2016 Blog Archive

   


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Past blogs from 2016

Sunday December 25, 2016 – 2016 Round-up

Sunday December 18, 2016 – Chevy Bolt Arrives

Sunday December 11, 2016 – EV Adoption Rate

Sunday December 4, 2016 – November 2016 EV Sales

Sunday November 27, 2016 - Pacifica Hybrid Test Drive

Sunday November 20, 2016 – 2016 LA Auto Show

Sunday November 13, 2016 – Trump and EV Sales

Sunday November 6, 2016 – October 2016 EV Sales

Sunday October 30, 2016 – Clean Air Future Report

Sunday October 23, 2016 – Business Insider Questions EV Viability

Sunday Oct 16, 2016 – Toyota's Prime Numbers

Sunday October 9, 2016 – September 2016 EV Sales

Sunday October 2, 2016 – 2016 Paris Auto Show

Sunday September 25, 2016 – Half a Million EVs

Sunday September 18, 2016 – 2016 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo

Sunday Sep 11, 2016 – BMW 740e

Sunday September 4, 2016 – August 2016 EV Sales

Sunday August 28, 2016 – Early Start to Global Warming

Sunday Aug 21, 2016 – Carbon Footprint Misdirection

Sunday August 14, 2016 – The Air We Breath

Sunday Aug 7, 2016 – July 2016 EV Sales

Sunday July 31, 2016 –  50 Billion Hamsters

Sunday July 24, 2016 – Santa Clarita Wildfire

Sunday July 17, 2016 – 10 Greenest Cars of 2016

Sunday July 10, 2016 – June 2016 EV Sales

Sunday July 3, 2016 – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e

Sunday Jun 26, 2016 –  EVS 29

Sunday Jun 19, 2016 – Another Hot Month

Sunday Jun 12, 2016 – Sales Fails

Sunday June 5, 2016 – May 2016 EV Sales

Sunday May 29, 2016 – High Mileage EVs

Sunday May 22, 2016 –  Non-Exhaust PM Emissions Study

Sunday May 15, 2016 – EV Sales News

Sunday May 8, 2016 – April 2016 EV Sales

Sunday May 1, 2016 – Charger Signage

Sunday Apr 24, 2016 – Honda's Clarity Brand

Sunday April 17, 2016 –  Where Do We Go From Here

Sunday March 10, 2016 – March 2016 EV Sales

Sunday April 3, 2016 – Tesla Model 3 Reveal

Sunday March 27, 2016 – 2016 New York Auto Show

Sunday March 20, 2016 – Disruptive Technology

Sunday March 13, 2016 – 2016 Geneva Auto Show

Sunday March 6, 2016 – February 2016 EV Sales

Sunday February 28, 2016 – Carbon Footprint

Sunday February 21, 2016 – New Isetta

Sunday February 14, 2016 – 2016 Chicago Auto Show

Sunday February 7, 2016 – January 2016 EV Sales

Sunday January 31, 2016 – FCEV v BEV

Sunday January 24, 2016 – e tron Finally on Sale

Sunday January 17, 2016 – 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Sunday January 10, 2016 – December 2015 EV Sales

Sunday January 3, 2016 – Regen Improves Efficiency

View Older Blogs


Sunday December 25, 2016 – 2016 Round-up – 2016 has been a good year for plug-in vehicles.  For a start this year has seen the highest sales of plug-in vehicles ever.  We won't now by how much we beat out the previous high year, 2014, until December sales numbers come out in early January but as of the end of November we were already up by over 11,000 vehicles and December is promising to be another big sales month.

 

2016 was such a good year for EV Sales that every month in the year, with the exception of May, proved to be the best month ever for EV Sales.  May came in just a little short of May 2015 but fell almost a thousand short of May 2014 sales.

 

Some time around the end of August, by my reckoning, the total number of sales of plug-in vehicles climbed past the half million mark.  By the end of the year we should be over 550,000 EVs on the road and sales should only accelerate in 2017.

 

Part of the reason I expect sales to begin accelerating next year is that the carmakers are introducing more and more plug-in vehicles which should push sales up next year.

 

Several new cars went on sale in 2016 including the Chevy Bolt, a 200 mile range EV that saw first deliveries begin last week.  Deliveries this month will be low as cars are only just starting to trickle into dealerships in the week before Christmas.  Nationwide rollout won't occur until the second half of next year but I expect to see the car really selling well once GM manages to built up dealer inventory.

 

We did loose the Prius Plug-in which wound down production in February and the last 4 were sold in September.  Toyota did come back to the plug-in Market when Sales of the Prius Prime began in November and they really started with a bang by selling 781 cars that month, the highest first month car sales for any plug-in car.  From what I am seeing on Prius Chat, sales numbers for the Prime in December should be excellent and it does have the potential to continue to sell well. 

 

In May Mercedes-Benz introduced their first plug-in hybrid SUV to the US.  The GLE 550e has sold only 148 copies as of the end of November and is being sold as a special order item in most locations.  Still, it is an indication that the company plans to expand in the plug-in market.

 

BMW also introduced a new plug-in hybrid into their line-up.  The BMW 330e was first delivered to Customers back in March and since then it has sold 630 cars.  The 330e has been selling really well in Europe and this has been keeping US inventory low all year, but it looks like that has started to change as sales shot up from an average of about 50 cars per month to 215 cars in November.  If BMW can keep its dealers stocked with inventory the car has the potential to be a top seller for BMW.

 

Another bit event happened back in April which showed that there was a huge potential demand for EVS; Tesla launched the Model 3.  They started taking orders for the car the same day they did the reveal and when the dust settled Tesla had taken deposits on approximately 375,000 Model 3s.  The model 3 should start being delivered to customers at the very end of 2017 and Tesla is planning to ramp up production to be able to produce up to half a million cars per year in their Freemont, CA factory.

 

Another interesting piece of news came out just yesterday.  It appears that the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid went into production earlier this week.  If Fiat/Chrysler stocks enough inventory of this vehicle I think it also has the potential to be a big seller.  Base on production starting this week I expect to see first customer deliveries in 2016.

 

The news wasn't all good.  Several new cars were expected to be introduced this year but probably won't make it to dealerships before the new year.  This includes the BMW 740e, the Mercedes-Benz C350e, both of which are nominated for 2017 Green luxury car of the year, and the Kia Optima PHEV.  I did find one dealership that had the Mercedes-Benz C350e listed on their website but with no inventory which may mean that cars are due to arrive soon. 

 
2016 could turn out to be the pivotal year for plug-in cars.  Here in California at least, they are beginning to see widespread acceptance.  I hear people who are fans of Land Rover wishing they had an electric SUV for sale.  They announced one at this year's LA Auto Show and it is expected to arrive in dealerships some time in mid 2018.  People are starting to get it.  I expect to see sales of plug-in cars take off in 2017 unless the new Trump administration starts to erect roadblocks in their path.


Sunday December 18, 2016 – Chevy Bolt Arrives – This week something happened that has the potential to be a major turning point in our transportation paradigm; the first three Chevy Bolts were delivered to customers by Freemont Chevrolet.  This was a token delivery and I don't think it was a coincidence that this dealership was very close to Tesla's factory.

 

There are other Bolts in transit to dealerships in California and Oregon but most of these are already spoken for.  Most of the first group of vehicles to arrive will actually be used as demo vehicles for dealerships to give test drives. 
 
What the Chevy Bolt brings to the table that could make this car a game changer is an EPA estimated range of 238 miles on a charge.  This is not the first 200+ mile EV to hit the streets, in fact Tesla don't sell a car with less than 200 miles of range, but while the Tesla car is a luxury car with a luxury car price tag, the Bolt comes at a base price of just $36,620.  On top of that, for those that can take advantage, there is a $7,500 tax credit on the Bolt bringing down the price to below $30,000

 

This gives the Bolt a range per charge that will work for almost everyone at a price that is comparable to the average new car price of around $30,000.  Of course there are those that will never be satisfied with the range. or should I say don't want to weaned of gasoline.  When the range was 40 miles on a charge they wanted 100 miles, then the range was 100 miles and they wanted 200 miles.  Now with a range of over 200 miles I've read email posts from people who say they need at least 600 miles.  In reality, with in excess of 200 miles of range and fast charger capability, the excuses are gone.

 
It all starts with the battery pack.  The car is powered by a 60 KWh liquid cooled lithium Ion battery pack that sits under the floor so it doesn't intrude into the cabin or rear cargo space of the vehicle.  The battery pack comes with an 8 year, 100,000 miles warranty and this may be even longer in states like California which has its own rules about battery pack warranties. 

 

On a standard level 2 charger the car charges at a rate of about 25 miles per hour so the car takes about 9 hours for a full charge.  Using the Level 1 charger supplied with the car charging takes a lot longer, with a full charge taking about 50 hours.  Even at the slow speed of the 110V level 1 charger you can sill get about 38 miles on an 8 hour overnight charge which is enough for most people's daily commute.  The DC fast charger will give you about 90 miles for a 30 minute charge but please note that the fast charger capability is an option on the Bolt, not a standard feature.

 

Driving the car is a 200 horsepower electric motor that can put out 266 ft/lbs of torque, and remember that this is an electric car so that torque is instantly available when you push the accelerator.  This can blast the car from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.  Top speed is electronically limited to 91 mph.

 

The Bolt, which is a compact crossover about the same size as the Chevy Sonic, seats 5 in relative comfort.  The rear hatch gives adequate space for grocery shopping but may be a bit small for all the luggage needed for a family trip.  With the rear seat down though there is plenty of space for transporting stuff.


The Chevy Bolt has the potential to be a game changer but GM is rolling it out slowly.  Cars should start showing up at dealerships in California and Oregon this week but the rest of the country won't see cars until next year.  New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and perhaps a few other ZEV states will see deliveries start happening in the first quarter of 2017 with nationwide roll-out by mid year.


Sunday December 11, 2016 – EV Adoption Rate – Last week I was reading comments on an article about global warming from two posters who actually seemed to agree on things but still got into a huge fight due to a basic misunderstanding.  One of the posters said that we need to stop using fossil fuels immediately while the other pointed out that this wasn't practical. The exchange got very heated. 

 

While it is clear to everyone that we need to move away from the current fossil fuel based economy to one that is built around renewable energy, for a whole number of reasons, anyone who thinks that we can do this overnight clearly doesn't understand the situation.

 

Let's say that today everyone decided that their next car would be electric and those shopping for a car headed to the lot and would not look at a car unless it had a plug.  There just  aren't enough plug-in vehicles on dealer lots to be able to supply the thousands of shoppers who wanted to buy a car that day.  Right now the car makers don't have enough capacity to built enough cars to replace all gas cars with electric cars on dealer lots. 

 

It takes a lot to be able to gear up to greatly increase volume.  Right now there are over 350,000 people waiting for a Tesla Model 3 but Tesla isn't going to be able to fulfill these orders until some time in 2018.  Building cars, regardless if they are gas or electric, is a complicated process.  Even assuming that the car company already has the required tooling in place to push out the cars it still doesn't mean that they are set up to produce the components in sufficient volume.  There is a whole supplier chain that also has to shift gears and this may be even more difficult than the challenges facing the car company.

 
Battery suppliers will not have enough capacity to meet demand.  This means expanding production facilities which is a costly and time consuming business.  These companies also require raw materials and existing facilities may not have enough supply to meet the increased demand so new sources of things like lithium will need to be found and new mining and production facilities established.

 

Even if everyone did start to buy plug-in cars today the average car stays on the road about 10 years so it would take at least that long to replace the fleet.  Even though 2016 is going to be the best sales year ever for plug-in cars the reality is that they still only make up a small, if growing, proportion of the vehicle fleet.  Replacement of the whole fleet is likely to take at least 40 years.

 

Our problem is how do we tackle the pollution issues we have created by using fossil fuels.  In an ideal world we would put solar panels on hour home, use them to charge our electric car, and basically become fossil fuel free.  For many of us that isn't practical in the short term. 

 

Another argument I read often in the comments to articles about Global Warming is that we "can't make a difference so why try".  I think the only way to make a difference is if we do try and it is our duty to future generations to make the effort.

 

I'm a big believer in the old maxim "every little helps".  Even if we can't eliminate fossil fuels from our lives we can try as best we can to make our usage as low as possible.  For example I can replace an incandescent 60W light bulb with a CFL that uses only 13 watts or an LED bulb that uses just 9.5 watts.  That might not sound like much but many people will have 4 or 6 of these running for several hours per day and if you span that over millions of households then you are talking about being able to shut down a coal fired power plant.  Even if you still have incandescent light bulbs you can still save a bunch of power by turning them off when you leave a room

 

From a transportation perspective there is also a lot that we can do to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and thus the amount of pollution we push into the atmosphere.  Here's a hint, it doesn't involve buying a car that gets worse mileage than the one we are currently driving because gas is cheap at the moment.

 

I'm pretty lucky to live in a very moderate climate here in LA and to have a very short commute to work.  Years ago I was driving a Chevy Cavalier convertible.  I loved that car and drove it for 14 years accumulating a total of 55,000 miles on it.  The problem with the car was it had a V6 engine that got pretty poor fuel economy.  As I became more aware of the air quality problems that were being created by burning oil based products I decided that I would aim at getting more fuel efficient cars in the future. 

 

Since then I have gone to cars that got better and better fuel economy.  My current car is a plug-in Prius that is doing quite well.  I put 8 gallons of gas in the car back at the end of June and since then I have driven about 900 miles and still have more than 4 gallons left.  This is possible because I have such short drives to get almost anywhere I want to go so I can sometime go for several weeks without the gas engine ever coming on.  I realize that most people can't do this but even so there are other plug-in hybrids with much better EV range that will allow most people to drive most of the time in EV mode.

 

I am also lucky that I live in an area that is supplied with electricity from Southern California Edison who has one of the greenest electricity mixes in the country with very low coal use and a pretty good percentage of energy from renewable sources.  To supplement this we have a public charger nearby that is fed from a large solar array and I try to use that as often as practical. 

 

I am trying to do my part to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels as much as possible.  Even if we don't manage to reduce fossil fuel usage to levels that curb global warming and clean up the air to the point where thousands aren't dying each year because of pollution caused health issues, I can rest easy at night knowing that I am doing what I can to alleviate the problem. 


Sunday December 4, 2016 – November 2016 EV Sales – It's now official, unless sales estimates for Tesla and Fiat are way way off 2016 is already the best sales year for plug-in cars ever.  With sales volume standing at 133,854 we are already way ahead of 2014, the previous best year, where sales were 122,438, and we still have December to go.  This was also the best November ever with and estimated 13,337 cars sold. making it the 10th of 11 months this year that we have set a monthly sales record.

 

When we talk about plug-in cars nobody seems to mention Ford but they have been a strong performer over the years and became the top seller once again this month with 2,604 plug-in cars sold over their three models. This was significantly better than the 2,016 plug-in cars Ford sold in October.

 

After posting a relatively low 1,372 cars in October sales of the Fusion Energi soared to their best sales numbers of the year, and their second best sales number of all time, with 1,817 cars sold.  Only June 2014, where they sold 1,939 cars, was a better sales month.
 
After 3 straight months of declining sales Ford managed their second best month of the year for the C-Max Energi with sales hitting 721,  This was a good improvement over the 571 cars sold in October.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In October Ford sold 73 cars and sales fell again in November to 66 cars.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt increased in November staying above the 2000 mark for the fifth straight month at 2,531 cars, up from October's  2,191 cars.  It appears that GM now has a good supply of Volts on dealer lots around the nation so I expect that the Volt will continue to sell in the 1,500 - 2,500 range for the rest of the year, although the Chevy Bolt could disrupt sales when it hits dealerships in December.  I don't think this will be the case.  I expect sales of the Bolt will be light in December, I have been hearing of some people who pre-ordered saying their build dates have been moved into January.
 
With the pending arrival of the Bolt it looks like sales of the Chevy Spark EV are being wound down as inventory is depleted.  In October 260 cars were sold and this number dropped to just 39 cars in November.  This was the worst month for Chevy Spark sales since they sold 22 in the very first month of availability back in June, 2013.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted and no more are being built. After selling of 6 in both August and September and 3 in October, sales in November climbed to 5.  Sales will probably continue at a dribble until the CT6 PHEV goes on sale in mid-2017.

 

In November GM manage to sell 2,531 plug-in cars, 77 better than the 2,454 cars sold in October.  Word coming from customers that have pre-ordered is that deliveries should begin within the next two weeks and I hear that some dealers in the LA area already have pre-orders for over 100 of their initial allocation of about 140 cars.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections,  and in September sales were higher than ever before at 7,550 cars.  Things change rapidly at Tesla and in October production went into a pause as Tesla began setting up to produce cars with all the hardware required for autonomous operation.  This put a huge dent in their ability to service new orders and as a result it is estimated that Tesla only delivered 1,700 cars in September.  This change also impacted November sales with US sales reaching an estimated 2,300 cars. This means that they really have to push in December if they want to come close to their sales projections.

 

The Model S sold just 925 cars in October but things picked up a little in November when they sold an estimated 1,400 cars.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also has low sales in October delivering just 725 cars, and once again sales picked up in November climbing to 900 cars.

 

Sales numbers for November were not unexpected but with December being both the quarter end and month end I do expect to see a massive production push to try and meet their sales projections so I expect to see sales close to record numbers. 

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf have been improving over the last few months.  After having their best month of the year selling 1,316 cars in September they managed to improve sales again to 1,412 cars in October.  In November they managed to surpass October's sales and set yet another best month of the year record with 1,457 cars sold.  The LA Auto show has passed and still no word on the next generation Nissan Leaf so I expect we will now have to wait until January where they may choose to announce something either at CES or the Detroit Auto Show.

 

BMW sales appear to be all over the map this year.  After selling an incredible 2,375 cars in July, sales at BMW stayed over the 2,000 cars mark for the second straight month hitting 2,085 in August.  They just couldn't keep this up though and sales in September fell to just 1085 cars but improved a little in October selling 1,139 cars, and once again in November when they sold 1,453 cars.

 
Sales of the i3 in particular have been all over the place this year varying from a low of just 182 cars in January to a high of 1,479 in July  October was one of the lower months with 442 cars sold but November saw an improvement and 629 cars were sold.

 

In contrast, the BMW i8 was the only BMW plug-in model that showed a month over month decrease in November going from 199 cars in October to 173 cars.   I expect that we will see the i8 trade in the 150 - 200 range going forward.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e showed a moderate gain in November with 436 cars sold after sales in October of 406 cars.  While BMW does have inventory on hand they still haven't built it back up to levels seen earlier in the year so sales will probably continue to be constrained for the next few months.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  The good news is that BMW are finally beginning to get cars on dealer lots and this was reflected in October with 92 sales. In November they blew that number away as sales climbed to 215 cars setting a new monthly sales record.  Of course the big sales numbers seriously ate into dealer inventory so it will be interesting to see if BMW can get enough cars to the US to continue to improve sales.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, but it appears that while there are a few cars actually on the ground in the US, they haven't been released to the dealers yet.  It is now anticipated that sales will begin in December.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and for the first time they managed to break the 1,000 car barrier with Sales of 1,056 cars in August.  They sort of did a repeat in September when they sold exactly 1,000 cars but in October sales dropped back to 931 cars and they followed this up by selling 966 cars in November. 

 

After sales of the Audi A3 e-tron saw two straight month of declines going from August sales of 346 cars down to 312 cars in September, sales rebounded a little in October climbing back up to 348 cars.  November saw another improvement, hitting 394 cars, an all time record month.  Once again the A-3 e-tron remained selling in the 300 - 400 range.

 

After three months of trading above their normal 200 - 400 selling range sales of the VW e-Golf dropped back to more normal sales levels in November selling 305 cars.  In October they had sold 407 units.  At the LA Auto Show VW announced that the e-Golf will get an update increasing range to 125 miles.  They also said that they will have 10 plug-in models on sale globally next year although there was no indication of how many of these would be US bound.

 

After setting all time high records in February and March sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid started on a downward spiral. when sales fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April, 191 cars in May, 176 cars in June, and 148 cars in July.  This trend reversed in August when 197 cars were sold but that reversal was temporary as sales dropped back to 131 cars in September.  October did see a slight improvement selling 7 more cars for a total of 138, and in November sales improved again to 179 cars.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid but in recent months the two models seem to be tracking in the same direction.  In October sales increased to 38 cars after selling to just 28 cars in September.  November saw another jump in sales to 88 cars, a new monthly high for the year.

 

Toyota stopped production of the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV earlier this year.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins that remain in inventory. They sold 0 cars in October and the same number in November so it looks like inventory is pretty much gone.

 

The big news from Toyota is that they started delivering the new Prius Prime in the second week of November.  During the month, with sales in a limited number of areas, mostly California and Oregon, they sold 781 cars.  This set a record for the most plug-in cars sold in the first month of sales.


Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in October they sold 103 cars.  They beat this number in November by selling an additional 105 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 918 Mirai.

 

Toyota appears to be hedging their bets now by getting back into plug-in car manufacture.  A strong indicator that they mean business is that Toyota's CEO has placed himself in charge of the battery electric vehicle development team.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  Sales faltered a little in July with sales of 425 cars and fell further in August to 360 cars.  This trend reversed again in September when Fiat sold an additional 440 cars and pulled back again in October dropping to 345 cars.  November saw a rebound with sales of an estimated 390 vehicles.

 

Fiat Chrysler America are expected to begin sales of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid starting early next year.

 

October sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were 255 cars and November saw an additional 285 cars being sold  This was the second best sales month for this car, being beaten only by the 375 cars they sold back in July.  Like sister company Kia they only stock small amounts of cars in dealer inventory in a limited number of states and while it is technically available nation wide in most states it has to be special ordered. 

 

I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  Things seem to be changing and in September Kia set a monthly sales record, crossing the 200 mark for the first time, with sales of 217 cars.  In October sales dropped back into the normal trading range selling 190 cars and November saw another drop in sales down to 179 cars.  It looks like Kia has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

Kia also have the Optima PHEV which is expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December.  It will be interesting to see if they keep sufficient inventory of this car in stock.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles while July showed another improvement going up to 178 cars sold.  August saw a slight pull back falling back to 176 cars.  The pullback continued in September when 148 cars were sold, and in October selling just 142 cars.  Sales recovered in November when 161 cars were sold.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales that seem to hover in the 40 - 60 range.  November was no exception with sales falling to 52 after selling 58 cars in October.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 20 - 50 cars with September sales hitting an all time high of 41 cars.  October blew this out of the water though with sales of jumping to 174 cars.  This will have seriously depleted inventory and sales fell again in November to 52 cars but still stayed above their normal trading range.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody knew these cars were going on sale, yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  October sales was just 19 cars but in November sales increased to 30 cars tying July for the best sales month.  Given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well but the car is only available as a special order item in most locations so this results in limited sales.

 

Mercedes Benz were going to add a third PHEV to the list they sell in the US as the C-Class variant, the C350e was scheduled to begin appearing in dealerships in November but appears to be a no-show.  It now looks like sales will not begin until some time next year.  This car is a finalist for the Luxury Green Car of the Year at the 2017 Washington Auto Show which will be interesting if it doesn't make it to dealerships in time.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 134 Plug-in cars in November.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased.  The new model is expected to go on sale early in 2017 and is expected to have a better range than the current model, increasing to 88 miles.  Sales have see-sawed a bit this year as they sold 75 in May then fell in June to 53 followed by rebounded to 62 in July, another drop to 55 in August, and down to 44 in September.  In October sales dropped by 1 to 43 cars but November sales bounced back up to 47 cars.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars.  In July things got wild as sales surged to 20 cars.  Things improved again in August when sales climbed to 25 cars.  The momentum couldn't be maintained and sales dropped again in September to 17 cars.  October saw a further pull back to 4 cars, while November pushed this back up to 5 cars.  It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

Sales in November were very encouraging especially the early showing for the Prius Prime.  Setting a new monthly sales record even with low production numbers from Tesla tells me that people are starting to become more aware of plug-in cars. This time of year there is often a boost in sales as people try to lock in the Federal tax rebate before the end of the year and with Tesla production coming back on-line I expect to see big sales numbers in December, even considering that sales of the Bolt will probably be quite low, as will sales of the Kia optima PHEV and I expect that the BMW 740e sales will be pushed into next year as we have seen with the Pacifica Hybrid and the updated Smart.


Sunday November 20, 2016 – 2016 LA Auto Show – This week I got to attend a couple of the media days at the LA Auto Show.  This year there were 4 media days as the Connected Car Expo and the LA Auto Show were merged into a single event.  The big focus was on car electronics including autonomous vehicles, SUVs, crossovers (CUVs), and plug-in cars.

 

It seems like all the manufacturers are now moving towards building autonomous vehicles and creating car sharing programs.  The consensus seems to be that autonomous vehicles are about 5 years away and Hyundai showed a version of the Ioniq that is set up as a self driving vehicle.  They already have these cars shuttling people around their campus in Soul and will have one driving the streets of Las Vegas in January as part of CES.   

 

With the current low costs of driving the American public appears to have forgotten what happened in 2008 and are rushing back to SUVs and CUVs and in response manufacturers are once again beginning to build cars bigger but are using new materials like carbon fiber and aluminum to keep weight down and maintain fuel efficiency.  VW introduced a full sized SUV called the Atlas.  Subaru showed the VIZIV-7 Concept which is going to be the basis of a 7 seat SUV scheduled to launch in 2018.   Land Rover's 2018 Discovery Dynamic will be bigger than the current model while Mazda and Toyota each launched new crossover vehicles.  Even Alpha Romeo got in on the act with the Stelvio SUV.

 

One of my biggest disappointments from the show came from Nissan who have turned to the dark side of the force if the full sized imperial tie fighter hanging over their stand was anything to go by.  I was expecting to hear about their 200+ mile range EV, which we know has to be in the works now if Nissan is to remain competitive in the EV space, but instead we got treated to the Nissan Rogue Star Wars edition which is a tie in to the next Star Wars movie, Rogue One. This will be a limited edition run of 5,000 vehicles that will come tagged with the Star Wars logo.  I'm sure it will be very popular.

 

What excited me most about the show was the sheer number of plug-in vehicles that were out on the floor.  It started first thing in the morning where Chrysler was hosting a media breakfast and at the same time they were showing off the Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid with 30 miles of all electric range due in dealerships early next year.  Later in the day I was able to take a test drive in one of these Minivans and it really performed well in the streets around the convention center.  I think this Minivan will make the perfect addition to a family fleet with just enough all-electric range for hauling the kids to school or soccer practice while giving decent economy when taking longer road trips.

 

I was also impressed with the Hyundai Ionic, although I didn't get a chance to drive one.  The Ionic will come in three flavors, an all electric version with 124 miles of range, a conventional hybrid version, and a plug-in hybrid version with 25 miles of all-electric range.  They didn't have launch date for these cars yet only saying that the electric and conventional hybrids should be arriving at dealerships soon while the plug-in hybrid will be arriving in the second half on 2017.  Hyundai is also launching a new ownership program for the Ioniq where people will be able to order online and pay a fixed monthly fee which will include most costs of ownership, including free charging.

 

The Mercedes-Benz press conference featured some video of the recently announce EQ long range EV and they noted that the EQ brand, which has been set up for alternative fuel vehicles, is expected to make up between 15% and 25% of their world wide sales by 2025.  They then had the US premier of the new Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, which has been enhanced to increase range from 68 miles to 80 miles.  The latest Smart Electric Drive cars should begin showing up in dealerships in early 2017.  While not featured in the press conference they did also have a C330e PHEV on display.  This car was supposed to go on sale in October but the latest estimate is that it will show up in dealerships some time in December.

 

Mini also had a launch of the next generation Countryman.  This car has also grown over the previous version having been stretched by 8 inches and made slightly wider.  The interesting thing in the announcement was that Mini will be introducing a PHEV version expected to show up in dealerships in March.  The Countryman PHEV will have a 3 cylinder 134 hp engine driving the front wheels an an 87 hp electric motor for the rear wheels. The 7.6 KWH Lithium Ion battery pack should be good for about 24 miles of all-electric range.

 

Another company with a plug-in car is Jaguar.  They showed off their i-Pace concept car which uses a skateboard design with a 90 KWh battery pack under the floor that they say will give 240 miles of range per charge on the US test cycle.  The car will also come with two electric motors one coupled to each axle that offer a combined 400 hp which should be good for a 0-60 time of around 4 seconds.  This car is clearly slotted to go head to head with the Tesla Model S and should be headed to the US around the middle of 2018.

 

While the main thrust of VW press conference was to launch the Atlas SUV, they did also show the updated version of the e-Golf.  Like many models coming out in the near future the 2017 e-golf has been upgraded for additional range with pushing it up to 125 miles on a charge.  The electric motor is also getting a bump in power increasing to 145 hp which should give the car a bit of extra pep; not that it really needs it.

 

Green Car Journal also redeemed themselves somewhat in my eyes.  They have always been big supporters of Diesel and if you look back over the years Diesels have made up a pretty substantial number of the recipients of their Green Car of the Year award.  Well the Diesel-gate scandal put pay to that and this year the finalists were mostly plug-in cars with the award going to the Chevy Bolt.  I got a better look at the Bolt and it does indeed look to be a fine car although I did find the rear seats a little cramped when the front seats are pushed all the way back, and the luggage space is quite a bit smaller than the PIP, but I do think it will make a good car and it is certainly going to be in my top 3 choices if I ever decide to replace my Prius Plug-in.

 

I also got a take a first look at several new plug-ins that are going to be in dealerships in the very near future.  This included the BMW 740e, Mercedes-Benz C350e, Toyota Prius Prime, Kia Optima PHEV, and the Cadillac CT6 PHEV.  Mitsubishi had their eX compact SUV prototype on display and this will likely form the basis for a future 200+ mile range EV.

 

I must say that although the public's taste is currently running toward less fuel efficient vehicles the car companies do appear to be sticking to electrification of their fleet.  There are rumors going around that the Auto industry is going to be lobbying president elect Trump to roll back cafe standards when he takes office, but it appears to me that the carmakers will still have to comply with strict fuel efficiency standards in Europe and Japan so they will continue to have to build plug-in cars. 

 

From the standpoint of plug-in vehicles this LA Auto show has been the best ever, with more models being announced or on display than ever before and more manufacturers saying that they are going to be increasing the number of plug-in cars they make.  The future of electric drive is looking good.


Sunday November 13, 2016 – Trump and EV Sales – After the most nasty and divisive elections in living memory we now have a new president elect, Donald Trump.  We also have both the Senate and Congress controlled by the Republicans and with a space open on the Supreme Court it is an almost certainty that we will get an ultra conservative to keep the court's conservative balance as it was before Justice Scalia's death earlier this year.

 

Donald Trump is a climate skeptic who once tweeted that climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.  He has promised to roll back many of the things that President Obama has done over his 8 years as president including backing out of the Paris accord on climate change and rolling back his clean energy plan.

 

While we don't know who will make up his cabinet yet the structure of his transition team is a good indication that he plans to follow through on many of his promises.

 

The transition team was originally lead by long time Trump supporter Chris Christy but he was replace last week with Vice President elect Mike Pence, another climate skeptic.  It also includes other Trump supporters like Rudy Giuliani and several members of Trumps family, and even a few lobbyists.  These are fairly new team members but there have been a small team who were working on transition even before the election.

 

Most disturbing is the people tasked with heading the team to recommend changes at the EPA and department of Energy.

 

The republican majority in both the Senate and Congress have repeatedly blocked environmental rules aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and President Obama has countered this by issuing executive orders instructing the EPA to build regulations to reduce carbon emissions.  The culmination of this was the creation of clean energy rules that would require electric power generators to greatly reduce the amount of CO2 they emit.  Trump's campaign called for the rolling back of these rules and it is thought that the EPA will either have a greatly diminished role of be eliminated altogether.  The person charged with recommendations on the future of the EPA is Myron Ebell.

 

Myron Ebell is an outspoken denier of global warming.  Competitive Enterprise Institute, where Ebell works, Has been an outspoken opponent of government action to limit greenhouse gas emission.  According to Vanity Fair they received $2 million from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005, but donations from this source stopped after that. They also receive money from Google, Facebook,  and companies in the energy, automotive, alcohol and tobacco industries. 

 
That doesn't bode will for the future of the EPA and current regulations for stopping global warming.
 
For the Department of Energy Trump's transition team is being lead by Mike McKenna who is president of MWR Strategies a company that has lobbied for firms like Southern Company, Dow Chemical, and Koch Industries.  Trump’s transition website  outlines a list of benefits for the fossil fuel industry, including reopening oil-drilling leasing on public lands and waters, and issuing more coal-mining permits..

 

While this looks like calamity for the fight against global warming what does it mean for electric cars?
 
In the short term my answer is probably not much.  The Chevy Bolt is now rolling down the assembly line, Tesla is still working to get the Model 3 ready for production, and other companies are also working on advanced battery electric vehicles.  The automobile industry, by its very nature, can't react swiftly to change.  It will take several years to move in a new direction so change will come slowly.

 
There are some things that could happen in the first year of Trump's presidency that could have some impact.  Part of Donald Trumps plans is to cut taxes and increase spending on infrastructure.  While modifying taxes, the tax credits for electric cars could go away.  While some companies, most notably GM, will probably hit the 200,000 limit by the end of next year anyway this will probably not be too big a deal.  Having said that the extension of tax credits for electric cars is almost certainly not going to be expanded in the current republican controlled government but the idea was always to use the credits to build market share to the point where plug-in vehicles could stand on their own without help so we may be OK here.

 

The other big question is if the republicans will amend the clean air bill to rescind California's right to set clean air rules that are tougher than Federal regulations, or the ability of other states to elect to use California's rules.  The first would have a serious affect on air quality in the LA basin and either would seriously undermine the long term push for vehicle electrification.

 

Let's face it this election was a huge win for the fossil fuel industry and could have long term effects going forward.  It is likely that the tightening of cafe standards will be dropped during the next four years.  This may have short term benefits for the US but going forward it could be disastrous for the US car industry as European and Japanese cars get more and more fuel efficient while US cars lag behind.  Of course as President Mr. Trump is expected to erect trade barriers that will make it more difficult to import cars into the US but have we have seen over and over again such trade barriers are often counter productive.

 

It is even possible that we will see the support moving from plug-in cars to fuel cell vehicles.  After all, while much is said about producing hydrogen from renewable resources the reality is that most hydrogen is produced from natural gas right now and this is a source that fossil fuel companies can control and profit from.

 

In the end I think that we will continue to see plug-in car sales grow.  The biggest reason is that they are just better to drive than gas cars are.  The only way to stop this is by making these cars much more expensive than gas cars by placing high taxes on these vehicles.  As a person who ran on lowering tax rates such a tax is going to be hard to justify although I'm sure that the republicans are going to give it a shot as a way to pay for the infrastructure upgrades that are being proposed.

 

Right now I'm not seriously worried about the future of electric cars.  I'm more worried about the future of our planet. The republicans are moving forward on blocking the fight against global warming and this will make limiting warming to 2 degrees centigrade almost impossible.


Sunday November 6, 2016 – October 2016 EV Sales – It shows just how far we have come since the Volt and Leaf went on sale at the end of 2010 that I can actually be disappointed even though we saw the best October sales figures ever at an estimated 10,832 plug-in car sales.  This beat the previous best sales month, 10,055 in October 2013 by a pretty decent amount. It was still the lowest sales volume we have seen since April, but also the 9th of 10 months this year that we have set a monthly sales record.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt increased slightly in October staying above the 2000 mark for the fourth straight month at 2,191 cars up from September's  2,031 cars.  It appears that GM now has a good supply of Volts on dealer lots around the nation so I expect that the Volt will continue to sell in the 1,500 - 2,500 range for the rest of the year although the Chevy Bolt could disrupt sales when it hits dealerships in December.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark EV tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea but with the pending arrival of the Bolt it looks like we will just be seeing lower numbers as inventory is depleted,  In September 315 cars were sold and this number dropped to 260 in October.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted and no more are being built. After selling of 6 in both August and September sales in October dropped to just 3.

 

In October GM manage to sell 2,454 plug-in cars, 102 better than the 2,352 cars sold in September.  Word coming out of GM is that production of the Chevy Bolt has begun at GM's plant in Orion Township, MI.  This would indicate that Bolt deliveries will start in late December.


Recently the updated Fusion Energi has come to dominate Ford's plug in sales and October was more of the same with it accounting for over half the 2,016 plug-in cars Ford sold.  This total was significantly lower than the 2,423 cars sold in September.

 

After posting their second best month of the year in September selling 1,652 Fusion Energi cars Sales dropped to 1,372 cars in October.  Even with this drop in sales this was still the best October on record for the Fusion Energi besting the previous high for October set back in 2012 at 1,087 cars.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi showed it's third straight monthly decline falling from 682 cars in September to 571 cars in October.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In September Ford sold 82 cars but sales in October fell to 73 cars.

 
Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections,  and in September sales were higher than ever before at 7,550 cars.  Things change rapidly at Tesla and in October production went into a pause as Tesla began setting up to produce cars with all the hardware required for autonomous operation.  This put a huge dent in their ability to service new orders and as a result it is estimated that Tesla only delivered 1,700 cars in September.  This change is also expected to impact November sales too so we don't expect big delivery numbers again until December.

 

The Model S sold 4,350 cars in September, this was a substantial gain over their previous record sales of 3,700 cars set in June, the prior quarter end month.  In October sales dropped to just 925 cars.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also broke through previous sales highs with 3,200 cars sold in September.  In October sales fell to an estimated 725 cars.

 

I expect that we will see similar numbers in November  as Tesla completes the upgrade to the two models.  That will mean that there will be a big push to meet fourth quarter projections in December so expect big numbers for the last month of the year.


Sales of the Nissan Leaf have been improving over the last few months.  After having their best month of the year selling 1,316 cars in September they managed to improve sales again to 1,412 cars in October.  In October Nissan did hit a major milestone when total EV Sales for the Leaf in the USA passed 100,000.  Nissan has said that the next generation leaf will have 200 miles of range but no details have emerged yet.  Perhaps we will see an announcement at the LA Auto Show later this month.


BMW sales appear to be all over the map this year.  After selling an incredible 2,375 cars in July, sales at BMW stayed over the 2,000 cars mark for the second straight month hitting 2,085 in August.  They just couldn't keep this up though and sales in September fell to just 1085 cars but improved a little in October selling 1,139 cars.

 
Sales of the i3 in particular have been all over the place this year varying from a low of just 182 cars in January to a high of 1,479 in July  October was one of the lower months with 442 cars sold which was just a little better than September When they sold just 391 cars.

 

In contrast, the BMW i8 was the only BMW plug-in model that showed a month over month increase in September going from 145 cars in August to 158 cars.  The trend continued in October when an additional 199 cars were sold making it the best month of the year for the i8.  I expect that we will see the i8 trade in the 150 - 200 range going forward.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e also showed a big pull-back as sales dropped from 876 cars in August to just 482 in September.  Sales continued to stall in October with just 406 cars sold  The cause of the drop in sales appears to be that BMW just couldn't replenish dealer inventory fast enough after bigger than expected sales in the previous few months..

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  The good news is that BMW are finally beginning to get cars on dealer lots and this was reflected in October with 92 sales, the best sales month to date for this model.  Previously in September 54 cars were sold.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, but it appears that while there are cars actually on the ground in the US, they haven't been released to the dealers yet.  It is now anticipated that sales will begin in November.


VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and for the first time they managed to break the 1,000 car barrier with Sales of 1,056 cars in August.  They sort of did a repeat in September when they sold exactly 1,000 cars but in October sales dropped back to 931 cars. 

 

After sales of the Audi A3 e-tron saw two straight month of declines going from August sales of 346 cars down to 312 cars in September, sales rebounded a little in October climbing back up to 348 cars.  Once again the A-3 e-tron remained selling in the 300 - 400 range.

 

For the third month in a row VW e-Golf sales strayed outside their normal 200 - 400 range, but only just.  After selling a yearly best 454 cars un August they blew past that number in September selling 529 cars but while they couldn't improve on that in October they did manage to stay above 400 cars by selling 407 units.  VW have said that they will be going heavily into electrification of their fleet going forward.

 

After setting all time high records in February and March sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid started on a downward spiral. when sales fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April, 191 cars in May, 176 cars in June, and 148 cars in July.  This trend reversed in August when 197 cars were sold but that reversal was temporary as sales dropped back to 131 cars in September.  October did see a slight improvement selling 7 more cars for a total of 138.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid but in recent months the two models seem to be tracking in the same direction. In October sales increased to 38 cars after selling to just 28 cars in September.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  Sales faltered a little in July with sales of 425 cars and fell further in August to 360 cars.  This trend reversed again in September when Fiat sold an additional 440 cars and pulled back again in October dropping to 345 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America are expected to begin sales of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid starting in December.


October sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV where 255 cars just 5 short of the 260 cars they sold in September,  This car should be a good seller but like sister company Kia they only stock small amounts of cars in dealer inventory in a limited number of states and while it is technically available nation wide in most states it has to be special ordered. 

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales that seem to hover in the 40 - 60 range.  October was no exception with sales climbing to 58 after selling 51 cars in September.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 20 - 50 cars with September sales hitting an all time high of 41 cars.  October blew this out of the water though with sales of jumping to 174 cars.  Mercedes-Benz have had problems with their reporting on this model in the past though so I won't hold my breath until I see if there is a correction when November sales are announced.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody knew these cars were going on sale, yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  Mercedes Benz reported sales of 19 for June and sales in July climbed to 30 but in August sales dropped back to 24 cars and September sales climbed a little to 26 cars.  October sales fell once again dropping back to just 19 cars.  Given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well but the car is only available as a special order item so this may result in limited sales.

 

Mercedes Benz are going to add a third PHEV to the list they sell in the US as the C-Class variant, the C350e was scheduled to begin appearing in dealerships this month but appears to be a no-show.  It now looks like sales will not begin until December.  The EPA rating for this car is not yet available but I expect this car to be rated at around 13 miles all electric range. 

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 251 Plug-in cars in October.

 
I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  Things seem to be changing and in September Kia set a monthly sales record, crossing the 200 mark for the first time, with sales of 217 cars.  In October sales dropped back into the normal trading range selling 190 cars.  It looks like Kia has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles while July showed another improvement going up to 178 cars sold.  August saw a slight pull back falling back to 176 cars.  The pullback continued in September when 148 cars were sold, and in October selling just 142 cars.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased.  The new model is expected to go on sale in December and will have a slight increase in range over the current model.  Sales have see-sawed a bit this year as they sold 75 in May then fell in June to 53 followed by rebounded to 62 in July, another drop to 55 in August, and down to 44 in September.  In October sales dropped by 1 to 43 cars

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars.  In July things got wild as sales surged to 20 cars.  Things improved again in August when sales climbed to 25 cars.  The momentum couldn't be maintained and sales dropped again in September to 17 cars.  October saw a further pull back to 4 cars, a level that has become the norm for the i-MiEV.

 

Toyota stopped production of the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV earlier this year.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins that remain in inventory.  In September they sold just 4 cars and this seems to be it as they sold 0 cars in October.

 

Fear not though, informants tell me that the first Prius Prime landed in Long Beach on October 31 and are currently being offloaded and prepped to be shipped to dealerships.  I couldn't get a date from the local dealers about when they expect the cars to arrive, all they would say in "soon".  Based on past experience I would expect the first cars to arrive at dealerships around mid-month probably timed to coincide with the LA Auto Show.  This year only dealers in California and Oregon will be receiving cars but they are expected to go on sale nationwide next year.


Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in August they sold 371 Mirai FCEVs which is way more than the 50 or so  they have been averaging this year.  Sales fell back to a more normal range in September with 69 cars being sold but October saw and additional 103 cars exiting dealerships.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 813 Mirai.

 

At the start of this blog entry I said that I was disappointed even though sales had set a record for October.  The reason for my disappointment is that we failed to make it past 122,438 cars sold this year.  That's the magic number for the previous best sales year, 2014.  I was anticipating that we would surpass this mark in October but we only hit 120,517 plug-in cars being sold so I will have to wait for November to declare 2016 as the best EV sales year ever.


Sunday October 30, 2016 – Clean Air Future Report – The American Lung Association (ALA) recently released a report entitled Clean Air Future Health and Climate Benefits of Zero Emission Vehicles.  The report tries to determine the health benefits and cost savings if we moved from using gas cars to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2050.  The report is focused on the ten states that follow California's ZEV Mandate. 

 

Right now Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont have joined California in adoption the ZEV mandate.  These states require that over time an increasing number of vehicles on the road be zero emissions.  The report uses established models to predict the impact on health costs and climate by moving to a point where all new cars sales are either Battery Electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) of Fuel Cell (FCEV).

 

The report starts by setting a baseline of 2015 where reports show that the healthcare costs associated with burning fossil fuels in our cars was $24 billion dollars and also assigns a cost of $13 billion dollars to the effects on climate.

 
These numbers represent the monetized impact of the 220,000 work days lost, 109,000 asthma attacks that were made worse by air pollution, hundreds of thousand of additional respiratory problems, and 2,580 premature deaths that can be attributed to pollution produced from burning gasoline and diesel in our cars.

 

When the report expressed the $37 Billion dollars as a cost per average tank of gas it came out at a staggering $18 per fill-up.  This money is not coming out of the gas tax, for the most part it is coming out of the bottom line for companies because of lost productivity, and out of our pockets in the form of additional health care premiums and from our State, Federal, and Medicare taxes to pay for health and environmental issues caused by vehicle emissions.  What this boils down to is a huge subsidy of about $1.50 per gallon of gas for the fossil fuel industry.

 

Even if we ignore the costs related to climate change and focus on the much more measurable health costs we are still looking at about $12 per fill-up or just a little below $1 per gallon in fuel subsidy. 

 

Now when the ALA projected what would happen if we moved to go 100% ZEV by 2050.  The result was an estimated .  

$13 billion per year in health care savings by 2030 ramping up to $21 billion in health care savings by 2050.  More importantly they project that this move will prevent 1,429 premature deaths per year by 2030 and 2,246 premature deaths per year by 2050.

 

Now I have been saying all along that the primary reason to go BEV or PHEV is to clean up the air and this report would seem to support my idea.  That doesn't mean that I think we don't need to eliminate CO2 but I think that the immediate health benefits alone make the transition desirable.

 

Of course there are detractors even for such a clear cut report.  An article in Wired started off very positive but then ends with a section subtitled "The Future: Electric Boogaloo" which goes on to say "sales have stalled".  I think this guy was looking at 2015 numbers which were down over 2014, but sales began to pick up again at the end of 2015 and this year every month except 1 has been a record sales month.  We won't know for sure until the sales numbers come out next week but I am confident that we will already have passed the sales total for 2014, the previous record year, and will still have two more months sales to go.  That hardly looks like stalled sales to me.

 

Another claim is "finding charging stations can be a bear".  Now there is some degree of truth to this if you are talking about long range travel in an EV.  While Tesla has superchargers set up close to many major arteries allowing drivers to drive long distances with ease, the same cannot be said for the two other competing DC fast charging systems; Chademo and SAE combo chargers are less well placed.  It also came as a surprise to me that GM are not going to build out any fast charging infrastructure which will greatly reduce the ability to do long distance driving in the Chevy Bolt. 

 

Still, at least here in Southern California level 2 chargers are pretty easy to find and almost anyone with a garage has access to a 110V outlet and the ability to install 220V charging.  This might be slow charging but it is plenty fast enough for most people's daily needs.  I'm not saying that more charging isn't needed, it is because we need to accommodate people who don't have access to home charging like those that live in apartment buildings and those that have to park on the street.  But this infrastructure is steadily being built out and the picture will be very different by the time we get to 2050 where gas stations are going to be the thing that is hard to find.

 

The article also brought up the old cost issue saying that even with subsidies, "new and up-to-date EVs are still out of reach for those who buy on the secondary market".  Well, if you are looking for a Tesla then you are looking at a luxury car and will have to pony up a luxury car price.  For the rest, you can get a used low mileage Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus EV for around $8,000 which is well within most buyer's budgets.  Things are getting better for new car sales too.  The new Prius Prime that will make its way to dealers next month is going to cost less than a similarly equipped Prius Liftback after tax credits and incentives.  The Chevy Bolt will also be available for around $30,000 after tax credits.  Both these cars will cost less than the average new car price, at least while incentive last. 

 

It is clear that we need to make the move to Zero Emissions Vehicles as soon as possible.  It will not only save us money but it will also save lives.  The excuses are beginning to evaporate so it is time to step up and kick the gasoline habit.


Sunday October 23, 2016 – Business Insider Questions EV Viability – I was going through my Twitter feed earlier this week and came across link to an article from the Finance section of Business Insider by Mathew DeBord entitled "Automakers could be making a big mistake with their big bets on electric cars".

 

The thrust of the article is that Mr DeBord doesn't think that the demand for electric cars justifies the sort of investment that people in the automobile industry are making in electric cars.  He clearly doesn't understand the situation.

 

The article started out talking about how electric vehicles lost out to gas cars in the early part of the 20th century and then went on to talk about EVs going through "evolution and extinction cycles" and used the EV1 as his example.  What was bad about this example is that the EV1 and other EVs that came out around 1997 were actually never promoted actively, the EV1 was never offered for sale, just for lease, and the Auto companies killed then as soon as they could to concentrate on selling what they had been making for a hundred years, gas cars and trucks.

 

He talked about Tesla putting out the Roadster and how they almost went bankrupt in 2008.  The went on to talk about the release of the Leaf and Volt and other plug-in cars.  His example of evolution was that all these cars were better than the EV1.  I took issue with this statement.  Sure these cars have better batteries that are lighter and have more energy density and better cycle life, but I've never heard any of the former EV1 drivers say that their new EV is better than the EV1 although I suspect that those who now have a Tesla might.
 
Put modern Li batteries in an EV1 and you would have one incredible EV.

 
The article concludes with a section called "A bet on demand" which calls out the automakers for risking development of electric cars based on projected demand in the future.  He talks about lackluster sales of electric cars at only 1% of total vehicles sales worldwide.  He does acknowledge that Tesla has a big number of orders for the Model 3 but thinks that this would be a very low margin car and Tesla would be unable to make much money on it.

 

Mr. DeBord does appear to be missing the big picture.  The car makers aren't making big bets on electric cars not because they think that car buyers are going to suddenly stop buying gas cars, they are making them because at the moment this is the only way forward for them.

 

You see when gas cars won the race back in the early 20th century most people didn't really understand the problems they had with them.  Yes, gas cars were smelly and noisy but they were faster and went farther than electric cars and took less time to get rolling that steam cars.  Automobiles were replacing horses and in terms of smell and pollution they were actually a step in the forward.

 
The problem is that the gases that exit from the tailpipe of a gasoline or diesel engine are really very toxic.  The use of large numbers of these cars causes many health problems such as lung disease, asthma, and heart problems.  On top of that the amount of CO2 they pump out has been shown to contribute greatly to a warming planet.
 
To combat these issues governments around the world have begun to demand that gas engines use less fuel and produce less pollution as we move forward with newer models.  Several countries in Europe are even thinking of banning the sale of gas powered vehicles altogether by 2030.  The problem is that the internal combustion process is inherently inefficient so making improvements in fuel economy is getting more and more difficult.  There are a couple of ways around this problem, using batteries to store energy, or using fuel cells to produce energy from hydrogen.  Both of these options would prove cleaner than using gas especially as the electric grid gets cleaner.
 
This is really only one solution as both these garner their efficiency from the use of electric motor which is way more efficient than the internal combustion engine. 

 

The choice of batteries is the easier path as electric plugs are everywhere so most people can just charge their cars at home.  As batteries improve the cars will allow long distance travel so the need for public chargers is growing, but again the electric grid is just about everywhere so infrastructure can be rolled out relatively cheaply.

 

Fuel Cell Vehicles on the other hand require expansive infrastructure and the only advantage they truly offer is much faster refueling but even this advantage is starting to fade.  It's interesting that Tesla offered a battery swap option that allowed refueling in about the same time it takes to fill a gas car but more people opted to use their Superchargers when gave them a good charge in the time it took to stretch their legs and grab a cup of coffee or a burger.

 

There are several issue that are currently slowing the sale of electric cars right now and many of these are being addressed.  The first is range anxiety.  People are used to driving about 300 miles then refilling their car in a few minutes, then driving off again for another 300 miles.  There is resistance to owning a car that will only take you about 70 miles before it needs to be recharged even though most people drive less than 40 miles per day.  This is being addressed as battery technology improves.  Late this year GM is due to launch the Chevy Bolt with a 238 mile range.  How well this sells will be a good indication of how electric vehicle sales are likely to grow.

 

Charging infrastructure is another issue.  Many people who are unfamiliar with EVs don't get the concept of topping up the EV overnight so they start with a full charge the next day even though they do this on a regular basis with their cell phones.  There are others that live in places with no access to charge their car at night and would have to rely on public charging.  This too will be addressed over time but for right now it is a road block to mass adoption of the electric car.

 

Price is another factor as more of the cost of an EV is up-front with the batteries with on-going costs for fuel and maintenance being less, in the case of maintenance a lot less.  Depending on where you live electricity rates vary a lot and so in some areas the cost of fueling an EV can get close to the cost of fueling a gas car.  Electric cars on the other hand require almost no maintenance so there is no on-going cost for oil changes and tune-ups.  A buyer though is going to be looking at their monthly payment which in general is going to be a bit higher for an EV.  This is beginning to change because battery prices are dropping rapidly.  When it comes to market next month the Prius Prime will actually be cheaper than the Prius Liftback after federal and state incentives are taken into account.

 

Another big issue is the availability of batteries.  While people like Mr. DeBord write about demand being "nearly non-existent", the truth is that, at least here in the US, it is often availability of vehicles that is the primary inhibitor of sales.  Availability is sometimes driven by the ability of a company to build a high enough quantity of cars.  The poster child for this is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.  Mitsubishi have been saying that they will bring the car to the US for years now but its popularity in Europe means that all their battery supply is taken up with cars going there and so the launch in the US keeps getting delayed.

 

Personally, I don't think that selling in excess of 10,000 electric cars per month, as we have seen in the US this year, represents "nearly non-existent demand.  Once gas prices start to rise again, and they will soon, then the demand for electric cars will boom. I don't seen any reason that we shouldn't be selling mostly plug-in cars by the year 2030 unless we get sidetracked into following the hydrogen path.


Sunday Oct 16, 2016 – Toyota's Prime Numbers – 8.8, 11.6, 25, 54, 55, 84, 133, and 27,100 may not look like prime numbers to you but to Toyota they are.  These are the numbers that related to Toyota's latest foray into the plug-in vehicle market when the Toyota Prius Prime goes on sale in the US next month.

 

Let's start with 8.8 KWh.  This is the size of the Prime's battery pack.  According to the EPA this should be sufficient to drive the Prius Prime for 25 miles in all electric mode before the gas engine needs to start.  Toyota has also fixed the annoying problem with the now out of production Prius Plug-in (PIP) which would turn on the gas engine during anything above mild acceleration.   

 

84 represents another improvement that the Prime shows over the PIP.  The PIP would need to run the gas engine at speeds above 62mph but the Prime can run in EV mode at speeds up to 84 mph allowing it to run at freeway speeds without the gas engine kicking in. Of course running in EV mode at 80mph is going to make pretty short work of the charge in the Prime's battery pack but this will allow drivers to do short freeway hops without the need to visit the gas station. 

 

11.6 is the size of the display screen on the Prime.  This large screen option is not going to be available on the base model but will be standard on the other trim levels.  The larger screen is an innovation made popular by Tesla and allows much more functions to be done on the touch screen and should also improve the Navigation system.

 

54 and 55 are joined by the true prime number 53 in the Prime's EPA fuel economy ratings.  The Prime is rated at 53 mph highway and 55 mpg city which gives it a combined mileage of 54 mpg.  Since this is a plug-in the actual mileage depends a lot on the EV miles driven and this is rated by the EPA in miles per gallon equivalent or mpge.  133 is the mpge rating from the EPA which makes the Prime top of the heap in turns of energy efficiency.

 

This brings us to $27,100 which is the price recently announced by Toyota for the Base model.  There is also going to be a Premium trim level starting at $28,800 and an Advanced trim level starting at $33,100.  The Prime qualifies for a $4,500 Federal tax credit and will also qualify for state credits in some cases. For those that can take advantage of it, the Federal tax credit brings the price of the base model down to just $22,600.  This is actually cheaper than the $24,200 base price of the Gen 4 Prius.

 

There are a few things lacking in the Prime that might encourage people to go with the regular Prius.  The big one is the lack of the middle seat in the rear of the Prime. If you really need to accommodate 5 people then the 4-seat Prime is not for you.  The larger battery also intrudes in the rear hatch raising the floor above the level of the rear hatch opening which significantly reduces space in the rear hatch, especially the space that can be hidden by the roll out cover.  Like the PIP, the Prime also does not include a spare which is a big deal for some people.  If none of these are not an issue for you then buying the Prime over the Liftback seems like a no brainer and I expect the Prime to do well. 

 

Word coming from dealerships is that the Prime should start arriving in small numbers in California during the first week of November but I expect it will be a while before it goes on sale nation wide.


Sunday October 9, 2016 – September 2016 EV Sales – After Drive Electric Week we usually see a spike in EV sales and this year was no exception.  On top of that Tesla has been steadily increasing its production rates and always does a push at the end or the quarter.  This created a perfect storm making September 2016 the best sales month ever for plug-in cars with an estimated 16,974 cars sold in the month.  This crushed the previous record of 15,063 cars set in June.  For those keeping count this is the 8 month out of 9 this year where sales have been the best ever for that month.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections.  and this month (and this quarter) sales were higher than ever before.  In September sales went up from the 4,975 cars sold in August to an estimated 7,550 cars.

 

The Model S sold 3,125 cars in August, but climbed to and estimated 4,350 cars in September, this was a substantial gain over their previous record sales of 3,700 cars set in June, the prior quarter end month.  It appears that the high sales numbers were, in part, the result of the re-introduction of the lower cost 60KWh battery pack option.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also broke through previous sales highs with 3,200 cars sold in September, crushing the previous high of 2,145 cars sold in June.  In August sales were an estimated 1,850 cars.

 

I don't expect these numbers to be repeated in October as Tesla once more switches focus to international sales.

 

Recently the updated Fusion Energi has come to dominate Ford's plug in sales and September was more of the same accounting for over half the 2,423 plug-in cars Ford sold.  In August they sold a total of 2,204 cars.

 

Ford sold 1,652 Fusion Energi cars in September, just a little short of the 1,700 cars they sold in June making this the second best month of the year.  This was substantially ahead of August sales of 1,341 cars and double the 808 cars they sold in September of the previous year.  The Fusion Energi has outsold the Nissan Leaf for the seven out of nine months this year.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi showed a modest decrease from the 707 cars sold in August selling 682 cars in September.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In August Ford sold just 75 cars but sales in September increased to 82 cars.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt fell slightly in August but still managed to stay above the 2000 mark at 2,081 cars but well below the 2,406 cars that they sold in July.  This pattern repeated in September as sales fell again to 2,031 cars.  It appears that GM now has a good supply of Volts on dealer lots around the nation so I expect that the Volt will continue to sell in the 1,500 - 2,500 range for the rest of the year.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built, but supply seems to have stabilized recently with sales in the 300 - 400 car range becoming the norm.  In June 359 cars were sold and in July GM moved an additional 333 of their compact compliance car.  In August the trend finally broke with sales dipping just below the 300 mark at 292.  Things returned to normal in September when a further 315 cars were sold.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted but the sale of 6 in September matched the 6 that were sold in August.

 

In September GM manage to sell 2,352 plug-in cars, just 17 less than the 2,369 cars sold in August.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf continues to fall below expectations although they did have their best month of the year selling 1,316 cars in September.  This was quite a bit higher than August sales of 1,066 cars.  It appears that with the pending launch of EVs with 200 miles of range the buying public are not impressed with the 107 miles of range now being offered in some trim levels of the Nissan Leaf. Nissan has already said that the next generation leaf will have 200 miles of range but no details have emerged yet.  Perhaps we will see an announcement at the LA Auto Show in November.

 

BMW sales appear to be all over the map this year.  After selling an incredible 2,375 cars in July, sales at BMW stayed over the 2,000 cars mark for the second straight month hitting 2,085 in August.  They just couldn't keep this up though and sales in September fell to just 1085 cars.

 
Coming off their second best sales month ever in July when 1,479 were sold, sales of the i3 continued to do well staying above the 1,000 car mark with 1,013 cars sold in August,  What a difference a month makes; sales in September plummeted to just 391 cars.

 

In contrast, the BMW i8 was the only BMW plug-in model that showed a month over month increase going from 145 cars in August to 158 cars in September.  I expect that we will see the i8 trade in the 150 - 200 range going forward.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e also showed a big pull-back as sales dropped from 876 cars in August to just 482 in September.  The cause of the drop in sales appears to be that BMW just couldn't replenish dealer inventory fast enough after bigger than expected sales in the previous few months.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  June was quite a bad month for 330e sales with just 26 cars sold but in July sales climb back to set a record sales month when they sold 81 cars.  With most of the inventory going to Europe sales fell back in August to just 51 cars and stayed at about the same level with 54 cars being sold in September.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, but it appears that while there are cars actually on the ground in the US, they haven't been released to the dealers yet.  I expect that sales should get rolling in October.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and for the first time they managed to break the 1,000 car barrier with Sales of 1,056 cars in August.  They sort of did a repeat in September when they sold exactly 1,000 cars. 

 

Sales of the Audi A3 e-tron saw the second straight month of declines going from August sales of 346 cars down to 312 cars in September.  Once again the A-3 e-tron remained selling in the 200 - 400 range.

 

For the second month in a row VW e-Golf sales strayed outside their normal 200 - 400 range.  After selling a yearly best 454 cars un August they blew past that number in September selling 529 cars.  VW have said that they will be going heavily into electrification of their fleet going forward and showed a concept car at the Paris Auto Show that had a range in excess of 200 miles.

 

After setting all time high records in February and March sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid started on a downward spiral. when sales fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April, 191 cars in May, 176 cars in June, and 148 cars in July.  This trend reversed in August when 197 cars were sold but that reversal was temporary as sales dropped back to 131 cars in September.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. September was an exception with sales falling from  59 cars in August to just 28 cars in September.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  Sales faltered a little in July with sales of 425 cars and fell further in August to 360 cars.  This trend reversed again in September when Fiat sold an additional 440 cars. 

 

Chrysler-Fiat America is planning on introducing a plug-in hybrid minivan which was supposed to go on sale later this year but so far they has been no pricing or delivery information released on the Pacifica hybrid.

 

September sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV where 260 cars which was a small increase over the estimated 235 cars sold in August.  This car should be a good seller but like sister company Kia they only stock small amounts of cars in dealer inventory in a limited number of states and while it is technically available nation wide in most states it has to be special ordered. 

 

I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  Things seem to be changing and in September Kia set a monthly sales record, crossing the 200 mark for the first time, with sales of 217 cars.  In August Kia sold 153 cars.  It looks like Kia has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles while July showed another improvement going up to 178 cars sold.  August saw a slight pull back falling back to 176 cars and the pullback continued in September when an additional 148 cars were sold.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales that seem to hover in the 40 - 60 range.  September was no exception with sales falling to 51 after selling 57 cars in August.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appear to appear to have settled into the range of 20 - 50 cars with September sales hitting an all time high of 41 cars.  This was a marked improvement over the 30 cars they sold in August.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody knew these cars were going on sale, yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  Mercedes Benz reported sales of 19 for June and sales in July climbed to 30 but in August sales dropped back to 24 cars.  September sales climbed a little to 26 cars.  Given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well but the car is only available as a special order item so this may result in limited sales.

 

Mercedes Benz are going to add a third PHEV to the list they sell in the US as the C-Class variant, the C350e was scheduled to begin appearing in dealerships this month but appears to be a no-show.  Perhaps we will see sales begin in October.  The EPA rating for this car is not yet available but I expect this car to be rated at around 13 miles all electric range. 

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 118 Plug-in cars in August.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased.  The new model is expected to go on sale in December and will have a slight increase in range over the current model.  Sales have see-sawed a bit this year as they sold 75 in May then fell in June to 53 followed by rebounded to 62 in July, another drop to 55 in August, and down to 44 in September.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars.  In July things got wild as sales surged to 20 cars.  Things improved again in August when sales climbed to 25 cars.  The momentum couldn't be maintained and sales dropped again in September to 17 cars.  I am wondering if Mitsubishi are sending additional i-MiEV to the US after announcing yet another delay in bringing the Outlander PHEV to the US saying it won't be here until at least mid 2017.

 

Toyota stopped production of the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV earlier this year.  They are now just selling off the last of the Prius Plug-ins that remain in inventory.  In August they sold just 2 cars and managed to find an additional 4 cars to sell in September.

 

Production has already started in Japan on their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV. It is expected to hit the US at the start of November.  The Prime addresses most of the issues that drivers didn't like about the Prius Plug-in by providing increased range with an EPA estimated 25 miles on a charge, and being able to keep the car in EV mode under most situations.  The Prime has also been priced quite aggressively and after Federal and State incentives the base price will be less than the base Prius Liftback giving the prospect of high sales numbers.  Toyota has also hinted that future Prius models may all be plug-ins.


Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in August they sold 371 Mirai FCEVs which is way more than the 50 or so  they have been averaging this year.  Sales fell back to a more normal range in September with 69 cars being sold.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 710 Mirai.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year showed strong growth in seven of the first eight months of the year.  If the estimates of sales for Tesla hold up, and Inside EV has been pretty good at getting their numbers very close to actual sales, then we should surpass the 122,438 Plug-in cars sold in 2014 by the end of October it sales continue at a pace close to what we have seen in the last six months.  We are also expecting to see a few cars coming to market over the next few months including the Chevy Bolt, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (which is actually going to be a PHEV), the Prius Prime, plus the increased range BMW i3 and e-Golf.  All of these should spur plug-in Sales.


Sunday October 2, 2016 – 2016 Paris Auto Show – Yesterday was the start of the 2016 Paris Auto Show and this year saw a big shift toward plug-in cars.  Since the revelation that VW, and perhaps others, had put cheat code into their cars to make diesel look cleaner than it actually is sales of Diesel models have been on the decline.  At the same time Tesla has been pushing the range envelope for electric cars and so European carmakers are responding with several new plug-in models and concepts.

 

The biggest buzz of the show came from the concept car shown by VW, the ID.  This car is a 5 door that will be the basis for an electric hatchback that VW plan to launch in 2020.  This concept has the electric motor in the back driving the rear wheels with the battery pack stored under the floor.  The car is targeted as having 250 - 375 miles of range on the European test cycle which puts it in the same league as the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. 

 

VW's press conference included a couple of interesting points.  First the current VW e-Golf is going to get a bigger battery for the 2018 model boosting range to 186 miles on the European test cycle so expect a 130 mile range estimate from the EPA.  The other thing is that VW plans on selling 1 million electric cars per year by 2025; about 10% of overall sales.

 

Another interesting concept came from Mercedes-Benz, the Generation EQ.  This concept is an all electric SUV that is designed to offer up to 312 miles of range on a charge.  The battery capacity was not disclosed but the pack sits under the floor and is likely at least 70 KWh.  The car is driven by two electric motors that provide all wheel drive and can push the car from 0-60 in under 5 seconds.  While this is still in the concept phase Mercedes says that the car is close to production.  This concept is a demonstration of their intent to release a whole series of battery electric cars under a new EQ sub-brand.

 

Talking of sub-brands, Mercedes-Benz also showed off the electric version of the new Smart ForTwo, Smart ForTwo Cabriolet, and Smart ForFour.  These three cars should offer slightly improved range over the previous generation Smart Electric Drive but with an estimated 99 miles of range on the European Cycle I don't expect the EPA range to be much more than the 68 miles of the older generation, perhaps around 77 miles would be my guess.  The good news is that the next generation Smart Electric Drive should start to appear in dealerships towards the end of this year as a 2017 model.  So far there has been no indication of them trying to sell the ForFour here in the US but this might just change after the LA Auto show next month.

 

One of the most exciting concepts to appear at the show was the Renault Trezor Concept.  This is a battery electric sports car that looks more like it belongs on the stand of a supercar manufacturer rather than Renault.  The car gets its guts from Renault's Formula E race car and the sleek two seater has an interesting lifting canopy instead of doors.  The car can knock out 349hp which will rocket the car from 0 - 60 in less than 4 seconds.  While the car looks very attractive I don't really see this as being anything more than a concept car.
 
Renault did have a major upgrade to the Renault ZOE that should push sales of one of the most popular electric cars in Europe. For the 2017 model year the battery size will be almost doubled to 41 KWh which will give the car a range of about 186 miles.  This should allow it to complete with the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 when they hit the market over the next couple of years. 

 

Speaking of the Chevy Bolt, GM showed off the European speck bolt which will be manufactured in the US but will be sold under GM's Opel brand in Europe.  This is essentially a version of the Chevy Bolt that is built to comply with European safety standards.  The car should go on sale in Europe in the Spring of 2017 and will offer the same 238 miles of range as the US version does.  So far there has been no indication that there will be a right hand drive version of this car so it seems unlikely that there will be a Vauxhall version for the UK.

 

Not to be outdone by Renault, BMW also announce a range increase for the BMW i3,  They have increased the energy density of the Li Ion cells to 94 A-h which pushes the capacity to 33 KWh and BMW say that will give the car a range of 186 miles.  Of course this is probably based on the European test cycle but this still means an impressive boost in range.

 

The 2016 Paris Auto Show will run from now through October 16


Sunday September 25, 2016 – Half a Million EVs – Earlier this month Plug-in America announced that EV Sales had just passed 500,000 cars.  This is good news but by my calculation sales passed the half million some time in the the second half of August if you use their criteria for determining what constitutes and EV, and some late last year if you include other electric vehicles such as NEVs. 

 

Let's first take a look at EV sales, or more correctly Plug-in vehicles sales, using Plug-in America's criteria.  They are looking at EV sales starting from when the first of the modern EVs went on sale in 2010.  I am going to use the sales numbers from Inside EV which are considered by many to be the most accurate sales numbers available.  The numbers look like this with the total for 2016 being the number of cars sold through August 31, 2016

 

2016   93197
2015 116099
2014 122438
2013   97507
2012   52607
2011   17425
2010       345
------------------
Tot   499618
------------------
 

Looking at these numbers it would appear that Plug-in America is correct as the the numbers show that total sales fell 382 cars short of 500,000.  However, Inside EV does not have all EV sales included.  The biggest issue is that they do not include sales of the Fisker Karma which sold around 1,700 cars in 2012.  Even allowing for some error in the Inside EV estimates for manufacturers that don't separate out sales of Plug-in cars, this still puts the 500,000 Mark some time in August.

 
If you think we need a bigger cushion then consider that they also don't include sales of the Tesla Roadster that was on sales from 2008 through 2011 so some portion of the approximately 1,900 cars they sold should be included in the total above. 

 

Other cars being sold in the 2010 through 2016 period but not included in the total above are the Ford Transit Connect EV (550 cars sold), McLaren P1 (124 cars sold), and the Coda Sedan (117 cars sold).  These numbers are all listed on the Inside EV web site but there were a couple of EVs that were missed from their list altogether.  I don't have a number for how many cars Th!nk sold but it was at lease 250 cars, and Wheego sold 50 of their LiFe freeway capable EV.

 

With close to 3,000 additional cars sold above the InsideEV numbers it's a pretty good bet that the 500,000 car mark was actually passed in August. 

 

Now let's look at some other Plug-ins that are not included in any of the above calculations.  After California introduced their Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate a number of the larger vehicle manufacturers started selling a very small number of EVs mostly in California.  When I say selling, most of these cars were actually leased and at the end of the lease these cars were rounded up and destroyed.  I'm not going to count these here even though they did contribute a pretty substantial number of EV miles.  There were a few cars that were sold however.  There were 322 Gen 1 RAV4-EVs sold to the public.  In addition there were a small number that were leased under a small fleet lease program and some of these were actually converted to sales at the end of the lease and a small number of lease returns were donated to the national parks service and some are still in use today.  In addition GM sold about 50 S10E electric trucks and Ford sold about 200 Ranger EVs after they came off lease.  

 

This is just a drop in the bucket though and we are going to have to go back a little further, back to 1996, just a little before the first round of California mandated EVs went on sale, to see electric vehicles that were sold in substantial numbers.

 

In 1992 a group of Ex-GM Engineers got together and designed a new form of road vehicle that would become known as the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle or NEV.  Under the name Trans2 they launched their first street legal NEV in 1996.  In 1998 the company was sold to a company in Fargo, ND and became known as Global Electric Motorcars or GEM.  When NEVs were given ZEV credits by CARB the company was bought by Chrysler who operated the company until last year when it was sold to Polaris.  I haven't been able to find a reliable number for the number of GEMs sold but it do know that it is considerably more than 60,000 vehicles and probably more than 100,000 vehicles.

 

Other companies also found that the NEV space was easier to get into than trying to make full electric cars and 1998 saw the introduction of the Bombardier which appears to have sold around 2,500 units before Bombardier stopped making them.  in 2002 Ford introduced the Th!nk Neighbor line of cars.  They only sold for 1 year but sales were pretty substantial, at least 5,000 units. Since then many companies have moved into the NEV space with the most successful being Tomberlin and American Custom Golf Cart, and there have been a lot of Chinese made NEVs sold under a whole variety of names.  All in all there has probably been something like 150,000 NEVs sold in total and while miles driven in these cars is generally low compared with your average gas car, they have still reduced gasoline usage by millions of gallons. 

 

There has also been a number of three wheel vehicles that came on sale in the period between 2000 and 2010.  Cars like the Corbin Sparrow, Gizmo, and ZAP Xebra were once about the only options you had if you wanted a buy a plug-in that wasn't an EV conversion.

 

If you take all these Plug-in vehicles into consideration then the 500,000 car mark was probably passed some time in Mid 2015, and even earlier if you take into account commercial vehicles like those manufactured by Smith Electric Vehicles and Via Motors and possibly as early as 2014 if you include electric scooters and motorbikes like Vectrix. Zero motorbikes, and Brammo, and earlier purpose build EVs like the Citcar/Comuta-car and EVs built from Gliders like the Solectria Force and US Electricar E10. 

 

In the end it really doesn't matter when the 500,000 vehicle number was passed, it just matters that electric vehicle sales are now growing even in a time of cheap gas.  Each new EV on the road cuts down the amount of CO2 and other pollutants that are blasted into our air each day, and paves the way for a renewable energy future.


Sunday September 18, 2016 – 2016 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo – The annual Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo has become an integral part of Drive Electric week and this year's effort has been billed at the 11th annual expo but the truth is that it has been running for far longer.  It started out on third street promenade and as far as I can recall the very first expo was as early as 1996.  After a few years they moved to the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport before moving to its current location at the Santa Monica Civic Center.

 

I wasn't able to get to the event last year, the first time I had missed going since its inception, because of an illness in the family so I was very anxious to attend this year's event.  I wasn't disappointed.

 

The event has changed over the years.  Early on it was all about small manufacturers trying to start a business building electric cars with very few of the big carmakers showing cars.  The ride and drive was typically a bunch of EV enthusiasts that let people test drive their EVs.  That's where I first met Paul Scott, one of the founder members of Plug-in America, who was kind enough to take me in a test drive in his 2002 RAV4-EV.

 

Paul was at the expo this year too but this time he was manning the Plug-in America booth.  I stopped by and we had an interesting conversation.  He put forward the idea that instead of just having an EV sitting in the parking lot all day why not hook up with a driver for Uber or one of the other rideshare companies and let them use the EV on a profit sharing basis.  Basically the EV would more or less pay for itself and would not be just sitting around all day doing nothing.  Paul went on to say that this was a narrow opportunity as once autonomous vehicles became the norm car ownership as we no it today would probably end.
 
One of the other things that has changed is that there wasn't really any EV startups this year.  There were a couple of conversion companies one with a converted MGB and another with a Converted VW but not the little start-up companies that I saw in the past.  There was an area with a display of cars brought by owners and this included a Tesla Roadster, a Mercedes-Benz B250e, and even a Corbin Sparrow.  I followed the attempt of both Corbin ,with the Sparrow, and Myers Motors who tried to continue building the Sparrow as the NMG, since the car went into production back in 2000, but they are really rare in LA so it was quite a treat to see one.

 
I checked out the Petersen Automotive Museum display and was surprised that they had a modern looking BMW on display.  At first I thought it was an Active-E but it turned out it was actually a 330e one of the plug-in hybrids that BMW has just started selling a few months ago.  Apart from the LA Auto Show this is the first time I have actually seen one in the flesh..

 

One of the things I was looking for was the Chevy Bolt. Chevy had shown the Bolt at last year's show but at that time they had just a single prototype so when the LA Auto show rolled around it wasn't ready for display and I didn't get to see it.  What a difference a year makes.  The Chevy Bolt is now close to going on sale and we should see them start to arrive in dealerships towards the end of the year.  The car, really a crossover, was bigger than I thought it would be.  The 60 KWh pack gives the car and EPA estimated range of 238 miles.  Final pricing hasn't been set but it should come in at around $37,000 before incentives which here in California puts the base price at $27,000.  I think this car should sell well and is going to be in my thoughts for my next car.

 

Also on display was the Audi A3 e-tron and the VW e-Golf which are both selling reasonably well in recent years.  Walking on, Canadian Electric Vehicles has an updated version of their NEV, the Might-e-Truck which has been in production for a number of years now.  This truck was one of the few at the Expo that uses lead acid batteries which are still extensively used by NEVs.
 
Toyota has the Prius Prime PHEV coming out later this year but I didn't see anything at the Expo that was promoting them.  I expect I will have to wait until the LA auto show to get a good look.  Toyota did have the fourth generation Prius on display and were also offering ride and drives in the Mirai FCEV.  I was there early so there wasn't a lot of activity at the Toyota stand but I decided to forgo the test drive of the Mirai.
 
The next stop was Kia and the first thing I saw there was the Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid.  The Kia Optima PHEV is a mid sized sedan that has a 9.8 KWh battery pack that they say will offer an all electric range of 29 miles.  The official EPA range isn't available yet but it looks like this may come in slightly lower at 27 miles but still pretty good.  The battery pack itself is interestingly positioned.  The pack is L-shaped running behind the rear passenger seat and under the floor of the trunk.  This leaves plenty of room in the trunk.  I didn't get a chance to sit in the car but there seemed to be plenty of room all around so if pricing is good then this should be a good buy.  According to the lady at the Kia stand the Optima Plug-in should be in dealerships here in California in November.
 
While at the Kia stand I also had a chance to take my first drive of the Kia Soul EV.  The Kia Soul EV is a compact SUV with an EPA estimated range of 93 miles.  The test loop at the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo is quite short with only right turns so I didn't get a real chance to test out the car thoroughly, but the ride was smooth and quiet with good pickup although I didn't get a chance to stomp on the accelerator to see what it could really do.  The regenerative braking seemed mild, about what I am used to in the Prius Plug-in.  The Kia Soul is a quite a nice drive for those looking at a car in the compact crossover segment and it should be selling much better than it is.

 

Next I went to check out the Clarity Fuel Cell exhibit.  Honda had a guy there explaining the concept of fuel cells and this appeared to be the most popular thing at the Expo, drawing quite a crowd even on a Saturday morning.  Honda were supposed to be giving test drives on the Clarity too but I didn't see anyone taking a drive and as I'm not really into fuel cells I didn't pursue it further.  From a personal point of view I thought that the Honda Clarity was a much better looking car than the Toyota Mirai but then again it seems to me that Toyota are trying their hardest to make their cars look ugly.

 

Ford was pulling out all the stops and had all three of their plug-in cars available for test drive.  I've already driven the Focus EV, and the C-Max Energi appears to be on its way out, so I elected to take a drive in the Fusion Energi.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The Fusion Energi is a mid sized sedan and while the battery pack intrudes into the trunk reducing trunk space significantly the interior offers plenty of room for five passengers.  I got a shock when I first hit the accelerator as the car surged forward much quicker than I expected.  Perhaps that is because I'm used to driving the Prius in Eco mode.  The Fusion Energi also seemed a very comfortable car even though I hadn't time to adjust the seating to it's best advantage.  With an all electric range of 21 miles it's not surprising that this car is selling well.

 

Before I left I went back to the VW stand and was finally able to get a test drive on the e-Golf.  Regular readers of my blog may remember that two years ago I signed up for a test drive with VW and was told to come back in 15 minutes.  When I returned I found that my name had been moved down to the bottom of the list so I left without driving the car.  This year was totally different.  The girl taking the reservations told me that there was just one person before me and this year they had two cars available for test drives.  After just a couple of minutes wait I was in a car and driving the test course.  Howard who was giving me the test drive had me start out in standard mode then switched the car into B mode that greatly increased regenerative braking. Going up a slight hill I was able to bring the car to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal although the regen was nowhere near as strong as you get on the BMW i3.  One thing to be careful about with B mode is that it is not tied into the brake lights so you have to be careful not to use it is someone is following too closely.

 

All in all I had a fun time at this year's Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo.  I got to test drive three vehicles that I hadn't driven before and also got to see some of the new cars that will be on our roads before the end of the year.  It also seems that the manufacturers that were displaying cars are also more interested in selling plug-ins and FCEV than they were in the past.  Not only were they giving test drives there were also trying to find people who might be interested in buying and steering them towards a dealership.


Sunday Sep 11, 2016 – BMW 740e – European carmakers have been getting into plug-in hybrids and one of the companies leading the way is BMW.  They already offer the i8, X5 xDrive40e, and 330e along with a range extended version of the i3.  Starting in August, with little fanfare, a plug-in hybrid version of the 7-series, the 740e began to arrive at dealerships in limited quantities.

 

BMW didn't record any sales of the 740e in August but I expect that we will see a correction in their next sales report as dealerships that I expect to be among the first to get these vehicles were not showing any in inventory going into September.

 

The 7-Series is BMW's luxury line of sedans and as such they usually come with an in-line 6-cylinder engine or an optional V8.  The 740e is a bit different though.  For the US market it is the first 7-Series sedan to come equipped with an in-line 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, but the 2.0 liter engine which puts out 255hp is enhanced with the same hybrid system that graces the X5 xDrive40e.  This pushes the available horsepower up to 322hp.  The availability of the electric motor gives the car a 0-60 time of just 5.2 seconds an a top speed of 155mph.

 

The hybrid power train is based around a 9.2KWh lithium ion battery pack that BMW says is capable of driving the car 28 miles on the European test cycle.  Given the size of the battery pack I was very surprised that the EPA rated it at just 14 miles of EV only driving.  Once the pack is depleted the car is rated at a combined city/highway 27 mpg.  At first I thought we had another Prius situation on our hands but the 740e can hold the car in electric only mode up to 87 mph.  The car is rated at just 64 mpge.

 

This car would be a good choice for those that have short commutes and want to drive up to five people in a luxury sedan while reducing their carbon footprint.  The car does have a charge mode which allows the car to be charged while driving but in general the use of this mode is only going to reduce mpg so it should only be used in situations where you absolutely need to have a full charge at your destination.

 

The BMW 740e is just one of a bunch of new plug-in cars that should be in dealerships by the end of the year,  Starting this month we should see the Mercedes-Benz 330e beginning to show up in dealerships followed by the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid minivan later in the year,  Filling out the new launches should be the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt and the Toyota Prius Prime PHEV which are both expected to appear in dealerships in December.


Sunday September 4, 2016 – August 2016 EV Sales – August continued the trend of record months for Plug-in sales as sales in August sailed passed the previous record of 12,172 cars set in August 2014 to reach an estimated 14,882 cars.  For those keeping count this is the 7 month out of 8 this year where sales have been the best ever for that month.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections.  August is in the middle of the quarter so sales are usually higher than the first month and lower than the second but this year sales climbed to levels we don't usually see until the last month of the quarter.  In August sales went up from the 2,900 cars sold in July to an estimated 4,975 cars.

 

The Model S sales 2,150 cars in July, but climbed to and estimated 3,125 cars in August, this wasn't quite at the level of the 3,700 cars that were sold in June, the prior quarter end month, but was still pretty big sales for the 2nd month of the quarter.  It appears that the high sales numbers were, in part, the result of heavy discounts on cars with the 90 KWh battery packs in advance of the release of the 100 KWh version.

 

It appears that the early teething troubles with the Model X has been addressed for the most part as sales climbed from the 850 cars sold in April to 1,600 cars sold in May, 2,145 cars in June, and 750 cars sold in July.  In august sales climbed to an estimated 1,850 cars.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt fell slightly in August but still managed to stay above the 2000 mark at 2,081 cars but well below the 2,406 cars that they sold in July.  It appears that GM now has a good supply of Volts on dealer lots around the nation so I expect that the Volt will continue to sell in the 1,500 - 2,500 range for the rest of the year.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built, but supply seems to have stabilized recently with sales in the 300 - 400 car range becoming the norm.  In June 359 cars were sold and in July GM moved an additional 333 of their compact compliance car.  In August the trend finally broke with sales dipping just below the 300 mark at 292.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR continued to fall as existing dealer inventory is depleted and in May just 45 were sold.  June sales of 94 cars therefor came as quite a surprise but it appears to have been just a hick-up as July sales dropped to just 15 while August sales fell even further to just 6.

 

In August GM manage to sell 2,369 plug-in cars, well below the 2,754 cars they sold in July.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while historically sales have been spread over their three models, for the last few months the Fusion Energi has come to dominate sales.  In August total cars sold increased from the 2,144 cars sold in July to 2,204 cars.

 

As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,422 cars in August up from the 1,341 cars they sold in July.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well this year, outselling the Nissan Leaf for the sixth month this year, as it did in February, April, May, and June and July.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi on the other hand showed a slight drop from the 755 cars sold in July to 707 cars sold in August.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In August Ford only managed to sell 58 cars but sales in August increased to 75 cars.

 

After selling an incredible 2,375 cars in July, sales at BMW stayed over the 2,000 cars mark for the second straight month hitting 2,085 in August.  This was a sizable fall in sales for BMW but still exceeded expectations.

 
Coming off their second best sales month ever in July when 1,479 were sold, sales of the i3 continued to do well staying above the 1,000 car mark with 1,013 cars sold in August.

 

In contrast, sales of the BMW i8 showed a drop for the second month in a row going from 169 cars June to 166 cars in July to 145 cars in August.  BMW are keeping good dealer inventory which is helping sales and I expect that we will see the i8 trade in the 150 - 200 range going forward.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e continues to be surprisingly strong and while they couldn't quite match the 655 cars they sold in April they still managed to outsell the 583 cars sold in June delivering an additional 649 cars in July.  For August they beat the previous best sales month ever by selling 876 cars beating the previous best month of 655 cars set back in April.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  June was quite a bad month for 330e sales with just 26 cars sold but in July sales climb back to set a record sales month when they sold 81 cars.  With most of the inventory going to Europe sales fell back in August to just 51 cars.

 

In August BMW dealers began receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e.  BMW didn't report any sales for August for this model but we also saw that the first month they introduced the 330e and a correction was sent out the following month. I expect that we will see this with the 740e also.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf continues to fall below expectations although they did manage to stay above the 1000 car level in August selling 1,066 cars just 3 more than July when Nissan sold 1,063 cars.  It appears that with the pending launch of EVs with 200 miles of range the buying public are not impressed with the 107 miles of range now being offered in some trim levels of the Nissan Leaf. Nissan has already said that the next generation leaf will have 200 miles of range but no details have emerged yet.  Perhaps we will see an announcement at the LA Auto Show in November.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and for the first time they managed to break the 1,000 car barrier with Sales of 1,056 cars, well ahead of the 862 cars they sold in July. 

 

The Audi A3 e-tron was their best seller in July with 349 cars sold but in August sales dropped by 3 to 346 cars which was only enough to put them in second place behind the e-Golf.  Once again the A-3 e-tron remained selling in the 200 - 400 range.

 

VW e-Golf sales strayed outside their normal 200 - 400 range.  After selling 248 cars in June sales of the e-Golf leaped to 344 cars in July and in August they climbed even higher to their best month of the year in August at 454 cars.  VW have announced that starting in the fall the e-Golf will be getting a battery upgrade that will increase the range of the car to about 124 miles.  It will be interesting to see how this higher range EV sells considering that the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt will be available shortly after the upgraded e-Golf goes on sale.

 

After setting all time high records in February and March sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid started on a downward spiral. when sales fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April, 191 cars in May and 176 cars in June and 148 cars in July.  This trend reversed in August when 197 cars were sold.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. August was an exception with sales climbing from 21 cars in July to 59 in August, their best month since they sold 61 in January, 2014.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  Sales faltered a little in July with sales of 425 cars and fell further in August to 360 cars.  The Fiat 500e is by far the most popular compliance car currently being sold.  Chrysler-Fiat America is planning on introducing a plug-in hybrid minivan later this year and it will be interesting to see how well the Pacifica hybrid sells.

 

Coming off an all time record month with sales of 375 cars in July sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV couldn't keep up the pace and sales dropped by a whopping 140 cars down to an estimated 235 cars sold in August.  This car should be a good seller but like sister company Kia they only stock small amounts of cars in dealer inventory in a limited number of states and while it is technically available nation wide in most states it has to be special ordered. 

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles while July showed another improvement going up to 178 cars sold.  August saw a slight pull back falling back to 176 cars.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month but recently things have been improving.  In April they sold 139 cars and while sales dropped again in May they still managed to stay over the 100 cars mark at 120 cars sold.  Sales increased again in June going up to 134 cars, the second best month of the year.  July proved to be a pretty good month as Kia had an all time record month with 179 cars sold.  Kia couldn't maintain the pace in August and sales dropped down to 153 cars.  It looks like Kia has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 49 in May. in June sales dropped by 5 as an addition 44 cars were delivered to customers.  In July sales climbed back up to 50 cars, and in August it increased again to 57 cars.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appear to have been rather lackluster but this was a result of an error and it appears that Mercedes Benz was reporting most sales of the S550e as S550 sales and this changes the picture quite a bit.  In May the actually sold 27 cars and this number was repeated in June.  In July sales climbed to 32 cars while August saw that number drop back to 30 cars.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody knew these cars were going on sale, yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  Mercedes Benz reported sales of 19 for June and sales in July climbed to 30 but in August sales dropped back to 24 cars.  Given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well but the car is only available as a special order item so this may result in limited sales.

 

Mercedes Benz are going to add a third PHEV to the list they sell in the US as the C-Class variant, the C350e is scheduled to begin appearing in dealerships next month.  The EPA rating for this car is not yet available but I expect this car to be rated at around 13 miles all electric range. 

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 111 Plug-in cars in August.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased and details of the new version, expected to go on sale late this year, are not yet available.  Sales have see-sawed a bit this year as they sold 75 in May then fell in June to 53 followed by rebounded to 62 in July and another drop to 55 in August.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars.  In July things got wild as sales surged to 20 cars.  Things improved again in August when sales climbed to 25 cars.  I am wondering if Mitsubishi are sending additional i-MiEV to the US after announcing yet another delay in bringing the Outlander PHEV to the US saying it won't be here until at least mid 2017.

 

Toyota is currently making a plug-in cars 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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly in June sales actually increased to 11 cars.  In July tthey dropped back to the 4 cars the same as they sold in April and May.  In August sales dropped further to just 2 cars.

 

Their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV, is expected to hit the US towards the end of this year or early 2017.  The Prime addresses most of the issues that drivers didn't like about the Prius Plug-in by providing increased range and being able to keep the car in EV mode under most situations.  Production has already started on the Prius Prime but I don't think we will see this hit dealerships until very late in the year.  If Toyota provides decent inventory and sells the car in all states instead of limited states like they did with the Prius Plug-in then I expect this car to sell really well and be a significant factor in Plug-in Sales for 2017.  Toyota have also hinted that they may also be developing another BEV.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in August they sold 371 Mirai FCEVs which is way more than the 50 or so  they have been averaging this year.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 641 Mirai.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year showed strong growth in seven of the first eight months of the year.  If the estimates of sales for Tesla hold up, and Inside EV has been pretty good at getting their numbers very close to actual sales, then we should surpass the 122,438 Plug-in cars sold in 2014 by mid November.  We are also expecting to see a few cars coming to market over the next few months including the Chevy Bolt, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (which is actually going to be a PHEV), the Prius Prime, plus the increased range BMW i3 and e-Golf.


Sunday August 28, 2016 – Early Start to Global Warming – This week I read about some new research published in the Journal Nature which contends that global warming started several decades earlier than was previously thought.  This didn't really come as a shock to me.

 

The usual assumption is that global warming started around 1880, which is just after the cold period known as the little ice age which is often considered to have ended around 1870.  The truth is that 1880 is the date when collection of accurate surface temperature records began.  The study used other methods for determining temperature including measurements from ice cores, tree rings, and corals and these gave a date for the start of warming as around 1830.  This puts it right at the dawn of the industrial age. 

 

Most writers consider the industrial revolution to have started around this time, but in actual fact the industrial revolution started around 1760 and by 1840 we had moved from using mostly wind and water power to using steam power to run our factories.  Animal power and wind power were still the major factors in transportation but the period after 1840 is when the transportation revolution occurred as the power for transportation began to move toward fossil fuels.

 

It all really started with the deforestation of Europe that occurred starting in the late bronze age and was further accelerated by the Romans.  By the time that the Romans left Britain around 400 AD much of the forest that had covered the country was gone opening up the country for farming.

 

Then, around 1300,  the little ice age began in Northern Europe and North America.  It should be understood that the little ice age wasn't a true ice age, just a relatively cold period that lasted until around 1870.  The cause of this climate change is not fully understood but there is some evidence that a fall in solar activity that stared around the end of the 11th Century may have been at least partially to blame.  The two coldest periods appear to have coincided with the Spoorer and Maunder minimums that occurred in the 16th and 18th centuries respectively.  Some scientists have also speculated that heavy volcanic activity at this time may also have been a contributing factor if not the primary cause.

 

The little ice age led to a famine and disease as crop failures began to occur.  The countries that were able to trade with countries not affected by the cooling trend faired better than those that could not and this gave rise to the major maritime powers that rose in the 15th Century.  Trading with foreign countries had its drawbacks though as bubonic plaque, and cholera came in from the east and decimated the population across Europe.
 
To be successful in maritime trade you need to have enough ships to import the food that couldn't be grown locally.  Back then that meant oak for the main structure and pine for things like masts.  In Britain in particular, that had already suffered a high degree of deforestation, the need for oak to build ships competed directly with the growing demand for wood to heat the home as temperatures fell.  A new source of fuel was needed and that source was coal.  Coal had been used for thousands of years for metal smelting but the coal picked up at the coast, called sea coal, wasn't really suitable for burning in the hearth at home.  In the north east of England though a different type of coal proved to be very good for providing heat. 

 

Coal mining has been going on in the Newcastle area since the 13th century and they began shipping coal to London around 1306.  By the 18th Century shipping coal had become big business.  For example HMS Endeavor, famous as the ship used by Captain Cook on his first voyage to Australia, started life in 1764 as the Collier Earl of Pembroke carrying coal from Newcastle to London.

 

At first the coal that was easy to get at, with seams close to the surface, were mined.  Eventually this began to run out so mines had to be dug ever deeper.  This presented a problem though as the mines were prone to flooding and the pumps of the day could only pump water from about 30 feet below the surface and mines needed to go much deeper.  1662 Edward Somerset, second Marquees of Worcester, published a book containing an idea for a a steam-powered pump.  In 1698 Thomas Savery made this idea a reality and the industrial revolution took off.

 

Things began to happen fast after that.  In 1709 Abraham Darby began using coke to smelt iron and in 1715 Thomas Newcomen's first steam engine went to work at Wheal Vor mine in Cornwall.  Over the next 50 years improvements were made to the steam engine and iron production all driven by the availability of coal.  The transportation revolution would soon be getting underway.

 

In 1769 a Frenchman, Joseph Cunot, built his first steam car and while it was not a success it was the first known vehicle to move  using the power of steam alone.  In Britain Trevithick produced his first steam carriage in 1801 and followed this up with Pen-y-Darren in 1804, the first steam locomotive to go to work when it began hauling iron ore from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon, Wales. 

 

America didn't get it's first steam train until the 1830s but did pioneer the use of steam power in boats when, in 1787, when John Fitch successfully tested a forty-five-foot steamboat on the Delaware river.  By 1807 Robert Fulton's steamship Clermont had successfully traveled from New York to Albany starting the revolution that would change shipping forever.

 

As you can see, the use of fossil fuels goes back a long time and may have been a contributing factor to our climb out of the little ice age.  Use of fossil fuel was still pretty low but it is not hard to see how the addition of even those smaller amounts of fossil fuel could have started the increase in global temperatures. 

 

In any event, the use of coal to heat homes was recognized as bad for health pretty early on and the smog shrouded streets of London seen in the 18th and 19th century is still the image that many people have of Britain's capital.  Things came to a head in 1952 when a combination of atmospheric conditions led to a massive smog that lingered in London for 4 days and caused massive health problems.  About 6,000 deaths attributed to the Smog occurred over that 4 day period and an additional 6,000 deaths due to respiratory problems in the following months also had the smog as their probable cause.  The result was the introduction of clean air laws in Britain and the end of the use of Coal fires in most areas of the country.


Sunday Aug 21, 2016 – Carbon Footprint Misdirection – Today I read a post one of my nieces had shared on Facebook listing five charitable organizations and giving lots of reasons why you shouldn't give to these organizations.  A quick fact check showed that the statistics quoted were totally false.  This is why you shouldn't take what anyone on the internet posts seriously without doing some fact checking and understanding the agenda of the person originating the post. 

 

I try to keep my comments here in my blog as factual as possible but my interest is in reducing air pollution by using electric cars and renewable energy so I often get information from sites a similar agenda so some information will contain some bias even if that is unintentional.  If you find inaccuracies in my facts and figures then send in a comment.
 

For some website though the bias is wholly intentional and there is none more so than the propaganda war being waged by the fossil fuel industry against high profile supporters leading the fight against global warming.

 
On a pretty regular basis I find stories about Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore that berates them for being hypocrites for preaching about the need to reduce carbon footprint while both are pretty large consumers of energy.  Like all such attacks there is a grain of truth in this, both DiCaprio and Gore almost certainly use more energy than the average Joe but that doesn't mean that they actually produce more net CO2 than the rest of us: there may be extenuating circumstances.

 

Leonardo DiCaprio for example works with a group called Future Forests that calculate your carbon footprint then allows you to have trees planted that will offset the amount of carbon that you use so you actually become carbon neutral.  They estimate that Mr. DiCaprio produces around 11 tons of carbon per year and he has planted enough trees in a forest in Mexico to offset his annual carbon production.  Over its lifetime a tree will sequester about 1 ton of CO2 so assuming that 11 tons per year is accurate, planting just 11 trees per year could offset his carbon footprint.

 

We see a constant barrage of similar claims about Al Gore, for example the claim is that his Nashville home uses 20 times as much energy as an average home.  Al Gore does have a big house in Nashville, and it does use a lot more energy than the average home but the actual value is more like 12 times than 20 times bases on an investigation done by the Associated Press.  That's not that strange considering that Al Gore is a wealthy man, but it isn't the whole story.  For example both Al and Tipper Gore work out of their home so the additional energy use there is offset to some extent by the lack of a commute to work.  But beyond that the Gore's also pay a premium of around $432 per month to get energy sourced at renewable facilities.

 

It doesn't end there as their home was remodeled in 2007 and as part of that remodel solar panels were added to the house and the lighting system was upgraded to use CFLs and LEDs which are more energy efficient options.  The house also has a geothermal heating system which will also offset much of the energy usage of the home.  I haven't been able to confirm, but it looks to me like Leonardo DiCaprio's home in LA also has solar panels.  Al Gore is also known for purchasing carbon offsets when doing things like flying across country. 

 

Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore are also known for using fuel efficient cars.  Al Gore's son made the headlines a few years ago for being stopped by the CHP for driving the family Prius at over 100mph.  Leonardo DiCaprio was also known for driving a Prius and also drove a Th!nk Neighbor NEV at one time, but now appears to be using a Tesla as his daily driver.

 

The big question is how accurate is the calculation of a persons carbon footprint.  Future Forrest calculated Leonardo DiCaprio's carbon footprint at 11 tones per year.  This seems to be a little bit low to me but it depends on how well the carbon footprint calculator takes into account variables like solar power and energy not directly connected to the home of transportation.  I tried to find the calculator used by Future Forrest but it doesn't appear to be accessible from their web site.
 
There are lots of other calculators though and most of these appear to be pretty generic and don't take many factors into account.  I tried several of these and only 1 had an option for electric cars and none had an option for plug-in hybrids.  Now I don't do a lot of driving, less than 3,000 miles per year, and a good chunk of that is done on battery power.  About 1/3 of the time I get the energy from solar power.  On one site the most fuel efficient option I could get was a car with 37mpg and it gave me an error when I tried to override this with a more accurate 106mpge number.  My carbon footprint came out at 10.6 tons. 

 

The moral of this story is to not take everything that pops up on the internet, even an op-ed piece in a reputable news paper, at face value.  It may be true but on the other hand it could also be a bunch of half truths bundled together to advance an agenda.  Usually a few minutes of fact checking is all it takes to bust such things wide open.


Sunday August 14, 2016 – The Air We Breath – Everyone these days is so focused on global warming that they forget that reduction in the use of fossil fuels has an impact on the air we breath that goes way past the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  While limiting global warming is a goal to strive for, improving air quality in general has many health benefits giving us an impetus to get rid of fossil fuels sooner rather than later.

 

While it's true that burning fossil fuels both to move us around in our cars and to provide the power that we need to run our homes, and our businesses  produces large amounts of carbon dioxide it also produces a whole set of other pollutants that cause major health problems.

 

Particulate matter produced from automobile tail pipes and from the smoke stacks of power plants gives smog its color; it's why when you fly in to LAX and airports in other heavily polluted cities you see a brown ring of smog.  A primary source for particulate matter is diesel engines.  Particulates penetrate the lungs and have been linked to respiratory problems and heart disease.

 

Hydrocarbons react with oxides of nitrogen to form ground level ozone, one of the primary elements of smog.  Ozone irritates the respiratory system leading to coughing and eventually to reduced lung capacity.  Children growing up in the heavily smog laden atmosphere around Los Angeles can see lung capacity degraded by as much as 21%.  The primary sources of hydrocarbons in the air is unburned hydrocarbons caused by fuel not being fully combusted in a car's engine, and evaporative emissions from leaks in a cars fuel system and gasoline spills or evaporation at the gas station.

 

Oxides of nitrogen including nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide are produced as a result of burning fossil fuels in the presence of nitrogen.  Since nitrogen makes up about 78% of our atmosphere almost any combustion in air is going to produce oxides of nitrogen including burning fuel in an internal combustion engine and burning coal of natural gas in a power plant.  Oxides of nitrogen cause a weakening of the bodies immune system making it more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia and influenza.
 
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is highly poisonous in higher concentrations.  When inhaled it blocks oxygen from reaching the brain and heart.  New born children and people with chronic illness are more susceptible to its affects.  The primary source of carbon monoxide is automobile exhausts although oil and gas home heating systems can also be a source if they are not properly maintained.

 
Sulfur dioxide is a result of burning fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and coal, that have a high sulfur content.  Sulfur dioxide can react with other pollutants to form particulates in the air and can react with water in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid, the primary component of acid rain.  Sulfur dioxide poses health risks to children and people who suffer from Asthma.

 

Toxic Chemicals such as benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and 1,3-butadiene are emitted from car tailpipes and can also be found around gas stations.  Most of these chemicals are carcinogens and the EPA estimates that the cause about half the cases of cancer that can be attributed to air pollution.

 

As you can see these pollutants have been linked to quite a few health problems, but how bad can it be.
 
Well, the average human breaths in about 3,400 gallons of air per day.  It is estimated that pollution in this air reduces life expectancy by between 1 and 2 years.
 
The cause of about 80% of lung disease can be attributed to air pollution.  It is estimated that more than 50,000 people per year die in the US from causes stemming from air pollution.  Half of those deaths, about 25,000 per year occur in California and this generated over $200 Million in health car costs.  The California department of Education reports that asthma as the leading cause of children being absent from school.
 
The main reason I got interested in electric cars is because of concern over air pollution.  There are things that we can do as individuals to improve air quality.  Some recommend that we walk or ride a bike instead of driving whenever feasible and while I don't ride a bike I do try to walk when I can.  Given how bad the air is polluted here in Los Angeles I have my doubts about biking since that is going to make you breath harder while riding through heavy traffic.

 

Using public transport is not a bad idea. A bus with say 30 passengers means 30 less cars on the road and although the bus uses more fuel than a car, it will move 30 passengers burning less fuel that 30 separate cars would.  Here in LA they have further improved things by converting most of the busses to burn natural gas instead of diesel which means cleaner tail pipe emissions and less particulates.

 

In the end though, we need to make two strategic changes.  First we need to move our vehicle fleet from burning hydrocarbons to running on electricity.  Second we need to move our electricity source from burning fossil fuels to producing electricity from renewable resources.  This is a very tough thing to do and will take time but it is the right thing to do.


Sunday Aug 7, 2016 – July 2016 EV Sales – The pace of growth continued in July with another record month of Plug-in sales.  For those keeping count this is the 6 month out of 7 this year where sales have been the best ever for that month.  For the month an estimated 13,432 plug-in cars were sold in the US, well ahead of the previous best July total of 11,242 cars set in July, 2014.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections.  Consequently the following month tends to be low as they catch up on international sales.  They followed this pattern again delivering just 2,900 cars in July.

 

The Model S sales climbed from the 1,600 cars in May to an estimated 3,700 cars in June, but fell back to 2,150 in July.  Tesla says that it now has its production line humming so it will be interesting to see how August turns out.

 

It appears that the early teething troubles with the Model X has been addressed for the most part as sales climbed from the 850 cars sold in April to 1,600 cars sold in May and 2,145 cars in June.  In July sales fell to an estimated 750 cars, their worst showing since February.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt were the best this year breaking 2000 for the first time since October 2015 at 2,406 cars.  GM also achieved another milestone for the Volt as it became the first plug-in to sell more than 100,000 cars in the US coming in at 100,964 Volts sold since it went on sale in 2011.   In June they sold 1,937 cars.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built, but supply seems to have stabilized recently with sales in the 300 - 400 car range becoming the norm.  In June 359 cars were sold and in July GM moved an additional 333 of their compact compliance car.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR continued to fall as existing dealer inventory is depleted and in May just 45 were sold.  June sales of 94 cars therefor came as quite a surprise but it appears to have been just a hick-up as July sales dropped to just 15 sales.

 

In June GM manage to sell 2,754 plug-in cars.


It seems like every so often the stars align just right and Plug-in Sales at BMW take off, remember October 2015 when sales of the i3 suddenly shot up to 1,710 units.  It happened again this month as sales shot up to 2,375 cars from 1,386 the previous month.

 
After returning sales of 814 cars in March  sales of the i3 dropped back to 696 cars in May, and to 608 cars in June.  In July, probably spurred by dealer incentives, sales shot up to a whopping 1,479 the second best month ever for the i3.

 

In contrast, sales of the BMW i8 showed a small drop in sales going from 169 cars June to 166 cars in July.  BMW have also been keeping good dealer inventory which is helping sales and I expect that we will see the i3 trade in the 150 - 200 range going forward.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e continues to be surprisingly strong and while they couldn't quite match the 655 cars they sold in April they still managed to outsell the 583 cars sold in June delivering an additional 649 cars in July.  This was the second best month for since the car went on sale in October, 2015 falling just 6 cars short of the 655 cars that were sold in April.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  June was quite a bad month for 330e sales with just 26 cars sold but in July sales climb back to set a record sales month when they sold 81 cars. 

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while historically sales have been spread over their three models, for the last few months the Fusion Energi has come to dominate sales.  In July total cars sold dropped from the 2,384 cars sold in June to 2,154 cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,341 cars in July down from the 1,700 cars they sold in June.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well this year, outselling the Nissan Leaf for the fifth month, as it did in February, April, May, and June.  it was also just 8 cars short of doing so in March.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi on the other hand showed a decent increased from the 630 cars sold in Jun to 755 cars sold in July making this its best sales month of the year so far.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In July Ford sold 58 cars just a little higher than the 54 cars they sold in June.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf continues to fall below expectations although they did manage to stay above the 1000 car level in July selling 1,063 cars just a little less that June when Nissan sold 1,096 cars.  It appears that with the pending launch of EVs with 200 miles of range the buying public are not impressed with the 107 miles of range now being offered in some trim levels of the Nissan Leaf. Nissan has already said that the next generation leaf will have 200 miles of range but no details have emerged yet. perhaps we will see an announcement at the LA Auto Show in November.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and in April they sold a total of 914 cars. Sales in May dropped to 847 cars and June saw a further drop to 799 cars.  Sales picked up a little in July climbing back to 862 cars.  This includes Porsche  Sales which this month were down by 29 to 169 plug-in cars sold in July after selling 198 plug-in cars in June.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron was their best seller in July with 349 cars down just slightly from the 353 cars they sold in June.  Once again the A-3 e-tron remained selling in the 200 - 400 range.

 

VW e-Golf sales also stayed to their normal 200 - 400 range.  After selling 248 cars in June sales of the e-Golf leaped to 344 cars.  VW have announced that starting in the fall the e-Golf will be getting a battery upgrade that will increase the range of the car to about 124 miles.  It will be interesting to see how this higher range EV sells considering that the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt will be available shortly after the upgraded e-Golf goes on sale.

 

After setting two all time high records in February and March sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid started on a downward spiral. when sales fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April, 191 cars in May and 176 cars in June.  This trend continued in July falling to just 148 cars sold.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. July was an exception  falling by 1 from the 22 cars in June to 21 cars in July.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  Sales faltered a little in July with sales of 425 cars.  The Fiat 500e is by far the most popular compliance car currently being sold.  Chrysler-Fiat America is planning on introducing a plug-in hybrid minivan later this year and it will be interesting to see how well the Pacifica sells.

 

After setting all time sales records for the first six months of sales Hyundai couldn't quite manage to improve sales in April as they sold 250 Sonata PHEV cars down from the 275 they sold in March.  This sales trend continued in May as sales fell to 235 cars and the pullback continued in June falling another 10 cars to 225.  July was a different story however as sales of the Sonata broke the 300 mark for the first time with total sales of 375 cars..

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month but recently things have been improving.  In April they sold 139 cars and while sales dropped again in May they still managed to stay over the 100 cars mark at 120 cars sold.  Sales increased again in June going up to 134 cars, the second best month of the year.  July proved to be a pretty good month as Kia had an all time record month with 179 cars sold. 


The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles.  July showed another improvement going up to 178 cars sold.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 49 in May. in June sales dropped by 5 as an addition 44 cars were delivered to customers.  In July sales climbed back up to 50 cars.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV have been rather lackluster but I this has a lot to do with the car being a special order item so not many dealers have them on their lots.  In June they reported that 4 cars had been sold and in July that number dropped down to 1.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody new these cars were going on sale yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  Almost immediately these began to appear on eBay but once again they were just listed as if they were the regular GLE not the plug-in.  Mercedes Benz did report sales of 19 for June and sales in July climbed to 30.  Given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well but the car is only available as a special order item so this may result in limited sales.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 81 Plug-in cars in July.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased and details of the new version, expected to go on sale late this year, are not yet available.  Sales did pick up in May though when Smart sold 75 but fell again in June down to 53 and rebounded a little to 62 in July.


Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars.  In July things got wild as sales surged to 20 cars.  It looks like we will be seeing only a trickle of sales from Mitsubishi for the foreseeable future as they just announced yet another delay in bringing the Outlander PHEV to the US saying it won't be here until at least mid 2017.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly in June sales actually increased to 11 cars.  In July they dropped back to the 4 cars the same as they sold in April and May.  Their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV, is expected to hit the US towards the end of this year or early 2017 and Toyota have also hinted that they may also be developing another BEV.


Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in July they sold 52 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning,  since they went on sale in January 2016 Toyota has sold a total of 270 cars.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year showed strong growth in six of the first seven months of the year.  If the estimates of sales for Tesla hold up, and Inside EV has been pretty good at getting their numbers very close to actual sales, then we should surpass the 122,438 Plug-in cars sold in 2014 before the end of November.  We are also expecting to see a few cars coming to market over the next few months including the Chevy Bolt, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (which is actually going to be a PHEV), and the increased range BMW i3.  In addition it is possible that we will see first sales of the Prius Prime in December.


Sunday July 31, 2016 –  50 Billion Hamsters  – Where can I store 50 billion hamsters? According to Elon Musk, the Tesla Giga Factory.  This was the odd metric that Elon Musk used to show just how big Tesla's Gigafactory is going to be once it is complete.  For those of us who can't comprehend what 5 billion hamsters would look like he also said that it would fit 93 Boeing 747s. 

 

Tesla broke ground on its Gigafactory just outside Sparks, NV in June 2014 and on Friday they held a grand opening party at the plant.  In a long standing tradition that dates back to the launch event of the Tesla Roadster, Evfinder was not invited to this event.  However, Tesla has now begun streaming such events online in real-time so now I get to see these events if only on my computer monitor.

 

So what's the big deal about the Gigafactory?

 

Well for starters it is intended to be a factory that can produce a large volume of lithium ion batteries, in fact they plan to produce more lithium ion batteries in this factory than the entire world production from 2014, and that includes batteries that were produced for applications like cell phones.  When it is up and running the concept is that raw materials will go in one end and electric cars will come out of the other.  This is not new, the Ford River Rouge plant in Dearborn, MI was similar in concept back in the 1930s where raw materials would go in one end and cars would come out of the other.

 

If Tesla was going to produce a large volume of cars it needed to have enough battery packs and there just wasn't enough capacity in the world to produce the batteries needed for a production rate of 500,000 cars per year.  Tesla needed to up the anti and with battery upplier Panasonic as a partner, they conceived a gigantic plant that once if full production would be able to supply enough batteries to allow them to build 1.5 million cars per year.  Once it is fully complete, it's only 17% done at the moment, it will have the largest footprint of any building in the world.  Boeing has a building with larger volume in their complex in the Seattle area so the Gigafactory will only be second largest building by volume.

 

The building is not ready to go into production yet but should start producing batteries some time in 2017, and it is expected to be able to produce enough batteries to meet the 500,000 cars per year goal when the model 3 goes into production in 2018.  It is also expected to reduce battery costs by as much as 30%.  For the most part the Gigafactory will also be powered by renewable energy,  The roof will be covered by an array of solar panels and there will also be some windmills on site to provide additional power.

 
Elon Musk also gave us a teaser of the future at Tesla.  First of all they want to get Tesla into all car segments.  Right now they have a luxury sedan and a luxury crossover and the model 3 moves the company into the mid-sized sedan market.  Expect to see other products to follow the model 3, perhaps with entries in the the minivan and pickup truck segments.  Tesla also  appear to be working on a larger people mover similar to the VW microbus which will be based on the Model X platform.

 

There are also a few other exciting things planned for Tesla's future.  It appears that self driving cars are about 10 years away and these cars would allow people to enter their car into a ride share scheme.  Instead of leaving the car parked in the parking lot the concept is that owners will be able to add their cars to a rideshare pool and the cars will them be able to earn them money.  Once they are done for the day they will be able to push a button on their smartphone ap and the car will be removed from the pool and will return to pick up the owner.  This has two ramifications, more use of cars will mean less need to own automobiles and the availability of driverless cars will mean no more need for taxi drivers.

 

The Gigafactory was a bold move by Tesla and it is going to be interesting to see how it pans out.  The question now is will they be able to get the factory up to high enough production levels to meet the needs of the Model 3, and will they get the model 3 out of the door in time to use the Gigafactory output.  Only time will tell.


Sunday July 24, 2016 – Santa Clarita Wildfire – Yesterday the potential result of global warming really struck me and all I had to do was look up.

 

I had been to the library and on my way out  around 4:15pm I stopped by the monitor to check the output of the solar panels they have on their roof, and it was much lower than I expected at 192 KW where I had expected closer to 250 KW.  When I walked out of the door I noticed an orange glow.  I Looked up at the sky and saw that it was full of smoke and the sun looked like a tiny orange ball. 

 

What I was seeing was smoke from the Santa Clarita fire ranging over 50 miles away in the area around Sand Canyon close to the city of Santa Clarita in northern Los Angeles county.  For the drive home I elected to roll up the windows and turn on the AC set to recirculate air.  Air quality was really bad and continued to be bad well into the night.

 

When I woke up this morning the wind had shifted and the on-shore breeze had pushed the smoke away leaving a clear sunny morning and bringing a respite from the hot temperatures we have had over the last few days.  My nephew saw the temperature gauge in his car register 110 degrees F on Friday while here in the LA basin it was in the upper 90s..

 

The statistics on the Santa Clarita fire are also not too good.  So far the fire has consumed over 22,000 acres (a little over 34 square miles) of brush.  Firefighters have done a tremendous job, so far limiting the damage to just 17 homes destroyed and one home badly damaged.  Near one of the burned out homes a man was found dead in a car but so far the cause of death has not been determined so the death has not yet been attributed to the fire.  In addition Sable Ranch, a well known move set where TV shows like the A-Team and 24 were shot along with movies like Robin Hood Men in Tights, is a total loss.  1,500 homes and 100 commercial buildings are also threatened and are currently under an evacuation order.

 

In total there are 1,673 firefighters working on this blaze supported by 8 fixed wing tankers and 6 water dropping helicopters.  These firefighters got a break last night as the winds became calm and humidity increased but the fire is still only 10% contained.  Today the humidity is falling again and wind gusts of 30mph are forecast for this afternoon which will lead to another tough day on the line for the firefighters.
 
Now it is very difficult to say that any particular event is related to global warming and lets face it wildfires happen in Southern California; its part of living here.  Having said that this fire is pretty early in the fire season and it is clear that the protracted drought has left a lot more dried out vegetation that we would normally have at this time of year.  Even the El Nino conditions didn't help here.  The last giant El Nino was in 1997 and the 1997-1998 season saw over 30 inches of rainfall.  This time we had just 7 inches creating lots of fuel for wildfires.

 

Perhaps this fire cannot be directly attributable to global warming but I think it should act as a wake-up call because as global temperatures continue to increases it is likely that the incidence and strength of such events will increase and we need to start taking action immediately to curb the rate we are throwing green house gases into the atmosphere.


Follow-up:

 

In the end the Santa Clarita fire ended up burning over 65 square miles of brush and at its peak there were about 3,000 firefighters working on it.  Fortunately the firefighters were successfully able to defend the structures threatened by the fire so there was no further loss of either life or property.


Sunday July 17, 2016 – 10 Greenest Cars of 2016 – Every so often hear of some study that claims that electric cars are more polluting that gas cars.  Usually these studies prove to be working on flawed assumptions.  Today I came across an article from last February that listed the 10 cleanest cars for 2016 based on information from The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  It should come as no surprise that 7 of the top 10 cars were EVs and the other three were Prius hybrids. 

 

Now, there is always a problem with these life cycle analysis when it comes to plug-in vehicles because much of the emissions are dependent on where the power comes from.  The ACEEE used an average national standard for the grid which works in favor of gas cars because it actually applies more pollution to plug-in cars than it should because typically most plug-in cars are currently sold in areas like the west coast where the grid is actually cleaner than the national average.  It is still not a bad measure and would be pretty accurate if plug-in cars were sold uniformly across the country.
 
The top 10 cleanest cars in reverse order are:

 

10 Ford Focus EV

  9 Toyota Prius Liftback

  8 Toyota Prius C

  7 Kia Soul EV

  6 Nissan Leaf

  5 VW e-Golf

  4 Toyota Prius 2 Echo

  3 Fiat 500e

  2 Chevy Spark EV

  1 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

 
The first thing I noticed about this list is that there are no plug-in hybrids on there.  I think that is because the plug-in hybrid is so much harder to tie down than gas, conventional hybrid, or BEVs.  The reason is that the amount of pollution depends greatly on how many miles that you drive electric verses driving in hybrid mode.  I couldn't find what standard the ACEEE had used in their analysis so it is difficult to determine how well they did on this class of vehicle.  The 2016 Chevy Volt placed 11th on the list which surprised me as with a 53 miles all electric range it is likely that majority of Volt owners drive electric most of the time and even on gas the Volt's power plant is relatively economical.

 

Another surprise was that none of the Tesla models were anywhere close to the top 10.  The Model S 85 placed around 34 while the S 70 placed 35.  The Model X placed even lower at 61.  This is partly due to methodology which used the weight of the battery to adjust as a measure of pollution generated in production and disposal.  The two model S vehicles have big battery packs so got marked down on this measurement.  Both ended up with the same score though so their relative ranking is probably arbitrary.

 

Another interesting thing is that Toyota's Mirai FCEV placed 51 putting it ahead of the Tesla Model X but behind the Model S.  It scored the same as the Toyota Avalon Hybrid.

 

It's clear from this study that electric cars really are cleaner than the best hybrids in most cases.  If you take into account the fact that most plug-in cars are sold in areas where the grid is cleaner then the rankings would shift even more.  The truth is that at the moment the grid is slowly becoming cleaner and as it does the benefits of plug-in cars just keeps looking better and better. 

 

I think the biggest hole in this sort of analysis is how plug-in hybrids are handled.  It can be very difficult to determine an electric only range for these vehicles since everyone's usage varies so much.  Of course it's the same with any vehicle but plug-in hybrids are more difficult than the others.

 

For example I can site my experience with the Prius Plug-in.  I do the majority of driving on electric and have managed to drive 1,000 miles on a tank three times in a little under 14,000 miles of driving, and have come very close to 1,000 miles on two other tanks.  Since the last time I filled up I have driven just a hair less than 90 miles but only 10 miles of that was using the gas engine.  I also live in an area that has one of the nations cleanest utilities, and get to charge at a solar array once or twice per week making my travel even cleaner.  I'm not typical however and there are plenty of people in California who bought their plug-in Prius to get carpool lane benefits and never actually charge their car.
 
I don't think that buying for carpool access is true of Volt buyers though and the majority of those regularly get 1,000 miles an more on a tank of gas.  Determining a valid baseline for estimating gas v electric usage for these cars is one of the biggest challenges in determining how green a car really is and so far I haven't come across anything that appears to come close to being a good estimate.

 

Another issue I'm not sure about comes to the creation and disposal of batteries.  The study appears to assign values for the pollution levels based on the weight of the battery.  Tesla is a big time looser here but wait, isn't Tesla's Gigafactory going to be powered mostly by renewable energy?  That will mean significantly less pollution in the manufacturing process for Tesla battery packs.  Then their is Nissan, who are now starting to sell power storage systems based on batteries from the Nissan Leaf that have reached the end of their useful life in an EV, but should still provide years of service as battery backup.
 

Still I think it is clear that at the moment plug-in cars have the edge when it comes to clean motoring with hybrids coming in a close second.  As battery sizes come down and manufacturers find cleaner ways to manufacture and recycle batteries, it becomes apparent that plug-in cars are currently our best path to address both global warming and air pollution in our cities.


Sunday July 10, 2016 – June 2016 EV Sales – May proved to be a bad month all round for car sales with a 6% drop from May of last year but this appears to an anomaly.  June resumed the trend that we had seen for 6 of the last 7 months and returned not only the best June ever but also the best month ever for EV sales with an estimated volume of 15,040, crushing the previous high of 13,845 that we saw back in March.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections.  Tesla has taken a lot of heat recently because they fell well short of second quarter estimates but this appears to be related to a slower ramp-up in production of both the Model X and the updated Model S.  This appears to be fixed though as they sold an estimated 5,854 cars in June making this their best month ever, beating March by just 4 vehicles.  It also appears that they had a large number of cars in transit at the end of the month which bodes well for July.

 

The Model S sales climbed from the 1,600 cars in May to an estimated 3,700 cars in June.  This was well below the 3,990 they sold in March but still a pretty good showing.

 

It appears that the early teething troubles with the Model X has been addressed for the most part as sales climbed from the 850 cars sold in April to 1,600 cars sold in May and 2,145 cars in June.  This is well above the 1,860 cars they sold in March.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt improved a little over the previous month but once again they didn't manage to break the 2,000 car barrier falling just short at 1,937 cars  a little higher than the 1,901 cars they sold in May but still less than than the 1,983 Volts sold in April.  Inventory has been improving so I don't think that it was a factor in sales so it looks like the Volt may have settled into sales just below the 2,000 level.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built, but in May Sales were also impacted by the new California rebate program which makes the Spark EV very affordable for families with income levels in the $35K - $73K range.  However this program has been suspended so the June sales number of 359 cars came as quite a surprise.  In May 419 cars had been sold.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR continued to fall as existing dealer inventory is depleted and in May just 45 were sold.  June sales of 94 cars therefor came as quite a surprise.

 

In June GM manage a small increase from the 2,349 sales in May up to 2,390.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while historically sales have been spread over their three models, for the last few months the Fusion Energi has come to dominate sales.  In June total cars sold increased from the 2,045 cars sold in May to 2,384 cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,700 cars in June up from the 1,453 cars they sold in May.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well this year, outselling the Nissan Leaf for the fourth time, as it did in February April and May and it was also just 8 cars short of doing so in March.  June was their best sales since they sold 1,939 cars in June 2014.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi also increased from the 538 cars sold in May to 630 cars sold in June making this their best sales month of the year so far.
 
This year Ford has been struggling to sell the Focus EV which is now getting towards the end of its life.  While they used to consistently sell in the 100 - 200 range this year they have only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  In June they sold 54 cars which was exactly the same as the 54 cars they sold in May.


Plug-in Sales at BMW fell again in June going from 1,409 cars in May down to 1,386 in June.

 
After returning sales of 814 cars in March  sales of the i3 dropped back to 696 cars in May, and to 608 cars in June.

 

In contrast, sales of the BMW i8 showed an increase in sales going from 130 cars sold in April to a 146 cars in May and 169 cars in June.  BMW have also been keeping good dealer inventory which is helping sales.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e continues to be surprisingly strong and while they couldn't match the 655 cars they sold in April they still managed to outsell the 500 cars sold in May by selling an additional 583 cars.  This was the second best month for the year and the third highest sales total since the car went on sale in October, 2015.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  They didn't record any sales of the car in March and I predicted that there would be a correction in April and I was right.  It turns out that they actually Sold 19 in March.  Sales in April climbed a little to 25 and May saw a further increase to 67 cars. The momentum could not be maintained and in June sales dropped back to 26 cars.  The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf continues to fall below expectations although they did do a little better in June selling 1,096 cars up from the 979 cars they sold in May making June their second best month of the year so far.  It appears that with the pending launch of EVs with 200 miles of range the buying public are not impressed with the 107 miles of range now being offered in some trim levels of the Nissan Leaf. Nissan has already said that the next generation leaf will have 200 miles of range but no details have emerged yet. perhaps we will see an announcement at the LA Auto Show in November.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and in April they sold a total of 914 cars. Sales in May dropped to 847 cars and June saw a further drop to 799 cars.  This includes Porsche  Sales which this month were down by 19 to 198 plug-in cars sold in June after selling 217 plug-in cars in May.

 

VW e-Golf sales stayed to their normal 200 - 400 range.  After selling 269 cars in May sales fell to 248 cars in June  VW have announced that starting in the fall the e-Golf will be getting a battery upgrade that will increase the range of the car to about 124 miles.  It will be interesting to see how this higher range EV sells considering that the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt will be available shortly after the upgraded e-Golf goes on sale.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron also appears to be selling in the 200 - 400 range similar to the e-Golf.  In May they sold a total of 361 cars but sales in June dropped to 353 but this was still its second best sales month ever.

 

After setting two all time high records in February and March Porsche fell just short of repeating this feet in April when sales  for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid Fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April.  This sales trend continued in May as sales dropped to just 191 cars and continued into June with just 176 cars sold.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. June was an exception going from March sales of 23 cars up to 25 cars in April and 26 cars in May but dropping back to 22 cars in June.


The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  Sales of the 500e have been on the increase this year and after selling 405 cars in May sales continued to improve in June  when an estimated 480 cars were sold.  The Fiat 500e is by far the most popular compliance car currently being sold.  Chrysler-Fiat America is planning on introducing a plug-in hybrid minivan later this year and it will be interesting to see how well the Pacifica sells.

 
After setting all time sales records for the first six months of sales Hyundai couldn't quite manage to improve sales in April as they sold 250 Sonata PHEV cars down from the 275 they sold in March.  This sales trend continued in May as sales fell to 235 cars and the pullback continued in June falling another 10 cars to 225.


The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. They did stage a recovery in June with sales climbing back up to 166 vehicles.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month but recently things have been improving.  In April they sold 139 cars and while sales dropped again in May they still managed to stay over the 100 cars mark at 120 cars sold.  Sales increased again in June going up to 134 cars, the second best month of the year.


It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 49 in May. in June sales dropped by 5 as an addition 44 cars were delivered to customers.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV have been rather confusing of late.  Originally they reported 0 sales in March but this was corrected to show 12 cars being sold but then put back to 0.  April sales reported at 29 cars has also been corrected to show 0 cars. In May they appear to have sold 3 cars.  I think this may be related to dealer education issues as I have seen several of these cars advertised as S550 with no mention of them being plug-in.  In June they reported an additional 4 cars had been sold.

 

There was so little fanfare that almost nobody new these cars were going on sale yet in June Mercedes Benz quietly began selling the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV.  Almost immediately these began to appear on eBay but once again they were just listed as if they were the regular GLE not the plug-in.  Mercedes Benz did report sales of 19 for June and given the American's love affair with SUVs this car should sell relatively well if they keep enough of them in inventory.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 67 Plug-in cars in June.


Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased and details of the new version, expected to go on sale late this year, are not yet available.  Sales did pick up in May though when Smart sold 75 but fell again in June down to 53.


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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 4 cars in May, the same number they sold in April.  Even more surprising was that in June sales actually increased to 11 cars.  Their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV, is expected to hit the US in September and Toyota have also hinted that they may also be developing another BEV.


Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in June they sold 40 of Mirai FCEVs, exactly the same number as they sold in May.  Since they went on sale in January 2016 Toyota has sold a total of 218 cars.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars.  In June sales improved by 100% over May as they sold 4 cars. 

 

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 the Outlander PHEV which was shown at the New York Auto Show and is currently expected to go on sale late this year.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year showed strong growth in five of the first six months of the year.  If the estimates of sales for Tesla hold up, and Inside EV has been pretty good at getting their numbers very close to actual sales, then we have just seen the best sales month ever for plug-in cars.  other than Tesla, which already offers more than 200 miles of range on their cars, the trend has been away from BEVs and towards Plug-in hybrids this year.  I expect this trend to reverse once the longer range EVs start to hit dealerships.  It is already starting to look like 2016 is going to be a record sales year with sales on track to surpass the 122,438 plug-in cars sold in 2014.


Sunday July 3, 2016 – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – With very little fanfare, to the point where almost nobody new that it was happening, Mercedes-Benz began sales a second plug-in hybrid, the GLE 550e.  This car now joins the B250e BEV and the S 550e plug-in hybrid as their third plug-in offering in the US.

 

The GLE 550e is an SUV with seating for 5 passengers.  The car also comes standard with MBZs 4Matic all wheel drive system and all the safety features that we have come to expect from a car in the luxury segment such as lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. 

 

Power comes from a 3 liter twin turbo charged gas motor that produces 329hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.  This is coupled to a 7 speed automatic transmission.  At the heart of the hybrid side of the system is a 114hp electric motor that is driven from an 8.8KW lithium ion battery that can drive the SUV in electric only mode up to a speed of 88mph.   

 

The GLE 500e offers an interesting selection of drive modes.  The standard drive mode is Hybrid which lets the car decide on the most efficient power source at any given moment.  The car can be switch into E-Mode which puts the car into electric only mode.  There are two additional modes, E-Save which preserves the current state of charge to be used later, and Charge which will recharge the battery while you are driving or even if you are stationary.

 

The EPA has rated the GLE 550e with an all electric range of 10 miles and a blended range of 12 miles which means that the all electric range is similar to the Volvo XC90 T8.  Combined fuel economy is listed at 21mpg on premium gas, and 43mpge when gas and electric combined.

 

The GLE 550e joins the Volvo XC90 T8, BMW xDrive40e, and Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid adding one more option to those who want to go plug-in and at the same time drive an SUV but are not comfortable going full BEV.  The all electric range is a little lacking but for those that use their car mostly for short drives and have frequent opportunities to charge the batteries, it can still give you a good percentage of electric only miles.

 

The GLE 550e is now available in CARB states only at a base price of $66,475.


Sunday Jun 26, 2016 –  EVS 29 – EVS 29 in Montreal wound up this week and since I wasn't able to attend myself I had to rely on coverage from the media which this year was very sparse.  I think that this may have a lot to do with the fact that electric cars are becoming mainstream so conferences like EVS become oriented towards electric power systems and less toward consumer vehicles. 

 

A good example of this was from BMW who showed off not a new model for the BMW i line nor the electric only version of the i8 which is expected to make an appearance next year.  What they did show was their new Power Station.  The BMW i Power Station is basically an i3 battery pack hung on the wall with electronics built around it that allows the pack to be used as a back-up power supply.  The interesting thing is that the power station can be made up of either brand new batteries of used batteries that have lost about 20% capacity, the level at which batteries in an EV are considered ready to be replaced.

 

The power station can be used as a traditional battery back-up or it can be used to provide off grid storage for a solar power system.  BMW is also doing a study with PG&E to see if they can be used to level supply and demand in the grid.  The main problem with renewable energy sources is that many of them are intermittent.  Solar only works during daylight and wind tends to work better in the evening when the wind picks up and no energy is generated on a calm day.  To make the such renewables work we have to find ways to be able to match out supply and demand.

 

Now lets say we have a battery back-up system like the BMW i Power Station sitting on our garage wall.  With a smart grid the utility can charge up this battery when there is plenty of power generation and pull the energy back out when consumption exceeds demand.  Now, we will be looking at how we price this. It obviously won't work if the owner is charged peak rates for the electricity that is used to charge the batteries and then paid at off peak rates when the electricity is pulled back onto the grid.  Fortunately it is most likely that the electricity will be needed during peak demand and charging done at times of low demand so pricing will probably work OK.

 

BMW's Power Station joins a growing number of similar products now being sold by Tesla, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz.

 

The other big news wasn't really part of EVS29, it came from a conversation between Kazuo Yajima, global director of EV and HEV engineering for Nissan, and Autoblog Green.  Mr. Yajima revealed that the next generation Nissan Leaf would have a 60KW battery giving it an anticipated range of around 210 miles.  This is not totally unexpected but this is actually the first time that someone in the know at Nissan has confirmed the battery pack size expected for the next generation Leaf.

 
The EVS conferences have always been a good source of information about what is coming in the EV world but it appears that this conference is going to become more and more technical while new vehicle announcements are now being made at major auto shows and consumer electronics shows.


Sunday Jun 19, 2016 – Another Hot Month – I have to say that I was quite surprised this month when both NOAA and NASA announced that May 2016 had been the hottest may on record.  This makes 13 straight months that we have had record hot months.  I wasn't expecting another hot month after all here in LA it had been unseasonable cool for the latter part of May and the first half of June and my family and friends back in Europe had also been experiencing lower than normal temperatures.

 

This is of course why we have distinguish between weather and climate and many people don't do that.  Weather is what is going on where you live.  Climate is the aggregate of weather across all area's of the world.  It might have been a little cooler than usual in Southern California but then last week I read about record temperatures in the Greenland capital of 75 F which made it the hottest June day ever recorded there.  It was actually hotter than LA where it only managed to make it to 72. 

 

While areas of the US and Europe have seen below normal temperatures in May other areas have seen temperatures which are much higher than usual.  On May 19 Phalodi, India hit a temperature of 51 C (123.8 F) the hottest temperature ever recorded in India.  In general most of the higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere have been seeing much hotter temperatures.  The artic sea has seen some of the lowest levels of ice ever recorded and Alaska has also had record temperatures.

 

Here in Southern California the heat is returning with a vengeance.  Today it looks like it will be in the Upper 90's in the LA basin and over 100 F in the valleys.  Tomorrow should be even hotter with 120 F being predicted for the Palm Springs area and new records expected to be set around the southland.

 

I began to wonder how long it would be before the hottest temperature ever recorded was broken. Right now the world record for the hottest place on earth goes to Death Valley here in Southern California where a temperature of 134.1 F (56.7 C) was recorded at Greenland Ranch on July 10, 1913.  Hotter temperatures have been measured but not validated and a temperature of 58 C (136.4 F) recorded in Aziziya, Libya on 13 September, 1922 which was once considered the hottest temperature ever recorded, is now considered to be a recording error as the person doing the recording was new to the job and the instrument he was using was prone to be difficult to read accurately, while the temperature he recorded doesn't fit with other values recorded at nearby stations.

 

It is widely expected that this year is going to be the hottest on record for the third straight year and with La Nina not expected to kick in until some time in September it is still highly possible that we will see the 1913 record (perhaps even the 1922 value now regarded as incorrect) fall before the end of the year.
 
I'm hoping that we will see this record fall as it might act as a wake-up call for the politicians to finally get off their duff and begin taking the kind of action that is need to contain climate change to manageable levels before it is too late.


Sunday Jun 12, 2016 – Sales Fails – Recently I received an email which if I remember correctly originated with Plug-in America but I'm not sure as I seem to have deleted it,  It talked about a guy from Austin, TX who wanted to buy a Volt but could not find one in the area.  Not to be discourage he went to the local Chevy dealer who did a search and couldn't find a 2017 Volt within 1,000 miles of Austin. 

 

Now I found that kind of odd so I went online to do a search; after all I do call myself EV Finder.  I started out by pulling up a list of ZIP codes for Austin and selected one at random.  I then went on to the GM site and did a search for a 2017 Chevy Volt within 100 miles of that ZIP Code.  I came up with a pretty impressive list of cars for sale so I narrowed the search to 5 miles from the ZIP code and I still came up with a pretty good list of available cars.
 
Now here is what I know.  GM began selling the 2017 Volt nation wide a few months ago and they have been pretty slow at getting them out to dealerships in some areas so it is possible that cars started to arrive in dealerships some time after the guy went in to look for a car but before I did my search.  Still this has to be listed as an epic fail on the dealership's part since even if they didn't have cars on their lot they would know that cars were coming and when they would arrive and could have passed this information along to the prospective buyer, perhaps taking a deposit so they would be one of the first to get a car as soon as they arrived.

 
What we have to think about here is if this was just a totally clueless sales person or if the person wanted to switch the sale to a vehicle that would make them more money.  We have heard plenty of stories about salesmen who try to talk people out of buying a Volt and into a Cruse because they know that they will get a bigger commission.  That's human nature but given that the Volt has the highest satisfaction rating of any Chevy vehicle you would think that sales people would take the long term view that a Volt buyer is more likely to be a repeat customer so in the long term you make more money when you have a customer who is going to come back and also direct other people to your dealership.

 

I do see lots of issues when dealers try to sell cars on eBay.  My pet peeve is those dealers that don't appear to know what color their car is.  eBay has a block at the top that allows people to enter the basic data for a car.  This includes both the color of the car and the manufacturer's color so for example I will see a listing for a BMW i8 that says the car is Gray and list the manufacturer's color as Sophisto Gray.  This seller appears to know what he is doing.  About two or three times per week I see a seller who post the color as "Other Color" or just leaves the color field blank.  Now, if the seller took the trouble to enter something into the color field why don't they enter the correct color, don't they know what color the car is they are selling?

 

Sure they could be thinking that the buyer has photos of the car but then we have to decide if the photos are of the actual car since the seller who posted the photos apparently couldn't figure out what the color was so how am I supposed to assume he photographed the correct car?  You also have to realize that digital photography doesn't always render the colors correctly.  I have seen many cases where a car looks silver or gray on the photos but is listed as being white, and dark shades of blue or green often appear black on the computer.  I have one case right now where the dealer has been trying to sell a car for a couple of months.  The picture posted is of a dark gray car but the color in the listing is stated as white.

 

Another thing that I see on a regular basis occurs when dealers are trying to sell Tesla cars.  In my opinion one of the key data points for the Tesla is the battery size but some sellers don't appear to know this.  They are used to selling ICE vehicles and the thing that gets people excited is the horse power and torque produced by the motor as this is a good indication of how the car will perform.  With an electric car the torque curve for the electric motor is totally different from that of an ICE car with peak torque at 0 rpm.  What is critical information when buying a Tesla is the battery size, if the car has the performance option, and if the car is single or dual motor.  Battery size is the most critical as that determines how far the car will go between charges.  The whole story can be summed up in the sub-model field on e-Bay.  For example the sub-model P90D tells the buyer that the car has the performance option, a 90KWh battery, and has the dual motor option. 

 

I see sellers who will list the car as Performance but will leave out the all too critical battery size.  Even worse I see sellers who copy the vehicle information from the Tesla web site and get the wrong specs so it will list a 40KWh battery pack while the car is more likely to have a larger pack as the 40KWh version was only made is small numbers.  Sometimes you can get the full picture because a picture of the rear of the car shows it to be an S 85 which says it has an 85KWh battery but more often than not you are left guessing and the only conclusion you can draw is that it is the smaller battery pack version.

 

Probably the biggest offenders are the e-Bay sellers who don't post the key bit of information about the car on the header which is the place that most people search when looking for a car.  This category is led by the ones that are selling the Ford Plug-in Hybrids which are often listed something like Ford Fusion SEL which probably means something to the salesman but is not going to pop up when a potential customer searches for Ford Fusion Energi.
 
I see a similar thing with the Prius Plug-in where the car is listed as Prius Basic instead of Prius Plug-in Basic so if you search for Prius Plug-in you come up short.  If you search for Prius Basic you are going to come up with a list that will include the Plug-in plus a lot of Gen 2 Prius that you can't plug in.
 
Another example is a Mercedes-Benz dealer who has at least 4 S500e plug-in hybrids listed as S500 which is the none plug-in version of the car.  I don't see any way that people searching for an S500e would ever be able to find these cars on ebay unless they did what I did and looked under Green Cars, Hybrids and then examined each listing to see if the cars were actually the plug-in or just a car listed in the wrong category.
 
It's hard to decide if such omissions are just a salesperson who doesn't know what they are selling, of if it is a cleaver shot to attract more buyers.  For example people searching for Ford Fusion are going to get the Ford Fusion SEL in the list of cars.  Since in all likelihood there are going to be more people searching for Ford Fusion than for Ford Fusion Energi more people would find the car.  That seems logical except that people searching for Ford Fusion would also get Ford Fusion Energi so basically you are just eliminating the people who are specifically looking for the plug-in hybrid car you are trying to sell so that leads me to the conclusion that these sellers just don't know what they are doing.

 

Given the issues I have stated above I can understand why Tesla don't want to sell cars through franchise dealerships since it has been demonstrated time and again that car sales people in general don't really know how to sell electric cars.  This is not true of all sales people and some dealerships actually have people who specialize in selling plug-in cars.  These sales people are still too few and far between to cope with the ever accelerating rate of plug-in car sales.  More education on these cars for those on the dealer lot is obviously needed.


Sunday June 5, 2016 – May 2016 EV Sales – May proved to be a bad month all round for car sales with a 6% drop from May of last year.  We have seen six consecutive months of having the best EV Sales for that month but the streak had to come to an end some time and May 2016 was that month.  Overall plug-in sales were an estimated 11,423 down by 1% from the 11,540 cars sold in May 2015 and down 6% from the May, 2014 total of 12,063 which was the best May ever. 

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Second month of the quarter Tesla appears to balance sales between the US and the rest of the world and this seems to have happened again in May Tesla sold an estimated 2,800 cars way up from the 1,650 cars they sold in April.

 

The Model S sales bounced back from and year end low of 800 cars in April to 1,600 cars in May which is about in line with expected sales for the second month of the quarter.

 

It appears that the early teething troubles with the Model X has been addressed for the most part as sales climbed from the 850 cars sold in April to 1,600 cars sold in May.  This is a little below the 1,860 cars they sold in March but is significant because for the fist time the Model X outsold the Model S.

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt were down a little from the previous month and once again they didn't manage to break the 2,000 car barrier falling just short at 1,901 which was just 82 cars less than the 1,983 Volts sold in April.  Inventory is still light in some areas and I have read about people who couldn't find a Volt within 1000 miles of Austin, TX.  Fortunately this issue seems to be correcting itself and a search of dealer inventory in the area showed quite a few Volts for sale.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built but in April Sales were also impacted by the new California rebate program which makes the Spark EV very affordable for families with income levels in the $35K - $73K range.  Sales climbed to 419 cars in April but that rate couldn't be sustained and in May Chevy manage to sell a slightly lower 394 cars. Production of the Chevy Spark in Korea is set to end in August as Chevy gears up for production of the 200 mile range Bolt EV.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR continued to fall as existing dealer inventory is depleted and in May just 45 were sold.  This is less than half the 95 cars sold in April.

 

In April GM sold a total of 2,487 plug-in cars, but with lower sales numbers on all three of its models they could only manage 2,349 sales in May.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while historically sales have been spread over their three models, for the last few months the Fusion Energi has come to dominate sales.  In May total cars sold increased from the 2,019 cars sold in April to 2,045 cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,453 cars in May up from the 1,331 cars they sold in April.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well this year, outselling the Nissan Leaf for the third time, as it did in February and April and it was also just 8 cars short of doing so in March.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi dropped again from the 607 cars old in April to 538 cars sold in May.
 
After four straight months of missing their usual sales range of 100 to 200 cars sales of the Ford Focus EV finally climbed above the 100 mark reaching 110 cars in March but they couldn't keep that up and dropped back to 81 cars sold in April, and still further to just 54 cars in May.

 

Plug-in Sales at BMW fell by a little over 200 cars from the year to date high of 1,624 cars sold in April.  In May they still managed to sell a total of 1,409 cars over the 4 plug-in models they now offer.
 
After returning sales of 814 cars in March  sales of the i3 dropped back to 696 cars in May, the second best month of the year.

 

In contrast, sales of the BMW i8 also showed an increase in sales going from 130 cars sold in April to a 146 cars in May.  BMW have also been keeping good dealer inventory which is helping sales.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e continues to be surprisingly strong and while they couldn't match the 655 cars they sold in April they still managed to sell 500 more of the plug-in hybrid SUV.  This was the second best month for the year and the third highest sales total since the car went on sale in October, 2015.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  They didn't record any sales of the car in March and I predicted that there would be a correction in April and I was right.  It turns out that they actually Sold 19 in March.  Sales in April climbed a little to 25 and May saw a further increase to 67 cars.  I expect the 330e to be a good seller once dealer inventory reaches sufficient levels.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf continues to fall below expectations although they did do a little better in May selling 979 cars up from the 787 cars they sold in April but less than half the 2,104 cars they sold in May, 2015 and well below the 1,553 Leafs that were sold in April, 2015.  It appears that with the pending launch of EVs with 200 miles of range the buying public are not impressed with the 107 miles of range now being offered in some trim levels of the Nissan Leaf.  I expect to see Nissan respond with their own version of a 200 mile range EV perhaps at the LA Auto Show.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and in April they sold a total of 914 cars. Sales in May dropped back to 847 cars.  This includes Porsche  Sales which this month were down by 45 to 217 plug-in cars sold in May after selling 262 plug-in cars in April.

 

VW e-Golf sales stayed to their normal 200 - 400 range.  After selling 326 cars in April sales fell to 269 cars in May  VW have announced that starting in the fall the e-Golf will be getting a battery upgrade that will increase the range of the car to about 124 miles.  It will be interesting to see how this higher range EV sells considering that the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt will be available shortly after the upgraded e-Golf goes on sale.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to be a good seller for Audi and they appear to be selling in the 200 - 400 range similar to the e-Golf.  In April they matched e-Golf sales by also selling 326 cars, but while e-Golf sales fell in May sales of the A3 e-tron .climbed to 361 cars making this the best sales month ever.

 

After setting two all time high records in February and March Porsche fell just short of repeating this feet in April when sales  for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid Fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April.  This sales trend continued in March as sales dropped to just 191 cars.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. May was no exception going from March sales of 23 cars up to 25 cars in April and 26 cars in May.

 

he Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  After selling 355 cars in March sales continued to improve in April  when an estimated 395 cars were sold.  This sales trend continued as sales in May climbed to 405 cars.

 

After setting all time sales records for the first six months of sales Hyundai couldn't quite manage to improve sales in April as they sold 250 Sonata PHEV cars down from the 275 they sold in March.  This sales trend continued in May as sales fell to 235 cars.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month.  April was an exception with 139 cars being sold after selling 79 cars in March.  While sales dropped again in May they still managed to stay over the 100 cars mark at 120 cars sold.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in May with just 110 cars sold. In January they sold 226 SUVs, in February  176 cars, March saw sales of 178 cars and in April 150 were sold.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  The reason for this appears to be that production of the old model has ceased and details of the new version, expected to go on sale late this year, are not yet available.  Sales did pick up in May though when Smart sold 75 up from 66 cars sold in April.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 56 cars in April.  Sales in May dropped by 7 as an addition 49 cars were delivered to customers.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV have been rather confusing of late.  Originally they reported 0 sales in March but this was corrected to show 12 cars being sold but then put back to 0.  April sales reported last month at 29 cars has also been corrected to show 0 cars. In May they appear to have sold 3 cars.  I think this may be related to dealer education issues as I have seen several of these cars advertised as S550 with no mention of them being plug-in.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 52 Plug-in cars in May.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 4 cars in May, the same number they sold in April .  Their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV, is expected to hit the US in September.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in May they sold 40 of Mirai FCEVs one less than the 41 cars sold in April.  Since they went on sale in January 2016 Toyota has sold a total of 178 cars.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  After a sales surge in April when they sold 6 i-MiEV things cooled of in May when sales dropped back to just 2 cars. 

 

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 Outlander PHEV which was shown at the New York Auto Show and is currently expected to go on sale late this year.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year showed strong growth for the fist 4 months of the year and this has been the first month is a long time to have not beaten the previous high sales volume for that month.  Some people are disappointed with this months results but I would like to point out that plug-in sales actually fell at a lower rate than the general car market.  I think that people are beginning to be more receptive to plug-in cars even as low gas prices pull people toward SUVs.  BEV sales are also being impacted by the impending arrival of 200 mile range EVs outside the luxury segment. I expect plug-in sales to continue to grow as we move forward.


Sunday May 29, 2016 – High Mileage EVs – The perception is that EVs have limited range so they are only useful around town and the expectation is that they will have very low miles on the clock.  This can be backed up when you look at cars being sold on eBay which often have very low mileage.  I only have to go look at my own Plug-in Prius to see that I have driven it less than 14,000 miles in the almost 4 years I have owned it.

 

To be fair my other car, a 2001 Toyota Echo which I have owned from new, has less than 24,000 miles on it so as you can see I don't really drive that much. 

 

This week I read an article in Green Car Reports about Steve Marsh who owns a 2011 Nissan Leaf that just rolled over 150,000 miles so it is obvious that electric cars, even those with limited range, can be used to cover a lot of miles.  The owner in this case has a 130 mile round trip commute with the ability to charge both at home and at work.  Even at that the commute is pushing the EPA rated 73 mile range of the 2011 Nissan leaf.

 

The Leaf is known to loose battery capacity over time and in this case the car was said to have lost about 17% of its original capacity.  Infrastructure is also growing though and Steve now has a DC fast charger on his route to work so he can drive a little faster and stop for a few minutes at the fast charger to make sure he has more than enough electrons to complete his commute.  Not everyone would be prepared to do that although they would put up with going to the gas station about twice per week.

 

The article concluded asking who would be the first driver to pass 250,000 miles.  It probably won't be Steve.  In a recent update to their article Green Car Reports stated that his leaf had now lost 48% of battery capacity.  Steve also has a 2014 Leaf that will probably be doing most of the miles from now on.

 

The article concluded by saying "We can only wonder which battery-electric car owner will be first to hit 250,000 miles."  I suspect that the answer to this question is going to be Avi Hershkovitz who is the high mileage leader for Toyota's first generation RAV4-EV.  I'm not sure if Avi still owns his RAV but if not the person who bought it will probably see it roll over the 250,000 mile mark.

 

Avi drove his car about 100 miles per day, not quite as long a commute as Steve but actually within the capability of the 2002 RAV4-EV.  He hit 150,000 miles in June of 2008, and 200,000 miles in September, 2010.  His original battery pack lasted 134,000 miles and the last I heard his reconditioned pack was getting to the end of its life.  Now battery packs for the RAV4-EV are getting harder to find but there is already someone who has updated a RAV to lithium batteries so it is quite possible that some of these cars will go a lot further before they head off to scrap yard or into a museum.


There are at least 16 other RAV4-EVs that have done over 100,000 miles and most of those are still in daily use.

 

You would expect that plug-in hybrids would see more high mileage cars than BEV given that they have unlimited range as long as you keep feeding them on gasoline.  While I do see a few high mileage cars being sold many of the cars are also used as a second commuter car so mileage on them is still relatively lower than the norm.  Still, there is at least one Chevy Volt that has made it past the 300,000 mile mark.

 

Erick Belmer drives his Chevy Volt on a daily round trip commute of 220 miles so he really racks up the miles.  As of today he has driven  this car 317,617.99 miles,111,435.87 of those being EV only.  Now EV wise he has only just made it into the 100,000 mile club but the number of miles driven is still quite impressive.  What is more impressive is that he still doesn't appear to have seen any noticeable degradation in battery capacity.

 

I would expect that there are several Teslas that are in the 100,000 mile club by now but so far the highest mileage one that I have come across was a 2013 Model S with 68,000 miles on the odometer.  When I did my mileage review what surprised me was that the highest mileage Roadster I had come across has just 45,000 miles on the clock.  I know there has to be roadster out there with way more mileage than that.

 

The stats here do show that EVs are quite capable of doing quite a high number of miles if you choose to drive them to their capability, even though the ones available right now do have restricted range.  One reason for the low mileage is that many EVs are leased and these leases usually restrict driving to a limited number of miles, usually 10,000 per year.  If you run over the allowed miles costs can really soar. 

 

Now that we have 200+ mile range EVs arriving in dealerships by the end of this year it will be interesting to see how quickly these cars rack up the miles. 


On June 29, 2016 I added the following comment

 

I just heard that Avi's RAV4-EV has now rolled over the 250,000 mile mark and it's second battery pack is holding up well.


Sunday May 22, 2016 –  Non-Exhaust PM Emissions Study – Last week I was doing a Google search and came across an article about Non-Exhaust PM Emissions in electric vehicles.  The article said the study showed that particulates from brake dust and tire wear were so much higher from electric vehicles than gas cars that it made them worse for the environment. 

 

The article was in the Daily Caller and this is a site that is always pushing articles that support the fossil fuel industry so I did expect this to be an EV hatchet job.  My first clue was that the article stated "Electric vehicles tend to produce more pollutants from tire and brake wear".  This would be a huge red flag as anyone who is familiar with modern electric cars since they use regenerative braking which means very low brake pad wear.  For example look at my 2005 Toyota Prius.  Before we parted company back in 2012 I had driven it a little over 103,000 miles.  It still had the original brake pads and when it had its 100,000 miles service the pads still had 40% left so they were good for at least another 40,000 miles.  I don't think a regular gas car can come anywhere close to that.  EVs like the Tesla and BMW i3 have even more aggressive regen and can be driven using just the accelerator pedal with just a touch on the brake pedal to come to a complete stop.

 

It turns out that the study actually used 0 for particulate emissions from brake dust which is about right.  The study did make the assumption that since the cars were heavier they would put out more particulates from the tires, but the main thrust was that since they were heavier they would cause more particulates to be launched from the road than a lighter equivalent ICE vehicle.

 

Still the Daily Caller seems to have sensationalized the study and also played a little fast and loose with the conclusions.  In the abstract from the article it says "Therefore, it could be concluded that the increased popularity of electric vehicles will likely not have a great effect on PM levels" - emphasis mine.  What the study does call for is a move to encourage a reduction in vehicle weight and as the thrust of battery development is to do just that EVs are still on the right track.

 

The Daily Caller also provided a link to the article but while they cited The Journal of Atmospheric Environment as the source of the article the link pointed to sciencedirect.com.  This isn't that bad as this web site actually accumulates articles from other peer reviewed journals.  I did try and find the article on the Journal of Atmospheric Environment but couldn't find it.
 
The article was attributed to researchers at the University of Edinburgh but I was unable to find either of the authors in the list of staff at the university.  I did find a reference that claimed one of the authors, Victor Timmers, is an undergraduate student at the university but I have been unable to confirm this.

 

I expect to see such articles in a site like the Daily Caller who seem to be paid to spread doubt about things like electric vehicles and global warming.  The article is really sensationalized and the conclusions they come to do not agree with the conclusions from the study.


Sunday May 15, 2016 – EV Sales News – Over the last week there has been some interesting news on the EV Sales front that shows that even in a time of cheap gas, sales of plug-in cars is starting to take off.

 

I reported last week that Sales of EVs in the US for April were the best results for April ever.  This follows a string of 5 previous best months of all time results.  In fact, the last time that we didn't see a new monthly record was back in October 2015 where the 9,926 cars sold that month fell just a little short of the 10,055 cars sold in October 2013.  This has much to do with the number of choices that are available these days. 

 

Many companies now provide multiple models and one of these is BMW which now provides 4 different plug-in models to choose from.  There is the BMW i3 that comes in both BEV and EREV versions, The hot BMW i8 sports car, The BMW X5 xDrive40e, and their latest addition the 330e.  It has now been revealed that BMW's US plug-in car sales in April were 9.1% of overall BMW brand passenger car sales.  World wide the percentage was somewhat smaller but plug-in cars still represented 2.5% of total sales for the BMW family of companies.

 

While Tesla is the leader in plug-in sales with 100% of sales being pure BEV, BMW is starting to make a business out of plug-in cars too and this bodes very well for the future. It is rumored that they are also working on rolling out additional plug-in models over the next few years..

 

Another German company, VW, who has been badly impacted by the cheating scandal on diesel engine emissions is also pushing more and more into the plug-in vehicle space.  While VW only offers one plug-in in the US, two other companies in the VW family, Audi and Porsche, offer 3 plug-in models between them with more models expected in the coming years.

 

The other big news on EV Sales came from Norway which became only the 4th country to surpass 100,000 plug-in vehicles registered.  In March plug-in sales represented about one third of all cars sold and it should be noted that all electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are much more popular than Plug-in hybrids.
 
This might not seem like much but lets put this into a little bit of context.  Norway's population is estimated at a little under 5.3 million people.  That compares with an estimated 39 million people in California and isn't that much more than the 3.8 million people who live right here in Los Angeles.  California accounts for about 40% of the 450,000 plug-in vehicles sold in the US so that means there are about 180,000 Plug-ins registered here.  As you can see per-capita Norway has many more EVs that the US.

 
Apart from Norway and the US, only 2 other countries so far have registered more than 100,000 plug-ins.  China currently has about 300,000 plug-ins registered while Japan has 150,000 registered.  It is notable that Norway beat Britain, France and Germany to the 100,000 mark even though they have a much smaller population that these three countries.

 

The growth in electric cars has been helped by significant incentives from the Norwegian government including big tax incentives to purchase electric cars over gas cars and other benefits including being able to use the bus lanes.  There has also been a significant amount spent on providing public charging infrastructure.  It also helps that most electricity in Norway is produced from renewable resources, mostly hydro power with some wind, geothermal, and solar.  They do operate about 3 fossil fuel generation plants that run on Natural gas but this represents only a small amount of their total production capacity.

 

Norway is leading the way towards a more sustainable future and while their situation is different from what we have in the US it is still something for us to strive for.  We have pretty much developed our available large hydro resources but we still have lots of wind and geothermal resources that we can exploit.  We also have abundant solar resources and we should start to focus on building EV charging stations powered by solar.  We also need to sustain the growth we are seeing in the PEV market so we can get to the same sort of penetration of electric cars as they are seeing in Norway.


Sunday May 8, 2016 – April 2016 EV Sales – April proved to be another good month for EV Sales, in fact it was the best April ever with sales of 10,586 plug-in cars.  There has been a trend here as this has been the sixth straight month of sales that has been a record for that month.  After seeing a drop in EV sales in 2015 over 2014, 2016 is on track to be a record year. 

 

The charge was led by the Chevy Volt which had its first full month of nationwide sales.  They didn't manage to break the 2,000 car barrier falling just short at 1,983 cars but still better than the 1,865 Volts in March.  Inventory is still building in some areas of the country so we should expect strong sales in May.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built but in April Sales were also impacted by the new California rebate program which makes the Spark EV very affordable for families with income levels in the $35K - $73K range.  Sales climbed from 252 cars in March to 419 in April which more or less depleted existing inventory.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR didn't do so well though falling from 104 cars in March to 95 cars sold in April.  Inventory on this car fell in April and it seems that dealers are just not stocking it in large quantities.

 

In April GM sold a total of 2,487 plug-in cars, which was a slight improvement over the 2,221 plug-in cars they sold in March with strong sales of the Volt and Spark EV more than making up for lackluster sales of the ELR.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while they don't have a model that usually sells in big numbers, when you put sales of their three plug-in models together they usually sell a good quantity of plug-in cars.  In April total cars sold increased from the 1,958 cars sold in March to 2,019 cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,331 cars in April up from the 1,238 cars they sold in March.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well this year, outselling the Nissan Leaf for the second time, as it did in February and it was also just 8 cars short doing so in March.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi dropped ever so slighty from the 610 cars old in March to 607 cars sold in April.
 
After four straight months of missing their usual sales range of 100 to 200 cars sales of the Ford Focus EV finally climbed above the 100 mark reaching 110 cars in March but they couldn't keep that up and dropped back to 81 cars sold in April, the same number they sold in February.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  The last month of the quarter is always a big month for Tesla as they push hard to meet their quarterly sales target.  In the first month of the quarter the emphasis falls on meeting sales outside the US and so sales here are usually pretty light. This was true for April when Tesla sold an estimated 1,650 cars way way below the 5,850 cars they sold in March.

 

The Model S sales were pretty low in April at an estimated 800 cars way below the 3,990 cars it was estimated they sold in March.

 

I suspect that Model X production was cut back somewhat to deal with quality issues that became apparent in the mad dash to sell 1,860 cars in March.  Sales for April dropped back to 850 cars but that means they shipped more Model X in the US that they did Model S.

 

Plug-in Sales at BMW continued to recover after  just 395 in January and 647 cars in February, and 734 in March, they managed to sell a total of 1,624 cars over the 4 plug-in models they now offer.
 
March  sales of the i3 was just 332 cars, but did improve in April climbing back to 814 cars, which is the sort of sales volume we have come to expect.  There is no obvious reason for the large drop in sales over 2015 but I suspect it's just that buyers are looking for longer range since several models now offer 100+ miles per charge with the 200+ range Chevy Bolt expected to go on sale later this year.

 

Like the i3, its sibling the i8 also showed an increase in sales going from 89 cars sold in March to a 130 cars in April.  BMW have also been keeping good dealer inventory which is helping sales.

 

The big sales success this month for BMW has to be the X5 xDrive40e which hit an all time sales record.  Sales of the BMW X5 xDrive40e grew from the 313 cars delivered in March to 655 cars in April.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  They didn't record any sales of the car in March and I predicted that there would be a correction in April and I was right.  It turns out that they actually Sold 19 in March.  Sales in April climbed a little to 25 and I expect to see that number rise as inventory levels increase over the next few months.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and in March they sold a total of 685 cars. Sales in April improved quit a bit with 914 cars being sold.  This includes Porsche  Sales which this month were down by 5 to 262 plug-in cars sold in April after selling 267 plug-in cars in March.

 

VW e-Golf sales returned to their normal 200 - 400 range after a disastrous  March when they sold just 86 cars,  Even with only about 300 cars on dealer lots going into April they sill managed to sell 326 cars.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to be a good seller for Audi and they appear to be selling in the 200 - 400 range similar to the e-Golf.  In April they matched e-Golf sales by also selling 326 cars.  This was slightly less that the 332 sold in March.

 

After setting two all time high records in February and March Porsche fell just short of repeating this feet in April when sales  for the Cayenne S e-Hybrid Fell from 244 cars in March to 237 cars in April.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. April was no exception going from March sales of 23 cars up to 25 cars in April.

 

Nissan continues to struggle to sell the Leaf managing to sell just 787 cars in April way down from the 1,246 cars they sold in March and well below the 1,553 Leafs that were sold in April, 2015.  The appears to be multiple problems here, with lack of dealer inventory being one of the biggest issues.  It appears that dealers just aren't stocking the car in big numbers anymore.  Part of the reason is that buyers are unwilling to pay the premium for the longer range version of the Leaf.  It appears that buyers may be waiting for the appearance of the 200 mile range Chevy Bolt later this year and of course lots of people have deposits on the Tesla Model 3 leaving the Leaf to struggle for sales.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America and they don't break out sales figures, so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  After selling 355 cars in March sales continued to improve in April  when an estimated 395 cars were sold.

 

After setting all time sales records for the first six months of sales Hyundai couldn't quite manage to improve sales in April as they sold 250 Sonata PHEV cars down from the 275 they sold in March.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV saw its worst sales numbers of the year in April with just 150 cars sold. In January they sold 226 SUVs, in February  176 cars, and in March saw sales of 178 cars.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month.  April was an exception with 139 cars being sold after selling 79 cars in March.  This is close to their all time record of 140 cars set way back in November 2014.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 66 cars in March.  Sales in April dropped by 10 as an addition 56 cars were delivered to customers.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV had been consistent with sales of 19 cars in February, the exact same number that they sold in January.  Originally they reported 0 sales in March but this was corrected to show 12 cars being sold.  In April things picked up a little with 29 cars being sold which was the second best month of sales ever.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 85 Plug-in cars in March.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  Sales did pick up in February when Smart sold 54 plug-in cars and this continued into March when 70 additional cars were sold but April saw the number of sales drop back to 66 cars.

 

 Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold but things picked up again in December returning to 9 cars then dropped back to 2 cars in January while they managed to sell 5 cars in February and just 1 car in March.  April proved to be the best month so far for this year when they sold 6 i-MiEV. 

 

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 Outlander PHEV which was shown at the New York Auto Show and is currently expected to go on sale late this year.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 10 cars in January, 6 cars in February, 7 cars in March, and 4 cars in April.  Their next generation Prius plug-in, the 2017 Prius Prime PHEV, is expected to hit the US in September.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in April they sold the same number of Mirai FCEVs as they did in March with 41 cars sold.  Since they went on sale in January 2016 Toyota has sold a total of 138 cars.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year has shown strong growth with all 4 months of the year so far being the highest total of plug-in car sales ever for that month.  This growth had been fueled by Tesla but not in April when they mostly focused on sales abroad and were also gearing up for production of the updated model S.  The void has been filled with a new crop of cars that are just starting to hit their stride like the new 2017 Volt and the BMW X4 eDrive40e.  With several new models appearing later in the year including the first affordable 200 mile range EV 2016 looks like it is going to be a record setting year.


Larry B from Sacramento CA. Wrote:

 

The answer to the Smart sales conundrum:
A new version of the Smart ED will be released in the mid to late Fall. Till then they are just selling off the remaining inventory.
No doubt there is also the standard reluctance to buy the old version until the stats on the new version are out.


Sunday May 1, 2016 – Charger Signage – Last Sunday Beverly Hills celebrated Earth Day with a series of presentation about conservation, recycling, and solar energy, as part of their weekly farmer's market.  They didn't have anything related to electric vehicles but I did have a chance to talk to members of the city's staff about the problems that I see here in the LA area where chargers are blocked not by ICE vehicles but by EVs that are using the charging bay as a convenient parking spot.

 

They were under the impression that parking enforcement was policing the chargers and were quit surprised when I told them that this was a pervasive problem with chargers throughout the City.  They asked me for examples and I was able to tell them the worst sites which included the nearby library, a favorite site for me as they have a huge PV array that on a nice sunny day can generate over 300KW. 

 

It appears that my words didn't fall on deaf ears. I dropped by the library on my way to Century City on Thursday morning and noticed a fully charged Nissan Leaf connected to one of the level 2 chargers.  I stopped by later in the afternoon and the Nissan Leaf was still hogging the charger but I did notice that Beverly Hills Traffic enforcement had placed a warning notice on the car reminding them of the 1 hour grace period after the car is fully charged.

 

In my opinion the City of Beverly Hills has rules for using the charger that should be a model of all other charging locations.  Below are the rules that are displayed at all the charging spots in all city owned parking lots..

 

There is some additional verbiage on each of these rules that says that the cars may be cited and/or towed for parking in these spaces.

 

Unfortunately many other charging stations do not have such well crafted rules.  Lets look at Santa Monica for example.  They have two major charging location in the downtown area near the Third Street Promenade, a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.  In the city parking structure on second street they have signs that say the charger spots are reserved for electric vehicles parked for charging purposes.  This means that they will ticket any car that ICEs the spot and also EVs that are parked but not connected.  I have never seen a charging bay in this area that is blocked by a car not connected to a charger, although I do see cars parked there that are fully charged. 

 

The other parking structure is the one at Santa Monica Place shopping center.  The signage here is quite different.  It says that parking is reserved for electric vehicles only.  There is no mention of the vehicles having to be connected for charging purposes.  I've seen times when all 6 parking stalls have been occupied but only one of the cars was actively charging.  The city's parking enforcement are very good at recognizing ICEing and even seem to be able to recognize and not ticket the plug-in Prius, but will ticket any regular Prius parked there.

 

Westfield's Century City is another charging spot I check out on a pretty regular basis.  Given that most of the shopping center is currently closed due to construction and the chargers there are no longer free, they don't get a whole lot of use.  They have introduced signage that says that cars must be connected for charging purposes.  I do regularly see these spaces being used as convenient parking spots but it looks like they do occasionally enforce the law, although I have never actually seen traffic control there.

 

I have never been there personally so this is anecdotal evidence but I understand that some of the city owned parking lots in San Jose have signage that says that you must be actively charging and that parking enforcement will ticket a car as soon as the car becomes fully charged.  This seems a little draconian to me and I think the Beverly Hills idea of a grace period is better.

 

I find it hard to understand why people would park in an EV charging spot when they don't need to charge. After all people wouldn't drive into a gas station, park at a pump, then go off for lunch and shopping, but then again they probably realize that the gas station owner would quickly have them towed. The Lesson to learn here is that EV charging spots need to have well thought out signage, then parking enforcement needs to be properly trained to enforce the rules effectively.


Sunday Apr 24, 2016 – Honda's Clarity Brand – Honda has been working on fuel cell vehicles for quite some time now, starting out by taking some of their lease returned EV+ BEVs and replacing the batteries with a fuel cell stack.  They went on to become the first company in the US to lease a fuel cell vehicle to the general public.

 

The original Clarity FCEV hit the streets of Southern California in 2008 and began to be phased out in 2014.  With a full tank of hydrogen the car could travel 240 miles and was EPA rated at 72 miles per kilogram of hydrogen.  In all Honda leased a total of 46 cars.  It should be noted that fueling options at this time were very restricted with only a handful of public hydrogen stations available. 

 

Honda are now preparing their next generation Clarity FCEV for sale but for now it will only be available in California.  The 2017 Clarity FCEV is expected to arrive in dealerships towards the end of this year.  While price and EPA fuel economy ratings are not yet available Honda says that they are targeting a lease price of less than $500 and to expect a range in excess of 300 miles per tank of hydrogen.

 

The big news from Honda however is that they plan to leverage the Clarity platform by adding two additional power train options, a battery electric version and a plug-in hybrid version.

 

A BEV version is targeted for launch in California and perhaps a few other states that follow the California ZEV mandate starting some time in 2017.  They didn't say when exactly the car would be released but the implication is that it will arrive some time in the early part of the second quarter.  So far there has been no details about the range that they expect for this BEV.  Honda says that the Clarity BEV will be "the first affordable, midsize, five-passenger battery electric vehicle (BEV) to offer premium content and features".

 

Slated to arrive towards the end of 2017 Honda will launce a plug-in hybrid car based on the Clarity platform.  Honda says that this car will be available in all 50 states and will have an all electric range of at least 40 miles and will come with a "hyper-efficient gasoline-hybrid extended range mode".

 

It will be good to see Honda back in the Plug-in space and it will be interesting to see if they get really serious about selling plug-in cars this time around or if we will continue to see the short supply issues we saw with the Honda Fit, and the overpricing that insured the Accord Plug-in hybrid saw very low sales.
 
Talking of fuel cells, another interesting press release popped into my inbox earlier this week.  It was from a company that is launching the "True Zero" network of hydrogen fueling stations.  The press release talked about how the first 15 stations were "brought online at an unprecedented speed and scale".  The problem is that when I go to their find stations app it only shows 7 stations as actually being in service.

 

The whole press release reminded me somewhat of the sort of green-washing that I saw with diesel cars.  Remember how you couldn't see any mention of diesel without it being prefixed with the word "clean".  The VW emissions cheating scandal put a stop the concept of "clean diesel", at least for now.  The first issue that I had with the press release was the whole idea of calling the network "True Zero" which would imply the production of hydrogen from renewable sources.  It only took a little bit of digging to find that about two thirds of their hydrogen is currently being created from fossil fuels.

 

The second issue I had with their press release is that they constantly referred to refueling the FCEV as "Charging" it.  This is an obvious attempt to draw fueling time comparisons between BEV and FCEV.  While hydrogen is well known as just a carrier of electricity the car cannot be charged in the sense that a BEV is, so refueling the FCEV needs to be called just that.

 

Now there is nothing wrong with rolling out hydrogen fueling stations.  Hydrogen could be the fuel of the future, as we have been told repeatedly.  I just don't think that they should stoop to the sort of tactics used by those promoting diesel cars to make them appear to be just fast charging electric cars.

 

It's good to see Honda coming back into production with plug-in cars and I know that they are capable of producing a really great car.  If the pricing is in the same ballpark as the Chevy Volt then the plug-in hybrid version will be a serious competitor.  The BEV on the other hand appears to be just a compliance car and I fear that we will be in the same situation we had with the Honda Fit, lots of customers and too few cars; I hope I am wrong.


Sunday April 17, 2016 –  Where Do We Go From Here – Last week I took a look at the EV sales for March, 2016 which was the best March on record for EV sales and quite likely the overall best month too.  This follows January and February which also set records for their respective months, and March also saw a massive 234,000 pre-orders for the Tesla Model 3 a number that soon climbed to 325,000 before the first week of April was finished.  So someone on the RAV4-EV discussion list posed a question about what we need to do to make electric vehicles the vehicle of choice. 

 

For me the biggest issue that we face is the ability for everyone to be able to charge their EV.  One of the great things about an EV is that you can get a charge almost anywhere that you can find a plug.  That means that anyone who has a garage or even just a driveway can always install a level 2 charger, or in many cases just a 110V outlet, and are good for most of their daily driving needs.

 

There are a significant number of people though who don't have that luxury.  They either live in an apartment building, Condo, or town house that either doesn't have plugs in their parking area or doesn't have parking at all.  This is the next thing we need to address.  We need to be able to provide places where anyone can get a car charged at a reasonable price.

 

When I suggest this on the RAV4-EV list I got an email from someone who basically said that those people who didn't have a place to charge wouldn't be able to afford an EV anyway.  These are the same sort of comments that I heard from people who thought that Plug-in Hybrids shouldn't be allowed to use public charging so it would be available in case a BEV driver needed it.  It's good for existing BEV drivers but is not in the public good as it would reduce the amount of zero emission driving by a considerable amount since the lower EV range of PHEVs mean they are more in need of public charging if they are to avoid burning gas.  I did point out that there are plenty of people that live in high density cities where on street parking is the norm.  I also pointed out that Beverly Hills has quite a few apartment buildings that only have on-street parking and try and tell me the resident there can't afford an EV.

 

There are solutions out there.  One of the best is workplace charging.  On average a car sits at the workplace for about 9 hours per day.  A simple 110V outlet would provide enough electricity for at least 30 miles of EV travel which would cover many peoples daily commute.  Level 2 charging would provide at least twice that amount of range.
 
Right now public charging tends to be in places like Municipal parking structures, shopping centers and grocery stores.  These are good places to get a charge but in the case of a grocery store a typical stay is 15 - 20 minutes and even at level 2 this isn't enough to get a decent charge.  These are good candidates for fast charging where a 20 minute stay would net 40 - 50% charge depending on the EV.  The biggest issue here is that there are three competing standards for Fast charging.  Tesla goes its own way with their superchargers which are only compatible with Tesla Vehicles.  The Japanese and Korean carmakers support the Chademo standard while the US and German carmakers support the J1772 Combo standard often known as the Frankenplug.  We need to establish a single standard for DC fast charging that can be adopted woldwide. 

 
There is also a need to make sure that people who live in apartments and condos can legally put chargers in their parking spaces.  California already has legislation in place that stops condo associations from unreasonably blocking requests to install plugs but the person who wants to install a plug also has to carry insurance which makes the proposition quite expensive.  There is also an issue with those condos and apartment buildings that don't have assigned spaces since nobody wants to go to the expense of installing a charger only to find it blocked every time you want to use it.

 

On-street parking is another issue for which there is a solution.  That would be to provide charging bays on the street.  Back in the 1990s one EV driver in London managed to get the local borough council to install a charger on the street near his home, so it has been done already.  The problem for on-street parking is much more acute in Europe and BMW have been developing a charger that could be attached to a street light to provide on-street charging in crowded European cities.
 
The biggest opportunity for public charging is going to play out in the plug-less charging arena.  There are already companies that can retrofit plug-less charging to existing EVs but again this needs a dedicated parking space for overnight charging.  However, research is going forward into being able to charge a vehicle much faster.  Eventually this will allow a vehicle to grab a significant charge while waiting at a stop sign.  Trials are also being conducted on systems that allow an EV to pick up power from the road which would allow drivers to travel long distances without stopping and have a full charge as they exit the freeway.

 

Cost becomes a major issue with public charging.  Right now people are experimenting with different cost models but so far nobody has come up with an ideal rate.  I'm a big supporter of free charging as a way to promote business.  I especially like the Voltec model which uses advertising to recover charger costs.  I have to admit though that free chargers do get heavy use and people will use then even when they don't really need a charge.  On the other hand the more expensive the charger costs the less the chargers get used.

 

Here's a good example.  Westfield's Century City Shopping Center installed 6 chargepoint chargers about a month ago.  When they were first installed the chargers were not connected to the network and allowed a certain number of grace charges for free.  At that time most of the chargers were in use whenever I visited.  When the chargers were first connected to the network the price was set to 28 cents per KWh which is actually a pretty reasonable rate, about the same as a gas car that gets 30mpg.  Utilization dropped down to about 50%  This only lasted about a week after which the rate was change from a per KWh charge to a per hour charge of 95 cents.  Utilization has dropped to the point where you may find 1 charger in use.  The interesting thing here is that 95 cents per hour is about the same 28 cents per KWh when you charge with a 3.3 KW charger and this drops to 14 cents per KW when you have a 6,6 KW charger so the cost isn't any more but is perceived as higher by many EV owners.

 

I've seen chargers rated has high as 3.95 per hour and fast chargers that cost $15 per charge.  You have to be really dedicated to EVs or really desperate to pay those sort of prices.  The reality is that EVs are often sold as being cheaper to run than gas cars but if you really want to recoup the cost of installation and operation of a charger then the amount charged pushes the cost up beyond what it currently costs to fuel a gas car.  If we are going to move from a world driven by gas to one driven by electricity we are going to have to solve these problems and EV + PV using an advertisement driven model for cost recoupment is one way we could achieve this.


Sunday March 10, 2016 – March 2016 EV Sales – March has typically been a good month for EV sales but this month was exceptional.  Because Tesla and Fiat do not report monthly sales there is a degree of uncertainty in the March numbers but if the estimates for these two hold true then March was the best ever sales month for plug-in cars with a total of 13,725 cars sold, beating the previous best month, December 2015, by 26 vehicles.  Since the numbers are so close it is difficult to say which was actually the best month but March 2016 was certainly the best March ever.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  The last month of the quarter is always a big month for Tesla as they push hard to meet their quarterly sales target.  This quarter they fell short of the 16,000 car target delivering 14,820 vehicles. 

 

The Model S led the way with total sales of 3,990 cars more than double the 1,550 cars it was estimated they sold in February.

 

Model X production has been choked back to deal with parts supply and quality issue with the falcon wing doors, so only   400 SUVs were delivered in February.  These issues appear to have been resolved now and Model X sales leaped to 1,860 cars in March.  It should also be noted that the Model X is now beginning to show up in Tesla stores and will be available for test drives going forward.

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 5,850 vehicles in March.

 

In February the Chevy Volt was still being sold in a limited market but they still sold 1,126 cars.  With the introduction of the slightly improved 2017 Volt GM rolled out the car nationwide and by mid month they had an initial batch of cars on dealer lots.  The result was that they sold 1,865 Volts in March.  Inventory is still building so it will be interesting to see how well sales hold in April.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built.  GM must have gotten a new shipment as sales climbed from 139 cars in January to 216 cars in February.  This trend continued in March when a further 252 cars were sold.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR also improved in March ,climbing to 104 from the 91 cars they sold in February.  Inventory on this car is still hovering around the 300 cars level.  It seems that dealers are just not stocking it in large quantities.

 

In March GM sold a total of 2,221 plug-in cars, which was a big improvement over the 1,433 plug-in cars they sold in February with gains for all three models.

 

Ford has been a consistent seller over the years and while they don't have a model that usually sells in big numbers, when you put sales of their three plug-in models together they usually sell a good quantity of plug-in cars.  In February total cars sold increased from the 1,503 cars sold in February to 1,958 cars sold in March.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 1,238 in March up from the 932 cars they sold in February.  The Fusion Energi has been selling quite well recently, outselling the Nissan Leaf in February and coming just 8 cars short of repeating that feat in March.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi also saw a healthy increase from the 490 cars old in February to 610 cars sold in March..
 
After four straight months of missing their usual sales range of 100 to 200 cars sales of the Ford Focus EV finally climbed above the 100 mark reaching 110 cars in March up from the 81 cars sold in February.

 

Nissan managed to sell just 930 Nissan Leafs in February but the numbers for March were somewhat better at 1,246.  This was still well below the 1,817 Leafs that were sold in March, 2015.  The main problem appears to be a lack of inventory which is growing slowly but still low.  The good news is that going into April we are starting to see more of the longer range Leafs showing up on dealer lots.

 

Plug-in Sales at BMW continued to recover after  just 395 in January and 647 cars in February, rising to 734 in March.  This is still well below what we saw last year from BMW with numbers only reaching what we saw for the i3 alone in 2015.
 
February  sales of the i3 was just 248 cars, but did improve in March climbing to 332 cars, but this is still well off from the 700 to 1,000 cars per month we have come to expect.  There is no obvious reason for the large drop in sales over 2015 but I suspect it's just that buyers are looking for longer range since several models now offer 100+ miles per charge with the 200+ range Chevy Bolt expected to go on sale later this year.

 

Like the i3, its sibling the i8 also showed an increase in sales going from 32 cars sold in January to a 54 cars in February and improving to 89 cars in March.

 

Sales of the BMW X5 xDrive40e fell slightly from the 345 cars delivered in February to 313 cars in March.  The X5 xDrive40e is still selling pretty well though.

 

BMW also began sales of a fourth plug-in car late in March when the 330e began to show up in dealerships.  They didn't record any sales of the car in March but I suspect that his was just a glitch in the reporting as it appears that some cars dropped out of dealer inventory right around the end of the month.  I suspect that we will see a small number of sales recorded for March when we get the April sales numbers.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands and in March they sold a total of 685 cars, up slightly from the 651 cars they sold in February.  This includes Porsche  Sales which this month were up by 62 to 267 plug-in cars sold in March after selling 205 plug-in cars in February.

 

VW e-Golf sales have tended to be in the 200 - 400 range but they missed the mark in March selling just 86 cars,  This was well short of the 198 cars were sold in February.  It appears the main culprit is low inventory with only about 300 cars on dealer lots going into April.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to be a good seller for Audi and although February couldn't match the 327 cars sold in January, its first complete month of sales, it still turned in respectable sales of 248 cars.  March also fell a little short of January but Audi did manage to sell 332 cars in the month.

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid climbed from 172 cars in February to 244 cars in March setting a new all-time record for the second straight month in a row.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid. March was no exception going from February sales of 33 cars to just 23 cars sold in March.

 

The fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Chrysler and they don't break out sales figures so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  After selling 210 cars in February sales of bounced back in March when an estimated 355 cars were sold.

 

Sales at Hyundai continued to climb as they sold 145 Sonata PHEV cars in December, 175 in January, 200 in February, and 275 in March.

 

Although the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV has technically been on sale since late in August they really only started rolling out cars in any sort of numbers in January when sales hit 226 SUVs.  Sales fell a little in February dropping down to 176 cars and in March sales increased by just 2 cars to 178.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month.  March was no exception with 79 cars being sold after selling 60 cars in February.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  Sales did pick up in February when Smart sold 54 plug-in cars and this continued into March when 70 additional cars were sold.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just  37 cars in February.  Sales did pick up in March as an addition 66 cars were delivered to customers.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV had been consistent with sales of 19 cars in February, the exact same number that they sold in January.  March was a different story as Mercedes Benz didn't sell a single copy of the S550 PHEV

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 66 Plug-in cars in March.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 10 cars in January, 6 cars in February, and 7 cars in March.  The 2017 Prius Prime PHEV is expected to hit the US in September.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in March they sold 41 Mirai FCEVs.

 

 Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold but things picked up again in December returning to 9 cars then dropped back to 2 cars in January while they managed to sell 5 cars in February and just 1 car in March.  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 Outlander PHEV which was shown at the New York Auto Show and is currently expected to go on sale late this year.

 

After falling sales of plug-in cars in 2015 this year has shown strong growth.  This growth has been fueled by Tesla who has finally begun to get production rolling and is now outselling the other manufacturers on a monthly basis.  The advent of longer range BEVs and the introduction of a large selection of plug-in hybrids as also boosted sales.  March 31 also saw Tesla begin taking reservations for the Model 3 and they took over 130,000 reservations on that first day.  Reservations continued to grow and the one week total hit a little over 325,000 cars.  No Manufacturer can now hide behind the claim that "nobody wants electric cars"; people clearly do.


Sunday April 3, 2016 – Tesla Model 3 Reveal – Thursday night at 8:30pm I was huddled with my laptop watching Tesla reveal their much anticipated entry into the mass vehicle market, the Tesla Model 3.  The event was held a the Tesla design studio in Hawthorne, CA and only a small group of Tesla customers and media were invited but the whole event was streamed live.

 

The event started out with Elon Musk giving a summary of the growth of Tesla and the strategy they had used to get to the Model 3.  He also said that they were going to continue expanding both their Supercharger network and their network of stores doubling the amount of both over the next few years.
 
Not only were Tesla showing the model 3 for the first time but they had also started taking reservations for the car.  Response had been much higher than expected.  Where they had expected 30 people to come into a store to reserve a car, 800 had shown up.  Mr. Musk told the audience that they had received 115,000 orders so far with orders still coming in.

 

Then they rolled out the model 3.  The car actually looked a lot like a smaller version of the Model S although the front looked more like what you see on the Model X.  The car specs are quite impressive though. 

 

First of all Tesla expects the car to receive a five star safety rating in all categories, so once again they are aiming to have the safest car in their category.  The car will seat 5 and we were told that there was room to fit a 7 foot surf board in the car.  Part of this room is obtained by pushing the firewall forward to allow the front seats to be moved closer to the dash and opening up legroom in the rear.  The entire roof of the car is made out of glass and this is designed to give the car a more spacious feel. 

 

The lithium ion battery pack is set to give a range of 215 miles and Elon Musk said that this is the minimum range and they are hoping to do better.  The car will also do 0-60 in 6 seconds.  "At Tesla we don't make slow cars", Mr. Musk commented. The car also comes with Supercharging as standard which will make the car quite usable for long distance travel especially with Tesla's plans to expand both the Supercharger and Destination Charger networks over the next two years.  The base price of the car is going to be $35,000 before Federal and State incentives, and according to Mr. Musk even if you buy just the base car with no options you are still going to get a really great car.  Deliveries are expected to begin starting in late 2017.

 

Early on I found several negative comments about the car posted in various forums.  The first one was about the look on the front which one person complained "looks like a giant lip".  Of course there was the Prius die-hard would said that the Model 3 wouldn't work for him because he had just driven a 300 mile trip and didn't have time to stop and charge.  The biggest complaint however was the small opening provided for the trunk.  This is especially true of the Europeans who tend to favor hatchbacks over sedans, but it was also the biggest complaint that I heard from potential US customers too.  This only says that no single car can suite everyone.  Tesla has said that there is going to be another event close to launch and I expect that we will see some changes to the Model 3 including trim differences at the front end and I have also heard rumors that there will be a second model and I expect this to be a hatchback version of the car. 

 

Yesterday morning, Elon Musk tweeted that the current reservation count was 253,000 cars and still climbing.  Just to put this in context, in 2015 Ford sold 249,251 Ford Explorers which placed the SUV as the #15 selling model for the year.  Toyota managed to sell 118,020 Prius Lift-backs last year.  Of course it has to be understood that Tesla has not sold 253,000 Model 3 cars, they have only taken 253,000 reservations and not all of these reservations will become actual sales.  The shear volume of reservations is well beyond what Tesla expected leaving Mr. Musk to tweet "All efforts focused on accelerating the ramp", meaning that they need to work out how to increase production at a faster rate than expected.

 

 Even though Tesla has not sold a single Model 3 yet, the staggeringly large number of reservations means that none of the other manufacturers can continue to say that "nobody wants electric cars", it's clear that lots of people want a Tesla Model 3, not just a few EV enthusiasts. Perhaps this will poke more of the other automobile companies, and especially dealerships, to get serious about plug-in cars.

 

Now for a dose of reality.  First we know that Tesla will not be able to ramp up production to meet the reservation numbers for some time so it is likely that most people are not going to see cars until towards the end of 2018 even if Tesla meets their current production schedule and they have a reputation for missing deadlines.  Pricing is another factor to consider.  Right now with $7,500 in Federal tax incentives and some state incentives, the final cost of a base trim level Model 3 would come in at $25,000 but most people who have reservations will not get the full tax Credit.  The Federal tax credit begins to reduce when a company reaches 200,000 sales and Tesla have already sold about 76,000 cars and are still ramping up production of the Model X.  Assuming sales of 30,000 cars per year then by the time that the Model 3 begins to ship in any quantity that number will hit at least 136,000 cars meaning that at best 64,000 of the 253,000 people who ordered a Model 3 will get the full Federal tax credit.  As Model S and Model X sales will still be on-going that number is likely to be somewhat less.

 

Still, if Tesla can deliver the car on schedule, and at the current price point, they have hit a home run with the Model 3.  GM have already responded with the Bolt which offers a 200 mile range and goes on sale late this year, and this announcement will force Nissan and Ford to respond with 200+ mile range cars if they are not to yield the plug-in market to Tesla.  Toyota and Honda have already set off down the Fuel Cell path but the popularity of the Tesla may also force them to rethink their BEV strategy.  The Model 3 is a major milestone in plug-in vehicles taking them from a niche product to Mainstream.  Let's hope Tesla can deliver this one without serious delays.


Sunday March 27, 2016 – 2016 New York Auto Show – Last week saw the start of the 2016 New York Auto Show and although it was mainly focused on the typical high power cars and big SUVs there were a few very interesting new plug-in cars introduced at the show that should start to show up in US by the end of this year.

 

The one that caused the most stir was the introduction by Toyota of the Prius Prime.  The Prius Prime marks the re-entry into the plug-in world for Toyota with a newly designed plug in car that will replace the now out-of-production Prius plug-in.  The Prius Prime fixes some of the major issues that people complained about on the older model.  The battery capacity has been doubled to 8.8KW which has produced a doubling of electric only range to 22 miles.  We still don't have the official EPA numbers in yet but this value does appear to be close to what I would expect when official numbers become available.  Toyota has also fixed the annoying issue of the gas engine coming on under hard accelerations.  They say that the car will stay in EV mode even when the accelerator pedal is floored and the car will stay in EV mode at speed up to 84mph where the older version would turn on the gas engine at 62mph.  The charger was also upgraded from 2.2 KW to 3.3KW meaning that when charging at level 2 the car will not take much longer than the older version to reach full charge. 

 

I think that the Prius Prime will be a big hit for Toyota but the car has one drawback that many on Prius Chat are saying is a deal breaker.  The Prius Prime will only seat 4 people, taking away one of the big advantages it had over the Volt.  The reason appears to be that the strengthening required to support the addition of a 5th 250lb passenger would add too much weight.  Another issue I had with the car is the looks at the front but after reviewing more photos the car is starting to grow on me, although I will need to see it in person before I can give it a thumbs up on this count.  Pricing hasn't been set yet but the car is expected to go on sale towards the end of the year.

 

There were some cars that had been shown earlier that made an appearance for the fist time in the US at the New York Auto Show.

 

Performance car makers have been learning that the inclusion of a large battery pack and electric motor can do wonders for their car's performance.  Swedish car maker Koenigsegg introduced the production version of the Regara plug-in hybrid sports car in Geneva with the US debut in New York.  The drive train starts with a 4.5KWh lithium battery pack coupled with a hybrid power train that can pump out 1,500hp and you get a car that can rival the Bugati Chiron.  0 - 60mph seems quite pedestrian (by hyper car standards) at 2.8 seconds but the car just keeps on accelerating taking just 20 seconds to reach its top speed of 246mph.  The car is going to go on sale in the US later this year but Koenigsegg is only going to build 80 of these cars and they will cost $2 million each so you are not going to see many tooling around town.

 

Another car that had it's world debut in Geneva then came to NY for the US debut is the Hyundai Ioniq,  The 5-door Hyundai Ioniq will come in three flavors, a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a full electric version.  The hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be powered by a 1.6 liter engine coupled with a 6 speed dual clutch transmission.  The Plug-in  hybrid will have an 8.9KWh lithium ion battery pack that should give the car an electric only range of around 25 miles although I expect the EPA number will come in closer to 20 miles.  The EV version will be powered by a 28KWh battery pack that drives the wheels via a 120bhp electric motor and should provide enough energy to drive the car about 110 miles on a single charge.  Hyundai says that all three versions of the Ioniq should begin to show up in dealerships before the end of the year.

 

For years now Mitsubishi has been telling us that they are going to start offering Europe's best selling PHEV in the US but at the New York Auto show they finally revealed the US version of the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.  The Outlander PHEV is driven by a 2.0 liter gas engine coupled with two 60KW electric motors powered by a 12KWh battery pack. While we don't have any EPA numbers yet, the Outlander PHEV has an all electric range rating of 32 miles on the European test cycle so we can expect the EPA to rate it at around 22 miles. Pricing has not been set yet but the car is due in dealerships during the 4th quarter of 2016.  Mitsubishi also said that this is the first appearance of an electric drive strategy that they are putting in place for the US market.

 
Another plug-in car that has been on sale in Europe for some time now, the Renault Twizy, also strutted its stuff at this year's New York Auto Show but this time in Nissan Clothing.  Nissan showed four different versions of the car as their New Mobility Concept.  The cars are set up with a top speed of 25mph which would allow the tiny two seat vehicles to be sold as a NEV.  The Twizy is all electric and is powered by a 17hp motor coupled to a 6.1KWh lithium ion battery pack that is said to give a real world range of about 40 miles.  While there was no indication that the car would go on sale in the US, Nissan did announce that it would be going on sale in Canada as the Renault Twizy 40.

 

It seems that the move to electrification is getting underway as more and more models get released.  I expect the the Prius Prime to become a big seller and while the Outlander PHEV will not sell in huge numbers due to the limited Mitsubishi dealer network, I do expect it to sell much better than the i-MiEV.  The Ioniq is more difficult to project but I think it will do at least as well as the Hyundai Sonata PHEV.  These new models will all equate to more people moving to plug-in cars once they hit dealerships towards the end of this year.


Sunday March 20, 2016 – Disruptive Technology – Global warming is often sited as the most pressing problem of our time and it is a huge problem, but there are other issues that are going to have a bigger impact on our lives than the industrial revolution.  Every so often a new technolog arises that has such an impact on the lives of the common man that it usher is life altering change.  Such an invention was developed by Thomas Savery in 1698. It used steam to pump water out of a mine.  This invention eventually led to the steam engine and steam power was the major driving force for the industrial revolution.

 

These sorts of inventions, which fundamentally change how we do things, are know as disruptive technologies and can lead to massive shifts in employment as old industries close down and new industries, based on the disruptive technology, rise up to take their place.  In terms of the industrial revolution we saw a fundamental shift from an Agrarian lifestyle to an industrial lifestyle as millions of people moved from the country into the city to work in the new factories powered first by steam engines, then by gas engines, then by electricity

 

We are now on the brink of another revolution driven by a new set of technologies some of which have been around for a while and some that are just starting to emerge.

 

The first of these is the electrification of transportation.  Electric Vehicles have been around for well over 100 years, and were the most common type of automobile at the turn of the century, but eventually lost out to gas powered car.  Now we have come to the realization that CO2 and unburned hydrocarbons from fossil fuel usage has become a major forcer in climate change while other chemicals that result from the combustion of fossil fuels have a huge negative impact on people's health.  On top of that we now realize that fossil fuels are a limited resource and while we have been able to find new sources they are becoming more difficult to get at and so production costs are starting to climb and this is only going to get worse and we use up all the easily accessed sources of oil and coal.

 

The solution is to electrify the fleet and drive it with renewable energy resources.  The move to electric vehicles will have a profound impact on the automobile industry, not so much at the manufacturing end of things but at the sales and service centers.  Right now the vast majority of cars in the US are sold through franchised dealerships.  The primary function of these dealerships appears to be to sell new cars but their primary source of profit is actually in the service bays.  Internal combustion engines need to have regular service.  An average car, driven 15,000 miles per year, will need to visit the dealership at least 3 time per year and the dealership will probably recommend that the customer change the oil every 3,000 miles which means two additional visits to the service center.  Battery electric cars don't need this kind of service so many people won't visit the service station at all and if they do it will basically be for tire rotation and to check that everything is connected properly, but this provides much less revenue to the dealership.

 

Battery electric cars don't even need to have their brakes changes very often either since they mostly slow down using regenerative braking so there is very little wear on brake pads.

 

The alternative to battery electric is the fuel cell vehicle.  Toyota is recommending service every 5,000 miles for the Murai FCEV but since there is no oil changes and it also has a small battery pack that allows regenerative braking service is basically the same as with a BEV and amounts to inspection and tire rotation.
 
So as we transition to electric vehicles, and at the moment this seems inevitable, the requirement for mechanics is going to fall dramatically.  In addition, dealerships are going to see the loss of their number one revenue generator so this will put the viability of the whole franchise dealership model into question.  Tesla is already pushing for a direct sales model and I suspect that this may eventually become the new way of doing business for the automobile industry.  Of course there will still need to be used car sales location so sales functions will be much less impacted.

 

The second big disruptive technology coming along is autonomous cars; cars that can drive themselves.  This technology is currently in its infancy but we are already starting to see the results as cars are being rolled out with crash avoidance systems.

 

Crash avoidance systems use a bunch of sensors in the car to detect approaching obstacles and take action to avoid them.  For example adaptive cruise control detects traffic in front of your vehicle and slows down to match the pace of traffic then brings you back up to your set speed when traffic clears.  This is rapidly expanding to crash avoidance systems where the car will brake automatically when approaching an object too quickly, and also detect objects behind the car so that the driver doesn't back into anything, such as a small child or pet playing behind the car where they can't be seen.

 

The result of this is less accidents and less damage when an accident does happen.  This directly impacts the collision repair industry as there are less vehicles to repair, and the breaker's yard as there will be less damaged cars to be broken for parts.  The insurance industry should benefit from this as they will have less claims to pay but this will also mean they will require less claims processors.
 
We are already seeing collision avoidance systems being rolled out by almost all car makers and it is projected that most new cars will have collision avoidance systems installed by 2022.

 

Following this will be the fully autonomous car.  These cars can literally drive themselves.  Audi has already shows a car that can drop people off then go find a spot in the parking lot to wait until it is summoned to pick up the driver and passengers.  Google has already demonstrated a car that can be driven by a blind driver, and most Tesla cars now have systems that can keep within a lane for long distance driving.

 
The impact of autonomous cars is going to be huge.  Once cars can drive themselves the there will be no need for drivers from Chauffeurs to taxi drivers to bus drivers to truck drivers; all that has to be done is load up the vehicle and send it on its way.  There are other consequences too, the millennial generation have already been slow to take up driving and car ownership.  With autonomous cars the likelihood is that the next generation will not bother to own vehicles.  Instead it is likely that they will just utilize a service like Uber, which by that time will be using self driving cars.

 

The third disruptive technology is going to be renewable energy.  The price of solar and wind power is falling fast and there are other renewable sources such as geothermal, small hydro, and wave/tidal generation that are also likely to get much cheaper over time.  Some are predicting that the cost of energy will get so cheap that it won't be worth charging for it at all.

 

The fossil fuel industry is fighting tooth and nail to maintain their grip on the fuel industry using every tactic from a massive campaign to spread doubt about global warming to supporting politicians who are favorable to their industry.  In the end though, the fate of our planet may rest with weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.  The move to renewable energy is going to cause a major disruption as jobs transition from the mining, oil exploration, and refinery work to producing solar panels and wind turbine blades. 

 

The last disruptive technology is probably the farthest off but the one that could have the biggest impact on life as we know it, the growth of human like robots driven by advances in artificial intelligence. 

 

Just a few weeks ago a company demonstrated a human like robot, in other words one that walks on two legs and has two hands that it can use to do work.  This robot could pick itself up when knocked down and was capable of doing work such as loading boxes onto a conveyor. 

 

The development of such machines is still in relative infancy and as they develop they will be able to take over most of the mundane tasks that humans now perform such as loading and unloading trucks, working in construction, and serving meals in a restaurant.   This has huge social and economic impact.  If robots can do these menial tasks quicker and cheaper than humans what happens to the workers that currently do these tasks.  Can they be retrained to do other things.  If they cannot then we have a large block of the workforce that is potentially being replaced but then these people power the economy as they spend pretty much all of what they earn.  If this large block of people is no longer driving the economy how is the economy going to prosper.  It just can't sustain on the spending of the wealthy few.

 

Automation has already spurred a drive from manufacturing jobs to service jobs as none-human type robots have moved in to replace manufacturing jobs.  Look at any car assembly line and you won't see masses of people putting the car together, you will instead see robot arms assembling and painting the body and doing much of the work that goes into final assembly.  Just yesterday I read an article that said fast food company Carle's Jr. were considering launching a fully automated restaurant where customers would select their food from a menu, pay with a credit card, then receive their food, all without seeing a single person.

 

Such changes will inevitably cause major disruption and they will need to be handled is such a way that everyone benefits.


Sunday March 13, 2016 – 2016 Geneva Auto Show – Today is the last day to visit the Geneva Auto Show and while this show is often the place where the most expensive cars get rolled out, like the Bugatti Chiron for example, this year there was plenty of cars to see that boasted a plug.

 

For starters Tesla was there showing the Model S P90D and the Model S 70, but the car that was getting the most attention was the Model X P90D.  The Model X recently went on sale in Europe and people report that the falcon wing doors were creating a big buz

 

For those of us with more modest budgets the big star of the show was from Hyundai.  The Hyundai Ioniq will come in three flavors, a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a full electric version.  The hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be powered by a 1.6 liter engine coupled with a 6 speed dual clutch transmission.  There was no indication of the size of the battery pack or the range expected in battery only mode for the plug-in.  The electric will have a lithium ion battery pack similar to the one in the Kia Soul.  It will be located under the rear seat and rear hatch.  Again there is no indication of the expected rage but assuming the pack is the same size as the Kia Soul we should see a range above 100 miles.  The Ioniq is going to be sold worldwide and the standard hybrid goes on sale in Korea next month.  More details of the US launch are expected at the New York Auto Show.

 

Czech Republic carmaker Skoda, a subsidiary of VW, also offered a plug-in hybrid concept car, the Vision S concept.  This car is a six passenger crossover.  It is powered by a 1.4 liter engine coupled to two electric motors for a combined power output of 221hp.  It can top out at 125mph and Skoda claim an electric only range of about 31 miles.  A production version is likely to be introduced in the fourth quarter.

 

There were some pretty hot electric sports cars that showed up in Geneva too, even if most of them were still in the concept stage.

 

Italdesign showed their GTZero Concept.  I can best describe this car as a sports car in the front and a station wagon in the rear.  The car is said to produce some  483hp and has a claimed range of 310 miles.  The battery pack allows fast charging and the company claims that it can be charged to 80% in as little as 30 minutes.  The car also boasts a top speed of 155mph.  It appears unlikely however that this car will go into production.
 
Croatian carmaker Rimac had two electric cars on display.  First they showed a production version of the Concept 1 sports car.  This car uses 4 electric motors, one for each wheel, to produce a remarkable 1073hp allowing the car to rocket from 0 - 62mph in just 2.6 seconds.  The 82Kw battery pack can also drive the car at a maximum speed of 220mph.  The car features a 22Kw charger and DC charging at rates up to 120Kw.  There was no indication of expected range or price.  The other car was the Concept S which is an updated version of the Concept 1 but increases power to 1,365hp which pushes 0-62mph acceleration to 2.5 seconds and increases top speed to 226mph.  So far this is a concept car but will probably be a good indicator of how the Concept 1 will develop. 

 
DS is Peugeot Citron's luxury brand and at this years show they rolled out the E-Tense Electric Sports car concept.  The E-Tense is built around a carbon fiber monocoque chassis that makes the car light weight.  Add to this a 402hp electric motor and the car will go from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and top out at 155mph.  Details of the battery pack were a little scarce but DS say the car will have a range of 224 miles.

 

British sports car maker Morgan recently resurrected their iconic 3 wheeler and at this years Geneva Auto Show they introduced EV3, an electric version.  It sports a 62hp electric motor driving the rear wheel which is powered by a 20KWh lithium Ion battery giving the car a relatively sedate 0-62mph of around 9 seconds and a top speed of 90mph.  Morgan say that the car can do 150 miles on a single charge.  While price and release date have not been set yet speculation is that the car will set you back around 30,000 pounds.
 
Performance car makers have been learning that the inclusion of a large battery pack and electric motor can do wonders for their car's performance.  Swedish car maker Koenigsegg introduced the production version of the Regara plug-in hybrid sports car.  The drive train starts with a 4.5KWh lithium battery pack coupled with a hybrid power train that can pump out 1,500hp and you get a car that can rival the Bugati Chiron.  0 - 60mph seems quite pedestrian (by hyper car standards) at 2.8 seconds but the car just keeps on accelerating taking just 20 seconds to reach its top speed of 246mph.  Koenigsegg are only going to build 80 of these cars and they will cost $1.8 million each.

 

Over in Europe tighter fuel standards and the realization that diesel isn't really "clean" have started to push carmakers towards electric drive.  We are now starting to see electric and plug-in hybrid drives appear in more exotic cars and this will only accelerate as we move to clean-up personal transportation.


Sunday March 6, 2016 – February 2016 EV Sales – February is a short sales month and so the sales numbers are usually correspondingly low, but this year was a leap year so there was one extra selling day.  This, plus the plethora of new models this year, helped to propel February 2016 to be the best February on record, topping out at 7,881 Plug-in cars sold.  This beat the previous record of 7,030 set in February 2014 by a whopping 851 cars, more than can be explained away by the extra selling day.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating the overall monthly sales.  In January they estimated that Tesla delivered 850 model S cars in the US. As usual after pushing US sales at the end of the last quarter they switched their focus to foreign markets in January but for February they delivered and estimated 1,550 cars in the US.

 

Model X production continues to grow and after delivering 370 Model X in January the pace picked up again in February and inside EV estimates that sold an additional 400 SUVs.

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 1,950 cars in February.

 

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 usually sell a good quantity of plug-in cars.  In February total cars sold increased from the 977 cars sold in January to 1503 cars sold in February.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which sold 581 in January increasing to 932 in February.  Considering that February was a short month this was quite a good result and was their best February on record selling well above the 779 they sold in February 2014.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi halted its 5-month slide in sales by pushing above the meager 350 cars that it sold in January to sell 490 cars in February.  This is still the worst February since February 2013 when they sold 334 cars.
 
For the fourth straight month in a row Ford Focus EV sales missed their usual sales range of 100 to 200 cars although sales did increase from 66 in January  to 81 cars in February.  The question is can they climb above the 100 mark in March.

 

In February GM sold a total of 1,433 plug-in cars, which was an improvement over the 1,202 plug-in cars they sold in January.

 

In January Volt sales just failed to reach the 1,000 mark selling 996 cars.  This was remedied in February as sales climbed to 1,126 cars.  It should be noted that the 2016 Volt is only being sold in a limited number of markets so the low sales numbers shouldn't be too much of a surprise.  However, the slightly improved 2017 Volt started making its way to dealer showrooms across the nation in mid-February so we should see better results in March.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark tend to move up and down depending on when cars arrive in the US from Korea where they are built.  GM must have gotten a new shipment as sales climbed from 139 cars in January to 216 cars in February.  This was the best monthly sales total for the Spark EV since they sold 226 back in June, 2015.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR also improved in February ,climbing to 91 from the 67 cars they sold in January.  Inventory on this car is still very low with about 300 cars in stock going into March.  It seems that dealers are just not stocking it in large quantities.

 

Nissan managed to sell 930 Nissan Leafs in February which was a nice increase over the 755 cars they sold in January but still a disappointing number.  The main problem appears to be a lack of inventory especially for the new longer range model which makes up less than half of the approximately 3,500 cars on dealer lots going into March.

 

After posting insane numbers for its three plug-in models in December BMW saw a huge fall-off in sales toppling to just 395 in January. Sales did improve a bit in February rising to 647 cars but normally that would be a bad number for the i3 alone.
 
January sales of the i3 was just 182 cars, their worst sales month ever.  Sales did improve in February climbing to 248 cars but this is still well off from the 700 to 1,000 cars per month we have come to expect.  When you consider that BMW sales overall were down about 11% in February I guess that an increase in sales of the i series cars should be considered a good sign.

 

Like the i3, its sibling the i8 also showed an increase in sales over January going from 32 cars sold in January to a February sales total of 54 cars.

 

It was a similar story for the BMW X5 xDrive40e where sales climbed to 345 cars in February from the 181 cars in January.  The X5 xDrive40e was actually the best selling plug-in car for BMW and this was the second best month of sales overall for their plug-in SUV.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to be a good seller for Audi and although February couldn't match the 327 cars sold in January, its first complete month of sales, it still turned in respectable sales of 248 cars.

 

The fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Chrysler and they don't break out sales figures so I have been using the numbers calculated by Inside EV from new car registration information.  After having their second lowest sales month of 2015 with an estimated 265 cars sold in December sales rebounded a little as an additional 275 cars were sold in January, but sales dropped again in February down to 210 cars.

 

Porsche  Sales this month were up by 32 to 205 plug-in cars sold in February after selling 173 plug-in cars in January.

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid climbed to 172 cars in February which is just 1 short of the 173 plug-in cars of all types that they sold in January.  In January they had sold 146 of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid but like January, February was the exception going from January sales of just 27 cars to 33 cars in February. 

 

Sales at Hyundai continued to climb as they sold 145 Sonata PHEV cars in December, 175 in January, and 200 in February.

 

VW e-Golf sales have tended to be in the 200 - 400 range with January slotting right in there with 328 cars sold.  February sales didn't quite make it to 200 though as just 198 cars were sold.

 

While I list the VW family of brands separately here it should be noted that they sold a total of 651 cars across their 4 plug-in models.

 

Although the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV has technically been on sale since late in August they really only started rolling out cars in any sort of numbers in January when sales hit 226 SUVs.  Sales fell a little in February dropping down to 176 cars which is still a respectable number.

 

With inventories always constrained the Kia Soul EV tends to sell less than 100 cars per month.  February was no exception with 60 cars being sold after selling 81 cars in January.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B250e in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 59 cars in January dropping to 37 cars in February.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV is nothing if not consistent with sales of 19 cars in February, the exact same number that they sold in January.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 56 Plug-in cars in February.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales used to make up a significant portion of total Smart sales but recently sales have been quite low.  Sales did pick up in February when Smart sold 54 plug-in cars up from a record low 48 cars in January.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 10 cars in January and 6 cars in February.  The 2017 Prius Plug-in is expected to hit the US in September.

 

 Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold but things picked up again in December returning to 9 cars then dropped back to 2 cars in January while they managed to sell 5 cars in February.  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 which is rumored they will announce at the New York Auto Show.

 

While I wish that sales had been better, I was happy enough with the February plug-in sales numbers.  Given the low cost of gas and the fact that the PHEV carpool stickers in California have run out, combined with bad weather back east and historically bad sales in first couple of months of the year, sales were actually pretty good and turned out to be the best February ever for plug-in sales.  We are now heading towards spring when sales typically pick up and with improved inventory at Nissan and Chevy dealers I expect to see better sales next month, especially if BMW can return to more normal sales levels.


Sunday February 28, 2016 – Carbon Footprint – Back in January someone sent me a link to an article on called "Everything You Need to Know About Your Car's Carbon Footprint".  I didn't think that the link was appropriate for the evfinder links page since it is really slanted toward ICE cars but the article did have some interest so I have been sitting on the email.

 

Let me start by defining what your carbon footprint is.  Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon that you personally generate over a specific period of time, most often one year.
 
Now we all know that Carbon emissions are a result of burning fossil fuels and we all cause a certain amount of fossil fuel to be burned each day and unless we are willing to live in the woods we are all going to cause the emission of a certain amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Most of our energy currently comes from burning fossil fuels and we use it for most purposes in our lives including lighting and heating our homes.  Fossil fuels are burned to generate the energy needed to drive manufacturing processes to make goods like the laptop I am typing this blog on and the car that I drive.

 

For the average American the biggest generator of carbon dioxide is the automobile.  There are millions of cars on the roads and 99% of them burn fossil fuels to propel them down the road.  It's a pretty straight rule that each gallon of gas burned pushes about 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere and that doesn't include the fossil fuel that is burned in the extraction, refining and transportation process to get the gas into your tank. 

 

The average family vehicles in the US gets 25mpg and and is driven 15,000 miles per year.  If you drive the average car then you generate 15,000/25 * 20 or 12,000 pounds.  That's more than 5 tons of CO2 per year. 

 

If you drive an ICE car the calculation of how much CO2 is released is pretty straight forward multiply the number of gallons of gas used by 20 and you get the pounds of CO2 that you sent into the atmosphere.  This isn't the whole story though since on average about 30% of emissions are generated because of the amount of energy needed to build and transport the car to the dealership where it was first sold.  The longer a car stays on the road the lower this percentage becomes.

 

Once you start getting into the plug-in space things become a little murkier.  For example in the article there was a link to a site that allows you to calculate the amount of CO2 generated.  Curious, I visited this site which asked the year make and model of the car and how many miles were on the clock.  When I came to the drop-down to select my model I found that there was no entry for the Prius Plug-in, just the regular Prius.  This meant that there couldn't be an accurate CO2 calculation.  If I never charged my car it would be close if I used the standard Prius value although the plug-in does get slightly better mpg numbers.  To be fair they do allow you to input the mpge for a car instead of the make and model so you could get a number that represents the EPA estimate. Then again I do a lot of very short trips where the mpg I would get is well below the EPA estimate.  I do charge my car so right now on my current tank I have close to 600 miles and have used about 6 gallons of gas based on the amount remaining showing on the notoriously inaccurate fuel gage. 

 

The big problem comes with estimating the amount of carbon generated from plugging in since when and where you charge your car has a big impact.  My charging for this last week is a good case in point.  I live in Southern California Edison territory and they have some of the cleanest electricity in the country.  Not quite as good as the Pacific North West which gets most of its energy from hydro, but still pretty clean.  I usually charge using that energy mix and did so early last week.  On Thursday I was at Westfield's Century City where they have just installed 3 of the double headed Chargepoint chargers and I charged for about an hour there/  They are in LA DWP territory and their electricity is somewhat more carbon intense than So Cal Edison.  Yesterday I grabbed a charge at the Beverly Hills Public Library which has a 250KW solar array which means close to 0 carbon emissions.

 

So we all know that burning fossil fuels is bad for the planet and we should do our best to cut our fossil fuel use as much as possible.  The way to do that is to try and make your life as carbon free as possible.  Sometimes I see some great logic such as keeping our tires properly inflated as under-inflated tires reduce fuel efficiency.  This also applies to keeping the car properly maintained.

 

Sometimes I see some not so great logic such as the longer you keep the car the lower your carbon footprint so buy a used car, like the first guy to buy the car takes on responsibility for the whole amount of carbon that is used to build the car.  In reality that new car that I bought in 2012, will some day be passed along to someone who will drive it for a few years then possible pass it along to someone else who will drive it for a few years until the car finally dies.  Cars have a average life of about 15 years and the carbon used to create the car should be amortized over the life of the car.  Cars are becoming more efficient and the purchase of a more fuel efficient car will free up your current vehicle that someone can then buy to replace an older, even less fuel efficient car.  In the end what matters is not just lowering your own Carbon footprint but lowering carbon emissions across the board.

 

If you are interested in reading the original article it can be found here and it does have a bunch of interesting links about your Carbon Footprint.


Sunday February 21, 2016 – New Isetta – I have been having an email conversation over the last couple of weeks with Ralph Panhuyzen about the prospects for a new version of the BMW Isetta which was first shown in concept form at the Geneva Auto Show in 2012.  This version of the Isetta was a battery electric car and Ralph thinks that this car will change the way that we use personal transportation.

 

First a little bit of history.  Italian company Iso started developing the Isetta in 1952 and it was first shown to the press at the Turin Auto Show the following year.  The tiny two seat car was driven by a 236cc two stroke engine which took 30 seconds to power it up to 30mph and gave it a top speed of just 47mph.  After the second world war German companies were looking for products they could build and in 1955 BWM Licensed the Isetta from Iso but didn't just build copies, they made major changes including replacing the old two stroke power plant with a BMW four stroke 250cc motorcycle engine.  The BMW Isetta was a big hit and because of its round shape and front opening door it became known as the bubble car, a name that would become generic for similar micro-cars build by Heinkel and Meschasmit.  Later BMW would introduce a more elongated version with a 298cc engine and twin wheels at the rear.  By the time BMW ceased production in 1962 they had built 161,728 cars.

 

The new Isetta design is actually more like the car build by Meschasmit in which the drive and passenger sat in tandem.  The new Isetta design seats three people in the same tandem design but with the second seat offset to the right of the driver and the third seat behind the driver. This design actually provides more leg room for the two passengers and gives the car a longer narrower stance than the typical compact sedan.  The design also incorporates the twin rear wheel design found in the last version built by BMW.

 

Right now the new Isetta is just a concept but Ralph told me that they are working with a University here in the USA to build a prototype.  The car will be engineered with safety in mind so it will be build with a pod type construction for strength and rigidity, along with adequate crumple zones to provide energy absorption in front or rear end collisions.

 

Ralph sees the new Isetta as a disruptive technology changing the way that we use personal transportation.  Lets face it most of us use our car primarily for getting two and from work, going to the grocery store, or running errands.  We don't really need to be driving around town in a huge SUV just to get us the 20 miles or so that we travel to work each day on our own.  Now if we had a small car such as the New Isetta, with enough EV range to handle our daily driving needs, that was both safe and comfortable, backed by a car share program that allowed us to get the right car or truck whenever we needed to do things outside the norm, then the end of the large car/truck ownership era would be upon us.

 
Personally I think that the idea is good but it will be a hard sell to the average American.  One of the problems is that while many Americans are using trucks and SUVs in their daily commute those that have young families are also doing a lot of running around with the family.  They are taking one child to dance class and another to soccer practice, often on the same day and more or less at the same time.  They may also be transporting the child's team mates or friends.  I've often said that for the current American lifestyle what the family needs is a plug-in hybrid minivan and a compact electric sedan for commuting.  The New Isetta would fit the second roll fine but the effective three wheel design would probably be a hard sell unless it could be built and sold much cheaper than an equivalent 4-wheel car.  In any event it would hardly be a disruptive technology.

 

What could be a disruptive technology is the self driving car.  With the self driving car we might be able to make a car on demand model cost effective.  In this case I can have a car pick me up and take me to work and pick me up again in the evening and take me home.  While I am at work and don't need a car the car can be off taking other people where they want to go.  It should be remembered though that most people go to work and return home at approximately the same time; it's called rush hour.  That still means that there will be lots of cars sitting around doing nothing most of the day just to service the rush hour traffic.  For this model to be truly disruptive people will need to be willing to share rides with other people going to similar destinations.

 

For more information on the New Isetta check out newisetta.com.


Sunday February 14, 2016 – 2016 Chicago Auto Show – The Chicago Auto show is in full swing at the moment and while it attracts less attention than the Detroit or LA shows they actually claim to be larger than either of the two more famous shows.  I read an interesting article by Sebastian Blanco in Autoblog Green where he had actually counted the number of cars verses the number of plug-in vehicles exhibited and found that the manufacturers came up short.

 

What Mr. Blanco found was that when he walked the floor, of the 595 cars he counted only 18 where plug-in vehicles.  Personally that didn't come as much of a surprise to me since the Chicago Auto Show is consumer oriented and many of the plug-in vehicles that I see regularly on the streets of LA are not available in the mid-west

 

Lets face it, why would Fiat/Chrysler show off the Fiat 500e in Chicago when the nearest dealership that sells them is over a thousand miles away.  They did show the Pacifica hybrid which they plan to sell nationwide starting later this year and while they don't call it a plug-in hybrid it actually does come with plug and was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show last month.

 

Kia was somewhat similar, the Kia Soul, which is sold only in a small number of states and is not available in the mid-west, was absent but Kia not only had a plug-in on display, but chose to reveal it at the Chicago show.  They debuted both the Optima Hybrid and the Optima Plug-in Hybrid.  The latter comes with a 2 liter 4-cylinder engine combined with a 50Kw electric motor offering a combined 154hp.  The 9.8 KWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack should be able to drive the car about 27 electric only miles.  So far Kia has not said when the Optima PHEV will go on sale but given that it was announced at the Chicago show it is likely that it will be sold nationwide.

 

Kia is part of Hyundai Motor Group who chose not to display the Hyundai Sonata PHEV, probably because it is still only available in 10 states, none of which are in the mid-west, unless it is special ordered and as dealers in the mid-west are probably not trained to handle the PHEV sales there would not be encouraged.

 

GM had three plug-in cars on show, the Bolt and two Volts.  The Volt is only sold in a limited number of states right now but is expected to go on sale nationwide quite soon and the Bolt is also expected to be sold nationwide when it goes on sale towards the end of this year.  The Chevy Spark EV is a compliance car not sold in the mid-west and while the Cadillac ELR was not on display when Mr. Blanco was waking round GM did say that they planned on including it when the show became open to the public.
 
BWM had all three of their current offerings, the i3, i8, and X5 xDrive40e on display and were also showing the 330 eDrive sedan which is said to offer about 22 miles of all electric range and a combined fuel economy around 100mpge.  It should be going on sale later this year.

 

The biggest surprise was that Mercedes Benz/Smart didn't have a single plug-in car on display, not even the Smart Electric Drive.  Since they have three models currently on sale, and others in the works, it seems odd that they didn't bother to display any of them at the show as at least the Smart is available in the mid-west.

 

Volkswagen group currently has 4 plug-in models on sale in the US but only had the A3 e-tron was on display in Chicago.  Missing was the VW e-golf, which is not currently on sale in Illinois, and the two plug-in hybrids from Porsche, the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and the Panamera S e-Hybrid.
 
Other car makers that have plug-in cars did have them on display.  Nissan, of course, had the Leaf on display and although they don't sell many of them, Mitsubishi did have an i-MiEV among their cars and Volvo showed the XC90 T8 PHEV.  Ford had all three of their plug-in offerings on display, the Focus EV, Fusion Energi, and C-Max Energi.

 

Toyota doesn't sell a plug-in car at the moment having stopped production of the RAV4-EV compliance car and the Prius Plug-in but they still had two plug-in cars on display, the funky i-Road, and the even funkier FV2.  I doubt that either of these will ever go on sale in the US although Toyota had hinted it might put the i-Road on sale but is focused more on hydrogen now.  A second generation plug-in Prius is expected towards the end of the year and may make an appearance at the New York Auto show.

 
While I think that the Chicago Auto Show had a pretty good representation of plug-in cars that are on sale, or about to go on sale in the mid-west it still leaves me with questions.  Why are some automakers dragging their feet at expanding plug-in sales to mid-west.  It seems to me that to meet fuel efficiency standards in the future, going to an electric drive train is inevitable.  It will take some time for people to get comfortable with plugging in their cars so you might as well start getting cars into dealerships, getting dealers trained to handle plug-in cars, and begin the familiarization process while gaining cleaner air as a result.


Sunday February 7, 2016 – January 2016 EV Sales – Historically January has always been a bad month for EV Sales and as the numbers started coming in for January 2016 it looked like this month was going to be really bad led by very disappointing numbers from GM, Nissan, and BMW.  There are so many models to choose from now though that even with low sales volume for the major plug-in vehicle makers we still topped the sales for January, 2015 by 162 cars setting a new record for January at 6,291.

 

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 December they estimated that Tesla delivered 3,600 model S cars in the US. As usual after pushing US sales at the end of the last quarter they switched their focus to foreign markets and only delivered and estimated 850 Model S cars in January. 

 

The ramp up of the Model X production continues and after delivering 199 Model X in December the pace picked up in January and inside EV estimates that sold an additional 370 SUVs.

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 1,220 cars in December.

 

In January GM was the only other car company that broke the 1,000 sales barrier selling a total of 1,202 plug-in cars.

 

December  Volt sales at GM were the best since August of 2014 turning in a nice 2,114 cars for the month.  January saw a big drop in sales with 996 cars sold.  This still made the Volt the best selling plug-in model for January. It should also be remembered that the 2016 Volt is only being sold in a limited number of states at the moment and won't go on sale nationwide until the 2017 model becomes available everywhere which is not expected until April.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark fell from the 152 Spark EVs sold in December to 139 cars sold in January.  December did see the arrival of the 2016 model with about 100 on dealer lots going into 2016.  Inventory levels should be better in February.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR fell in January down to 67 cars from December's 135 cars.  Inventory on this car is very low and it sees that dealers are just not stocking it.

 

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 usually sell a good number of plug-in cars but January saw big sales declines across the board.  In January they sold 977 cars, well down from December sales of 1,733 cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which Fell from a year high 1,058 cars in December down to 581 in January.  This was still quite a bit better than the 426 they sold in January 2015.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi continued to fall, dropping from 695 cars sold in October, to 639 cars sold in November, to 579 cars in December, and just 350 cars in January.  I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the stickers that allow HOV lane access in California have now run out and the C-Max Energi was one of the cars of choice if you wanted to buy a plug-in purely so you could drive alone in the California HOV lanes.
 
For the third straight month in a row Ford Focus EV sales missed their usual sales range of 100 to 200 cars with sales dropping to just 66 cars down from the 96 cars they sold in December.  It seems like sales of this car is being impacted by the longer range cars that are anticipated to start shipping later this year.

 

To say that Nissan Leaf sales were disappointing would be an understatement.  Sales fell to just 755 cars from the 1,347 cars they sold in December.  This is the worst month of sales for the Nissan Leaf since February of 2013.  A contributing factor may have been the lack of inventory of the new 100 mile range versions of the car.

 

After posting record sales numbers for its three plug-in models in December sales of all three models fell drastically in January going from 2,685 cars sold in December to just 395 sold in January.  Overall BMW sales of all vehicles were off by 4.7% and they blamed this on the storms and bad weather on the east coast but that would not seem to answer why the plug-in sales tanked so badly as sales of these are generally on the west coast and inventory seemed to be adequate.
 
While sales of the BWM i3 couldn't beat the all time high of 1,710 cars set in September they did manage to set their second highest total ever with 1,422 cars being sold in December.  This was followed in January by sales of just 182 cars, their worst sales month ever.

 

After selling an astonishing 656 i8s in December, sales in January plummeted to just 32 cars.  Like the i3 it doesn't appear to be a lack of inventory that caused the issue even after the huge sales in the previous month as there still appears to be plenty of cars on dealer lots.

 

BMW also saw a big increase in Sales of the X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid in December too with sales of 607 cars but this dropped back to just 181 cars in January.  This was enough to make January the second best month for sales but that's out of only 3 full sales months.

 

VW also saw declining sales of the e-Golf as sales dropped from December's record high 609 cars to just 328 cars in January.  This is actually a more normal level for the e-Golf which mostly trades in the 200 - 400 cars per month range.  Sales may also have been affected by the arrival in dealerships of the Audi A3 e-Tron in the last couple of days of December.

 

I wasn't sure if I should list Audi as part of VW or list them separately as they, like Porsche, are part of the VW automotive group.  Since Audi and Porsche are really very autonomous I am going to continue listing them separately.

 

After delays caused by issues with CARB certification the Audi A3 e-tron finally began being delivered to Customers on the last couple of days of December with 49 flying off dealer lots.  The hold-up with CARB meant that Audi had plenty of cars sitting at the docks so inventory wasn't much of an issue but it was still a surprise to see sales hit 327 units in the fist full month of sales.

 

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 having their second lowest sales month of 2015 with an estimated 265 cars sold in December sales rebounded a little as an additional 275 cars were sold in January.

 

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 occurred in October.  True sales to the public began in November but only 7 made it into customers hands.  Things picked up in December with 74 cars being delivered to customers but it wasn't until January when sales really started to hum with 226 SUVs being sold.  This model sells really well in Europe and I expect to see decent sales here in the US too.

 

Sales at Hyundai also continued to pick up as they sold 175 of their Sonata PHEV in January, beating December which was the first complete month of sales with 145 cars being sold. 

 

Porsche  Sales this month were up by 20 to 173 in January after selling 153 plug-in cars in Decebmbrr

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid climbed in January to 146 cars from the 137 cars sold  in December.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid but January was the exception going from December sales of just 16 cars to 27 cars in January. 

 

After selling 96 Soul EVs in December Kia saw sales drop to 81 cars in January.  Kia appear to be keeping inventory of the Soul EV in short supply as I would expect this car to be selling really well if dealers had a decent supply on their lots.

 

It appears that Mercedes Benz is keeping inventory of the B-Class Electric Drive (now known as the B250e) in short supply.  This was reflected in sales of just 59 cars in January down from the 97 cars in December.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV set an all time sales record in December with 35 cars sold.  That pace couldn't be sustained however and sales dropped back to a more normal 19 cars in January.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 77 Plug-in cars in January.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales dropped from the 179 cars they sold in December down to just 48 cars in January.  This was a record low month for sales of the electric Smart.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Surprisingly Toyota still had a few left to sell and recorded sales of 10 cars in January, down from 22 cars sold in December.  The 2017 Prius Plug-in is expected to hit the US in September.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold but things picked up again in December returning to 9 cars then dropped back to 2 cars in January.  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 which is rumored they will announce at the New York Auto Show.

 

After selling 1  Plug-in Accord in November and 1 more Plug-in Accord in December, Honda couldn't repeated this feat in January and listed 0 sales.

 

While I wish that sales had been better, I was happy enough with the December plug-in sales numbers.  Given the low cost of gas and the fact that the PHEV carpool stickers in California have run out, combined with bad weather back east and historically bad sales in January, sales were actually pretty good and turned out to be the best January ever for plug-in sales.


Sunday January 31, 2016 – FCEV v BEV – Last week I read an interesting article by Danielle Muoio on Tech Insider that was titled "Hydrogen-powered Cars are better than electric cars - but there's a catch.  This article covered the current issues facing the roll-out of fuel cell vehicles but missed out on a few pertinent points.

 

Right now it's the Asian car makers that are rolling out their fuel cell offerings while the US and European carmakers are preparing FCEVs but are sitting on the side-lines.  VW showed a fuel cell vehicle at the 2014 LA Auto show and what they said at the time was that the infrastructure is not available for fuel cell vehicles at this time but when the infrastructure was built out they would be ready.
 
In the mean time Japan and Korea are pushing hard for fuel cell vehicles and so we have seen both the Hyundai Tucson FCEV and more recently the Toyota Mirai on sale in Southern California.  Expectations were high but people who purchased the Tucson ran into an unexpected road block as most of the existing hydrogen filling stations closed to be upgraded leaving it almost impossible for the drivers to find fuel.  Toyota has fared a little better as some of these stations have now come back on-line and they have taken the extraordinary step of fitting out some of their dealerships with portable hydrogen fueling stations so their customers, 62 to date, can get hydrogen when they need it.

 
In her article Ms. Muoio gave her first reason that FCEV was better than BEV is that they have a longer range citing the upcoming Honda Clarity FCEV, expected to go on sale towards the end of this year, with a range of 400 miles.  First we know that this is an estimate based on the Japanese test cycle and the EPA number is going to come in significantly less than this.  Second, tesla already has a upgrade available to the Tesla Roadster that will offer a 400 mile range so while most EVs have 100 miles or less today, range is starting to climb.

 
The second benefit was that Fuel Cell Vehicles charge faster.  It seems that with each fuel cell vehicle that gets announced the fill time gets lower and lower.  The current estimate is 3 minutes or less.  This is significantly less than the times we saw for filling up the test vehicles that GM used for Project Driveway but this may be a combination of improvements at the car and improvements at the fueling stations.  It should be noted that to get the full charge requires compressing the hydrogen to 10,000psi but some stations only offer hydrogen at 5,000psi which basically gives you half a tank and half the range.  Fill times, of course, don't include the time it takes to drive to the fueling station. 

 

Right now even the fastest chargers, the Tesla Supercharger, takes a lot longer than that to fill a car.  Typically their fast chargers give you the ability to get 170 miles of range in about 30 minutes.  Yes, this is significantly longer than it takes to fill up a FCEV but if you are on a long drive then you have enough time to take a bathroom break and grab something to eat while the car charges.

 

The catch in the title of the article is the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure.  She quotes the often given number of 49 stations in California that are open or slated to open in the future.  The reality right now is that there are about 6 stations that are fully functional and there has been delays in getting the other stations online.  Eventually the stations will open but the question remains are there enough fuel cell vehicles on the roads to make these stations viable.  We already saw stations here in the LA area that close because the owner was loosing too much money with them.

 

This brings us to one of the most glaring omissions, home charging.  While Ms. Muoio mentions that Honda are working on a home charging station for hydrogen, most people who own plug-in vehicles already do most of their charging at home.  Most people don't need more than about 40 miles on a regular day and their car is usually sitting unused for 22 of the 24 hours.  Now, if I plug my car into a standard 110V outlet I get about 3 miles of range for each hour of charge.  If my daily commute is 40 miles then I need to keep my car plugged in for about 14 hours.  I can shorten that to as little as 4 hours if I install a 220V level 2 charger in my garage.  The truth is that most electric car drivers don't use public charging that much as most charging is done overnight at home.

 

One of the big problems with fuel cell infrastructure is cost.  Hydrogen stations cost in the millions to build and on top of that hydrogen itself is not cheap.  Right now most hydrogen is produced by reformatting natural gas or by electrolysis of water, both of which are quite expensive.  Both Toyota and Hyundai provide free hydrogen as part of their fuel cell program which is not bad as a typical fill-up will run about $50.  While these prices will most likely fall in the future, hydrogen requires a lot of energy to produce so it is never going to be really cheap.

 

So here is what I see as the future for the automobile.  First, the days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.  Transition to electric propulsion is inevitable.  Second, I don't see the Fuel Cell vehicles as being the future.  If you look under the covers of these fuel cell vehicles you will find a battery sitting there.  I suspect that in the end most commuters will drive battery powered cars while the primary family car will be a plug-in hybrid with about 40 - 50 miles of all electric range backed up by a fuel cell stack with a range of about 250 miles.  This assumes that a faster battery charging alternative isn't found as 400 miles of battery range is already on the horizon and affordable 200 mile range cars are going to be here later this year.


Sunday January 24, 2016 – e tron Finally on Sale – After several delays caused by CARB certification issues, which were cleared up during the last two days of December, the Audi A3 e-tron finally made it into dealerships in early January.

 

The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid version of the A3 Sportback,  The compact sporty 5 door is squarely targeted at the entry level luxury market.  It is powered by an 8.8 KWh lithium-ion battery pack (the car actually uses about 6KWh of this) driving a 75KW electric motor.  This is coupled with a 1.4 liter straight 4 internal combustion engine to provide a combined power of 204hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
 
Early information on this car was very encouraging as an all electric range of 30 miles and a tank range of over 500 miles was claimed.  This was of course based on the European test cycle which tends to give inflated amounts for range and fuel economy.  The official EPA fuel economy numbers for the A3 e-tron shows an all electric range of 16 miles and a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 35mpg when running on the gas engine. This gives a combined fuel economy of 83mpge and a range of 380 miles before needing to refuel. The e-tron uses premium gas.

 

The word from people who have taken early delivery of the car is that they are getting around 20 miles of EV range but this is not unexpected and based on my experience with the Plug-in Prius I expect most people will get close to the EPA rated range but some will do much better. 

 

The car will come with a 3.3 KW charger which will allow it to get a full charge in about 2 hours 15 minutes using a 240 volt level 2 EVSE.  Using the supplied 110V EVSE a full charge will take about 8 hours. 

 

The car has several driving modes that the driver can select depending on their needs for the current trip.  EV mode keeps the car driving off the batteries until the charge is depleted.  Selecting hybrid mode lets the car decide the most efficient power source for the current situation.  Hold battery mode preserves the current state of charge for the battery.  This mode can be used to keep your EV miles for driving in the city center instead of using them up on the highway.  Charge battery mode can be used to add charge to the battery by using the gas engine.  This charge, of course, comes from burning gasoline but could be used to make sure that you have a full charge when you get close to your destination.

 

Audi has priced the car very aggressively with a base price of $37,900.  Those who can take advantage will also get a Federal tax credit of $4,168.  Californians who earn less than $250,000 per year can also get a rebate of $1,500.  When you add all this up the A3 e-tron will cost about the same as a similarly equipped A3 so I would expect the car sell well here in California.

 

The delay in getting CARB certification for the A3 e-tron had one advantage, Audi accumulated a large number of these cars at the port waiting to be shipped to dealers.  I just did a check of  inventory at Beverly Hills Audi and they have 27 sitting on their lot.  I may have confused some numbers but when I checked yesterday I thought they had over 40 so we may see some good sales numbers for January.  Going forward it depends on how Audi intends to keep up production but now they are no longer selling the diesel version I expect to see sales going forward of at least 500 per month.


Sunday January 17, 2016 – 2016 Detroit Auto Show – Currently the North American International Auto show is taking place in Detroit.  Detroit is where car makers tend to roll out their most important models as this is the auto show that gets the most press worldwide.  When it comes to electric cars though some manufacturers have chosen to start showing their cars a couple of weeks earlier at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Both GM and VW showed EVs there this year and then showed them at Detroit later releasing more information about the cars.

 

The most important of these cars was the 2017 Chevy Bolt.  This car could be a game changer for electric cars and will more than likely propel GM to the head of the pack.  The Bolt has been shown in concept form for about a year now and the version shown in Detroit was not the production version but details did emerge about the car.  The Bolt will get a 60 KWh lithium battery pack which GM says will provide over 200 miles of range.  The pack will be placed under the floor instead of down the transmission tunnel leaving plenty of room for three passengers in the rear seat.  The base price will be $37,500 before state and federal incentives.  GM say that they will be able to build up to 50,000 per year and will also offer a Vauxhall/Opel variant in Europe. 

 

VW also showed a car at CES, the VW Budd-e, an all electric microbus that demonstrated the new platform that VW is building for all electric vehicles.  At Detroit they more or less said that the Budd-e was a concept car that would not go into production.  Their strategy for the US appears to be to build a whole range of SUVs.  Having said that they did show the Tiguan GTE Active Concept which is an all wheel drive SUV based on the Tiguan that has an all electric range of 20 miles.  There was no indication that the car would be going into production but it seems likely that we will see something very similar.

 

For me the most exciting car of the show was the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.  The Pacifica is aimed at replacing the ageing Town and County minivan.  Chrysler has been a leader in the Minivan segment for a long time and had a plug-in hybrid concept that was close to being production ready before the bankruptcy that led them to become part of Fiat.  Now they are finally going to release a plug-in hybrid minivan which they say will get 30 miles on a charge from the 16 KWh battery pack before needing the gas engine which gives it a fuel economy rating of around 80mpge.  Many US families have a fleet of two vehicles.  I have often said that the ideal family fleet would be a plug-in hybrid minivan and an all electric commuter vehicle.  With 30 miles of all electric range the Pacifica should be able to run all electric for most of the time as 30 miles is about the average daily use that a minivan gets.

 

The Pacifica Hybrid should begin to appear in dealerships some time in the second half of this year.  I suspect that the car will start selling in California first but it does appear that Chrysler intends to sell this car nation wide eventually.  The funny thing is that while this car is a plug-in hybrid it is being marketed as just a hybrid.

 
Volvo showed off its S90 sedan which basically uses the same power train as the XC90 SUV that went on sale in 2015.  Like the XC90 the top of the line SC90 T8 model will be a plug-in hybrid.  There was not much in the way of specs for this car except that the power train will develop a combined 400hp.  Prices and additional specs should be available shortly and the car is expected to go on sale some time toward the end of summer or early fall.

 

Ford Also rolled out the latest updates to the Fusion Energi.  This car has been restyled somewhat but the basic power train remains the same so I think that Ford missed the mark here.  The 2017 Fusion continues with the same 16KWh lithium battery in the current model but refinements in the electric motors may offer a slight boost in range.  I think that Ford missed the opportunity to boost the range up to a more useable 30 miles although 20 miles will work well for many people who have the opportunity to charge at home and at work.

There were also a couple of fuel cell concepts on display at the show, the Audi H-Tron Quotro an the Lexus LF-FC.  Neither of these appear to be destined for production as there is just no hydrogen infrastructure to speak of here in the US.  Lexus did say that they plan to launch a fuel cell vehicle but 2020 though.

 

In order to meet the upcoming cafe standards most manufacturers need to use electric drive to get the levels of fuel consumption that are mandated so I expect to see more and more electric and plug-in versions appearing over the next few years.  One thing interesting is that Nissan announced that a new version of the Leaf would be appearing in December of this year but there wouldn't be an announcement until close to that time.  Since the LA Auto Show is held in November I expect a big reveal from Nissan at that time.


Sunday January 10, 2016 – December 2015 EV Sales – EV sales have been lagging 2014 sales for most of the year but as new models came onto dealer lots towards the end of the year sales picked up in the last quarter.  In the end sales in 2015 fell short of the 2014 total by about 6,500 cars as cheap gas prices lured people into buying less fuel efficient cars and trucks. While Nissan had a very disappointing December it was more than made up for by good sales from both Tesla and BMW.

 

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. Tesla has been ramping up production and pushing to make their projected year end sales volume.  They ended up coming in at the low end of their estimate and Inside EV estimated that they sold 3,600 Model S sedans in December which once again was their best sales number of 2015. 

 

Ramp up of the Model X has been slow and they said they are doing this on purpose to make sure that quality is good.  After delivering just 5 Model X in October production picked up in December and an additional 199 found their way into customer's hands.

 

Overall it is estimated that Tesla delivered a total of 3,799 cars in December..

 

BWM now has three plug-in models on dealer lots and in December all three models sold better than expected with a total of 2,685 cars sold during the month.  This was well ahead of their previous all time high of 1,892 cars set in September and way more than  November's total of 1,008 cars.
 
While sales of the BWM i3 couldn't beat the all time high of 1,710 cars set in September they did manage to set their second highest total ever with 1,422 cars being sold in December.  This was close to double the 723 cars they sold in November.

 

BMW had been seeing sales of the i8 decline over the previous three months falling do just 118 cars sold in November.  It came as a big surprise that in December they sold an astonishing 656 i8s.

 

BMW also saw a big increase in Sales of the X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid as inventory began to arrive in decent numbers at the companies dealerships.  In its third month of sales 607 cars were delivered to customers which was a big increase over the 165 cars they sold in November.  There is still adequate inventory going into 2016 so we should also see decent sales in January. 

 

In December Volt sales at GM were the best since August of 2014 turning in a nice 2,114 cars for the month of December.  This was up from the 1,980 cars sold in November.  It should also be remembered that the 2016 Volt is only being sold in a limited number of states at the moment and won't go on sale nationwide for a couple more months.
 
Sales of the Chevy Spark fell from the 166 Spark EVs sold in November to 152 cars sold in December.  December did see the arrival of the 2016 model with about 100 on dealer lots going into 2016.  I don't expect many sales of this car going forward with the Chevy Bolt planned for introduction toward the end of 2016.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR improved somewhat in December going from the 67 cars they sold in November to 135 cars sold in December.


In December GM sold a total of 2,401 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 December they sold 1,733 cars, a slight improvement over their November sales of 1,676 plug-in cars.
 
As usual their top seller was the Fusion Energi which improved on November sales of 944 cars by selling 1,058 cars in December.  This was their best sales numbers for the year.
 
Sales of the C-Max Energi continued to fall, dropping from 695 cars sold in October to 639 cars sold in November and down to just 579 cars in December.  I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the stickers that allow HOV lane access in California has now run out and the C-Max Energi was one of the cars of choice if you wanted to buy a plug-in purely so you could drive alone in the HOV lanes.
 
Ford Focus EV sales did improve a little but still missed their usual sales in the 100 to 200 range with sales increasing from 93 cars sold in November to 96 cars sold in December.  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.

 

To say that Nissan Leaf sales were disappointing would be an understatement.  December was the first complete month of sales for the  2016 Nissan Leaf, which has an increase range to over 100 miles on some trim levels.  Sales did improve over the 1,054 cars sold in November but only to 1,347 cars still well short of the level of sales that they were doing in the earlier part of the year.

 

VW was one of the few car makers that had a bad month in October but sales of the e-Golf were somewhat of a bright spot and they sold a record 609 cars in December just beating the old record of 596 cars set in October and well ahead of November's sales of  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 390 cars in November Fiat has their second lowest sales month of the year with an estimated 265 cars sold in December.

 

Smart Electric Drive sales reversed their recent downward trend in November when they sold 178 cars.  They beat this number by 1 car in December for a total of 179 cars.

 

Porsche  Sales this month were down by 3 to 153, the same as their October number after selling 156 plug-in cars in November

 

Sales of the Cayenne S e-Hybrid climbed in December to 137 cars from the 121 cars sold  in November.

 
Sales of the Panamera S e-Hybrid usually go in the opposite direction to the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and December was no exception going from November sales of 33 cars to just 16 cars in December.

 

By my calculations all the 918 Spyders that were destined for the US have already been delivered and Porsche reported no deliveries for December. 

 

There is a new plug-in hybrid that went on sale in November when Hyundai sold 15 of their Sonata PHEV. December was the first complete month of sales and Hyundai managed to sell a respectable 145 cars. 

 

Sales of the Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive rebounded going from just 41 cars in November from 97 cars in December.  The 2016 model is now in Dealerships but only in very limited quantities so I expect that January will also be another low sales month for the B Class. 

 

Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550 PHEV set an all time sales record in December with 35 cars sold.  Previously, in November, 21 cars had been sold.  Since this car is a high end luxury sedan I don't expect large sales numbers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 132 Plug-in cars in December.

 

After selling 83 Soul EVs in November Kia saw an increase to 96 cars in December.  Kia appear to be keeping inventory of the Soul EV in short supply as I would expect this car to be selling really well if dealers had a decent supply on their lots.

 

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 occurred in October.  True sales to the public began in November but only 7 made it into customers hands.  Things picked up in December with 74 cars being delivered to customers.

 

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 that remain in inventory.  Not surprisingly sales dropped again in December when Toyota moved an additional 22 Plug-in Prius down from the 44 Prius Plug-ins they sold in November.  I expect sales to continue to fall until the remaining inventory is sold.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  November saw a paltry 4 i-MiEV sold but things picked up again in December returning to 9 cars, the same number they 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 which is rumored they will announce at the New York Auto Show.

 

After selling 1  Plug-in Accord in November Honda repeated this feat by sell 1 more Plug-in Accord in December.

 

While I wish that sales of the Nissan Leaf had been better, I was very pleased with the December plug-in sales numbers.  Given the low cost of gas and the fact that the PHEV carpool stickers in California have run out, sales were actually pretty good at an estimated 13,650 cars.  This was over 600 cars more than were sold in December 2014 and was the best results for December ever.  With production at Toyota ramping up and VW needing plug-in sales to replace diesel sales I think things might become pretty interesting in 2016.  It should be remembered that January is traditionally a bad sales month for plug-in cars so we shouldn't expect too much next month.


Sunday January 3, 2016 – Regen Improves Efficiency – This week I went to visit family members who live in one of the canyon roads that link Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley.  These canyon roads are steep and curvy and as I drove back home in the evening and watched the EV range indicator slowly climb as I descended into Los Angeles, I began to think about the benefits of regenerative braking.


Over the years I have owned a variety of different cars including a Toyota Echo  (ICE), a Gen 2 Prius (Hybrid), and my current ride which is a Plug-in Prius (PHEV).  The difference in how they react to hills is an important way that the hybrid vehicles improve efficiency over the regular ICE.
 
If I had been driving my Toyota Echo I would not have had to carry the weight of the traction battery up the hill so the drive up would have been relatively efficient and I would have stored up a lot of potential energy.  On the way down a lot of that potential energy would have to be burned off in order to keep speed down to where it was safe to negotiate the many curves in the road.  This excess potential energy would be discarded as heat through the brakes and would be wasted.
  

If I had been driving my Gen 2 Prius then I would have had to haul the 118lb battery pack along with things like the inverter up the hill and this would have required some excess energy from the ICE although I would have gotten some assistance from the traction battery which would help to even out the energy flow.  On the way down I would have started out with the regenerative braking adding back any energy removed from the traction pack on the way up.  It wouldn't be long though before the battery became full as it only stored about 1.3 KWh of energy and once it was full then the friction brakes would have to take over dissipating the energy as heat.

 

What I was actually driving was the Plug-in Prius which has an even larger battery pack which weights about 180 lbs. and can store 4.3 KWh of energy although because of the way Toyota manages the battery pack the amount of energy actually going in there is about 2.7 KWh.  I started up the hill with only the HEV portion of charge in the battery which is about the same as the amount in a Prius GEN 2 battery.  Again most of the energy needed to get up the hill came from the ICE with some help from the traction pack.  On the way down though the traction pack was able to absorb all the excess potential energy that wasn't needed to move the car.  The car eventual switched to EV mode and by the bottom of the hill the cars range estimate said I had enough energy to take me 2.6 miles in EV mode.  This was enough energy to get me all the way home without restarting the ICE and I still had about 2/10 of a mile of range left by the time I got home. 

 

One of the benefits of having a plug-in car is that I can actually harvest potential energy when the car slows or goes down a hill.  In the case of the PHEV the friction brakes were only used briefly when I came to a stop light while the ICE car had them constantly in use and even the regular hybrid had to use the friction bakes though less than the ICE car.  Of course it would have been a different story if I had started out at the top of the hill with a fully charged battery but where I live that is almost impossible.  The ability to harvest potential energy isn't the only reason that plug-in cars are more efficient that ICE cars as electric motors are just way more efficient than gas motors but to harvest potential energy through regenerative braking further increases efficiency.