One of the best ways to get people familiar with electric cars is to get people to actually drive them.  "Butts in seats" is the main theme for Drive Electric week and statistics have shown that there is generally a large uptick in Plug-in sales right after the event is complete.

 

Yesterday I got the weekly news letter from Plug-in America and one of the stories was about a new initiative in Massachusetts to provide a set of EV Expos that include test drives of various plug-ins.  There will apparently be a series of events under the name "Mass Clean Drive" and the first of these is being held in Devens, MA next Tuesday.  Now this is good news except when I did a Google search for this event all I came up with was the initial event, no information about additional events.  To make matters worse the flyer for the Devens' event tells me to RSVP by May 29 and that's kind of difficult since I didn't get the event info until May 30.

 

Now, I can't speak for how well this event was publicized locally since I am way across the country in California but it seems that if you want to get butts in seats then you need to publicize the event extensively and that doesn't happen on a regular basis.  One of the pages on this web site is the events page but right now there is very few events actually listed there.  The reason is that far too often I don't learn about the event until a day or two before it takes place. 

 

What we really need to do is to make sure that we get the word out.  One thing that I know was very effective was combining an EV Expo with other car shows especially the big auto shows.  When BMW launched the i3 at the LA auto show in 2013 they had about 50 cars that were used to give test drives.  These test drives led directly to sales and is one of the reasons that the i3 has been doing so well in the US.

 

But it's not good enough just to provide test drives.  To get butts in seats you need to get people to the event and the only way that is going to happen is to make sure that people know about the event in plenty of time to make plans to attend,  For most people this means at least a month in advance.

 

There are lots of people that are curious about electric cars but because driving them is different from driving your normal ICE vehicle people need to be educated.  They need to feel for them selves how smooth and quite a plug-in car can be and they need to learn how to manage charging and driving electric cars along with their limitations so that they can make informed decisions about the car.  Ride and drive events are a good way to learn about these cars but they don't do any good if nobody knows about them.


Sunday May 24, 2015 EV v PHEV Charging Just when I thought this issue had been put to bed it has risen again.  In an article in Scotland's Sunday Herald the old question of who has the right to use public charging reared its ugly head again.

 

We had this debate back when the cars like the Chevy Volt were in the concept stage.  The argument was that PHEVs have a gas engine so they can get home without the need for a charge so public charging should be reserved exclusively for pure EVs.  This was when electric charging stations were very rare. 

 

GM saw this as an impediment to sales of the Volt and so it successfully lobbied the California legislature to make public charging stations available to all plug-in drivers.  This has been adopted pretty much everywhere plug-in cars are sold.  For a while the situation was good as infrastructure was rolled out faster then plug-in adoption and so there was usually charging stations available.

 

Now EV drivers are beginning to complain that they are having more and more issues with not being able to charge because chargers being used by PHEV drivers.  Here in Los Angeles we do have a lot of public chargers but we also have a lot of plug-in cars on the road.  I am seeing that it is more common for all the level 2 chargers to be in use.

 

Right now the big problem I see is that both EV and PHEV drivers see the level 2 chargers in use and park in the additional bay reserved for level 1 chargers.  I'm not sure if they don't know the level 1 charging is there or don't care.  I have seen cases where there are 4 charging bays all occupied by plug-in cars and not one of them charging.  In my view this is what is inexcusable.  This situation was also mentioned in the article where an EV driver arrived at a fast charger and it was blocked by a PHEV who couldn't even use the charger.

 

So what about PHEVs getting banned fro public chargers.  The arguments go something like this.

 

The EV driver says that they need the charge to get home while the PHEV driver has a gas engine.  They will never have a problem getting home if they run out of charge so they should not be allowed to use the public chargers which should be available in case an EV driver goes beyond their range and needs to get a charge..

 

The PHEV driver says why should I be penalized because someone bought a car that does not meet need their needs so they have to have chargers sitting around just to cover their bad decision.  The PHEV has such little range that I need to use public chargers to run on EV as much as possible.

 

From the political standpoint what we want is to minimize pollution and that means generating as many EV miles as possible.  For this we need to give everyone access to public chargers.  This access is also needed for those who for whatever reason can't charge at home.  Usually these people are going to be buying a PHEV and will run on EV whenever they can opportunity charge. The bottom line is that it doesn't help the city if the PHEV is spewing out toxins while chargers sit idle on the off chance that an EV driver may need to use one to get home.

 

In the end we are going to need a couple of things.  First we have to make sure that plug-in drivers don't block access to chargers when they are not actually charging.  For this I think that Beverly Hills has got it right.  They have public charging in most of their city owned parking lots.  There are clear signs at these charging bays that say the cars must be connected for charging purposes.  It goes on to say that the driver cannot reserve the space for later charging such as connecting with a charge timer.  The rules also allow a 60 minute grace period after the charge is complete.  Failure to meet these terms can result in cars being ticketed or towed.

 

Right now only EVs are able to use the fast chargers so in a way they have chargers reserved for them already.  A PHEV has no business being parked in these spaces just as no ICE car should be parked in EV charging spaces.  Laws need to be enacted on lines similar to what Beverly Hills has which will stop abuse of charging stations.

 

For those that want to use free charging to attract customers one solution is to provide more charging stations equipped with 110V outlets.  Such outlets are very inexpensive to install and are also going to cost a lot less for power.  For example a 2015 Nissan leaf can pull 6KWh from a Level 2 charger in an hour.  The same car would pull about 1.2 KW from a 110V outlet in the same hour meaning the cost for power for one level 2 charger could provide power to 5 110V outlets although of course this would provide a lot less range per plug-in.

 

The final solution will probably be lots of charging points that charge a reasonable fee.  It needs to be higher than what the owner will pay at home to encourage overnight charging, but still less expensive than putting gas in a car.  So far I haven't seen anyone that has come to a reasonable price as most chargers are either way too expensive or free.  Eventually we will get there but until then EV and PHEV will just have to learn to share the chargers.


Sunday May 12, 2015 PIA Report on EV Promotion Last month Plug-in America (PIA) released a report on the current state of "The Promotion of Electric Vehicles in America".  In General the report gives an accurate picture of the current state of Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV) market.  There are a few things on the report that I think could have been done better and I have addressed these below.

 

The first thing that I wanted to address is the section for Municipal involvement.  I once spent some time with Gary Star from ZAP just after they launched the Xebra and he said something that really stuck with me.  He said that the best thing that State and Municipal bodies could do to help PEV adoption was to add the to their fleets.  Back in the EV1 days many of California's city fleets had EVs.  For example the City of Beverly Hills had 10 RAV4-EVs in their fleet.  Now they have one aging Miles ZX40S NEV.  I must say that Beverly Hills have done a wonderful job of providing public charging station with over 30 charging stations in their public parking structures which is impressive for a town of only 32,000 residents. 

 

The same could be said for companies who could do more to add PEVs to their corporate fleets.  One benefit that helps increase the number of PEVs is the availability of workplace charging.  PIA has recently been promoting a price based system for EV charging at work to deal with the problem of oversubscription to the chargers.  In this report they call for more level 1 charging.  I totally agree with this.  A typical work day is 9 hours and at level 1 this can provide as much as 40 miles of range, enough range for the average commuter to make it home with charge to spare.  Level 1 is not good for long distance travel but where a car just sits in the parking lot all day it is a cheap and effective way to get a charge.

 

While I agree with their recommendations about PEV availability it should also be noted that there are other reasons for the lack of availability across the country that goes beyond the few manufacturers that produce and market a few compliance cars.  Let's take for example Mitsubishi.  Their Outlander PHEV is the best selling plug-in hybrid in the world right now easily outselling The Volt, Prius Plug-in and the two Ford Energi offerings.  There is one problem though, the Outlander is selling so well in Europe and Japan that Mitsubishi has constantly had to push back the US availability date.

 

The problem is the batteries.  No, not the range or the longevity, but the amount that can be produced.  This had a chain reaction effect.  Battery production was being routed to the Outlander PHEV so there were not enough batteries available for the i-MiEV.  Contrary to what this report says the i-MiEV is available nation wide in the US but there are so few of them in Dealer inventory that sales are just a handful each month..

 

That leads me to the next thing I had with the report, it's tone that six major dealers were selling cars in numbers while the rest were only selling in limited states because of the California ZEV mandate.  First, of the six nationwide sellers only 5 actually sell nationwide.  Toyota, who is number 5 on the list, actually only sells the RAV4-EV in two states and has ceased production.  The Prius Plug-in is sold more widely but still only in 16 states and production of the 2015 model will stop in June with the next generation not expected until late 2016 as a 2017 model.  Toyota has made no bones about its opposition to plug-in cars and its Lexus division even had anti-EV ads on television.

 

Smart on the other hand is a much smaller volume company with monthly sales averaging about 500 units.  Still, they sell the Smart EV nationwide and the tiny electric car makes up about 25% of Smart sales in the US.  I think that the report should acknowledge that other car companies are moving towards support of electric cars even if they don't have a sales volume like Nissan, GM or Ford. The Plug-in sales volume is shifting as companies like VW and Mercedes-Benz, who both entered the market last year, begin to ramp up production and sales.

 

The report found that test driving plug-in cars is a very effective way educate the public.  Tesla has demonstrated this by setting up locations in Malls across the nation where people can get an up close look at a Model S and also schedule test drives.  These are not sales locations, in the traditional sense.  You can't go into the Tesla store in Century City Shopping Center and drive away in a brand new Tesla, but you can go in and test drive a car.  I strongly agree with PIA when they say that getting buts into seats is most important at this stage of PEV rollout.  We definitely need to schedule more ride and drive events across the country. 

 

If you want to test drive a gas car you go down to your local dealership and pick a car off the lot and test drive it. The PIA report points out that this doesn't always work with PEVs.  Some dealerships have dedicated sales people who are very knowledgeable about the cars but in many dealerships sales people openly try to steer people away from the PEV.  The reason for this is often given that PEV don't require as much maintenance as a regular gas car so the dealerships want to sell a car that will generate more income at the service counter.

 

I think this is only partially true.  Now this in anecdotal but from what I hear there is less profit margin for the dealership selling a PEV than for other cars.  If the salesman makes $200 from the sale of a PEV and $400 from the sale of an ICE then the salesman is going to push the ICE over the PEV.  Similarly if the dealership makes more money on the ICE they are going to push their salesman to sell those instead of PEV.  It's like when Fiat first offered the 500e with a $199 per month lease rate but many dealerships would not honor that rate choosing to make more money at the cost of PEV sales.

 

This is a situation I expect to resolve itself over time as economies of scale push production costs for PEV lower allowing more profit margin for the manufacturer and the dealer.

 

Another issue that wasn't mentioned is the concerted effort to convince the general public that reduction in CO2 emissions isn't necessary and that plug-in cars are bad for the environment.  Just take a look at any article on global warming and scan down to the comments.  I bet there are a bunch of comments there that say that global warming is a left wing scam to make money; that the real problem is overpopulation; that the earth is cooling not warming.  If you read enough of these articles you will find the same comments over and over again.  The same thing happens when there is an article about electric vehicles.  There will be a bunch of comments that will mention that EVs are charged using power generated from Coal even though Coal makes up less than half of US grid power.  Others will talk about the lack of range or how few charging stations there are.  One of the pillars of this country is the right to free speech so there is not much that you can do about them except to get out information that presents the real situation.

 

Overall I think that the PIA report makes some telling points about the current state of promotion for BEVs.  I think that arranging more ride and drive events and encouraging more state and local government bodies to include PEVs in their fleet is a good way to help build the market.  I think that we need to keep incentives in place for the time being but as far as I can see, even with the nosedive that we have seen in the crude oil market, we are still seeing growth in PEV sales even if the growth is very small.


Sunday May 10, 2015 April 2015 EV Sales With gas prices still low in most parts of the country the big question was could plug-in sales cross the 10,000 barrier for the second month in a row.  The answer was no with estimated sales of around 9,094 vehicles.  This did beat sales April 2014 by the small margin of 199 cars though.

 

This month GM moved back to number 1 in plug-in sales with a total of 1,825 cars sold.
 
The big surprise was that their compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV, actually outsold the Chevy Volt with its best month ever.  After posting an excellent 151 cars in March, stronger inventory and a sizable price cut allowed GM to sell 920 of the little EV in April destroying the previous record of 192 cars sold in March of 2014. Not bad considering that the Spark EV is only sold in California, Oregon, and Maryland.

 

Sales of the Volt picked up a bit in April mostly, due to sales incentives, climbing to 905 cars from the March sales number of 693.  This is still pretty disappointing for the Volt but I expect that this will be the norm until the 2016 comes out later this year.


Sales of the Cadillac ELR also did better this month with sales going from 92 cars in March to 104 cars in April. There are now less than 400 ELR still in dealer inventory and GM is not currently building anymore and probably won't restart production again until the 2016 model which is set to arrive in late summer.

 

While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US They have at least started publishing quarterly world wide sales.  This makes it a little easier for analysts to gage sales during the month especially for the third month of the quarter.   Inside EV Estimates that the actually delivered 1, 700 cars this month which would be enough to put them in second place for plug-in car sales.  In March they sold an estimated 2,450 cars.  The big news from Tesla is that they appear to be on track to begin shipping the Model X toward the end of third quarter and are planning to ramp up production pretty quickly after they begin shipments.

 

Nissan Leaf sales fell in April going from a yearly high of 1,817 cars in March down to 1,553 in April.  So far this year Nissan has failed to reach the 2000 mark that was so common in 2015.  As a result dealer inventory is at the highest level it has ever been with over 6,000 cars on dealer lots. This was still enough plug-in sales to keep them in the number 3 position and the leaf is still the overall number one selling plug-in in the US.

 

Ford dropped from second place in March to fourth place in April with plug-in sales of 1,388 cars spread out across their three models.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 711 cars in April down from 873 cars in March. Ford has been building dealer inventory heading into spring and now has more than 3,000 cars on dealer lots.  The higher inventory levels and the difficulty of finding Prius Plug-ins should lead to improved sales going forward.
 
It looked like big news in April as Sales of the C-Max Energi appeared to have destroyed their previous monthly sales record but it was an error on Ford's part as they has mixed up the sales of the Energi and the C-Max hybrid.  Sales of the C-Max energy has actually dropped from 715 in March down to 552 cars in April.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales dropping to 124 cars from the 140 cars sold in March.

 

Chrysler is another company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e.  They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV.  After Fiat sold an estimated 1,310 cars in March sales fell to a very respectable 717 in April.  While Chrysler has been one of the manufacturers that have been most anti-EV it does appear that they have been making an honest effort to sell their compliance cars and the higher estimated sales numbers does explain why I have been seeing so many of these cars running around LA.

 

BMW sales really tanked in April dropping to just 544 cars after selling over a thousand cars per month for the last six months.

 
BWM i3s sales plummeted from 922 cars in March down to just 406 in April.  This may be the result of lower inventory at BMW dealers since inventory levels are the lowest they have been in some time.


It seems like BMW can sell all the i8s it can make.  In March they sold 143 cars which is about how many were shipped to the US.   In April that number dropped to 138 cars but sill about what got shipped here and dealers appear to have just 20 days of inventory on hand.


Toyota continues to constrain inventory of the Prius Plug-in and with RAV4 EV almost sold out they only sold 428 plug-in cars in April.
 
After selling 473 Prius Plug-ins in March April sales dropped back to 428.  The latest news from Toyota is that Prius Plug-in production will end in June and won't resume again until they begin building the generation 4 Plug-in which is not expect to arrive in the US until toward the end of 2016.  Toyota say there will be plenty of the current generation to sell going forward but there hasn't really been enough to sell since the 2015 model came out so I expect sales to weaken still further going forward.


After selling 4 RAV4-EV in March Toyota reported no sales of their Electric SUV in April.  Toyota has sold a total of 2,475 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 125 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.


VW set another monthly sales record in April selling 309 e-Golf.  The previous sales record was 237 cars sold in December, 2014.  195 cars were sold in March.  The e-Golf recently became the best selling plug-in in Europe so US Inventory is still a problem as most of the cars VW build are being kept for the European market.  Sales of the e-Golf appear to be better than VW expected so hopefully they will begin to increase inventory and make the car available in more locations as the year progresses.

 

Lack of inventory is also the story at Mercedes Benz dealers but the B-Class Electric Drive still managed a respectable 158 cars in April up from the 145 sales sold in in March but still well behind the 240 cars they sold in January.  Mercedes Benz has now started production of the 2015 B-Class which they intend to produce in larger volume so hopefully the inventory situation should begin to improve in May.

 

The shift in sales at Porsche away from the Panamera S e Hybrid to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid continued in April with another monthly sales record for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid up from the 72 cars sold in March to 88 cars sold in April. I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV currently on offer now that sales of the RAV4-EV are winding down.
 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid fell from March, when 44 cars were sold, to just 30 cars sold in April.
 
Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 28 cars in March after March sales of 10. So far Porsche has shipped 182 cars to the US leaving 115 still left to be delivered.
 
In all Porsche sold 126 plug-in cars in March

 

Smart Electric Drive sales improved a little in April climbing From the March total of 103 cars to 124 cars in April.  I have the feeling that they are suffering the same inventory issues as the other German carmakers although it should be noted that total sales at Smart for the month were just 480 units so the Electric Drive accounted for over 25% of Smart sales.

 

Sales of the Kia Soul EV continued to climb in April going from the march level of 63 cars to 73 this month.  Kia has said that sales of the Soul EV have been better than expected and will begin selling in more states later in the year.  Since then sales see to have declined from their best month of 140 that they sold in November, 2015.  I expected much better sales than this so I think that once again sales are being constrained by inventory.

 

Mitsubishi have finally started selling the 2016 model i-MiEV but they are just not shipping enough i-MiEV to the US to sell more than a trickle. Still the they improved over the 10 i-MiEV they sold in March selling 16 in April.  Hopefully they will start shipping in larger quantities now the 2016 has made its appearance.

 

With sales of the popular fit EV ended and absolutely no demand for the Accord plug-in Honda has actually sold less Plug-in cars than Mitsubishi for the second month in a row,  They were no Fit EVs sold although I understand that there will be opportunities to lease used cars as existing leases expire.  .

 

In general there is good demand for most plug-in cars but the Honda Accord is the one car that very few people appear to want.  I think this has a lot to do with it being something like $17K more than the base accord sedan.  In March they only managed to sell 5 cars and repeated this in April with another five sold.  So far this year they have sold just 50 Accord Plug-ins.

 

After crossing the 10,000 mark in March sales fell back below 10,000 in April but it should be noted that in 2014 the 10,000 mark was not hit until May so even though sales seem more sluggish this year sales are more than 800 more than the same period in 2014. It is also interesting to note that sales appear to be moving away from plug-in hybrids toward pure electric cars   May has traditionally been a good sales month for plug-in cars so we will have to see how 2015 stacks up.


Sunday May 3, 2015 Toyota v Plug-ins Toyota has never been overly fond of plug-in vehicles and are in the process of rolling out their first commercially available fuel cell vehicle.  The Mirai FCV is currently being sold in Japan and is expected to be available in small quantities in California later this year.  It should be no surprise then that Toyota's anti-plug-in rhetoric has increased considerably of late.

 

The sentiment against plug-in cars is not new.  Back when Toyota was selling the first generation RAV4-EV their head of advanced power train development was telling us the same story.  Back then they were just starting to roll out the first generation Prius.  While they stopped selling the RAV4-EV after they had sold a little over 300 to the public the Prius went on to be a huge commercial success.  The trouble was that those lucky few that managed to buy a RAV4-EV loved them.  many of these cars are still going strong and have logged more than 100,000 miles with a few topping out at over 200,000 miles.  When EVs were hard to find, used first generation RAV4-EVs were selling for almost 50% more than the original sticker price and even now they still fetch close to what you would pay for a used 2011 Nissan Leaf.

 

Toyota has been forced to make plug-in cars to meet the requirements of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) mandate.  Toyota began selling two plug-in models in limited markets.  The Toyota Prius Plug-in was originally supposed to sell nationwide but Toyota has never pushed it beyond the sixteen or so states that it originally launched in.  They also worked with Tesla on a second generation RAV4-EV but sold it only as a compliance car in California and a couple of other states.

 

They targeted sales of 2,500 RAV4-EVs and are now very close to this number and have already stopped production of the car.  The Prius Plug-in sold well when it was first released but dealer inventory of the 2015 model has been severely constrained and sales have fallen accordingly.  The Prius team announced recently that production would cease in June and would not be resumed until the next generation rolls out which is not expected until late next year as a 2017 model.  They did say they would have "plenty to sell" but were not specific about if "plenty" meant inventory levels close to what we have today, or a few thousand stockpiled to provide enough to meet demand over the next year or so. 

 

The latest salvos come from a the chief engineer for the Mirai and a Mirai ad that shows the FCV being powered by Bull excrement.

 

Yoshikazu Tanaka, the chief engineer for the Mirai told Reuters recently that fast charging an EV for a 310 mile range in 12 minutes would use enough electricity to power 1000 homes.  He is also quoted as saying "That totally goes against the need to stabilize electricity use on the Grid".  The only car so far that can absorb enough charge for a 310 mile range is the Tesla Model S 85 and according to Tesla it takes about 40 minutes to do that at one of their superchargers.  This gives the driver enough time to take a bathroom break, have a coffee or snack and a little rest before moving on.  Personally I know that I take more than 12 minutes at a rest stop when I am driving long distances and so there is no real need to charge that quickly.  Most people in the power generation business see no problem with Fast charging of electric cars since most cars will still be charged overnight at home.

 

Elon Musk once called fuel cell cars bullshit and so Toyota made an ad that shows the Mirai running on hydrogen made from bullshit.  The problem is that the ad was a total green-wash and did not tell the whole story.  Yes you can get hydrogen from bullshit but to do it you have to put it in a digester and let it sit for a while until it decays and produces methane gas.  You can then take this methane gas and pass it through a steam reformat process to strip out the hydrogen which must then be compressed for transportation, trucked or piped to storage and compressed again.  Now the Mirai comes along and connects to the fuel pump and the hydrogen has then to be compressed once again into the cars fuel tanks before it can be used in the fuel cell.  All these processes take lots of energy and the process would be at best 30% efficient.  It would make lots more sense to use the methane from the cow dung to generate electricity to store in the battery or to use elsewhere.

 

Toyota may eventually prevail and fuel cells may be the power source for the cars of the future but this will be because the US people are persuaded that they are the way to go by campaigns like the ones that Toyota are waging.  Some of us think that their attitude has more to do with the fact that they get 9 ZEV points for each Mirai while Tesla gets 4 for each Model S but since there is a strong push for fuel cells in Japan the ZEP points might just be gravy for them.

 

For now people are beginning to add electric vehicles to their fleet.  Not everyone will embrace them at first.  There are those that opt to trade back to a gas car after their EV experience but there is a growing core of people who never want to go back.  Fuel cells won't be available in quantities for at least another five years and with battery prices dropping and production quantities increasing it may be hard for us to justify the billions of dollars we will need to spend on hydrogen infrastructure when plug-in cars are a more cost effective and cleaner solution. 


Sunday April 26, 2015 eBay on EVFinder EVFinder has always been about trying to help people find electric vehicles.  When I started the site electric vehicles were few and far between and very difficult to find.  One of the key elements of the site was the classifieds ads and I eventually began searching eBay and listing entries I found there.

 

Electric vehicles are not so hard to find anymore and there are now so many listed on eBay that I have found it difficult to keep my listings up-to-date.  This is a good thing but to help in the effort I have made some compromises and I thought I would set out some of these to give people who use my eBay listings a better idea of what is included.

 

One of the first compromises I made was with dealers who listed large numbers of cars.  I set up a special format for these dealers where I list all the cars they have for sale.  I only use this format for dealerships that have more than one EV listed but if you see just one vehicle listed it is usually a dealer that had multiple cars listed at some time in the past. 

 

What I found was that these dealers often listed a few cars at a time adding and deleting cars every few days.  I found that with some dealers I was constantly moving cars up to the top of the list so I made a second modification to how I handled these listings.  What I do is to start the listing at the top of the page then as the week progresses I make modifications over to their listing for the following week without moving it.  The next weekend, or the next time they add a vehicle after the next weekend, I move their entry to the top of the page again.

 

Now if you want to see what the local dealer has on eBay you can just do a search on the page to look for say "Texas Direct" and find out what they have listed along with when the listing expires.  It the listing is expired already there is also the option to follow the link to see if the item has been relisted.  It may have been relisted since the last time I did an updated.

 

I also found that I have become more choosy about what I list.  There are some people who don't seem to know where their vehicle is. This is especially true of some companies that sell cars for individuals.  For example Beepi only lists their cars as being in the USA.  They can tell you where the tech who checked out the car comes from but not where the cars is located.  Since I consider location to be very important I now exclude listings that do not have the location narrowed to a reasonable geographic area. 

 

Another thing that I consider key information is the color of the car.  It is very common especially among UK dealerships to list the color of the car as "other".  Now they show pictures of a car but it is also common for dealers to show generic pictures so you can't be sure that the car pictured is the car for sale.  It is also sometimes difficult with digital photos to be sure of the correct color.  For example pictures of white cars sometimes make them look silver and dark blue can sometimes be indistinguishable from black.  For this reason if cars are listed as color "other" I will not include them on the EVFinder listings unless the color is specified elsewhere.  If cars are listed with the odd color names that car companies often use, such as "Salsa Pearl", I will make the effort to list that as the recognized color; red in this example. 

 

I used to list cars that were of dubious nature with a scam warning but l changed that to just not listing them at all. This includes cars that have license plates photoshopped out, unless I am familiar with the seller, and also cars that are supposed to be registered in one state but appear to have plates from a different state.  I also used to list duplicate entries such as two listings by  the same seller with the same VIN number with a warning pointing to the duplicate.  Now I just list the first entry I find. 

 

Given the large number of entries on eBay and the limited time I have available to find these entries I have had to make some compromises.  The first was to drop the eBay listings from Australia, France, and Germany.  I have also been having trouble keeping up with the UK listings recently although I do try and play catch-up on a weekend.  Some nights due to other commitments I am not even able to get to the US listings and on other nights run out of time and post what I have without completing my full set of searches.  The date of the last update is always listed in the link from the home page.

 

eBay is also making it harder for me.  For one thing they now do not supply the end date for listings that are 7 days or less so I just get a day such as Monday.  I then have to figure out what that day is so I can list the correct expiration date.  This sometimes leads me to get the wrong end date on listings and I either miss this or have to spend time going back and correcting the listings.  When using my eBay listings please be aware that the end dates, although mostly accurate, may occasionally be off. 

 

Another thing is that eBay seems to be making it harder to filter out their big sellers.  The eBay search algorithms are very good at finding items.  for example if I look for Rick's motor sports I will also get Ricks motor sports but if I exclude Rick's I will still get Ricks.  For my master search the number of pages I receive has almost doubled over the last three years with most of them being sellers who blast large quantities of things like "Nissan Sentra Left Door Electric".  My master search is at eBay's size limit so I can't eliminate more of these, they just have to be scanned manually.

 

One other thing that has been compromised is the deletion of older listings.  I used to have time to clean up old listings but since getting new items onto the listing is my top priority deleting old items often gets skipped.  This actually has some benefit since when an item gets re-listed I can cut and paste the old entry the update the end date and link and I am done saving some time.  It also appears that some people treat eBay like a video game.  Then bid on items with no intention of actually buying them.  When I leave the item in the listing for several months I can often identify items that are re-listed because of none-paying bidders.

 

Another trend I have been seeing recently is changes in the time that items are listed.  In the US there has been a trend toward shorter listings and I have seen several regular sellers who have moved from 7 day listings to 3 day listings and shorter listings are, in general, becoming more common.  In the UK the trend has been the opposite with more people using eBay classifieds rather than the normal one week listing.  In general UK sellers tend to list items for longer than US sellers.

 

So here are a few tips for utilizing my eBay listings. 

 

While I would really like to produce a web page that allows people to sort or select by various categories this is well beyond the budget for EVFinder.com.  The listing may appear to be organized in a haphazard way but there is some method to my madness.  New entries are added each day at the top of the list.  They are organized with the longest running entries at the top.  So when do my searches this afternoon I will ad the classified entries, which have no expiration date, at the top followed by the entries that will run for two weeks.  After that the bulk of the entries will be those that run for one week followed by the entries that run for less than a week.  Once you have paged through them you will come to yesterday's entries. 

 

Most browsers offer a function that will allow you to search for entries on a web page.  You can use this to search for a specific location or a specific model.  For example if you are interesting in finding a 2011 Nissan Leaf you can search for that using your browser's search function.  Let's say you are interested in a blue one and you prefer to buy from a dealership that you can search for Blue 2011 Nissan Leaf.  If you prefer a private sale than try 2011 Nissan Leaf - Blue as your search parameter.

 

To help identify the country all items not in the use are marked with the appropriate flag so if you are in the UK than you can identify UK listings by looking for the Union Jack.  Similarly Canadian entries will have the Canadian flag to identify them. Items not marked with a flag are located in the USA.

 

Finally you might want to look for items that are ending today as last minute bids often win the auction.  To do this you can use your bowser's search function to look for the date which is always in the form mmm dd, yyyy.  To find auctions that end today you would use Apr 26, 2015 as your search argument.

 

eBay is one of the biggest places to find both new and used electric cars.  It's a place where you might be able to find a compliance car that is not currently sold in your state.  You can always search directly on eBay but using the EVFinder listings may just save you lots of time as all the none vehicle listings have been filtered out.


Sunday March 19, 2015 Solar Charging Stations Last week I wrote about an idea for generating electricity using solar by utilizing car parking lots to build large scale solar arrays.  A San Diego company called Envision Solar is taking a different approach.

 

Envision Solar has developed a stand alone solar charging station that can be deployed to a parking log in minutes and provides enough energy per day to take an electric vehicle between 60 and 100 miles depending on the configuration. 

 

Three of these units were recently deployed in the San Francisco Bay area.  They are a capable of generating about 3.3 KW.  The unit comes with a large metal base on which is mounted the solar panels and a 22.5KWh lithium battery pack which will store excess energy when cars are not charging and will serve to allow cars to charge after dark if there is sufficient energy stored in the battery pack.  The base weighs enough that it can keep the charging station anchored in winds up to 120mph.  To maximize power generation the units are built to track the sun throughout the day.

 

Since these charging stations are not grid tied and come as a ready built unit there is no need for trenching or costly wiring.  Installation takes about 5 minutes.  The units are also flexible enough that they can easily be moved to a different location if needed, such as when doing work on the parking lot, or just to move them to a better location.

 

There is a downside to this type of installation.  Since the units are not grid ties if the station does not get used for charging and the storage battery becomes full then the excess energy generated by the solar panels is lost.  The batteries only have enough capacity to store the energy from a full day so if they are not used for more than one day the capacity would be lost.

Here in California it is likely that these units will get enough usage that they will not lose too much generated energy.

 

Another likely downside is that while installation is very cheap the stations themselves will be quite expensive since they need to include the heavy base and the battery backup system.  These costs may be somewhat offset if the alternative would be to do extensive trenching to install a conventional charging station.  Commercial rates also have a fixed amount based on the maximum kilowatts pulled during the month.  Since these stations are not connected to the grid they would not be included in this maximum so the electric rates paid by the business might be less than if conventional chargers were installed.

 

The up side to these units is that because they are not grid tied they will not be impacted by a power cut.  This would be especially good for fleets.  If there is a loss of power at a company location these units could be deployed to keep vehicles charged up during the power outage.  This could form a part of the disaster recovery plan for electric fleets.

 

I can see this type of unit being important in places like Florida where tropical storms and hurricanes can cause power outages that last several days.  The charging stations could be moved to a safe location before the storm comes in then deployed quickly once the storm has passed and provide power for the electric fleet.

 

 Envision Solar also have another interesting product which they call the solar tree.  The solar tree is a solar array that is designed to deploy in parking lots.  The array will generate solar power while providing shade for cars parked there.  These modules come in a variety of shapes and sized but would be grid tied.

 

There are those that argue that electric cars are bad for the environment because they are charged from coal fired plants.  Those that don't want to see electric cars being becoming the dominant form of transportation often use this argument even though it has been repeatedly shown that this is true in only a handful of states and only when compared with high mpg cars like the Prius.  With these charging stations there can be no question that they are being charged with anything else but solar so the old tired "charged with coal" argument is clearly inappropriate.

 

Solar charging stations are an obvious way to go for electric cars and the ones provided by Envision Solar do appear to be very workable for sunny climates.  There is no issues with grid connection so even in places that are blocking grid tied systems these charging stations would work well.


G Good Wrote:

 

I happen to own some shares in this company. It is only a penny stock so it is not likely to be recommended by any legitimate research department.


But the company seems to be regularly getting new orders and year over year their sales are measurably increasing. In a recent report they reported record backlog. They do not supply the solar panels with the charging stand. The user can select whatever panels he prefers.


I think there is serious potential for this company.


 Sunday May 12, 2015 Large Scale Solar On March 24th the US Energy Information Administration announced that California had become the first state to generate more than 5% of its electricity needs from Solar.  This was not accomplished by putting solar panels on millions of homes but by building some large scale solar plants.

 

Last year alone two 550MW plants were opened in California and these are the two largest solar power plants in the world.  There was also two large thermal plants opened last year which built the total capacity up to almost two gigawatts.  This puts the state well ahead of the next two, Arizona and Nevada both of which get about 2.8% of their capacity from Solar. 

 

This increase in solar generation couldn't have come at a better time since the ongoing drought in California has reduced the amount of energy being generated from hydro-electricity keeping the amount of renewable energy produced about the same for the last few years.

 

There is a bit of a downside to these large scale solar projects.  They tend to be built in desert areas like California's Mohave Desert and because they require a lot of space they tend to have an impact on the local eco system.  Then there is the issue of producing energy only while the sun shines and this requires storage facilities.  There are groups working on producing low cost batteries capable of storing large amounts of energy and the electric car makers are looking at this type of storage as a way to extend the life of battery packs that no longer have the capacity needed for an electric car but are still capable of storing energy.

 

Back in 2008 I had an epiphany and wrote one of my blogs about it.  At the time I was working in Newport Beach and my office looked out over the Fashion Island Mall.  One hot summer afternoon I glanced out at the mall parking lot and saw hundreds of cars baking in the sun.  Many of these cars would have an internal temperature of as much as 140F by the time the owner got back to their parking spot and this would require heavy use of the car's AC which in turn would drive poor fuel economy.  The thought struck me that if this parking lot was covered with solar panels then a lot of electricity could be generated while the cars parked in the shade under the panels and kept to ambient temperature rather than become baking hot.

 

Well, the news about California's large scale solar triggered memories of this day and I began thinking once again that instead of staking out large patches of desert the answer would be to utilize these parking lots.

 

You only have to drive down highway 111 through Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, and on into Indio and you will see acres and acres of parking lots with thousands of cars soaking up the desert sunshine.  My though was that perhaps the local utilities, Southern California Edison in the case of the Coachella Valley, could take a leaf out of the wind industry playbook and pay the owners of these shopping centers a portion of their per kilowatt charge to allow them to build solar arrays in these parking lots.

 

Let's say that the utility installs a 200KWh array in the parking lot of a shopping center.  The array which would require covering about 210 parking spaces and could be installed without taking parking spaces away.  If the utility paid the shopping center owner 5 cents per KWh generated then assuming 6 hours of production per day on average the owner would receive about $60 per day assuming 6 hours per day of peak production.

 

$60 per day may not sound like a lot but if you take that over the 20 year life expectancy of the array then you are looking at earnings of over $430,000.  Keep in mind that this money is earned from a resource that would not otherwise earn anything and is achieved with no cost to the shopping center.

 

The electric Utility on the other hand has to pay for construction of the array but then they would have a fixed cost for the electricity that it produces over the life of the array and would be able to sell the electricity at peak rates over the long haul.

 

The shoppers at this center would also benefit as they would now be parking their cars in the shade and so would be avoiding the extreme high temperatures when they go back to their cars.  This in turn would require less strain on the AC unit and give them better fuel economy.  Since heat is known to be a major issue with car batteries it will also help prevent loss of battery capacity due to heat for electric car drivers.

 

This would appear to be a win-win-win situation.  Of course the electric utility would need to look at the numbers to determine the actual amount that can be paid to the shopping center and still maintain profitability given that they are going to be carrying the risk of the installation costs.

 

For the shopping center itself there are a couple of downsides.  First the long term contract for the use of parking lot as a solar array means that they would not be able to put the space to use for something else such as building a multi-story parking lot and utilizing the remaining area of the parking lot for additional retail square footage.  Since my original epiphany Fashion Island in Newport Beach has done just this, although they do still have enough parking lot left to support at least one 200 KW array and probably two. 

 

For shopping centers like the one I described in the Palm Springs area the other downside is that since the parking lot is usually in front of the stores the array would tend to block people from seeing them as they drove past.  This could be offset by placing store names on the road side of the array which may actually make the stores easier to identify.

 

If we accept the fact that we need to move away from a fossil fuel and toward renewable energy then we need to have more large and medium scale solar.  At the same time we need to make use of existing resources as much as possible so when we have a way to build medium scale solar arrays with benefits all around it seems like a good way to go.


Sunday April 5, 2015 March 2015 EV Sales Spring is in the air and EV sales rebounded in March surpassing 10,000 plug-in car sales for the fist time this year.  It was also the best March sales numbers since the current batch of plug-in cars went on sale in 2010 even though sales were often constrained by low inventories.

 

While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US They have at least started publishing quarterly world wide sales.  This makes it a little easier for analysts to gage sales during the month especially for the third month of the quarter.   Inside EV Estimates that the actually delivered 2,450 cars and that is about as good a number as we are going to get.  This is way better than the 1,150 cars estimated for February.  This was enough to make them the number one company for plug-in sales for March.

 

Ford dropped to second place in March with plug-in sales of 1,692 cars spread out across their three models.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 873 cars in March, up from the 603 cars they sold in February. Ford has been building dealer inventory heading into spring and this is part of the reason that sales have improved.  The higher inventory levels and the difficulty of finding Prius Plug-ins should lead to improved sales going forward.  The Fusion Energi was also the best selling Plug-in Hybrid in March.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi also continued the upward trend going from February's 498 cars up to 715 in March.  The C-Max Energi also managed to outsell the Chevy Volt and Prius Plug-in to make it the second best selling Plug-in Hybrid during the month.
 
Ford Focus EV sales continued to trade in the normal 100 to 200 range with sales dropping to 140 cars from the 145 cars sold in February.

 

Nissan Leaf sales also continued their upward trend for 2015 increased with a good jump from 1,198 cars in February to 1,817 Leafs in February.  While this put them in overall third place the Leaf didn't quite manage their normal level of more than 2,000 sales but it was enough to move total sales above those of the Chevy Volt making the Leaf the best selling plug-in of all time in the US.

 

Chrysler is another company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e.  They don't break out sales of the Fiat 500e so we have been reliant on data from a third party site but it appears they may have been underestimating the number of cars that were sold.  We knew that Fiat had done a special deal and had sold a large number of cars but it appears that there were 1,223 cars registered in California in March.  Add a small number for cars sold in Oregon and we end up with an estimate of 1,310 cars sold in March.

 

BMW didn't quite manage the spectacular sales they did in February but still managed to sell 1,065 plug-in cars in March.

 
After the BWM i3s sales climbed above the 1,000 level with sales of 1,089 cars in February sales dropped back to the three digit mark selling 922 cars in March.  This is still impressive considering that US inventory is low at about 2,000 cars.
 
It seems like BMW can sell all the i8s it can make.  In March they sold 143 cars which is about how many were shipped to the US.   They had sold 113 in February, and report that cars typically sit on the lot for just 20 days.


This month GM saw another disappointing month with total sales of plug-in cars down to 882 cars.
 
Sales of the Volt continue to be sluggish as GM constrains inventory ahead of the launch of the updated 2016 model in the third quarter selling just 639 cars which was down from the 693 cars they sold in February.
 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR also dropped from the 127 cars they sold in February to 92 cars in March, the same number they sold in January.  There are about 500 ELR still in dealer inventory but GM is not currently building anymore and probably won't restart production again.
 
The one bright spot for GM's was its compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV, which climbed from the 119 cars sold in February to 151 sold in March.


Toyota continues to constrain inventory of the Prius Plug-in and with RAV4 EV almost sold out they only sold 477 plug-in cars in March.
 
We have to ask what Toyota are doing with Prius Plug-in inventory, the cars are really hard to find although sales did perk up a little with  473 cars sold in March up from the 397 cars they sold in February.


Sales of the RAV4-EV were also up after sixth straight months of lower numbers going from 2 cars sold in February to 4 cars sold in March.  Toyota has sold a total of 2,475 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 125 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.


After pulling back to 130 cars in February VW had another good month selling 195 e-golf in March.  This was their second best month since the car went on sale in October last year.  Inventory is still a problem as most of the cars VW build are being kept for the European market.  Sales of the e-Golf appear to be better than VW expected so hopefully they will begin to increase inventory and make the car available in more locations as the year progresses.

 

Lack of inventory is also the story at Mercedes Benz dealers but the B-Class Electric Drive still managed a respectable 145 sales in March which was up from the 109 cars they sold in February but still well behind the 240 cars they sold in January. 

 

The shift in sales at Porsche away from the Panamera S e Hybrid to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid continued in March with another monthly sales record for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid up from the 71 cars sold in February to 72 cars sold in March. I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV currently on offer.
 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid improved a little over February, when 40 cars were sold, to 44 cars sold in March.
 
Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US. Porsche delivered 10 cars in March after February sales of 14. So far Porsche has shipped 154 cars to the US leaving 143 still left to be delivered.
 
In all Porsche sold 126 plug-in cars in March

 

For the first time in a long time Smart Electric Drive sales dropped below 100 in February with just 76 cars. That didn't last long and they just managed to top the 100 mark in March with 103 sales of their Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.  I have the feeling that they are suffering the same inventory issues as the other German carmakers although it should be noted that total sales at Smart for the month were a little less than 600 units so the Electric Drive still got close to 20% of Smart sales,.

 

After selling just 48 Kia Soul EVs in February Sales picked up in March climbing to 63.  Kia has said that sales of the Soul EV have been better than expected and will begin selling in more states later in the year.  Since then sales see to have declined from their best month of 140 that they sold in November, 2015.  I expected much better sales than this so I expect that once again sales are being constrained by inventory.

 

Mitsubishi have finally started selling the 2016 model i-MiEV but they are just not shipping enough i-MiEV to the US to sell more than a trickle. Still the 10 i-MiEV they sold in March was a big improvement on the 2 they sold in February,  Hopefully they will start shipping in larger quantities now the 2016 has made its appearance.

 

It's hard to believe but Honda actually sold less Plug-in cars than Mitsubishi in March,  They did sell 1 additional Fit EV which is the first they have sold this year.  They have also announced a program to re-lease Fit EVs after they come off their existing leases.  I'm sure that this program will be very popular though I expect that most Fit drivers will choose to extend their lease.

 

In general there is good demand for most plug-in cars but the Honda Accord is the one car that very few people appear to want.  I think this has a lot to do with it being something like $17K more than the base accord sedan.  In March they only managed to sell 5 cars down from the 12 they sold in February.  So far this year they have sold just 45 Accord Plug-ins.

 

March was the first month this year that sales passed the 10,000 mark, something that didn't happen in 2014 until May.  Considering how constrained inventory is now, most of the plug-in cars are only being sold in a limited number of states, and the current low price of gas, sales are actually quite remarkable. We will be seeing several new models before the end of the year, especially the 2016 Volt, so I expect to see sales numbers continue to improve..


Sunday March 29, 2015 Family Plug-ins The current crop of electric cars has tended to favor the commuter rather than the family car.  With the exception of the Tesla Model S, most of the cars have been better suited for driving from home to work rather than being the family wagon.  Soon there will be a lot more plug-in cars on sale that will appeal to the family rather than the commuter.  Even cars Like the Prius Plug-in and the Chevy Volt are mid sized cars that most American families look on as more of a commuter car than one for the whole family even though both are capable of filling this role for many families.

 

One Family sized vehicle has already appeared in showrooms. The Porsche  Cayenne e Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid version of Porsche's Cayenne SUV.  It offers an EPA estimated all electric range of 14 miles.  The car should be able to handle runs to school or to soccer practice in electric only with the V6 power plant available for longer trips.  Porsche also offers an optional towing package.

 

Tesla of course is also expected to be a leader in this segment.  The Model S can be configured with a third row of seats that allow it to carry 7 passengers although the third row seats are probably good for children only.  When it was first introduced a few years back the Model X was targeted as a minivan but it has since morphed into a crossover.  Still, the Model X should have plenty of room for seven passengers and is expected to be available some time near the end of 2015.  This crossover is a pure electric not a plug-in hybrid but the expected range of around 230 miles and availability of the Tesla fast charging network should make it workable as the family car for many families.

 

Volvo is also expected to enter the US plug-in market later this year when it makes the XC90 plug-in hybrid SUV available later this year.  The XC90 will be a 7 seat SUV with a 34 KWH lithium battery that should be good for an electric only range of around 25 miles.

 

Mitsubishi has been selling the Outlander PHEV in Europe and Japan for a while now and it has been wildly successful.

 but the bad news is that the best selling PHEV world wide will probably never be sold in the US.  The news isn't all that bad though as Mitsubishi just announced that the next generation Outlander PHEV is going to go on sale in the US starting in April of 2016.  There is still not really much info out there about the car and we probably won't know anything until the LA Auto Show in November.  However, I expect that the Outlander PHEV will be a big seller in the US as long as they make enough of the available to meet demand.

 

I've often said that the ideal family fleet is a plug-in hybrid mini-van as the family car and a small pure electric car to be used as a daily commuter.  Chrysler has teased a plug-in Minivan several times and actually had the pure electric Epic minivan for lease in California back in 1997.  A recent announcement from Chrysler indicates that they will have a plug-in hybrid mini-van on sale later this year.  The other cars listed above all fall into the luxury car segment and while we don't know what the cost of Chryslers plug-in hybrid minivan will be I expect this to be targeted at middle income families rather than luxury car buyers.  There are no real details about this car so far but I expect to see an announcement soon, possibly at the New York Auto show.

 

Americans just love large vehicles and so a car like the Nissan Leaf, while being a great commuter car. does not really cut it as the typical American family car.  Range anxiety is another factor.  If you have a 40 mile per day commute a 70 mile range Nissan Leaf could clearly work but the family car has to be able to haul the whole family around and take them on long trips to visit relatives or get out of town for the family vacation.   The cars above will all work quite well for many families.  These cars can run carpool to school of take the kids to dance class running EV only, but can still be used for those longer trips. 


Sunday March 22, 2015 California Drought California is now in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recent memory and this week the state legislature finally began to take action.  Starting April 1 new regulations will be introduced aimed at reducing water usage state wide.

 

Then outlook for the state is bleak with NASA recently chiming in to say that California only had enough water on hand for one more year and this, more than anything else, seems to have spurred the legislature into action.  Cities will need to set up codes to restrict watering of lawns and make people correct things like lawn sprinklers that spray the pavement instead of the lawn.  Restaurants will be required to only give water to those that request it rather than just setting out glasses of water for everyone.  Cities will begin encouraging people to redo their garden with drought resistant California native plants.  The biggest issue though is that agriculture in the state will get drastic cuts in the amount of water it is allocated.  Since California is one of the nations highest producing agricultural state tis is likely to have a major impact on food prices. Growers will be encouraged to install drip irrigation to reduce the amount of water they consume.

 

Drought is nothing new to California and over the last century a complex system of aqueducts has been set up to move water from sources like the Colorado river and the Sacramento delta to central and southern California.  This system has not been without issue.  One of the earliest attempts was to route water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles.  This gave Los Angeles the water it needed to develop into the giant metropolis it is today but turned the Owens Valley from a pleasant agricultural area into a barren wasteland. 

 

The big problem has been a high pressure area to the north that has stopped the usual flow of storms from moving south from the Gulf of Alaska.  These storms usually result in a large amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  In the spring the snow melts and feeds water down into reservoirs that provide fresh water for the cities to the south.  Since these storms have not been arriving for several years now the snow pack is the lowest in living memory.

 

But it's not just California that is affected.  The problem is also impacting southern Oregon too and this means that snow pack in the Cascade mountains is also low and this is the primary feed into the Colorado river.  The situation at Lake Mead, formed by the construction of Hoover Dam, has gotten so bad that they are having to build new tunnels to carry water to Las Vegas as the water level is getting so low that it will soon be below the openings of the current tunnels.

 

We did have more rain this year but what we got was warm rain coming up from the south.  While this helped a bit it really didn't do that much good as this type of rain only produces snow in the very highest elevations and is not enough at lower elevations to significantly improve the amount of water in reservoirs or raise the water table. 

 

The biggest worry is that this weather pattern has become the norm and if this is the case then the Western US is going to be in for a mega drought, one that could permanently change the landscape.  This is seen as being caused by global warming and it looks like we need to start thinking of this as the new reality. 

 

The water restrictions can be seen as a start in handling the drought but at least one California county has gone a step further.  San Diego is in the process of constructing a desalination plant in Carlsbad that will be able to provide a portion of the water they need.  There have been a couple of experimental plants in the past including one that ran for several years in Long Beach but the only working plants are the ones on Catalina Island and San Marcos island off the cost so this will be the first desalination plant to go into regular production on the mainland. 

 

Desalination plants are very costly to operate compared with digging a well to access ground water of even with the cost of shipping water from hundreds of miles away but in the end it looks like this is going to be part of the solution if California is going to survive a mega drought.


Sunday March 15, 2015 Which Goes Furthest EV or PHEV The obvious answer here is Tesla who's Model S with the 85 KW battery can offer a range of about 236 miles on a charge. That wasn't really what I meant, I was more interested in which EV is actually driven furthest.

 

Right now the champion is the first generation RAV4-EV.  There are now a couple of these that have been driven more than 200,000 miles and quite a lot more that are looking at 100,000 miles in the rear view mirror.  That is quite humbling when compared to my 2012 Prius Plug-in that is getting close to passing the 10,000 mile mark.

 

Now the RAV4-EV has been around since 2002 so drivers have had a long time to accumulate miles but the current crop of electric cars has only been around since 2011 so you would expect miles driven to be somewhat lower given that most of these cars are three years old or less.  The exception is the Tesla Roadster which has been on the road since 2008.  Still, the highest mileage one I have come across had just 45,213 miles on it as of June 2014.  I know there are cars there with much higher mileage but none I have come across so far.

 

What I am more concerned with here is owner behavior.  When buying a plug-n car you really have to choose which car is right for your needs.  For example if you commute 70 miles each way on a daily basis a Nissan Leaf is probably not a good choice.  If you travel 2 miles per day then a Prius Plug-in could be quite adequate to drive mostly in Electric.  Similarly if you are a one car family and have a very mixed driving pattern then you might want to drive a PHEV, while a pure electric might work well in a multi-car family fleet.

 

Where you drive might also be as important as what you drive.  In January this year Clean Technica released statistics that show on average Nissan Leaf drivers in Europe actually drive further per year than their ICE driving counterparts.  They found that on average an ICE car was driven about  7,170 miles per year where on average Nissan Leaf drivers travelled 10,307 miles per year.

 

I think it might not be a coincidence that the highest mileage Nissan Leaf I have come across, with just over 90,000 miles on the clock, was one in the UK that was being used as a taxi.

 

Here in the US it has been suggested that Chevy Volt drivers actually drive more miles in electric only mode than Nissan Leaf drivers.  There are many reasons for this but it has been suggested that Volt drivers are not as concerned about running out of charge so they will set off on a trip that is very close to their available range knowing that if they don't make it there is gas in the tank and they are not going to get stranded.  On the other hand I have heard Nissan Leaf owners who will not drive beyond the point where they have 30 miles of range left because of range anxiety.

 

I think there might be other contributing factors.  Many pure electric cars are leased rather than being purchased.  A typical lease has a 10,000 mile per year cap so if the car is on a 3 year lease people will try and keep the mileage below 30,000 miles to avoid overage charges.  I am seeing lots of 2011 cars coming up for sale that have been averaging around 10,000 miles per year which would tend to support this idea.

 

I do see higher mileage on the Volts I have seen than I see on the Leafs. For example the the highest US Leaf I have encountered had 42,987 miles on the clock while the highest mileage Volt  had clocked 87,887 miles.  Assuming that the Volt driver had 70% EV then we would be looking at a projected 61,520 miles of EV driving.

 

Of course there is no guarantee that the Volt driver actually managed to do 70% all EV.  I have come across high mileage Volts with very low EV range sometimes as low as just 5%.  I'm sure that this is more so with the Prius Plug-in and the Ford C-Max/Fusion Energi which offer much less EV only miles.

 

In the end it is more important to choose a plug-in vehicle that makes you feel comfortable.  If you are worried that the Nissan Leaf, with an EPA estimated range of 84 miles, will not handle your 50 mile commute then a PHEV might be more to your liking.  It is interesting that many people start out with a PHEV and once they get used to driving electric and realize they can do their normal driving without needing the security of a backup ICE, they will tend to want more EV driving and look more favorably on a pure electric for their next car purchase.


Steve from Davis, CA wrote
 
Leafs with over 100,000 miles have been around for quite some time.

Here's a story from 2013 about a Leaf owner going over 100K:

Similarly there are Roadsters and Model S drivers over 100k.

I'm driving a 2012 Rav4 EV at 25,100 after 22 months driving. As far as I know the highest mileage second gen Rav4 EV is in the 50 to 60k range.


Sunday March 8, 2015 February 2015 EV Sales February is a short month in the middle of winter so it has historically been the poor month for EV sales and this year the low cost of gas didn't help either leading to a large drop in Sales over February 2014.  The bright side is that Sales were up over January even though sales were often constrained by low inventory.

 

Ford moved back into first place in February with plug-in sales of 1,246 cars spread out across their three models. 

 

As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 603 cars in February up from the 426 cars they sold in January.  Ford has been building dealer inventory over the month so we should start to see sales improve as spring weather starts to make its way across the country.

 

Sales of the C-Max Energi were also up from the 395 cars sold in January to 498 cars in February.  This made the C-Max Energi the sixth best selling plug-in for the month beating out the Toyota Prius Plug-in.

 

Ford Focus EV sales returned to their normal 100 to 200 range with sales of 145 cars.  The previous two months has been two of the worst sales months for Fords pure electric car with sales in December at 53 cars and January at 85 cars.

 

The big news in February was the outstanding sales at BMW who became second highest plug-in car seller this month with a very respectable 1,202 cars sold.

 

Once again sales of the BWM i3s climbed above the 1,000 level with sales of 1,089 cars almost doubling January's 670 cars.  The higher sales rate in February was partly a result of a return to more reasonable inventory levels than they had in January but given the sluggish sales everywhere else this is a great achievement for BMW.

 

Sales of the i8 also climbed from the 85 sold in January to 113 in February, once again topping the 100 mark.  Demand for this car remains high and BMW appear to be selling every car they ship.  BMW has said that it will increase production of the i8 moving forward but this may impact the number of i3s built so we will have to wait and see how this impacts plug-in sales going in the future.

 

Nissan Leaf sales increased slightly over the poor January of just 1070 cars as they managed to move 1,198 Leafs in February.  While this put them in overall third place the Leaf was still the best selling plug-in model for the month..  Nissan blames poor weather in key markets for keeping leaf shoppers out of dealerships.

 

While we may never know just how many cars Tesla sold in the US Inside EV Estimates that the actually delivered 1,150 cars and that is about as good a number as we are going to get.  This is about the same as the 1,100 cars that we think they sold in January and makes the Tesla Model S the second best selling plug-in model in January.

 

This month GM saw a decent improvement in total sales of plug-in cars but still fell short of 1,000 car at 939.

 

Sales of the Volt continue to be sluggish as GM constrains inventory ahead of the launch of the updated 2016 model in the third quarter selling just 693 cars which was still an improvement over the 542 cars they sold in January.

 

Sales of the Cadillac ELR also rebounded in February going from 92 cars in January to 127 cars.   The increase in sales is due to heavy discounting at dealerships.  There are about 600 ELR still in dealer inventory but GM is not currently building anymore and probably won't restart production again. 

 

Sales of GM's compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV, also did better in February selling 119 cars up from the 86 cars they sold in January.  It should be noted that most of the compliance cars are sold only in California and a few other states so sales are much less impacted by severe winter weather.

 

Toyota had a very poor showing in December selling only 529 plug-in cars and January was even worse with just 408 cars sold.  The downward trend continued in February as sales dropped even further to just 399 cars.

 

We have to ask what Toyota are doing with Prius Plug-in inventory, the cars are really hard to find which is why Sales were down to just 397 cars, the second worst full month of sales ever only the 353 cars they sold in September 2014 being worse.  In January they had sold 401 cars.  It looks to me like Toyota have sold enough plug-in cars to meet ZEV mandate requirements until they start delivering their Fuel Cell car later this year.. 

 

Sales of the RAV4-EV were also down for the sixth straight month from 7 cars sold in December to just 2 in January.  Toyota has sold a total of 2,471 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 129 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.

 

After two good month VW saw a pull back in sales from 181 cars in January down to 130 cars in February.  Inventory, or rather lack of it, appears to be the culprit here.  There just weren't enough cars to support a decent selling month.  Sales of the e-Golf appear to be better than VW expected so hopefully they will begin to increase inventory and make the car available in more locations as the year progresses.

 

February saw a shift in sales at Porsche away from the Panamera S e Hybrid to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid which set another monthly sales record up from the 66 cars sold in January to 71 cars sold in February.  I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV currently on offer.

 

Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid on the other hand fell from January, when 61 cars were sold, to just 40 cars in February.

 

Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US.  Porsche delivered 14 cars in February after December sales of 39 cars and January sales of 34 cars.  So far Porsche has shipped 144 cars to the US leaving 153 still left to be delivered.

 

In all Porsche sold 125 plug-in cars in February.

 

Chrysler is another company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e.  In January they sold 119 cars while in February sales were pretty much the same at 117.  This is the third month in a row that the Fiat 500e has sold in the 115 - 120 range.

 

After excellent sales for since the B-Class came on sale Mercedes has suffered the same fate ad VW and depleted most of their US inventory.  Sales in February were down from 240 in cars in January to just a 109 in February.  This is after setting a record high of 326 cars in December.

 

For the first time in a long time Smart Electric Drive sales dropped below 100 in February with just 76 cars sold.  I have the feeling that they are suffering the same inventory issues as the other German carmakers although it should be noted that total sales at Smart for the month were a little less than 500 units so they had a bad month all around.  In January Smart sold 147 plug-in cars.

 

The Kia Soul EV appeared to be another compliance car and Kia have been keeping it pretty low key but recently they have said that sales are much better than they expected and they are planning on rolling it out to other states this year.  In January they sold 69 cars and sales declined again down to just 48 cars in February.

 

Honda had a dismal month in February only managing to sell 12 plug-in cars.

 

Now that they have stopped production of the Fit EV and haven't sold a single car this year their only plug-in is the overpriced Honda Accord Plug-in.  In January sales were down to just 28 cars but things got worse in February as sales dropped again to only 12 cars. 

 

 

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.  If we thought that the 3 i-MiEV they sold in January was bad then the 2 they sold in February was even worse.  Hopefully they will start shipping in larger quantities when the 2016 makes its appearance later this year.

 

Once again the lack of solid sales numbers from Tesla means that we can't be sure how we really did month over month but it appears that for the first time in about three years month over month sales declined in February 2015.  Even though sales were less than the same month in 2014 by about 437 cars we still saw an increase in sales over January.  With spring just around the corner and gas prices starting to firm we can expect to see better sales numbers in March but I think we will continue to lag until the 2016 models begin to make an appearance.


Sunday March 1, 2015 The 50K Miles EV Last week USA today, who recently have been running articles that trash EVs in favor of fuel cells, ran an op-ed by Bjorn Lomborg that claimed that moving to electric powered cars would cause more deaths from pollution than if we stuck to gas powered cars.  Of course they got it wrong!

 

Mr Lomborg, who has ties to the oil industry, has long been a critic of electric cars.  His article wasn't all bad though.  He did say that the US should "concentrate on making coal-fired power cleaner".  Guess what, that's exactly what the US has been doing by decommissioning older coal fired plants and replacing them with much cleaner gas fired plants.  The truth is that while coal does make up a significant part of the grid mix in the US it is no longer the major source of power generation which now lies with much cleaner natural gas and the grid is only going to get cleaner.

 

But I won't dwell on this, the old "electric cars are dirty because they are powered by coal" argument has been debunked over and over again.

 

The other cornerstone of Mr Lomborg's argument is that the life of an EV is 50,000 miles.  Now, I didn't do a scientific study of this but I did have some data to look at so I thought I would review how we were doing in terms of miles travelled by EV and see if his argument stands up. 

 

First let's take a look at a couple of cars that have been around for a long time.  Ford used a couple of different battery chemistries for their Ranger EV.  Most use lead acid batteries while a few used NiMH.  The ones with lead acid batteries tended to last around 20,000 miles before needing battery replacement while the NiMH batteries lasted much longer.  The highest mileage truck I have seen had 61,000 miles on the clock back in July 2012.  The RAV4-EV is a totally different proposition.  Many of the cars that were sold to the public have well over 100,000 Miles while the top performer has over 200,000 miles and is still going strong.  The NiMH packs on these cars lasted on average about 120,000 miles before needing to be refurbished.  We expect modern lithium batteries to do better but so far we don't have enough data to be sure.

 

Of the current crop of Lithium powered cars the one that has been on the road longest is the Tesla Roadster.  The highest mileage one I have seen so far had just under 30,000 miles at the end of 2013.  I know there are Tesla Roadsters out there that have a lot more miles on them that that but I haven't a record of the sort of miles that these cars have done. 

 

The other cars didn't start to appear in dealerships until the end of 2010 as 2011 models.  From what I have seen the PHEV cars like the Chevy Volt are doing much higher mileage than the pure EVs like the Nissan leaf.   I have seen Volts that have travelled over 85,000 miles and in some cases there have been one year old Volts up for sale on eBay that have had close to 70,000 miles on the clock.  Drivers of the Nissan Leaf on the other hand seem to be keeping to around 10,000 miles per year.  This should be no surprise as many of them are being leased and these leases usually have a mileage cap of 10,000 miles.  The highest mileage Leaf I have heard about is one in the UK that is being used as a Taxi.  This car has just over 90,000 miles and the owner reports that his battery capacity is down by about 7%.  The highest mileage car I have seen in the US had just short of 88,000 miles in January 2014.

 

There is one issue that needs to be considered.  Every so often I see a post from someone who will say that lithium batteries have a shelf life of 5 years and after that they tend to fail very quickly.  This is something that people see with lap tops and cell phones and is widely reported among the people that use lithium batteries in remote control airplanes.  Given that I have yet to see this on Tesla cars that are over 5 years old and knowing that the battery management on electric cars is much better than we get on these other devices I tend to think we won't seen this issue as cars like the Leaf age.  I hope I am not proved wrong.

 

Clearly EVs are capable of travelling much more that 50,000 and for many of them the battery warranty is 100,000 miles.  I do see lots of very low mileage EVs being listed.  For example yesterday while working on my eBay listings I came across a 2012 Ford Focus EV with only 226 miles on the clock.  Someone got a real bargain on that one.


Sunday February 22, 2015 Study on Emissions Effects Because of their impact on climate change emission reductions have been focused on CO2, but a study from MIT shows that there is a lot more coming from our tailpipes that we need to worry about.  

 

The study looked at the overall pollutants coming out of car exhausts including Ozone and fine particulates.  Using air quality modeling and medical evidence they came to an astounding conclusion: in 2005 there were about 200,000 premature deaths from air pollution and 58,000 of these were caused by vehicle emissions.

 

Of course if you lived in the Los Angeles area for as long as I have this would come as no surprise.  Keep in mind that the strict air quality standards enacted in California has cleaned up the air considerably since the 1980s but even so according to the American Lung Association children growing up in the Los Angeles basin are likely to have reduced lung capacity and be more prone to respertory diseases like asthma.

 

One of the biggest causes of the deaths from vehicle emissions is issues caused by fine particulates.  This is the reason that France and Britain have both begun backing off support for diesel vehicles as they are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to fine particulates.  Studies in Europe have linked these emissions to both lung and heart disease.  Here in the US the mantra has always been "Clean Diesel" even thought these cars are only clean if you consider just CO2 emissions.  Still it has left many with the perception that it is only large diesel vehicles that are a problem and many places list diesel cars as "green".

 

For many years I have been advocating the use of plug-in cars as a way to greatly reduce air pollution.  This has its biggest impact in crowded cities where people walking or riding a bike are subject to the exhaust from passing vehicles and in a crowded city that can mean breathing in a lot of pollutants.

 

Other things can also help.  One thing that greatly improved the air quality in the LA Basin was to switch busses and garbage trucks from diesel to natural gas.  Natural gas burns much cleaner and produces far fewer particulates.

 

So what about the 142,000 pollution related deaths that are not linked to vehicle emissions.  Well, there are a lot of other causes of pollution much of it related to the production of electricity but also the use of oil for heating and pollutants that are produced as part of manufacturing processes.

 

Switching from gasoline based cars to plug-in cars can go a long way to reducing the deaths and other issues from vehicle based pollution but as many critics of electric cars point out if we continue to produce high amounts of pollution to produce electricity then we are not gaining much.  They like to point at this as a reason not to go to electric cars which only shows bias.  The answer of course is that, along with adoption of plug-in cars, we have to go toward producing electricity from cleaner sources.

 

This is already happening as older coal fired power plants are being replaced by much cleaner plants fired by natural gas.  In the end we are going to have to move beyond fossil fuels and to electrical production from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and small hydro.  We could replace most of our old coal fired plants with solar simply by covering over parking lots here in the South West and the South with solar panels.  This would provide shade for parked cars and also generate large quantities of electricity.  In this case adding EV charging becomes a no brainer.  The big issue becomes how to store the solar energy so that it can be used at times when the sun doesn't shine. 

 

It is quite clear that our current mode of transport, gasoline powered automobiles, is taking a heavy toll on our health.  We have solutions to this.  The question is how long are we going to sacrifice people's health so that we can cruise the boulevard in our gas guzzlers.


Sunday February 15, 2015 News from Chicago This week was the start of the Chicago Auto Show and while there were a few interesting concept vehicles on display what was of more interest was the news coming out from various car makers that showed that these companies are starting to get serious about electric cars.

 

Last month at the Detroit Auto Show GM surprised everyone when they displayed their Bolt concept electric car which they said had a range of 200 miles.  At the Chicago Auto Show GM added one more shock, they are going to put the Bolt into production.  It will be built at their Orion Assembly Plant just north of Detroit and should be available starting some time in 2017.  This is not going to be a compliance car either, GM plan to sell this car in all 50 states.  The price for this car has not been set yet but is widely believed that it will sell for around $39,000 before Federal and State incentives which will put it in direct competition with the Tesla Model 3 set to go on sale around the same time.

 

Right now the world's largest manufacturer of plug-in vehicles is the Renault Nissan Alliance with their Nissan Leaf selling more than 30,000 cars in the US last year.  Not to be outdone Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn said in an interview that the next generation Nissan Leaf would also have a range of around 200 miles. 

 

Another big announcement came from Mitsubishi who showed their GC-PHEV full sized SUV plug-in hybrid concept car.  Mitsubishi currently has the best selling Plug-in Hybrid worldwide with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV outselling the Chevy Volt last year.  The problem they had is that the Outlander PHEV was so popular in Europe and Japan that they just couldn't get enough batteries so the car never got launched in the US.  The news out of Chicago is that the Outlander PHEV is finally coming to the US starting in the second quarter of 2016.  Until then Mitsubishi fans will have to be satisfied with the trickle of i-MiEVs arriving in the US.

 

Kia also had some welcome news.  At the Chicago Auto Show they displayed their Trailster plug-in concept which is designed with the ability to be taken off road for those who want to do more with their plug-in car that drive around town.  That wasn't the news though, what they also said is that they are going to expand the sale of the Kia Soul EV beyond the original 5 states but did not say where or by how much.  Currently the car is being sold through just 17 dealerships in California but will be seen in more markets soon.  The primary reason for this is that the Soul EV is bringing new customers into Kia dealerships and that is always a good thing for a car company.  This so called "halo effect" was well known at Saturn dealerships during the days of the EV1 and I have heard many stories of people going into Chevy dealerships to check out the Volt and driving home in a brand new Cruise.

 

This year the Chicago Auto Show was more about big SUVs and high performance cars.  It's amazing how a few months of relatively low gas prices can make Americans forget about fuel economy and go looking for cars way bigger and more powerful than they need.  My take on the news for the Chicago Auto show is that the Automobile industry, while catering to the wants of their customers, still know that the future of personal transport is electric not internal combustion and are building for that future.


Sunday February 8, 2015 January 2015 EV Sales January has historically been the worst month of the year for EV sales and once again we saw a huge drop in Sales over December.  Unfortunately Tesla's refusal to release month over month sales means that we can't really tell how bad it was but it does appear that sales were up over January 2014 unless Tesla sales really tanked.  We just don't know how much better the sales were.

 

For Tesla I usually go with the estimate provided by Inside EV who think that Tesla sold around 1,100 cars this month as they continued delivery of P85D.  However I suspect this number is a little on the low side since Tesla had some production problems in December and some sales likely spilled over into January but I will go with their number.  Tesla probably delivered 1,100 cars in the US during January which would make it the best selling brand of plug-in car for the month. 

 

Nissan Leaf sales fell dramatically in January with just 1070 cars sold.  This was their worst month since February 2013 when they sold  653 cars.  The month earlier, December 2014, they sold 3,102 cars.  Nissan had a really good year in 2014 selling more than 30,000 cars in the US and I expect that this year will end up being even better but we will have to see.

 

Ford moved back into third place with plug-in sales of 906 cars.  Once again their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 426 cars in January, well short of the 789 cars they sold in December.

 

Sales of the C-Max Energi were also down going from 659 in December to 395 in January.

 

Ford Focus EV sales had been hovering in the 100 to 200 range in all but two months since October 2012 but While they saw a decent increase over December sales of 53 cars, they didn't quite make the 100 mark for the second straight month selling 85 cars in January.

 

BWM managed to sell a respectable 670 i3s during January after sales of 1,013 cars in December.  The higher sales rate in December meant that dealer inventory was constrained in the first part of January but inventory has now caught up so it will be interesting to see what February brings.

 

Sales of the i8 were also down to 85 in January from December's 158 cars.  Demand for this car remains high and the 85 cars sold in January represents just about all of the cars shipped to the US during the month.  BMW has said that it will increase production of the i8 moving forward but this may impact the number of i3s built so we will have to wait and see how this impacts plug-in sales going in the future.

 

In all BMW sold a total of 755 plug-in cars in January and managed to outsell GM by 35 cars and that's from a much smaller dealer network.

 

This month GM saw total sales of plug-in cars of 720, their worst month since January 2012.

 

Sales of the Volt fell to just 542 cars.  The last time they sold less than that was in August 2011.   In December the had sold 1,490 cars.  Sales of  the Volt has seen declining for over a year now and GM his not building them in great numbers anymore as they ramp up for the arrival of the updated 2016 model which should provide better range at a lower price.

 

Sales of the Cadillac ELR also pulled back in December but not by much, going from 118 cars down to 92 cars in January.   There are about 700 ELR still in dealer inventory but GM is not currently building anymore and probably won't restart production again. 

 

Sales of GM's compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV, also declined in January from 131 cars sold in December to 86 sold in January.  Given the level of sales we expect for the Chevy Spark this is actually quite a good showing beating the 61 cars sold in November and 58 cars sold in October.

 

Toyota had a very poor showing in December selling only 529 plug-in cars but January was even worse with just 408 cars sold.

 

Prius Plug-in Sales were down to just 401 cars, the second worst full month of sales ever only the 353 cars they sold in September 2014 being worse.  In December they had sold 492 cars.  Inventory has been very tight at dealerships and while it appeared to be rising at the end of December it seems that Toyota still dragging their feet on EV sales as  they prepare to roll out their Mirai fuel cell car and the next generation Prius. 

 

Sales of the RAV4-EV were also down for the fifth straight month from 37 cars sold in December to just 7 in January.  Toyota has sold a total of 2,469 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 131 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.

 

Mercedes set six consecutive monthly sales records for the B-Class Electric Drive but the winning streak had to come to an end some time.  Sales in January were down from a record high of 326 cars in December to 240 cars in January. This was still their second best month since the B-Class went on sale in July 2014.

 

VW had another good month, their second best since the e-Golf went on sale selling 181 cars in January.  This is a little less that the 237 cars they sold in December but still a good showing considering that they are still building inventory and currently only sell in a limited number of states.

 

Porsche had a better month for the Panamera S e-Hybrid in January with sales of 61 cars. Previously in December they had sold just 31 cars.

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid set a new monthly record up from the 55 cars sold in December to 61 cars sold in January.  I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV on offer at the moment.

 

Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US.  After December sales of 39 cars 34 were delivered in January.  so far Porsche has shipped 130 cars to the US leaving 167 still left to be delivered.

 

In all Porsche sold 178 plug-in cars in January,

 

After record sales of 351 Smart Electric Drive in December I was expecting lower numbers in January since I expected that record sales would have seriously depleted inventory. As expected sales in January dropped to just 147 cars, the lowest monthly sales since they sold 122 in February 2014.  Overall Smart sold a total of 492 cars nation wide and once again the Electric Drive made up about a third of all sales. 

 

Chrysler is another company that just offers a compliance EV in the form of the Fiat 500e.  In January they sold 119 cars.  In December sales were up by just 4 cars to 119.  The Fiat 500e is now on sale in Oregon as well as California.

 

The Kia Soul EV is another compliance car and Kia have been keeping it pretty low key.  They sold 110 cars in December.  For January they saw the second straight sales decline managing to sell only 69 cars.  The Soul EV should be a fairly high demand car but I don't expect to see Kia selling more than the need to meet their CARB ZEV requirements.

Honda had a dismal month in January only managing to sell 28 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.  After selling 32 Fit EVs in December none were sold in January.  This actually came as a shock since it was believed that they are about 12 more left to sell.  We will see if they continue to deliver cars in 2015.

 

The Honda Accord Plug-in had a pretty good month in December selling 63 cars but in January Sales dropped down to a more normal 28 cars. 

 

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 December was 12 cars, falling to just 3 cars in January.

 

If Inside EV is correct with 1,100 sales of the Tesla Model S then January 2015 saw just a slight jump of about 7% in sales over January 2014.  Given the low price of gas pulling people back into SUVs and trucks this is actually quite a success.  January and February are typically the worst months of the year for Plug-in car sales for a variety of factors including the cold weather in the north east and the fact that to take advantage of the tax credit you have to wither lease or wait until 2016.  Low gas prices have also had an impact although not as much as was predicted by some.


Sunday February 1, 2015 - Tesla Sales Reporting - I picked up a post on Twitter earlier this week that pointed to an article in Autoblog Green that hinted that a lack of proper reporting my be an indicator of trouble at Tesla. 

 

It has long been a source of frustration for journalists that Tesla refuses to divulge just how  many cars it has sold each month only saying how many cars they had built in the prior quarter when then gave out their quarterly reports.  This created a key issue in that we could never tell just how many EVs were actually sold in a given month.  People have to guess and guess they do with different sources often giving wildly different numbers. 

 

I can understand the reluctance to report this number each month.  For a startup company like Tesla which depends a lot on adequate funding from the stock market the fear is that reporting the numbers could lead to wild fluctuations in stock prices.  Imaging that one month Tesla ships 2,500 cars to the US but the following month they concentrate on building cars for Europe and Asia so they only ship 1,250 cars to the US.  You know that there are media outlets that are going to scream "Tesla sales fall by 50%" even though another 1,250 cars were sold in other countries and sales haven't fallen at all.  Stock market investors are a skittish bunch.  They follow rules like "Buy on rumor sell on fact" so a headline proclaiming a massive drop in sales is likely to trigger a rapid selloff.  The result would be a high degree of volatility in stock prices which would be a bad thing for Tesla.   

 

On the other hand the lack of solid sales information is also going to result in speculation that Tesla is trying to hide bad news.  That was the main thrust of the article I read which claimed that Tesla was divulging less and less information about the state of the company.  This isn't the first time that media outlets have published such things and it probably won't be the last.

 

I would love it if Tesla were more open and gave out solid sales figures each month.  It would help us to better quantify the growth of plug-in vehicle adoption and would, in the long run, stop the constant speculation.  I understand Tesla's reluctance to do this but in the end, if they are to be percieved as an established car maker, they are going to have to bite the bullet and start reporting sales like every other main stream car maker.

 

It looks to me like Tesla still has an healthy order backlog spurred by the introduction of the Tesla D variant of the model S.  Lately I have been seeing a lot of use Tesla's on eBay and in most cases where the person gives a reason for selling it is because they have a model D on order.  Link that with recent video of what appears to be Tesla out testing the Model X and I think that while Tesla hasn't announced a release date it seems likely that first deliveries of the Model X will occur some time in the fourth quarter of this year.

 

I look forward to the day when Tesla feels comfortable enough to start releasing monthly sales numbers.  It will be a day when we can say that Tesla's grand experiment has succeeded.  Starting a car company from scratch is a very very difficult thing to do and Tesla has defied the odds and managed to produce a wonderful car and that has very high customer satisfaction ratings.  Being secretive doesn't help their cause much but is probably necessary while they are still regarded as a start-up.


Sunday January 25, 2015 Cheap Gas Over the past few weeks the press has been abuzz with articles about the impact that the current plunge in oil prices will have on the sale of electric cars.  The argument has been straight forward, with gas being so cheap why would people pay a premium for an electric car.

 

This does have a ring of truth to it.  If you look at the pure cost then when gas is at 4 dollars per gallon a car like my Prius that gets 10 miles per charge and 50mpg when running in hybrid mode has a cost equivalence of about 80 cents of gas for the 10 miles of EV range obtained from the wall.  Here in LA gas prices are currently averaging around $2.48 per gallon so that same 10 miles would now cost 49.6 cents in gas.  According to my recent electricity bill the average cost per KWH for a home in tier 4 is about 32 cents per KWH so electric is still cheaper than gas by about 17 cents per 10 miles for me.

 

California is by far the biggest market for electric cars so if my numbers are anything to go by gas is going to have to fall quite a bit further, down to $1.62 per gallon, before it becomes cheaper than electric for me.  I don't really seeing prices fall that far although some are predicting a low below $2 per gallon.

 

So how will these cheap gas prices impact electric car sale?  Not as much as you might think! 

 

Not that it won't affect sales, we already saw some impact at the end of last year where sales tapered off in the last few months.  The key though is that people don't buy a car because it's cheap otherwise we would all be driving around in a Kia Forte.  People drive cars because of the style of the car, and often for the way they will be perceived when sat behind the wheel.  Many people drive plug-in cars because of the known environmental benefits.

 

It's true that the low gas prices has started to pull people back into buying large trucks and SUVs.  A base Ford F150 truck is going to set you back around $25,000 After tax incentives you could buy a base Nissan Leaf for about the same number of dollars and it would have seating for five .   If you wanted room for 4 then the super Crew would set you back around $31,500 with a top of the line F150 going for about $45,000.  For that same $45,000 you could own a BMW i3. 

 

The F150 is not going to turn in the 50mpg of my Prius Plug-in its going to be more like 20mpg so the idea of cheap fuel doesn't stack up there.  Many people buy the F150 because they need a truck for work or because they need it to tow a boat or camper.  Most buy it because they think they look cool in one and rationalize the purchase by saying they need it to haul stuff home from the hardware store, something they probably will only do a handful of times.  There is no plug-in truck available to the general public so those that insist they need a truck have no choice but to go the gas route.

 

The current group of electric cars started to hit showrooms in late 2010 as 2011 models.  Many of these are starting to come off lease and I expect that many drivers will want to go electric again.  Here in California we have seen an interesting phenomenon.  People bought cars like the Nissan Leaf as a second or third car thinking it would be good as a commuter car.  People find they prefer to drive electric and eventually the EV becomes their primary car and the old ICE is relegated to use when the trip is outside EV range or the EV doesn't have enough seats for the whole family.

 

I fully expect that January sales are going to be low this year and that pundits will point to the low gas prices as killing EVs.  I also predict that gas prices will stay low until the summer driving period in 2016 but with the elections coming on I fully expect gas prices to begin climbing again.  Then people who went out and bought 20mpg trucks are going to regret their decision.


Sunday January 18, 2015 2015 Detroit Auto Show Plug-in cars are going mainstream.  I know this because this year manufacturers moved most of their major announcements for plug-in Vehicles from Los Angeles to Detroit which means that some of these will be intended for nationwide sales not just as compliance cars.  

 

There were several manufacturers that featured plug-in cars at this year's show with some concept cars and announcements that show that many automakers now believe the future is going to be electric not internal combustion.

 

Chevrolet had two big reveals.  They have been showing teaser photos of the 2016 Chevy Volt for several months now and even gave people a quick look at the car during CES last week but now it's official, the 2016 Volt will be available in the second half of this year.

 

The car appears to be much improved over the current version.  First electric only range is going to be stepped up by about 12 miles with GM saying that it will go 50 miles on electric only range.  To put that in context many of the current generation of pure EVs are only rated at 80 miles of range.  Of course the official EPA mileage will probably be a little lower but still the increased range will mean that it will meet the daily driving needs of most people.

 

To get the increased range the battery capacity has increased from 17.1 KWh to 18.4 KWh.  Even so, the new pack will contain less modules and will weigh about 20 pounds less than the old Volt battery.  When the battery runs out electrical energy is generated using a new 1.4 liter 4 cylinder engine.  Unlike the previous generation Volt this engine will run on regular gas instead of premium, and when running on the ICE the 2016 Volt should get a combined 41mpg.

 

Unlike the current Volt the rear seat will have seat belts for a third passenger.  The space in the rear is still very limited so while the car is now designated as a 5 seat the middle seat is probably going to be extremely uncomfortable.  So far GM has not released pricing for the 2016 Volt but have said that it would be less expensive than the current model.

 

If the new Volt wasn't enough Chevrolet also showed of their Bolt concept car.  This is is a five door compact crossover EV with a range of 200 miles and a target price of around $37,500 before tax incentives.  The car is clearly aimed at competing with Tesla's model 3.  GM would not say that they would actually build the Bolt but did say that they would not have shown it if they didn't know how to build and EV with 200 miles of range.  It appears that GM is planning to sell an EV nationwide some time in the future but it is not clear if the Bolt will be that car.  For the time being they are planning to continue selling the Chevy Spark EV as a compliance car.

 

The European manufacturers are starting to embrace plug-in cars and Mercedes Benz already sells the B-Class EV in California and also plans to begin selling the S550 plug-in hybrid here also.  At the Detroit show they took the wraps off another plug-in Hybrid and this time a more compact version, the C350 plug-in.

 

The C350 Plug-in Hybrid utilizes a 6.2 KWh lithium ion battery pack that can drive the car in EV mode for an anticipated 20 miles of electric only range and speed in EV only is limited to 80mph.  At speed above 80mph or when the battery pack is depleted the 2 liter gas engine kicks in. 

 

By the end of 2015 Mercedes plans to offer three plug-in hybrid options, the S550, the C350, and a plug-in version of their ML Class crossover.  It appears that Mercedes plans to market these three cars nationwide not just as compliance cars.

 

There was also a couple of big fuel cell supporters that had Plug-in car news.

 

First of all there was Honda who showed of their latest fuel cell vehicle concept.  They are one of the companies that appear to have tried very hard not to sell the plug-in cars they currently make.  In the case of the Honda Fit by limiting inventory, and with the Accord by pricing it out of the market.

 

They announce that by 2018 they would have both an pure electric and a new plug-in hybrid on the market.  This sounds a little bit like Honda hedging their bets but since they waited for the Detroit auto show to make the announcement it may just be that these two cars are going to be sold all over the US instead of being just another compliance car.  After all, they have been selling the Fit EV and the Accord Plug-in here in California for a couple of years now.

 

Hyundai already has their Tucson FCV on sale here in Southern California but they too are hedging their bets with the announcement of the 2016 Sonata Hybrid which will include a plug-in version. 

 

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid will feature a 9.8 KWh lithium battery pack that will drive the car electric only for an expected 22 miles.  Once the battery is depleted power will come from a 2.0 liter gas engine that has a combined raging of 40mpg.  EPA fuel economy is expected to be around 93 MPGe.  When the car goes on sale later this year it will only be available in California and 9 other states.  This makes it appear to be a compliance car but hopefully Hyundai will eventually sell nationwide eventually.

 

It does seem that we are getting more and more plug-in options and even though the Honda-Fit and RAV4-EV will both be retired by spring we should see a choice of plug-in cars in just about every segment except the Minivan.  This is good news although I have long contended that the ideal family fleet is a plug-in hybrid minivan and a compact EV as a commuter car.


Sunday January 11, 2015 December 2014 EV Sales This may have been a record breaking month for electric car sales.  Unfortunately Tesla's refusal to release month over month sales means that we have to wait until they release their quarterly report next month before we will have a true idea of the number of cars sold last month.  What we do know is that the number of EV Sales in 2014 did surpass the numbers sold in 2013 and Nissan in particular set new sales records with the most EVs sold in any year.

 

The Nissan Leaf was once more at the top of the best seller list in December once again getting above 3,000 units by selling 3,102 cars.  Previously in November they had sold 2,687 cars.   Even at that level December was still only their third best month of sales for the Leaf.  They have now seen 23 consecutive months of setting a new sales record for the specific month.  As an example, sales of Nissan for December 2014 were higher than sales of December 2013 which in turn were higher than December 2012.  For the year Nissan has sold 30,200 cars.

 

For Tesla I usually go with the estimate provided by Inside EV who think that Tesla sold around 3,500 cars this month as they began delivery of P85D.  However This time I think they got it wrong.  Tesla had some problems early on with the new seats for the D and had to put them aside to be fixed.  This rework will have delayed deliveries so I am guessing 2,300 cars delivered during the month with the rest being rolled out in January. 

 

GM saw sales of the Volt rebound from November where just 1,336 cars were sold, the third worst sales month of the year, to 1,490 which would make December an average sales month.  This does represent the third year in a row that the Volt has seen declining sales GM has been releasing teaser shots of the 2016 Volt but we won't get full details until the GM press conference next week at the Detroit Auto Show.  If the hints we have is correct I expect the 2016 to put the Volt back up there as a top seller.

 

Sales of the Cadillac ELR also pulled back somewhat in December when GM managed to sell 118 cars, down from the November total of 155 cars. For the year GM has sold just 1,310 ELR which must have been very disappointing for GM but given the price of the car and the limited number of dealers it is really no surprise that sales were slow.

 

On the other hand, sales of GM's compliance car, the battery electric Chevy Spark EV showed a marked improvement;  131 cars sold, the third best month of the year.  This was more than double the 61 cars sold in November and 58 cars sold in October.  What made these results even more outstanding was that there were no fleet sales this month which has been the case when we saw high sales in past months.

 

Ford Slipped into fourth place with plug-in sales of 1,501 cars.  Once again their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 789 cars in December just a little better than the 752 cars sold in in November.

 

Sales of the C-Max Energi were also up slightly going from 644 in November to 659 in December.

 

Ford Focus EV sales have been hovering in the 100 to 200 range in all but one month since October 2012 but in December Ford managed to sell just 53.  This is the worst performance for the Focus EV since August 2012 when they sold 34 cars.

 

After selling a semi-disappointing 816 i3 in November BWM managed to return to the one thousand plus group again with sales of 1,013 cars in December.

 

Sales of the i8 also rebounded from the 126 cars sold in November.  In December they managed to sell another 158 cars.  Given the price for the i8 I think that BMW must be very happy with sales at this sort of level.

 

In all BMW sold a total of 1171 plug-in cars in December.

 

Toyota only managed to sell 529 plug-in cars in December down from November's poor showing of 534 cars.

 

Prius Plug-in Sales were just 592 cars, up a little from the 451 cars sold in November.  Inventory has been very tight at dealerships and I have been hearing stories of charger issues with the 2015 model year cars.  I think this may have been resolved now and dealer inventory appears to be on the rise again so I expect better sales in January, 2015. 

 

Sales of the RAV4-EV were also down for the forth straight month from 83 cars sold in November with sales falling to 37 in December.  Toyota has sold a total of 2,462 RAV4-EVs of the 2,600 they planned to build which leaves just 138 cars to go before it joins the Gen 1 RAV4-EV in the history books.

 

After record sales of 313 Smart Electric Drive in November I was expecting lower numbers in December since I expected that record sales would have seriously depleted inventory.  Instead in December Smart set a new monthly record by selling 351 EVs.  Overall Smart sold a total of a little over 900 cars nation wide and once again the Electric Drive made up more than a third of all sales.  For the year Smart sold a total of 2,594 Electric Drive.

 

Mercedes marched on with a sixth consecutive monthly sales record for the B-Class Electric Drive selling 326 cars in December soundly beating the 193 cars which sold in November. This seems to indicate that Mercedes-Benz is actually out to sell their EV rather than it just being a compliance car.

 

If December results are anything to go by VW is another company that plan to do more that meet compliance numbers for their EV offering.  In November they sold 119 cars and in December they set a new monthly sales record with 237 cars sold.  Given that they are probably still building inventory results look good for this compact EV.

 

 

Porsche has been selling plug-in hybrids for a while now but had another poor month for the Panamera S e-Hybrid in December selling just 31 cars which was almost half the 57 cars they old in November making it the worst month of the year.

 

They did make up for it a little bit with sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid with sales climbing from 45 in November to 55 in December.  I would expect sales to grow even more as dealer inventory increases over the next few months since it is the only plug-in SUV on offer at the moment.

 

Porsche has already sold out the 918 Spyder e-Hybrid which was a limited run of only 918 of this supercar, 297 of which were destined to be sold in the US.  The cars are currently still being built and delivered though and in November Porsche shipped 20 cars to customers.  In December sales increased to 39 cars.  For the year Porsche has shipped 96 cars to the US leaving 201 to be delivered in 2015.

 

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 December sales were up at 115 cars which is still the second worst month of sales in 2014.  The Fiat 500e is now on sale in Oregon as well as California.

 

The Kia Sould EV is another compliance car and Kia have been keeping pretty low key with their Soul EV which sold 140 in November.  For December sales fell back to 110 cars.  The Soul EV should be a fairly high demand car but I don't expect to see Kia selling more than the need to meet their CARB ZEV requirements.

 

Honda actually did better in December than they did in November but still only managed to sell 95 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 December they sold 32 Fit EVS which was much improved from the 5 cars they sold in November.  This actually came as a shock since it was believed that they only about 12 more left to sell.  We will see if they continue to deliver cars in 2015.

 

The Honda Accord Plug-in had once again increased sales over the 34 sold in November by selling 63 in December  Over 2014 the Accord hybrid has sold in the 25 to 50 cars per month range so 63 cars is quite a good showing, the best month since November 2013. 

 

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 December was 12 cars sold down from November sales of 18.

 

If Inside EV is correct with 3,500 sales of the Tesla Model S then December 2014 was the highest sales month for EVs ever with 12,874 cars sold.  As I said before I think that they have over-estimated the number of sales from Tesla and if we use my guess of 2,300 then total EV sales would be 11,684 cars sold which would still be good sales but only the third highest sales month of the year.  This is still a respectable sales total given the current low cost of gas and it bodes well for 2015


Sunday January 4, 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - The Chevy Volt is the best selling PHEV in the US but world wide in 2014 the volt only made second place with the Prius Plug-in currently in number 3.  The best selling plug-in hybrid in the world isn't even available in the US; it's the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

 

In the first 11 months of 2014 Mitsubishi sold 29,628 Outlander PHEV in Europe and Asia.  That's almost 6,000 more cars than the Chevy Volt sold.  Keep in mind that he biggest market for electric vehicles is right here in Southern California and the Outlander PHEV isn't even available in the US so they are not even addressing the world's largest market.

 

Part of the reason it is not on sale in the US is the tremendous success of this SUV.  Sales are going so well that Mitsubishi is having trouble sourcing enough batteries to meet demand.  Ever wonder why there were no 2013 i-MiEV and that only a tiny number of 2014 i-MiEV were shipped to the US.  Well the main reason was that batteries were diverted to meet demand for the Outlander PHEV.   

 

The Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV.  The 4-door SUV will seat 5 comfortably and comes with permanent 4-Wheel drive. 

 

At the heart of the car is a 12 KWh lithium battery pack that drives electric motors coupled to the front and rear axles.  This is backed up by a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder gas motor.  The battery is rated on the European test cycle to take the car 32.5 miles on a charge and the Outlander will run EV at speeds up to 60mph.  Charge time from a standard 13amp outlet is about 5 hours.  A fast charging option is also available that will charge the car to 80% in 30 minutes.. 

 

I am sure that the Outlander PHEV would be a real winner here in the US but so far there is no indication that Mitsubishi will begin marketing the car here.  They did show an plug-in hybrid concept version of the Outlander at last year's LA auto show and so hopefully we will see a version here in the not too distant future.