2017 Blog Archive

   


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Past blogs from 2017

Sunday March 19, 2017 Trump and CAFE

Sunday March 12, 2017 2017 Geneva Auto Show

Sunday March 5, 2017 February 2017 EV Sales

Sunday February 26, 2017 Charger Deployment Study

Sunday February 19, 2017 Electric Buses

Sunday February 12, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Line

Sunday February 5, 2017 January 2017 EV Sales

Sunday January 29, 2017 - Auto Company CEOs v Fuel Economy

Sunday January 22, 2017 Lease Returns

Sunday January 15, 2017 2017 Detroit Auto Show

Sunday January 8, 2017 December 2016 EV Sales

Sunday January 1, 2017 Charging into 2017

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Sunday March 19, 2017 Trump and CAFE Last Wednesday President Trump traveled to Detroit to announce changes that would impact the CAFE standard rules set in place by President Obama.  I feared the worst but what we got was probably the most rational thing that the Trump administration has done so far.

 

In 2012 the EPA issued rules that set fuel economy standards for the period from 2017 through 2025.  Under these rules each automaker had to achieve a combined fleet fuel economy of 54.5 mpg.  Part of that ruling included a mid term review to take place in 2018 which would determine if these numbers were even feasible and adjust the 2025 target if necessary.  One week before President Obama left office the EPA issued a notice that they would keep the 54.5 mpg target and the 2018 review was dropped. 

 

One of the first things that happened when President Trump took office is that he met with the heads of the US carmakers and they told him the usual story of how these standards couldn't be met and asked for them to be lowered.  It was the same old story we have heard before with almost every mandated innovation;  meeting the standard would make the cars too expensive for people to afford and would cost the US a million jobs.  They also took a shot at California emissions standards saying that they want one nationwide standard for fuel economy.

 

It was widely expected that the Trump Administration would roll back the existing CAFE standards and attempt to cancel the California waiver.  Neither of these things happened.

 

What did happen is that President Trump rolled back the EPA action taken in the last week of President Obama's term which means that, for now, the 54.5 mpg target for 2025 is still in place but this requirement will be reviewed in 2018 allowing it to be reduced or eliminated then.  The President also chose, at least for now, to leave the California emissions waiver in place too, which means that California can continue to set it's own emissions standards and other states can chose to follow the Federal standard or the California standard. 

 

The reasoning behind this action is that while rolling back an executive order from the last week of the previous President's term is quite easy there would be a much bigger fight trying to roll back the actions from 2012.  It is just much easier to make changes at an already scheduled review.

 

The California Waiver is an even more difficult problem and California has vowed to not give up it's right to set clean air standards without a fight.  Not going after the existing waiver but waiting until this waiver has expired also makes some sense and it is quite likely that the EPA would loose the fight to scrap the existing waiver in court no mater how badly Scott Pruitt would like to hand that over to his buddies in the fossil fuel industry.  The granting of the California waiver is written into the clean air act which was signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970.  This law includes a statement saying that the EPA will grant a waiver to California.  To revoke the waiver would require one of two things to happen.  First there would need to be a major amendment to the clean air law to remove that clause, or the EPA would have to show that Federal clean air rules would be more effective than the California rules.

 

It should be pointed out that California does not have the right to set vehicle fuel economy standards.  It is only able to set emissions standards.  This does mean that they cannot, for example, continue to require 54.5 mpg by 2025 even if the Federal fuel economy standard is rolled back to a fleet average of say 35 mpg.  What they can do is to require the automobile manufacturers to sell cars in the state of California that produce a certain level of air pollutants which is less that the Federal Standards.  Currently the California rules include a provision for the manufacturers to sell a certain number of cars that have zero tail pipe emissions.  Note also that these rules apply only to sales of cars in California and the other states that have elected to use the California emission rules instead of the Federal ones.

 

Why is President Trump's stance on this important?  While the fossil fuel industry clearly has a huge influence on the current Republican administration and would like to see fuel and air pollution standards lowered or eliminated, this does not apply to the rest of the world.  If US automakers are given a pass they are going to become the next steam engine manufacturers.  As a young boy growing up in the UK I can remember a railway system that was driven by steam locomotives.  These were rapidly being replaced by diesel powered trains and the companies that didn't move to producing diesel locomotives quickly disappeared.  The same thing is going to happen to a car industry that puts its faith in big SUVs that spew high levels of pollution, including CO2.

 

The rest of the world is moving rapidly to set higher and higher fuel economy standards and their car makers are responding by producing cleaner vehicles, mostly through electrification.  In the long run, as former GM CEO Bob Lutz once said, "Electrification of the automobile is a foregone conclusion".  Those companies that don't recognize this and plan accordingly are doomed and the weakening of fuel economy standards is, in the end, going to make it less likely that they will be able to play catch-up and survive.

 

As someone who has lived in the Los Angeles area I can personally attest to the success of the California emission rules.  Air in the state is much cleaner that it was 35 years ago when I first came here.  The bad news is that certain areas of California, including the Los Angles basin are still the most polluted areas of the nation so we still have a long way to go.  The California emission rules have directly led to many innovations that makes everyone's air cleaner.  Things like eliminating lead from gasoline and cleaner tail pipe emissions because of catalytic converters have been a direct result of these rules and we can't begin to backslide on them now, or health, and the health of future generations depends on them.


Sunday March 12, 2017 2017 Geneva Auto Show The Geneva Auto Show is the first major auto show of the year in Europe and it has always been the place where the European manufacturers tend to show of the latest trends and future direction.  Many Plug-in cars have made their debut here and this year there were a few more to add to the tally.

 

Luxury carmaker Bentley has indicated that it will be moving into the EV space.  It will be launching a plug-in hybrid version of its Bentayga SUV sometime next year.   It also indicated that it intends to move into the full EV space by showing their EXP 12 speed 6e concept.  This car is a 2 seat roadster and while Bentley did not give out specifics on the drivetrain they did imply that the car will have a range of about 200 miles.

 

The best selling EV in Europe isn't sold here in the US but the Renault showed a version at the Geneva Auto Show that is sure to peak interest in the brand here in the US.  The Renault ZOE e-sport concept is a two seat version of the hatchback that is fitted out with electric motors on both the front and rear axles powered by a 40KW lithium ion battery pack.  The combination is capable of putting out 456hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.  This gives the e-sport a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 130 miles.  The bad new is that it's unlikely Renault will make a production version of this car. 
 
European carmakers have learned that they can obtain a pretty sizable performance boost by adding an electric motor.  Porsche has sold plug-in hybrid versions of the Cayenne SUV and Panamer S sedan for quite sometime now, and the Porsche 918 Spyder is the most powerful Porsche ever built. They took the Panamera one step closer to the 918 Spyder with the Panamera Turbo S e-hybrid.  The powertrain blends a 4.0 liter V8 engine that puts out 550hp with a 136hp electric motor.  This gives the car a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 193 mph.  The 14.1 KWh lithium-ion battery pack is rated at 31 miles of electric range based on the European test cycle which probably translates to about 25 miles on the stricter US standard.  There is also an optional 7.2KW charger to allow a full charge in about 2 hours when plugged into a 240V supply.

 
At the other end of the scale Honda gave a sneak peek at the autonomous vehicle concept that they will be showing at CES in April.  This car is a small 2 seat EV known as the NeuV and looks to be about the same size as a Smart.  The details of the power train and its autonomous capability will be revealed at CES, but it was noted that the concept does come with a steering wheel so it looks like a driver will be required to take control if necessary.

 

VW on the other hand did not provide a steering wheel or pedals in its Sedric automated vehicle concept.  The Sedric looks like a box on wheels with an interior that just features comfortable seating and a windshield that is actually an LED screen.  VW has invested a lot of money in moving toward autonomous vehicles and the Sedric is intended to be a level 5 autonomous vehicle meaning that it can drive itself anywhere.  The plan is to sell such vehicles to both customers and ride hailing services like Lyft and Uber.  VW is also launching their own rideshare service. 

 

The Geneva Auto Show is also about performance so a lot of the big reveals were high performance sports cars luxury cars but this year we have continued to see more cars that are adding a plug.  The growth of autonomous vehicles is also beginning to pick up pace as companies begin to show what will become their first generation of self driving cars, the first of which is expected to make an appearance in showrooms around 2021.


Sunday March 5, 2017 February 2017 EV Sales Another month, another sales record.  February 2017 was the best February on record for EV sales.  The last time that EV sales have not set a record month was in May 2016 which fell just 173 cars short of May 2015 overall an estimated 12,049 plug-in cars were sold in February, destroying the previous record set in February 2016 which saw estimated sales of 7,763 cars. 

 

After returning record sales of 3,691 cars in December, sales of the Chevy Volt for January were 1,611 cars the Volt continued to be the  best selling plug-in for the month in February selling 1,820 cars. This was the best February sales ever for the Volt and well ahead of the previous record of 1,626 cars set way back in February 2013.

 

As promised GM began delivery of the Chevy Bolt in the middle of December and managed to deliver 579 Bolts.  In January sales of the Chevy Bolt climbed to 1,152 cars but dropped in February falling short of the 1,000 mark with a disappointing 952 cars. 
 
With the arrival of the Bolt, 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 39 cars in November and 17 cars in December.  In January sales fell just 4 cars and this was repeated in February when 4 more cars left dealerships.  It seems unlikely that any more cars will be shipped to the US from Korea so sales will continue low until existing dealer inventory is gone.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted and no more are being built. After selling 6 cars in both August and September, 3 in October, 5 in November, and just 3 in both December and January., Cadillac registered no sales in February.  This might mean that inventory of new cars is finally exhausted.

 

In February GM manage to sell 2,776 plug-n 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.  February is always a month when Tesla focuses on international sales in the early part of the month switching to domestic sales in the latter part of the month. 

 

After selling an estimated 900 Model S sedans in January sales picked up in February where an estimated 1,750 cars were handed over to customers.  This was the best February ever for sales of the Model S  beating the estimated 1,550 cars they sold in February 2016.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also saw its best February sales with an estimated 800 units, and up a little from January when an estimated 750 cars were sold.  Also like the Model, Model S sales were considerably better than the 270 cars that they sold in February 2016.

 

Total sales at Tesla for February were 2,550 up substantially from the estimated 1,650 cars sold in January, 2017. 

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in February selling a total of 1,704 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and February was no exception with sales of 837 cars, up from the 606 cars sold in January.  Ford appears to be having trouble keeping inventory on dealer lots recently which accounts for the lower sales in recent months. 

 
After posting record sales for the C-Max Energi in December with 1,289 cars sold, sales dropped to just 473 cars in January but climbed again in February where they sold 639 cars.
 
Sales of the Ford Focus Electric have recently been slow.  It used to be that they sold in the 100 to 200 range but over the past year they have been selling in the 50 - 150 car range.  In fact in 2016 they only managed to sell more than 100 cars in two months that year, March, when they sold 110 cars., and December when the sold 101 Focus EVs.  In January Focus EV sales dropped to the low end of the range with just 56 cars being sold.  The new improved range Ford Focus is now becoming available with an EPA estimated 115 miles of range and the addition of DC fast charging, and as a result it appears that Ford has been clearing inventory of the older version hitting sales of 228 in February.  This is the second best sales month ever for the Focus EV after Ford sold 264 in August 2014.

 

What a difference a couple of months can make in the Plug-in world.  Toyota 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.  Not to be outdone, December sales increased to 1,641 cars.  In January they sold a very surprising 1,366 Prius Prime making it the second highest sales for a plug-in in January.  Toyota kept up the pace selling just 4 less in February with 1,362 cars being sold.  It looks like  the Prius Prime is on track to become one of the best selling Plug-in cars in 2017.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in January they sold 83 Mirai FCEVs.  In February sales climbed again to 110 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,227 Mirai.

 

After sales of the Nissan Leaf dropped below the 1,000 cars level to 772 cars in January they did rebound in February when they sold a surprising 1,037 cars.  It should be noted that sales beat the 930 cars they sold in February 2016.

 

BMW sales have been all over the map for the past year or so.  The issue appears to be inventory; it just seems like they can't produce enough cars to provide sufficient inventory on dealer lots as priority is given to sales in Europe.  In January they sold a total of 841 cars but sales dropped back to 830 in February.

 
Sales of the i3 in particular have been all over the place, varying from a low of just 182 cars in January, 2016 to a high of 1,479 in July  In November sales were right in the middle of the range with 629 cars sold and In December things picked up again a little with sales of 791 cars. January saw sales fall to 382 cars and sales fell a little further in February to 318 cars.

 

BMW i8 Has normally traded in the  150 - 200 range but so far this year they have only managed to trade in the 50 - 60 range.  In January sales were just 50 cars.  Things improved a little in February with sales climbing to 58 cars.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e also showed a small increase in sales in February going from January with sales of just 262 cars to 275 cars in February.  This is well below the 400 - 600 car range they were selling in the later half of 2016.

 

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.  December saw another increase in Sales going up to 240 cars, an all time high.  This couldn't be sustained however so January saw sales drop back to 129 cars but sales did rebound a little to 144 cars in February.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, and finally, in December they made it to dealerships,  By the end of December the keys to 23 cars had been handed over to customers.  January added a further18 cars to BMWs sales total and February saw sales climb to 35 cars.  The issue is the same as we saw with the 330e, the car is basically sold out for the next year so the US only received a token inventory meaning sales are expected to remain low for this car for a while.

 

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, 2016.  December saw them back above 1000 cars with 1,187 cars sold, their best sales month ever.  In January they fell short of selling 1,000 cars by just 2, selling 998 cars in total and February saw a further pullback to just 815 cars.

 

After selling a record number of cars in December with sales of 589 cars, sales of the Audi A3 e-Tron dropped back to their normal selling range of 300 - 400 by selling 387 cars during the month of January.  In February they hit the top end of their normal trading range by selling exactly 400 cars.

 

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.  December saw sales climb back above the 400 again with sales of 443 cars.  In January sales headed back to their normal range once more with sales of 332 cars and stayed in that range in February with an additional 293 cars being sold.

 

After selling 177 cars in January sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid fell to 121 cars in February.

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamera 4 e-hybrid which is expected to show up in US dealerships some time in April.  November sales of 88 cars pretty much blew out existing inventory so December sales dropped to just 3 cars and January fell even further to 2 cars while February saw just 1 car being sold.  It seems unlikely that more will be shipped to the US so sales will be scarce until the arrival of the new model.

 

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 state rebate information.  January sales came in at an estimated 345 cars and February sales dropped down to an estimated 240 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid and actually sold 12 in January.  Sales are expected to start towards the end of February but Chrysler extended the Christmas and New Year break for an extra week because of an oversupply of vehicles at its dealers so the Pacifica Hybrid didn't ship.  Compounding the issue is a quality control hold being placed on the vehicles so it is uncertain when they will actually be shipped to dealers so there were no sales recorded in February.

 

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 December the Kia Soul had it second best sales month of the year with 197 cars sold.  Sales fell in January when they notched up just 117 deliveries.  In February things improved a little and 152 cars were sold.  It looks like Kia Soul has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, but sales didn't actually kick off until January when 40 cars were sold.  In February Kia sold an additional 85 cars.  It will be interesting to see how well this car sells in the coming months.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 237 plug-in cars in February.

 

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. February was no exception with sales climbing to 56 after selling 53 cars in January.  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 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.  December saw another month above the normal trading level as sales climbed to 71 cars.  January sales dropped back to 55 cars but still stayed above the historical trading range as did February with another 51 cars.  It appears that the 40 - 60 car range has become the new norm.

 

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.  After setting a new sales record with 83 cars being sold in December, January sales dropped back to 52 cars, but bounced back a little in February to 59 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 in most locations so that results in limited sales.

 

Mercedes-Benz have put back the launch of the C350e several times but it finally began appearing in dealerships in December.  First month sales were pretty impressive at 171 cars.  January sales were even better with 210 cars being sold but I suspect that this depleted inventory pretty badly and February saw sales drop back to 51 cars.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 217 Plug-in cars in February down from 370 Plug-in cars in January.

 

December sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were 325 cars which was the second best sales month for this car, being beaten only by the 375 cars they sold back in July, 2016.  In January sales fell back to 190 cars and the fall continued in February with an estimated 175 cars sold.  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 nationwide in most states it has to be special ordered. 

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV was one of the few cars that did not beat their January 2016 sales numbers reporting only 96 cars being sold in January well below the 226 cars they sold in January, 2016 and the 204 cars sold in December. Things got even worse in February with only 83 cars being sold.  The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV has mostly traded in the 100 - 200 range and I expect this to continue 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 early in 2017 and is expected to have slightly better range than the current model, increasing to 88 miles.  Since September sales have stayed in the 40 - 50 range and December sales just squeaked in at 40 cars. In January sales dropped to only 15 copies and February saw a bit of a rebound to 22 cars being sold.  The latest news is that Smart is expected to become an EV only brand here in the US.

 

Mitsubishi just don't appear to be able to supply plug-in cars to the US.  In January Mitsubishi didn't sell any i-MiEV but they did manage 1 sale in February.  It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

Plug-in car sales went exceptionally well in February especially since the month has only 28 days.  This year is already on track to set another record for electric car sales and we are already seeing new models arrive on a pretty regular basis.  March should see the arrival of another BMW plug-in hybrid, the 550e along with sales of the Pacifica Hybrid, while in April both the Ioniq Electric and Porsche Panamera 4 e-Hybrid should start to arrive in dealerships.  Later in the year we should see some models like the Focus EV and the VW e-Golf get upgrades to increase range to aver 100 miles.  By July the Tesla model 3 should be rolling off the assembly line so we should start to see sales of that model in July or August. 


Sunday February 26, 2017 Charger Deployment Study I just came across a study done at the University of Ohio by Xiaomin Xia, Ramteen Sioshansia, and Vincenzo Maranob that attempted to model and optimize the deployment of charging infrastructure and while it wasn't perfect they did come to conclusions similar to what I have been preaching for a while now.

 

The study developed a model to simulate and optimize the placement of charger infrastructure to determine where to place EV chargers to maximize their use by none fleet owners of electric vehicles. 
 
Like any such study the results will often depend on the assumptions going into the model and in this case their assumption was to base the model on an EV with 73 miles of range which corresponds to the Nissan Leaf.  Since this study was done around Columbus, OH this is a pretty good selection since the most available EVs there are the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.  However, the situation is changing as manufacturers are now beginning to release their second generation of EVs which typically have a range of around 120 miles, while the Chevy Volt and the Tesla models all have a range of over 200 miles.  Having said that, there is a large number of low priced low mileage used EVs on the market at the moment which fit into the studies assumptions nicely.

 

One of the places where I thought that the study was lacking is that they only considered level 1 and level 2 charging but made the assumption that DC fast charging was not relevant to charging being installed in residential areas.  I think this was an oversight for of the study as I believe that fast charging is going to have an increasingly important role as the rate of EV adoption continues to climb. 

 

The study also looked at the impact at a variety of funding levels from $0.5 million to  $3.5 million to provide public charging for an area of about 2,320 square miles that is home to 1.7 million people who collectively own 1.1 million vehicles.  They looked at installation of charging locations in three different types of location, workplace charging, University campuses, and shopping centers.  The area was divided into 17 travel regions but assumptions for average miles travelled for each of these regions were not specified in the paper. 

 

Other thing I took issue with was the cost they assigned to the install the chargers, and the 1% desired EV penetration rate they used in the study.  The study assumed that it would cost $425 to install a level 1 charger and $925 to install a level 2 charger with the assumption that any required equipment like transformers were already available.  From what I have seen this is grossly underestimating these costs particularly for the level 2 charge which can be as much as $6,000 per unit to install.  The cost for level 1 is closer assuming that places can just utilize already existing 110V outlets but running additional outlets is still likely to be more expensive the $425.  The target of 1% penetration is probably OK for Columbus, OH but here on the west side of Los Angeles we are already above that level. 

 
I still think that many of the results they got are quite valid though.  In their modeling they found that it was most cost effective to install level 1 charging at workplaces when funds were at the lower level of the scale.  This is something I have been saying for a long time.  At my office I don't need a $2 an hour level 2 charger that is going to top my car up in less than 2 hours and then leave me hogging the charger for the rest of the day.  Of course I would move my car after the charge was complete but most people don't.  Access to a 110V plug at their parking space is all that most EV drivers need.  In fact Level 1 charging is good for any location where people stay for a long time such as long term parking at airports of railway stations. 

 

The study also found something else that we already knew, about 96% of drivers would be able to meet their daily driving needs by charging at home.  This is one of the interesting things about the EV market.  One of the things that discourage people from driving electric is the lack of EV infrastructure yet once they buy an EV they find that for the most part, they just need to charge at home, and need to use public chargers very rarely.  Of course there is still a significant proportion of people who live in places like apartments where they don't have the ability to charge at home and public charging infrastructure is key to EV adoption for this segment of the population.

 

In the Study, as funding levels increased the indication was that adding level 2 charging at places where people stay for shorter periods of time became more beneficial.  In the model this allowed enough charging capacity to meet the charging needs of most of the remaining drivers who drive into the area where chargers are installed.  At the $3.5 million funding level only 1% of drivers cannot make their daily travel needs.

 

Anyone who has been following my blog will know that this study confirms what I have been saying for years.  However, even though it was published recently it is already out of date.  I would like to see this study being redone but using a criteria that better matches what the driver of 2018 is going to see.  That includes a mixture of plug-in vehicles that includes a mix of vehicles with ranges like the ones we have in this study, cars that have an average range of 120 miles, and cars that have a range of 200 miles.  The study also needs to take into account the availability of DC fast charging.  target penetration should be reviewed at both 2% and 5% levels.

 

Now just let me get on my soap box a little.  One of the biggest issues with charging infrastructure is that while the chargers are there it doesn't mean they are available.  One of the issues often brought up when it comes to funding public charging is that chargers often sit unused.  In this area where EV adoption is some of the highest in the nation I often see chargers being blocked mostly by EVs using the charger as a convenient parking space.  At other times the charger is blocked by someone who parks there for a long time after charging is complete.  It is rare to see chargers being blocked by ICE cars anymore but it still happens once in a while.  Along with charging infrastructure being installed there is a strong need to establish rules for using the chargers and to enforce there rules.


Sunday February 19, 2017 Electric Buses While we all love to drive around in our cars, public transportation is vital to the functioning of our cities.  In cities like London buses move millions of people every day.  Even in car friendly Los Angeles many people rely on the bus to get them to work and home every day.  There is a growing trend around the world to electrify the bus fleet.

 

There is a big problem with the conventional bus; it is usually powered by a diesel engine.  While public transportation is often seen as being good for the environment we all know that diesel engines are a huge source of air pollution and emissions from diesels, especially particulate emissions, have been linked to a whole host of health problems.

 

Here in Los Angeles the problem has been addressed by converting the entire bus fleet to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).  CNG buses are much cleaner than their diesel counterparts and it a place like Los Angeles, which has some of the worst air quality issues in the country, this change has made a huge impact on the air we breath.

 

Now many places are looking to take that one step further with the growing inclusion of electric buses into city fleets.

 
Electric Buses are not new but they had to be powered by overhead wires and were known as trolley busses.  While growing up I can remember riding the trolley busses in Leeds.  They were quite and clean but the overhead wires meant that it was difficult to route the trolley bus around a problem such as an accident that blocked a street, or a water main burst.  Battery technology is improving at a rapid pace though and now a new generation of electric buses are starting to emerge.

 

The trend started with electric shuttle buses.  These busses usually run over very short routes so they don't need a lot of range to be able to run for most of the day without the need to re-charge.  Shuttles like this have been running around Santa Barbara, CA for over 10 years and have provided excellent service transporting passengers between Sterns Wharf and down town Santa Barbara.  Typically these buses do not provide enough range to meet the requirements of daily use around big cities.

 

A new generation of electric buses are starting to emerge from companies like Proterra and BYD.  These buses offer much larger range per charge than the older shuttle buses; enough range to meet the needs of bus routes in most cities around the world. 

 

London for example has just bought 5 double decker electric buses from BYD.  These buses have the same basic layout as the current double decker diesel buses and operate on route 98 from Willesden to Holborn.  The buses have a range of 180 miles on a charge which is more than enough to allow them to run the full day without re-charging.  Transport for London also operates a number of single decker electric buses and some hybrid buses on their routes.

 

Los Angeles is also beginning to add electric buses to their fleet.  LADOT recently purchased 4 35 foot buses from BYD for use on their downtown fleet.  The buses will be built at the BYD facility in Lancaster, CA.  They can travel about 135 miles on a full charge which is adequate for many routes serviced by LADOT.  Not to be outdone, the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has also signed an agreement to purchase 25 electric buses from BYD.

 

Proterra, has also been developing a series of buses and currently has close to 100 buses in use spread over 18 cities around the country.  They  offer both 35ft and 40ft single decker buses some of which are capable of travelling over 250 miles on a charge.  They also offer a very interesting fast charging option.  Fast charging stations can be installed at bus stops where the bus stands for longer than normal, such as the turn around point at the end of the route.  The bus is charged via an overhead power line and the charging is done automatically without driver intervention.  Typically a bus can add about 26 miles of range during a 5 minute layover.  In many cases this is enough that the bus is able to run 24 7.

  

Electric buses have the same advantage as electric cars; as the power grid gets cleaner so do the electric buses.  Since there are no tailpipe emissions the buses also don't pollute at a local level.  To paraphrase Bob Lutz, electrification of the bus is a forgone conclusion. 


Sunday February 12, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Line This week I got an email from Hyundai saying that two of the models from the Ioniq line of cars was about to hit dealerships, and it could be as early as tomorrow.  I don't think their web developers got the same note because when I went to the Build screen on the Hyundai web site the Ioniq was not listed.

 

The Ioniq made its North American debut at the 2016 New York Auto Show.  There three flavors in the Ioniq line that are all built on the same body; hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and electric.  What is set to begin selling is the hybrid and the electric versions with the plug-in hybrid expected to join its two siblings later this summer. 

 

While we don't have the actual EPA numbers for these cars yet, the hybrid is projected to offer a combined fuel economy rating of 58mpg which, if this holds up, is going to be better than the 56mpg EPA rating for the Prius Eco, the current most fuel efficient car on US roads.

 

The hybrid is driven by a 1.6 liter Atkinson-cycle motor coupled to a single electric motor via a 6 speed dual clutch transmission.  The Ioniq body is styled to look like a fairly standard 5-door similar to the Hyundai Elantra but still manages to offer up a coefficient of drag of just 0.24.

 

The Ioniq Electric will be driven by a 28 KWh lithium-ion battery that is expected to give the car an EPA rated range of 124 miles.  While this is pretty good when compared to the first generation electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Fiat 500e, the range is not going to compete well with the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, both of which are expected to get more than 200 miles on a charge.  To address this issue Hyundai has announced that the range will be extended to around 200 miles by 2018. 

 

The Ioniq Electric has a 6KW internal charger that can fully charge the battery in as little as 4 hours and 24 minutes when connected to a 220V level 2 charger.  The 110V charger that comes with the car will take around 23 hours to fully charge the car.  The Ioniq Electric will also come with a CCS DC charging option that can charge the car to 80% in as little as 24 minutes.  The car will also come with a paddle shifter that will allow the driver to select 4 different modes of regen.

 

The Ioniq PHEV will come with the same power train set-up as the hybrid but the battery pack will be much larger at 8.9 KWh.  This is expected to give the Ioniq PHEV an all electric range of about 31 miles.  This will make the Ioniq very competitive with the Prius Prime.

 

The biggest news on the Ioniq Electric and Ioniq PHEV is about the battery warranty.  One of the biggest questions that potential buyers ask is how long the battery will last and how much it will cost to replace.  Hyundai's answer to that question is to offer a lifetime warranty on the batteries.  If a battery module should fail on one of these vehicles it will be replaced under warranty for the lifetime of the vehicle.

 

I expect the Ioniq hybrid to sell very well given that it looks much more mainstream that the Prius liftback while offering as good as or better fuel economy.  The Ioniq electric is a different story though. While the Electric is technically supposed to be sold nationwide it is not going to be sold by every dealership.  I suspect that Hyundai is going to keep inventory at a level that constrains sales.


Sunday February 5, 2017 January 2017 EV Sales The first month of 2017 saw a much lower level of sales than we saw in December but this was always expected.  The good news is that we saw the highest ever EV sales for January.  Not only that, but at an estimated 10,615 cars sold, we blew away the previous record set in January 2016 where just 6,221 cars were sold.  Sales were actually much better than I expected fired by excellent results from two newcomers, the Chevrolet Bolt, and the Toyota Prius Prime.

 

After returning record sales of 3,691 cars in December, sales of the Chevy Volt were not expected to do that well in January.  While sales were much lower for the Volt they still managed to sell a very respectable 1,611 cars making the Volt the best selling plug-in for the month. This was the best January sales ever for the Volt and well ahead of the 996 cars they sold in January 2016.

 

As promised GM began delivery of the Chevy Bolt in the middle of December.  GM had said that they would be delivering the first cars to Lift drivers and that appears to have been what happened as most dealers in California and Oregon didn't see cars arriving in any numbers until the very last days of December.  GM still managed to deliver 579 Bolts in December.  In January sales of the Chevy Bolt climbed to 1,152 cars. 
 
With the arrival of the Bolt, 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 39 cars in November and 17 cars in December.  In January sales fell just 4 cars. It seems unlikely that any more cars will be shipped to the US from Korea so sales will continue low until existing dealer inventory is gone.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted and no more are being built. After selling 6 cars in both August and September, 3 in October, and 5 in November, sales in December dropped back to just 3 with an equal number being sold in January.  Cadillac's plug-in sales will probably continue at a dribble until the CT6 PHEV goes on sale in mid-2017.

 

In January GM manage to sell 2,780 plug-n cars which is a pretty good total for January.  That was after selling 4,290 cars in December which was their best sales month ever for plug-in 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.  January is always a month when Tesla focuses on international sales and it appears that this January was no exception. 

 

December was Tesla's best sales month ever for the model S, delivering an estimated 5,850 cars.  In January sales dropped to an estimated 900 cars.  While this was a pretty bad month for US deliveries at Tesla they still did better than the estimated 850 cars they sold in January 2016.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also had its best sales month ever in December selling an estimated 3,875 units, but sales of the Model X also fell in January to an estimated 750 cars.  Also like the Model, Model S sales were considerably better than the 270 cars that they sold in January 2016.

 

Total sales at Tesla for December were 9,725 cars which was also Tesla's best sales month ever.  This dropped to just 1,650 cars in January, 2017. 

 

What a difference a couple of months can make in the Plug-in world.  Toyota 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.  Not to be outdone, December sales increased to 1,641 cars.  In January they sold a very surprising 1,366 Prius Prime making it the second highest sales for a plug-in in January.  It looks like  the Prius Prime may well become one of the best selling Plug-in cars in 2017.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in December they sold 116 Mirai FCEVs.  In January sales dropped to 83 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,117 Mirai.

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in January selling a total of 1,135 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

After being out-sold by the C-Max Energi in December the Ford Fusion regained its position as Ford's best selling plug-in by selling 606 cars In January.  This was the worst sales month for the Fusion Energi since they sold 581 cars in January 2016.   Previously in December they sold1,099 cars.

 
After posting record sales for the C-Max Energi in December with 1,289 cars sold, sales dropped to just 473 cars in January.  Similar to the Fusion Energi we have to go all the way back to January, 2016 to see lower sales numbers when 350 cars were sold.
 
Sales of the Ford Focus Electric continue to be slow.  It used to be that they sold in the 100 to 200 range but over the past year they have been selling in the 50 - 150 car range.  In fact in 2016 they only managed to sell more than 100 cars in two months that year, March, when they sold 110 cars., and December when the sold 101 Focus EVs.  In January Focus EV sales dropped to the low end of the range with just 56 cars being sold.  While this was not their lowest sales month the Focus Electric was one of the few models not out of production that sold less than they did in January, 2016.

 

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.  December saw them back above 1000 cars with 1,187 cars sold, their best sales month ever.  In January they fell short of selling 1,000 cars by just 2, selling 998 cars in total. 

 

After selling a record number of cars in December with sales of 589 cars, sales of the Audi A3 e-Tron dropped back to their normal selling range of 300 - 400 by selling 387 cars during the month of January.  This was their 3rd best sales month ever after November and December of 2016.

 

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.  December saw sales climb back above the 400 again with sales of 443 cars.  In January sales headed back to their normal range once more with sales of 332 cars.

 

One car that actually sold better in January than it did in December was the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid.  After posting sales of  152 in December sales increased to 177 cars in January.

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamera 4 e-hybrid which is expected to show up in US dealerships some time in April.  November sales of 88 cars pretty much blew out existing inventory so December sales dropped to just 3 cars and January fell even further to 2 cars.  It seems unlikely that more will be shipped to the US so sales will be scarce until the arrival of the new model.

 

BMW sales have been all over the map for the past year or so.  The issue appears to be inventory; it just seems like they can't produce enough cars to provide sufficient inventory on dealer lots.  In December they sold a total of 1,756 cars but sales dropped back to 841 in January.

 
Sales of the i3 in particular have been all over the place, varying from a low of just 182 cars in January, 2016 to a high of 1,479 in July  In November sales were right in the middle of the range with 629 cars sold and In December things picked up again a little with sales of 791 cars. January saw sales fall to 382 cars.

 

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.   This trend continued in December as sales dropped to 133 cars, well below the expect 150 - 200 range they normally sell in.  Things got even worse in January as sales dropped to just 50 cars.  This was still an improvement on January, 2016 where only 32 cars were sold.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e also showed a sizable drop in sales in January with sales of just 262 cars.  In December 569 cars were sold. While BMW does now have about 500 cars on dealer lots going into February 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.

 

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.  December saw another increase in Sales going up to 240 cars, an all time high.  This couldn't be sustained however so January saw sales drop back to 129 cars.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, and finally, in December they made it to dealerships,  By the end of December the keys to 23 cars had been handed over to customers.  January added a further18 cars to BMWs sales total.  The issue is the same as we saw with the 330e, the car is basically sold out for the next year so the US only received a token inventory meaning sales are expected to remain low for this car for a while.

 

Sales of the Nissan Leaf had shown a steady improvement over the last few months of 2016.  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, 1,457 cars in November, and 1,899 in December.  In January sales dropped back to 772 cars.  It should be noted that like most plug-in cars that are currently in production sales did beat the 755 cars they sold in January, 2016.

 

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. January was no exception with sales falling to 53 after selling 54 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. 

 

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 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.  December saw another month above the normal trading level as sales climbed to 71 cars.  January sales dropped back to 55 cars but still stayed above the historical 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.  December set a new sales record with 83 cars being sold but in January sales dropped back to 52 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 in most locations so that results in limited sales.

 

Mercedes-Benz have put back the launch of the C350e several times but it finally began appearing in dealerships in December.  First month sales were pretty impressive at 171 cars.  January sales were even better with 210 cars being sold.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 370 Plug-in cars in January just 9 less than the 379 cars they sold in December.

 

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 state rebate information.  January sales came in at an estimated 345 cars.  This was quite a bit below the December sales estimate of 650 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid and sales are expected to start towards the end of February.

 

October sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV was 255 cars and November saw an additional 285 cars being sold.  December sales climbed to 325 cars which was the second best sales month for this car, being beaten only by the 375 cars they sold back in July.  In January sales fell back to 190 cars.  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 nationwide 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 December the Kia Soul had it second best sales month of the year with 197 cars sold.  Sales fell in January when they notched up just 117 deliveries.  It looks like Kia Soul has set a new trading level this year and will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 car range going forward.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, but sales didn't actually kick off until January when 40 cars were sold.  It will be interesting to see how well this car sells going forwards.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV was one of the few cars that did not beat their January 2016 sales numbers reporting only 96 cars being sold in January well below the 226 cars they sold in January, 2016 and the 204 cars sold in December.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV has mostly traded in the 100 - 200 range and I expect this to continue 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 early in 2017 and is expected to have slightly better range than the current model, increasing to 88 miles.  Since September sales have stayed in the 40 - 50 range and December sales just squeaked in at 40 cars. In January sales dropped to just 15 copies.

 

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 and December sales dropped back to 3 cars.  In January Mitsubishi didn't sell any i-MiEV.  It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

January is typically a very difficult sales month for electric cars.  People usually rush to get their purchases done in December so that they can claim the tax credit in April, and so sales in January tend to be really slow.  Add to that the typically bad weather in the mid-west and north-east and this usually makes for a bad month for dealers.  Still, sales this January were much better than I expected.  If you exclude models like the Cadillac ELR that are no longer in production then most cars did better in January than they did in January of the previous year.  Add to that the Chevy Bolt and Prius Prime, both of which did very well for their second month of sales, and there is much to be pleased about.  February is a short sales month so it too is typically one of the weakest months of the year so it will be interesting to see how we fair.


Sunday January 29, 2017 - Auto Company CEOs v Fuel Economy I just read an article on Newsmax about a meeting that President Trump held with the various CEOs of the Nation's largest automobile manufacturers and quite frankly, if the report is true, it wasn't good.

 

The report was mostly based on a quotes from Ford CEO Mark Fields who estimated that current fuel economy standards could put 1 million US jobs at risk.  It appears that Fields along with GM CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne did not ask for fuel economy standards to be eliminated but they did want them to "take into account consumer demand". 

 

One of the most disturbing piece of the article was that these CEOs, while not asking for CAFE rules to be set aside altogether,  appear to be asking for a single set of rules for the nation.  What that means is that they are requesting that the Trump Administration remove the ability of California to make its own rules when it comes to cleaning up the air.  The EPA has already dropped hints that it intends not to renew the waiver that allows California to do it.  This will also affect the 13 other states that have adopted the California rules.

 

The waiver was originally granted to California because it has the worst pollution problems in the nation.  In an attempt to clean up the air, especially in Southern California where the air in the LA basin is the worst in the nation, CARB introduced the ZEV Mandate in 1990.  This mandate has been modified over the years but requires car manufacturers to sell a certain number of zero emission vehicles each year.  The car makers have been trying to get this rule overturned ever since it was implemented and have managed to get it weakened several times but have never managed to kill it.  This time they may finally be able to get their wish at a time when zero emission vehicles are going to be key to their survival.

 

This could lead to a very interesting situation.  lf California has to finally scrap the ZEV mandate there are plenty of things that they can do to promote sales of plug-in vehicles in the state. 

 

First they can make regulations such as ZEV only lanes of state highways.  Things like allowing ZEVs in the carpool lane on interstate highways with a single person also require a waiver from the Federal government and I full expect that waiver to be cancelled too at some point.  That would mean that ZEVs would no longer be able to use the carpool lane solo on interstate freeways.  State routes though are a different matter and could theoretically be modified by the state of California without Federal approval.

 

Most of the load however could be carried at the city level.  For example the state and municipal fleets are quite large so if they began insisting that the cars they buy come with a plug then the carmakers are going to have to respond or risk loosing a big chunk of business.  I'm sure Tesla would be quite happy to step in and start supplying California state and city fleets with cars if Ford, for example, decided to stop making plug-in cars.

 

Cities could also take the London approach by setting congestion charges and making ZEVs exempt or much cheaper to access the congestion zone.  Imagine if you had to pay $20 per day to drive your SUV to your office in down town San Francisco while the guy with the Chevy Bolt gets to drive there for free.  At some point the ZEV becomes a no-brainer.

 

In the end, it is likely that cuts in CAFE standards, and the removal of the waiver allowing California to make their own rules will end up backfiring on the Automakers.  The rest of the world is going ahead and making stricter and stricter fuel economy standards, if the US carmakers don't respond they are eventually going to die out and that will cost the US a lot more than 1 million jobs.


Sunday January 22, 2017 Lease Returns One of the biggest arguments against plug-in cars has always been the cost.  It even sometimes trickles into the thinking of EV Advocates.  I was once talking about the need for public charging so that people who live in apartment buildings or have to park on the street would be able to drive a plug-in vehicle, and was told that people who live in apartments couldn't afford plug-in vehicles.  It wasn't true then and it is even less true now.

 

The first thing to note is that the price of plug-in cars in general is falling fast.  While a lot has been made of the Bolt being a 238 mile range EV that can be bought for around the price of the average new car after tax incentives, other cars are also available or coming to a dealership soon that greatly drops the cost of ownership of plug-in cars. 
 
Something else is happening too.  Early on a lot of people chose to lease cars rather than buy.  This was a combination of people not knowing how well the batteries would hold up, and very favorable lease rates being offered by the car makers.  These leases were typically written for 3 years although some 2 year leases were also written.  While some people purchased their car at the end of the lease, others chose to get new cars, so there are now lots low mileage 2013 and 2014 cars starting to show up on the used market.

 

Lease terms usually contain a clause that limits the number of miles that can be driven in each year and there is a per mile charge for any mileage that exceeds this limit.  Typically plug-in car leases limit the car to 10,000 miles per year and drivers do try not to exceed this value. 

 

For the used car buyer this means that there are currently lots of used 2013 plug-in cars coming onto the market.  Typically I am seeing cars with around 20,000 miles on the clock with prices in the $8,000 - $10,000 range.

 
Another interesting thing I am seeing is a good number of compliance cars showing up at dealerships outside the original sales area.  The is particularly true of the Fiat 500e which was only sold in California and Oregon but is now showing up at dealerships like Carvana in Atlanta and Texas Direct in the Houston area, but there has also been a few Chevy Spark EVs showing up as well. 

 

There is also a good selection of used Nissan and Chevy Volts that are currently on sale.  These tend to have slightly more miles on the clock than the compliance cars and command a bit higher price, especially the Volt which seems to be holding its price better than most of the plug-in cars.  Even at that you can find 2013 Volts at around $12,500 with about 40,000 miles on the clock.  The Smart Electric Drive, which is also sold nationwide, is one of the cheapest of the lease return cars and low mileage versions can be found for around $8,000.

 

So what should you watch out for when buying one of these cars.  Well, you have to check the usual things that you would when buying any used car, like making sure that it hasn't been in an accident and that it is mechanically sound.  There are a couple of other things that need to be taken into considerations.

 

First lets go back to the apartment dweller.  The first thing you have to do is to figure out how you are going to keep it charged.  Do you have access to a plug at home or at work.  All the plug-in cars being produced today can be charged at a regular 110V outlet so if you have access to one, even if it means passing the charge cable though a window, then you are probably good.  If you don't have access then look around for public chargers near your home or workplace.  You can use websites like plugshare to locate chargers.  I would recommend taking a look at the chargers to see how busy they are, are they regularly blocked by cars that are not charging, and what the cost would be, including any parking fees.

 

If you are looking to buy a compliance car like the Fiat 500e and don't live in one of the states were the car was sold then you should make sure that you have a dealership nearby that is capable and willing to service and repair the car.  I've heard people complain that they had bought a used Fiat 500e and the local dealer refused to work on it telling the customer they would have to have it shipped to California to get it serviced.  Fortunately electric cars don't need too much in the way of service but if you are not able to take care of the car yourself it should be a major concern so check with dealers in your area to see if they are willing to work on the car, also check with the dealership selling the car to see if they are capable and willing to service and repair it after the purchase.


For cars that are sold nationwide there is much less to worry about.  The main thing is the state of the batteries.  Volt batteries appear to be holding up well but leaf batteries have been known to loose significant capacity over time.  Fortunately the Leaf has an option to display the current capacity of the car.  This tends to be more of an issue with earlier cars that were used in very hot climates like southern Arizona but it is worth a check. I would recommend walking away from a car with low miles that shows over 20% capacity loss.

 

If you want to go plug-in but were put off by the high price tag then a low mileage lease return might be a good way to get into one.  Give one a try, you are going to like it.


Sunday January 15, 2017 2017 Detroit Auto Show This week saw the opening of the 2017 Detroit Auto Show also known as NAIAS.  2016 saw several new plug-in vehicles arriving in dealerships so it shouldn't be a major surprise that there weren't many new plug-in cars making their debut in Detroit this year, although nearly every automaker's stand will have at least one plug-in car on display. 

 

This year the new cars being debuted had a lot more sedans and hatchbacks, like the redesigned Toyota Camry, and less SUVs and crossovers than I had expected.  For the production ready cars there was only one plug-in, the Hyundai Ioniq, and that was only there because Hyundai was showing their autonomous concept version which actually debuted at CES.

 

The Ioniq was first shown at last year's New York Auto Show and will be the first car to offer Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and EV versions of the same vehicle.  The car is already on sale in Korea and Europe and was originally slated to begin sales in the last quarter of 2016 but so far has been a no-show. 

 

There were some interesting cars that were shown as concepts.

 
The first of these was the VW e-Golf which was also shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.  This is really an improved version of the current e-Golf and will feature a larger battery pack boasting a capacity of 35.8 KWh which VW claim will give the car a range of 124 miles on a charge.  The larger sized battery comes with a boost to the power output from the charger allowing the batteries to be charged at a rate of 7.2 KW which should give a full charge in about 6 hours.  Power has been boosted also giving the electric motor and additional 19hp.  This will allow the e-golf to do 0-60 in 9.6 second.

 

VW also showed yet another Microbus Concept.  The I.D Buzz concept is powered by two 201hp electric motors, one on each axle.  This provides a combined power of 396hp offering a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 99mph.  The 111 KWh lithium battery pack will offer a range of 270 miles on a charge but with concepts VW usually quotes ranges measured on the European test cycle but we would still expect an EPA rang well in excess of 200 miles.  The concept can use CCS DC fast charge port that can have the batteries charged up to 80% in 30 minutes or an inductive charging system that can charge at a rate or 150KW.  My reaction is - just produce it already!

 

One interesting company exhibiting in Detroit is the Chinese company GAC.  They are planning on selling cars in the US before the end of this decade and this is the third year they have attended the Detroit Auto Show.  One of the cars they had on display was the GE3, a fully battery powered compact SUV.  The GE3 is scheduled to go on sale in China in June.  The car is powered by a 47 KWh battery pack that they claim will give a 200 mile range on the European test cycle.  This seem wildly optimistic to me and I suspect that once the SUV is fitted with all the stuff needed to pass US crash and safety test, and then run on the stricter EPA test cycle, the range is more likely to around 120-130 miles.  Power is transmitted to the road via a 67hp motor. 

 

The most interesting concept shown in Detroit was from Rinspeed. The Oasis is designed to be a fully electric self driving car used for car sharing applications in urban environments.  It can be configured as a passenger vehicle or as a cargo vehicle.  It is unlikely that this car will ever go into production although it could function as a quadra-cycle in Europe and as a NEV here in the US.  It was actually designed to show a new way of using cars for personal mobility in urban environments.  This is an idea that the big automakers are telling me is only about 5 years away from reality.

 

This year's Detroit Auto show didn't have much to cheer about for electric car supporters like me, but over the next year I expect to see exciting things starting to emerge in the EV space as more new vehicles begin to show up in showrooms while older models get a refresh with longer range and better performance at a lower cost. 


Sunday January 8, 2017 December 2016 EV Sales December was an incredible month for EV sales.  With sales of an estimated 24,785 cars during the month, December 2016 not only became the best December ever but also the best sales month ever, beating the previous best month, June 2016, by almost 10,000 cars.  Before we get too excited though I suspect that what we saw were people trying to lock in the Federal tax credit thinking that it will probably be gone under the Trump administration.

 

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.  This quarter Tesla had been working to set up production of cars with all the sensors required for autonomous driving so sales had been slow for the first two months, but they did have a bunch of cars in transit at the end of November. 

 

In December they really kicked things into gear delivering an estimated 5,850 Model S cars. This was not only Tesla's best month ever for the Model S but also the best sales month for any plug-in car.  In November they sold an estimated 1,400 cars.

 

Like the Model S, the Model X also has low sales in November delivering 900 cars, but in December sales climbed to 3,875 cars making this the best sales month ever for the Model X.

 

Total sales at Tesla for December were 9,725 cars which was also Tesla's best sales month ever.  To put these sales in perspective,  Tesla sold more plug-in cars in December than the total number of plug-in cars that were sold in the months of January (6,221 cars) or February (7,763 cars) of 2016. 

 

Sales of the Chevy Volt also hit record territory in December when 3,691 cars were sold.   The previous record high was 3,381 set back in August, 2013. This also pushed them up to 24,739 cars making 2016 the best year ever for Volt sales beating out the previous best year, 2013, by 1,645 cars. Previously in November GM had sold 2,531 Volts.

 

As promised GM began delivery of the Chevy Bolt in the middle of December.  GM had said that they would be delivering the first cars to Lift drivers and that appears to have been what happened as most dealers in California and Oregon didn't see cars arriving in any numbers until the very last days of November.  GM still managed to deliver 579 Bolts in December.
 
With the arrival of the Bolt 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 39 cars in November and just 17 cars in December.  It seems unlikely that any more cars will be shipped to the US from Korea so sales will continue low until existing dealer inventory is gone.

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

 

In December GM manage to sell 4,290 cars making it the best sales month ever for plug-in cars at GM  In November they sold 2,531 plug-in cars,  It remains to be seen if GM can continue to sell close to 2,000 Volts per month into the early months of 2017, and how well the Chevy Bolt will sell in the coming months.

 

When we talk about plug-in cars nobody seems to mention Ford but they have been a strong performer over the years.  This month was unusual though as sales of their best selling Fusion Energi slipped, dropping overall sales from November's 2,604 cars down to 2,489 cars in December, still a pretty good showing.

 

After posting the best sales numbers of the year in November at 1,817 cars the Ford Fusion went into December with only about 2,000 cars on dealer lots.  As a result, sales in December fell to just 1,099 cars, making this the third worst sales month of the year.

 
After 3 straight months of declining sales, Ford managed their second best month of the year for the C-Max Energi with

November sales hitting 721.  The low inventor situation for the Fusion Energi appears to have benefitted the C-Max Energi as it had its best sales number ever, with 1,289 cars sold.  We have to go all the way back to November of 2012 to see the previous best month when 1,259 cars were sold.
 
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 had only managed to sell more than 100 in one month, March, when they sold 110 cars.  December saw the second time in 2016 that they topped the 100 mark when the sold 101 Focus EVs.  Previously in November they had sold 66 cars.

 

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, and sales in November climbed to 1,457 cars.  In December sales climbed even further to a 1,899 making this the best sales month of the year for the Nissan Leaf. At CES Nissan said that the new Leaf would be shown soon so I am guessing they will either show it at this years Detroit Auto Show, or more likely at the Geneva 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.  December showed a further increase to 1,756 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  In November sales were right in the middle of the range with 629 cars sold.  In December things picked up again a little with sales of 791 cars.

 

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.   This trend continued in December as sales dropped to 133 cars, well below the expect 150 - 200 range they normally sell in.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e showed a moderate gain in December with 569 cars sold after sales in November of 436 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.

 

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.  December saw another increase in Sales going up to 240 cars, an all time high.

 

In August BMW dealers were supposed to begin receiving the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid, the 740e, and finally, in December they made it to dealerships.  By the end of December the keys to 23 cars had been handed over to customers.

 

Toyota stopped production of the Prius Plug-in and the RAV4-EV earlier this year.  They appear to have sold the last of the Prius Plug-in inventory with 0 cars sold in the last 3 months.

 

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.  Not to be outdone, December sales increased to 1,641 cars.  I expect the Prius Prime to continue to sell well.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in November they sold 105 Mirai FCEVs.  They beat this number in December by selling an additional 116 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,034 Mirai.

 

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.  December saw them back above 1000 cars with 1,187 cars sold, their best sales month ever. 

 

November saw sales of the Audi A3 e-Tron hitting 394 cars, an all time record month.  This record didn't stand for long though as it was eclipsed by December sales of 589 cars.  The A-3 e-tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range and this is the first time sales have climbed above 400 cars.

 

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.  December saw sales climb back above the 400 again with sales of 443 cars.  This was their third best month of the year.

 

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.  The momentum couldn't be sustained however and sales dropped back to 152 in December

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamers 4 e-hybrid which is expected to show up in US dealerships some time in April.  November sales of 88 cars pretty much blew out existing inventory so December sales dropped to just 3 cars.  It seems unlikely that more will be shipped to the US so sales will be scarce until the arrival of the new model.

 

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 state rebate information.  December sales came in at an estimated 650 cars, up from the 590 cars sold in November.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid and sales are expected to start late in January or early February.

 

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.  December was no exception with sales rising to 54 after selling 52 cars in November.  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 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.  December saw another month above the normal trading level as sales climbed to 71 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.  October sales were just 19 cars but in November sales increased to 30 cars tying July for the best sales month.  December sales were more than double the previous best sales month with 83 cars being sold.  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 that results in limited sales.

 

Mercedes-Benz have put back the launch of the C350e several times but it finally began appearing in dealerships in December.  First month sales were pretty impressive at 171 cars.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 379 Plug-in cars in December.

 

October sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV was 255 cars and November saw an additional 285 cars being sold.  December sales climbed to 325 cars which 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 nationwide 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.  The pullback continued in September when 148 cars were sold, and in October selling just 142 cars.  Sales recovered in November at 161.  December became the second best sales month of the year with 204 cars sold.  I suspect that the XC90 T8 PHEV will continue to sell in the 100 - 200 range going forward.

 

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.  In December the Kia Soul had it second best sales month of the year with 197 cars sold.  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 has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, but was a no-show.  It will be interesting to see if sales kick off in the new year.

 

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.  Since September sales have stayed in the 40 - 50 range and December sales just squeaked in at 40 cars. Previously in November Smart had sold 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 and December sales dropped back to 3 cars.  It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

I was expecting excellent sales in December but even I was surprised at how strong sales were. Several things came together to help push sales along including the usual rush to lock in tax credits before year end and the arrival of several new models that went on sale in December.  I expect that sales in 2017 will build on this growth as we see more new models, like the Kia Optima Plug-in and the Pacifica Hybrid arriving in showrooms while existing models, like the Smart, get updates with more range at the same or lower base price.

 

Having said that I do expect much lower sales numbers in January which is quite normal.  I do expect sales to be well ahead of January 2016 though for a few reasons.  First, Tesla produced a lot of cars in December and while it will concentrate on international sales in January, there were still a lot of cars in transit at the end of December which will add to their January sales count.  Second the Chevy Bolt is going to be arriving at dealerships in larger numbers in January and pre-orders will no doubt mean good sales in the first month of the year.  I also expect to see the Prius Prime continue to do well which should boost total sales for the month.


Sunday January 1, 2017 Charging into 2017 Today is the start of a brand new year and unless we see some major roadblocks placed by the incoming Republican administration I expect to see a huge bounce in the number of electric cars being sold in the coming year.  Building from 2016, which is already the best year ever for EV sales even without the December sales figures, I expect to see a large growth in sales in 2017.

 

People who have followed my blog over the years know that in the past I have bucked the trend saying that we don't need to have a large amount of public charging infrastructure to roll out electric vehicles.  I proved to be right as most people who bought electric cars charged at home and didn't really need public charging.   

 

Things do change though and 2017 is going to be a pivot point where the lack of EV infrastructure will now start to put the brakes on EV sales.  We started to see this at the end of 2016 when it became apparent the all was not sweetness and light in the Tesla Supercharger network.

 

While the network is still doing a fantastic job providing Tesla owners with the ability to do long distance travel, it became apparent that some of the stations on busy routes would sometimes become overcrowded.  Tesla started out by asking their drivers not to use local superchargers for a free charge instead of charging at home.  Then it became apparent that not all Tesla drivers were considerate of others.  Complaints came in that drivers would park their cars at a Supercharger then leave them there for hours at a time; way longer that the time it takes to get to 80% charge.  Tesla responded to this by setting a cost for people leaving their cars after obtaining a full charge.  They have also changed their Supercharger program so that new owners will get 1,000 miles of free charging per year after which they will have to pay to use the Superchargers..

 

Over Christmas I took a trip out to Temecula.  This is just about 100 miles from LA so in theory at least a Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 should be able to do the round trip without a re-charge although that would mean parking the car in the hotel and walking everywhere.  A weekend stay is going to be no problem if you can get a full, or almost full charge.

 

Paradise Chevrolet would be one option but they only have 1 charger so you would be lucky to get to use it. Having said that it was available when I visited them to check if the Bolts had arrived.  The City of Temecula provides 4 chargers in Old Town.  When I got there on Christmas day both chargers in the lot by the Museum were available so I was able to get a partial charge there, but the businesses in Old Town were pretty much closed so I had the place to myself.  When I went back the following day both of the chargers were in use.  Fortunately for me one of the chargers in the 6th Street garage was available so I was able to get another partial charge. 

 

The other place where I was able to charge was at the Pechanga Casino.  On both nights I went there I was able to get the last available charger and was able to get a full charge both times.  These turned out to be expensive charges as the slot machines were not friendly on either night. On the second night there one of the chargers was being blocked by a regular Prius.

 

My experience in Temecula made me think about what would happen when thousands of Bolts hit the streets and people want to use them for longer trips.  Trips from LA to places like Temecula, San Diego, Santa Barbara, or Palm Springs are quite doable in a Chevy Bolt but not without some sort of charge at the destination.  Once again Tesla has it right when they install destination chargers at various hotels.  I can see a time in the not-too-distant future where the availability of a charger is going to be drawing point for hotels.  Even the ability to plug in to a 110V outlet will probably make 100 - 120 mile trips very doable.

 

There is some help on the way.  EVgo has just started construction of a new DC fast charger location in Baker.  This charger is going to have the ability to charge at 350 KW.  It will come with a solar array and battery back-up and will be able to charge 4 cars at once using either CHAdeMO or the combined charging standard (CCS).  If the Chevy Bolt supported such high capacity charging, in theory it should be able to give a Chevy Bolt an 80% charge in about 8 minutes.  Baker is about 226 miles from LA so in theory the Bolt's 238 mile range should be sufficient to get to this charger but unfortunately the drive goes over the Cajon pass and the climb would just drain away the charge too much to be able to make this drive without an intermediate charge.  It does however open up the idea of driving your EV from LA to Las Vegas with only limited stops for charging.

 

Elon Musk has also been dropping hints that the next generation supercharger could be coming soon.  From his tweets it looks possible that the new superchargers will allow a Tesla to charge at a rate that will provide 80% of charge at a rate that is similar to the time taken to fill a gas car.  If Tesla can do that then we are looking at the end of age of oil.  Fuel Cell Vehicles are going to be in a great deal of trouble.  The one advantage they have over batter electric is that they can fill fast.  If a battery electric car can fill just as fast then who would want to mess with hydrogen?.

 

So here is what we need to concentrate on in 2017 to support the large number of electric cars that is going to hit the streets.

 

First we have to make sure that the existing infrastructure is available so laws need to be enacted to stop people from blocking chargers and to stop people from hogging chargers when they are done with charging.  I have often cited the law established by Beverly Hills as a template that could be used by other cities building similar regulations.  It's not enough to craft such laws and stick up signs, the laws have to be enforced which could include ticketing violators and even towing cars that are preventing others from charging.

 

We need to continue rolling out level 1 and level 2 charging infrastructure with the emphasis on destination charging.  For many all that is needed in a hotel parking lot is access to a bunch of 110V outlets.  Cars are often sitting in hotel car parks for 8 - 10 hours per night and often longer; plenty of time  to get enough charge for the following day's driving. 

 

The fast charger network needs to be enhanced to build more corridors between cities to allow all electric cars to be used for long distance travel. This is especially true for the CCS chargers which are still in relative short supply compared with CHAdeMO or Tesla Superchargers.  The availability of fast charging also opens up the possibility for ownership of electric cars to those who currently live in apartments and don't have the ability to charge at home.