2017 Blog Archive

   


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Past blogs from 2017

Sunday June 11, 2017 Model 3 on its Way

Sunday July 9, 2017 June 2017 EV Sales

Sunday Jul 2, 2017 Cordless Charging

Sunday Jun 25, 2017 Going Green on Campus

Sunday Jun 18, 2017 When to Buy a Plug-in Car

Sunday June 11, 2017 Richard Hammond's EV Crash

Sunday Jun 4, 2017 May 2017 EV Sales

Sunday May 28, 2017 Climatology

Sunday May 21, 2017 Next EV for EV Drivers

Sunday May 14, 2017 Range Anxiety

Sunday May 7, 2017 April 2017 EV Sales

Sunday April 30, 2017 New EV Tax in California

Sunday April 23, 2017 BMW Installing Chargers

Sunday March 12, 2017 2017 New York Auto Show

Sunday Apr 9, 2017 March 2017 EV Sales

Sunday April 2, 2017 Tesla Inventory

Sunday March 26, 2017 Discounted EVs

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 June 11, 2017 Model 3 on its Way Late last week Elon Musk tweeted a picture of the very first production version of the Tesla Model 3 after it rolled off the assembly line at their factory in Freemont, CA.  The Model 3 apparently got regulatory approval two weeks early. 

 

It is rumored that the first production vehicle will go to Elon Musk which would not surprise me at all.  According to one of his tweets the person who was first in line for the model 3 gave his spot to Elon as a 46th birthday present.

 

Inside EV reported that an insider at Tesla told them that they would produce over 1,000 cars in July but this doesn't match the tweet that Elon posted right after the picture of the first production Model 3.  In that tweet he said that they will be holding a delivery party on July 28 the where they  will hand over the keys to the first 30 cars. Production ramp-up will start slowly with about 100 cars being produced in August, but then the pace will pick up quickly with a target of over 1,500 cars in September reaching about 20,000 cars by December.  People placing orders today should not expect to see their car until at least mid 2018.

 

Details about the Model 3 are still a little sketchy and the Tesla web site does not appear to have been updated to match the latest information even though by now they must have the EPA sticker information since this would be required before starting production.  I have to assume by this that the official EPA range would be as good as or better than the range quoted on their web site. 
 
The car is a 5-seat sedan and it has already been confirmed that this car will be configured as a 4 door sedan not a hatchback.  The car is designed to get a 5-star rating in crash tests but so far I haven't been able to find actual results although  crash testing is complete.  The cars will come with all the hardware required for self driving capability and will also be Supercharger enabled although, for the model 3, supercharging will not be free.

 

Range per charge is 215 miles.  This is slightly less than the range of the Chevy Bolt and spy picture of a pre-production model caught at a Supercharger seems to indicate that some battery capacity models are capable of ranges quite a bit higher than this.  I should be noted that the pre-production model that was sighted could have a larger pack than the production model so for now 215 miles it is.  The car also doesn't accelerate quite as fast as the model S but still comes in with a 0-60 time quoted as less than 6 seconds.

 

Base price for the model. 3 starts at $35,000 before tax and state incentives kick in.  For people living here in California that means a $7,000 tax credit and a state rebate of $2,500 bringing down the base price to $25,000

 

With the launch  of the Model 3 at the end of this month we are going to see a transition from electric cars being an oddity to  electric cars becoming mainstream.  Tesla has taken enough deposits on cars to keep the factory humming for at least a year and if the car comes up to expectations then I expect the model 3 to become a very popular car and will certainly become the best selling EV for 2018.

 

It's not just the number of cars that the model 3 will sell that will be important, it is also the impact it will have on the other carmakers.  They have known for some time now that the future of automobile technology was electric but while Tesla was disrupting the luxury car space most carmakers were happy to make low range EVs and plug-in hybrids to meet government mandates.  Then Tesla showed off their Model 3 concept and it became clear that they planned to move into the mid-sized sedan market.  Other companies had to react or risk getting left in the dust.

 

GM, who has been one of the few companies who treated the electric car as a new opportunity, quickly released the 238 mile range Chevy Bolt.   They Followed the usual practice of rolling the car out in California the slowly adding states until they are selling in every state, which is expected to happen in August.  Tesla on the other hand are selling in every state right off the bat.

 

Other carmakers have been slower to react, pushing range into the low 100 miles area with  Honda just coming out with a car that does just 80 miles on a charge later this year.  Nissan, who's Leaf EV has been the best selling plug-in worldwide is expected to show their 200+ miles range EV in Japan this September, although sister company Renault does have a version of the ZOE on sale in Europe that does more than 200 miles on a charge.  Both Honda, Audi, and Ford are also supposed to be working on 200+ miles range cars too but we have no indication of when these will actually hit the market.

 

Other companies need to react and the question is will they get cars to market soon enough to stop Tesla from gathering enough market share to eventually dominate the industry.  Personally I think that some companies have enough customer loyalty to be able to hang on to their customers.  There are plenty of diehard Honda fans who will wait for the longer range Honda rather than jumping ship for Tesla, but companies like Fiat-Chrysler might struggle to retain customers.  The Model 3 also has a chance to put a nail in the coffin lid of Fuel Cells too.  If battery electric cars are selling like hotcakes then why spend the billions of dollars needed to provide hydrogen infrastructure across the USA.


Sunday July 9, 2017 June 2017 EV Sales Another month, another sales record.  June 2017 was the best June 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 17,182 plug-in cars were sold in June, well ahead of the previous record set in June 2016 which saw estimated sales of 14,863 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 first month of the quarter Tesla always focuses on international sales so domestic volume is typically at its lowest .  The second month of the quarter on the other hand is usually sees medium sales as Tesla does a mixture of domestic and international sales.  In the third quarter Tesla usually focuses on domestic sales in a rush to meet quarterly sales estimated. In June Tesla sales were an estimated 4,550 cars  This was below analysts estimates causing Tesla shares to take a big hit. 

 

After selling an estimated 1,620 Model S sedans in May, sales in June climbed to an estimated 2,350 cars.  This was well below the estimated 3,700 cars sold in June, 2016.  The reason for the lower sales may be due to production issues with the 100 KWh battery pack, or possible the ramp-up to begin production of the model 3.

 

After disappointing sales of just 715 Model X in April, Sales more than doubled in May at an estimated 1,730 cars. There was a further increase in sales to an estimated 2,200 in June.  This was just slightly better than the 2,150 cars sold in June 2016.

 

The good news for Tesla is that the first production Model 3 rolled off the production line last week.  Tesla plans to have a delivery party on July 28th to deliver cars to the first 28 customers.  In August they plan to build another 100 cars ramping up  quickly after that to about 20,000 cars in December.

 

After selling 1,817 cars in May, June saw Volt sales inch lower to 1,745 cars.  Like May, sales were down from June 2016 by about 4%.  It does appear that sales of the Chevy Bolt is having a small impact on Chevy Volt sales.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt increased in June up from 1,566 cars sold in May to a new record high of 1,642 cars.  Increasing sales are a result of both better inventory and the availability of the Bolt in more of the CARB States.  It is now available in 11 States but can now be ordered in all states with  nationwide roll-out now set for August. 
 
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.  January and February were tied at 4 cars, while sales in March dropped to just 3 cars, in April 1 car was sold with no Sales in May.  Somehow in June Chevy managed to find 1 more Spark EV to sell.

 
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.  Somehow in March they managed to find 2 more cars to sell and even managed to sell 7 in April but dropped back to 0 in May.  June came as somewhat of a surprise when 7 more ELR were sold.

 

April saw the first sales of the new Cadillac CT6 here in the US with a total of 6 cars being delivered.  In May sales increased to 16 cars and June saw a further jump to 20 cars.  The CT6 is a plug-in hybrid with an all electric range of around 30 miles.  The car is built in China and imported into the US. 

 

In June GM sold a total of 3,415 plug-n cars, up from the 3,399 it sold in May.

 

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 June they sold a total of 1,874 cars spread across their six plug-in models.

 
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 2016.  Recently though they seem to have stabilized in the 500 - 600 car range.  In April they sold 516 cars, dropping to 506 cars in May, and climbing back to 567 cars in June.

 

I'm not sure what happened to the BMW i8 but sales seem to have totally tanked.  They used to traded in the 150 - 200 range but so far this year they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range and in June they were close to the bottom of that range selling 22 cars.  Previously in May they had sold just 18 cars.

 

Sales of the X5 xDrive40e used to trade in the range of 400 - 600 but this year they have only been trading in the 200 - 400 range. In May they actually got back into the old range managing to sell 433 and stayed in that range for June with 488 cars sold.

 

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 is 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.  January saw sales drop back to 129 cars but sales did rebound a little to 144 cars in February and March saw another all time record set at 365 cars.  In April sales fell back again to a still respectable 260 cars but bounced right back up again to 475 cars in May.  In June they did even better selling 496 cars and setting a new all time high monthly sales record.

 

BMW were supposed to release the 530e in April and it turns out they did just that selling 6 cars for the month.  Sales really didn't get underway until May though when a total of 147 cars left dealer lots.  I expect the story on the 530e will be the same as that of the 330e and 740e where inventory is low as cars are built for Europe first so sales will be constrained for some time to come.  June surprised me however as sales climbed to 239 units which I suspect will have depleted inventory quite badly.

 

In May sales of the BMW 740e was just 42 cars after selling 123 cars in April.  Sales bounced back a little in June to hit 52 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 and will fluctuate depending on when inventory arrives in the US.

 

 At the very end of June BMW started selling yet another plug-in hybrid, the Mini Countryman PHEV placing 10 of them in the hands of Customers.  The Mini Countryman PHEV has an EPA estimated all electric range of 12 miles and can run in EV mode up to 78mph.

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in June selling 1,753 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi but in June, with sales of just 707 cars, it was outsold by the C-Max Energy.  Previously in May 1,000 cars were sold.

 
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.  March saw another slight bump in sales with 662 cars sold, and the trend continued in April with an additional 749 cars delivered and jumped again to 950 cars in May.  June couldn't quite match May as sale fell back to 936 cars.
 
 In March Ford sold an astonishing 407 Focus EVs as it cleared out inventory to make way for the newer longer range model.  It couldn't last though and sales dropped back to the usual 100 to 200 range in April with sales of 120 cars and stayed there in May with 132 cars, and June with 110 cars being sold.

 

Toyota started delivering the new Prius Prime in the second week of November and it has become the sales success of the year so far.  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.  In March, with the sales area slowly expanding but still very limited, they managed to sell and additional 1,618 cars.  In April they set a new record month of sales with 1,819 cars being sold, outselling the Chevy Volt to make the Prius Prime the best selling plug-in for the month.  In May the Prius Prime held onto the crown posting a very impressive 1,908 sales, a new all-time high.  Finally, the almost none existent dealer inventory seems to have taken its toll with June sales falling to 1,619 cars.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in June they sold 129 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,742 Mirai.

 

Nissan is scheduled to announce the new version of the Leaf in Tokyo this September and they have been offering lease extensions to those who might be interested in upgrading to the new vehicle when it becomes available.  Sales have been surprisingly robust given that a new model is just around the corner and in May they delivering 1,392 cars.  Sales were up in June climbing to 1,506 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America is not a big fan of plug-in cars and do not break out sales separately.  InsideEV does a very good job of estimating sales from new car registration and state rebate information so I have been using their estimates.  In total Fiat Chrysler delivered an estimated 850 Plug-in Cars in June.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that in May sales were 665 cars.  This Dropped to a still respectable 495 cars in June.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid Minivan and actually sold 12 in January.  Chrysler extended the Christmas and New Year break for an extra week because of an general oversupply of vehicles at its dealers and this impacted production on the Pacifica Hybrid.  Compounding the issue, a quality control hold was placed on the vehicles so cars have just began arriving in dealerships around April 17.  In April 205 Pacifica Hybrids were delivered to Customers.  May saw that number more than double to 485.  This has probably taken care of most of the people who had pre-ordered and had delivery delayed and in June sales dropped back to 355 cars.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. In June they sold a total of 751 cars.  This was quite a drop from the 859 cars sold in May.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  In May they fell a little short of this with 294 cars but moved back into the normal range in June when sales hit 324 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in May they were towards the top of the range with 381 cars.  June saw a reversal of fortunes as sales came in close to the bottom of the normal range at 232 cars.

 

The bright spot in April for the VW was the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid which sold a solid 185 cars, there best result since selling 197 cars back in August 2016.  They couldn't quite manage this in May falling 11 short with174 cars being sold but in June sales once again climbed into record territory with sales hitting 195 cars.

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamera 4 e-hybrid which was expected to show up in US dealerships some time in May but doesn't appear to have arrived yet.  February saw just 1 car being sold, in March this number tripled to 3 cars, and April split the difference landing at 2 cars sold, while in May sales dropped back to 1 car with no sales in June.  It seems unlikely that more will be shipped to the US so sales will be scarce until the arrival of the new model.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were 220 cars in May but climbed up to 255 cars in June  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.

 

In April Hyundai also began sales of the all electric version of the Ioniq in California delivering 19 cars to paying customers. May saw sales climb to 75 cars but June saw a pullback to 58 cars.  Hyundai say the car will eventually be sold nationwide.  The Ioniq Electric has a range of around 120 miles with a price starting at less than $31,000 before incentives so it should sell reasonably well if Hyundai can get cars to dealerships.  A plug-in hybrid version is also expected later in the year.

 

In June Hyundai sold a total of 313 plug-in cars. 

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV Normal sells in the 100 - 200 range but strayed just outside this range by selling 202 cars in June.  Previously in  May they sold 146 cars.

 

I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  They have normally traded in the 100 - 200 range straying above that only once when they sold 217 cars in September 2016. In May the Kia Soul once again stayed within it's normal trading range selling 129 cars.  In June exactly 100 cars were sold.

 

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.  In March sales fell back to 70 cars but jumped up in April to set a new monthly sales record at 86 cars.  In may they sold 1 less at 85 cars and June saw a further pullback to 78 cars..

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated178 plug-in cars in June.

 

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.  April saw a little bit of a breakout when sales hit 66 cars but in May sales dropped back to a more normal 46 cars and June was a repeat of May with an additional 46 cars being sold.  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 40 - 60 cars with March sales hitting the top of this range at 60 cars but sales of the S550e also jumped out of this normal selling range delivering 81 cars in April and 83 cars in May followed by an additional 81 cars in June.

 

Sales of the  Mercedes Benz GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV have recently hovered in the 30 - 60 range and June was no exception when 41 cars were sold.  Previously in May with just 33 cars were 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 had 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, while sales in March plummeted to just 17 cars while in April just 3 cars were sold.  In May only slightly more where sold with a total of 7 cars and in June there were no sales at all.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 168 Plug-in cars in June just 1 less than they sold in May.

 

I have to ask, when will the upgraded Smart Electric Drive begin to arrive in the USA.  Sales have been down to almost nothing since the older model went out of production last year.  In March sales were just 13 cars and April saw a further pull-back when Smart sold only 3 cars and even less in May with just 1 being sold.  June was a little better with 3 sales.  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, 3 sales in March, and 2 sales in April.  June joins May and January with no cars being sold. It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

Honda isn't currently selling a plug-in car but like Toyota they are investing heavily in Fuel Cell Vehicles. In June they sold 49 Clarity FCEVs. 

 

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.  The Porsche Panamera 4 e-Hybrid and the next generation Smart EV should start to arrive in dealerships soon.  The Tesla model 3 is already rolling off the assembly line so we should start to see sales of that model starting to hit the streets by the end of the month.  The indications are that first sales will be at the very end of July but early sales are likely to go to Tesla Employees who will basically be beta testers.  The question now is can Tesla ramp up production by the end of the year to rates close to 20,000 per month. 


Sunday Jul 2, 2017 Cordless Charging   I just read an interesting article on EV World called "Cutting the Chord: How & Why Wireless Charging is the Future" by Grant Covic.  This article presents some compelling arguments for why cordless charging will replace the current method of charging by cord.  I think that this is highly likely but not for the reasons specified in the article. 

 

The main idea presentedin the article was that it is much more convenient to use cordless charging than it is to plug-in.  This is vey  true, it is much less of a hassle to just drive into your parking space and walk away knowing that your car will be charging while you are away.

 

Mr. Covic gives many examples including the person who pulls into their garage thinking they are going to go out soon and don't need to charge, then having plans change and forgetting to go out and plug the car in before they go to  sleep.  Another example, which I do know happens, is someone driving a fleet car who doesn't bother to plug the car in when they return the car to the depot, and the next guy driving the car ends up getting stranded.

 

These are both good example of what can happen if you forget, or can't be bothered, to plug in an electric car.  For those that drive electric though it soon becomes second nature although even the most experienced EV drivers have been known to forget to plug-in their cars.  People forget to put gas in their cars also, and like forgetting to plug in your EV it is a pretty rare event.

 

Cordless charging is very good on paper especially when driving some of the older generation vehicles like the Nissan Leaf which had an EPA estimated range of only 84 miles it is very likely that the average person, with a daily driving need of 30 - 40 miles is going to need to charge the batteries on a daily basis.  Battery costs are falling however and this is being see not as cheaper cars but as cars with longer range.  You can now buy a Nissan Leaf with 107 miles range and it is expected that the next generation will have a range of over 200 miles.  That means that the average person doesn't need to charge every day. 

 

Suppose you own a Chevy Bolt.  With an EPA estimated range of 238 miles the average daily commute is going to be using only about 16% of the battery pack's capacity.  Now I don't pretend to be a battery expert but my understanding of lithium batteries is that they don't like to be stored full, they last much longer being stored close to empty.  In that case you might not want to charge every day, maybe just twice per week to help extend battery life.  There are ways around this, for example being able to set the car to charge when projected range falls below 40 miles for example, with a "start charge" button for when you  know you are going to need a full charge on your next trip.

 

Another issue is that many electric companies have excess power during the early morning hours so you might not want to start charging right away as rates will be cheaper after hours.  This issue will eventually go away though.  First, as we move toward more renewable power, surplus energy will be available during the day from solar and in the evening from wind but will be in short supply in the early hours as coal fired plants, which need to be kept running overnight, disappear from the grid.  As the grid gets smarter the utility companies will want to be able to turn on charging when they have excess power and stop it again when demand begins to outstrip supply.  This can be accomplished irrespective of if the car is attached by cord or is cordless. 

 

For me the best reason to go cordless is that it gives the ability of cars to be able to charge as they drive.  Right now if you want to travel long distances in an EV it takes some planning.  In the Chevy Bolt for example you have to stop after the first 200 miles for an hour or so of fast charging.  Now charging is getting faster and that time it going to fall but imagine if you can pick up power from coils buried in the highway.  Electively you could drive non-stop and arrive with a reasonable amount of charge to get you from the highway to your final destination.

 

I think that cordless charging will also help with fleet operations.  Routes are pretty predictable for many fleets so the use of cordless charging is a good way to take the human factor out of charging. 

 

Finally we are about to enter the era of autonomous vehicles.  It appears that autonomous vehicles are going to be linked closely with ride sharing.  Ownership of vehicles is expected to drop as more people subscribe to services where they only have to pay for the time they use in a car.  These autonomous vehicles are going to need to manage their charge levels.  Cordless charging is going to make that so much  easier.  When charge begins to get low the car can just find a vacant charging bay and sit there until it has enough charge to handle the next request that comes in.  This will be much easier to implement that having robotic arms to plug-in the car of have  the passenger plug-in the car when it reaches their destination.

 

I actually do agree with  Mr. Corvic.  Cordless charging will become the norm, but not because people forget to plug-in.


Sunday Jun 25, 2017 Going Green on Campus Back in early April, Chrissy from Let's Go Solar sent me a link to an interesting article by Toren Elste called "Going Green on Campus".  While the article didn't seem a good fit for my links pages it did have lots of interesting tips for living a more sustainable life.  I always thought it would make a good subject for one of my blogs and I finally got some time to actually write about it.

 

Toren Elste is an outreach and event specialist in the Department of Sustainability at the University of Washington.  With degrees in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Science and a passion for the environment that dates back to childhood she is eminently qualified to write about sustainability.

 

At the top of the page is a neat little quiz that gives you eight questions and then tells you how you scored on the green scale.  After I worked out that I needed to answer the first question to get the next question to appear I breezed through the test scoring 8 out of 8 and being declared a green machine.  To be honest I fudged a couple of the questions.  For example I would definitely turn the lights off when leaving the room and I have many of the vampire loads unplugged when not in use but there are a few that I leave on for convenience, including one too many electric clocks.   
 
Below that there is an index that zips you  down the page to the appropriate section.  These section are oriented towards college students and campus life but they do offer a pretty good summary of some of the ways that you can make your lifestyle more sustainable.  Many of the things in here are things that you can do without much effort too.

 
Two of these sections caught my eye as being appropriate to the electric car movement.  The section on clean energy noted that fossil fuels were a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and listed some ways that colleges were working to reduce their fossil fuel usage.  Interestingly it only listed solar energy and biofuels ignoring both hydro power and wind energy.  Solar of course is becoming a no-brainer as costs are now falling below most fossil fuels, but unless your focus is strictly on greenhouse gases biofuels are a bit hit and miss.  Bio-diesel in particular can still produce unhealthy amounts of particulates which greatly reduces its effectiveness as a true green alternative.

 

The other section I zoomed in on was transportation.  This is of course the focus of evfinder.com so I was most interested in this section.  It did mention how colleges are keeping things cleaner by moving toward electric vehicles but it also included the use of bio-diesel and I have already commented on that above.  The article doesn't make the link but of course many supporters of EVs think that the best solution is EV plus PV (solar).

 

Still it does go into other things that can certainly make for a healthier planet.  It focuses on bike share programs which are actually a very good way to get around on a large campus.  It also talks about incentives to rideshare for staff and students that live off campus.  When I used to work a long way from home I carpooled and I  know that the incentives we had were very nice.  Unfortunately the company I worked for determined that they didn't actually increase the number of people that rideshared so the incentives were eventually dropped.

 

Much of the rest of the site included things like selecting items that have less packaging or reducing the amount of stuff that you buy, and consider buying used items instead of new.  The idea of buying locally produced items is also included.  Buying local reduces the environmental impact of shipping goods over long distances.  There isn't anything really new at this site but it puts most ideas in one place and it is a good source to review against you current lifestyle to see how you stack up.  After writing the first draft of this blog in encouraged me to drop off my recycling and buy some locally sourced produce for lunch.

 

I recommend that you review Going Green on Campus for yourself it's worth a look and might even create some new behavior to make your lifestyle more sustainable.


Sunday Jun 18, 2017 When to Buy a Plug-in Car This week I read a very interesting report called "When Should I Buy an Electric Car"  written for webuyanycar.com.  The report looks at the cost of buying an electric car and tries to project when buying one will be a be financially cheaper than buying an ICE car in the UK. 

 

First the report delves a little into history noting that while the current group of electric cars had only started to be produced in 2011, electric cars have been around for 200 years.  That's not too far off, the earliest electric vehicle was probably the one built by Thomas Davidson around 1837.  He also mentions the Tesla model S which is noted as a "Premium Product" in the UK. 

 

Next the report looks at the total number of electric cars in the UK and notes that currently there are 95,000 electric cars in the UK up from 3,500 in 2013.  This represents a very impressive growth rate.  It also says that worldwide sales were a robust 462,000 in 2015 with the bulk of the sales in China, the USA, Norway and the UK in that order.  It does point out that this represents about 1% of worldwide light vehicle sales.

 

Next there is a really neat graphic that lists the top markets for electric cars.  It shows the current market share, the number of electric cars at the end of 2010 and 2015 with projections for 2020.  The projections look pretty realistic except for the US number of 1,200,000.  We are currently at about 600,000 plug-in cars sold but with the Tesla Model 3 starting production in July and the Chevy Bolt being sold nationwide in August, the pace should pick up considerably.  Tesla alone is expected to sell close to 1,200,000 cars in the January 2018 to December 2020 timeframe. 

 

The next section asks how much  does an electric car cost.  It shows the current price of a Nissan Leaf and also talks about some of the other electric cars that are being sold in the UK including the best selling Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the funky Renault Twizy both of which are not available in the USA.  A graphic shows the cost comparison of buying a Nissan Leaf compared to the petrol and diesel versions of the Ford Focus.  Unfortunately the graphic doesn't list options and all too often people compare base models but the base model of the EV is often much better equipped than the base of the car being compared to so the comparison is not totally valid.  In this case though I am going to assume that the two cars are similarly equipped and the purchase price of the Leaf is net of government incentives.  In this case the Ford Focus would work out about $5,000 cheaper than the Nissan Leaf over the first 5 years of ownership.

 

Please note that a part of this is that the Nissan Leaf is more expensive to insure than the Ford Focus.  In the UK there are 50 insurance groups numbered from 1 to 50 with 1 being the cheapest to insure and 50 being the most expensive.  Clearly the annual premium for the Leaf, being in group 18, is going to be a lot more expensive than the Ford Focus to insure.  Unfortunately  the report does not give me the actual amounts projected and I am not familiar enough with the UK insurance industry to be able to tell just from the group number.  Other than the initial higher cost I am also not sure why the Leaf would be so much more expensive to insure than the Focus.

 

The next section is a graphic that lists performance numbers as compared to the Ford Focus petrol and Diesel vehicles.  In this graphic the Ford Focus won out on every category except CO2 emissions.  Maximum range, top speed, and power came as no surprise.  I was a little but surprised that the Leaf put out more torque than the petrol version of the Focus hatchback but the biggest shock was that the Leaf's 0-60 time was slower than the Focus; usually an electric will smoke an ICE ever time in the dash from 0-60. 
 
The next section had some very interesting information about the cost of an electric car.  One of them was the conclusion on why the resale values were so low.  This was blamed squarely on the cost of a replacement battery pack.  I agree here that one of the reasons that people are skittish about buying used EVs is that we really don't know about how long the battery pack will last on these cars.  Early Nissan Leafs did show severe battery degradation when they were charged in really hot temperatures like those experienced in the deserts of the Western US.  Tesla batteries are doing much better with some indications that they might manage to last as much as 200,000 miles before they hit the 80% threshold usually used to determine when the battery needs to be replaced.  The truth is though that we really don't have enought data yet to really know how long these batteries are going to last.  The good news here is that we are not seeing large capacity drops so far in cars that are now as much as 7 years old.

 
Nesxt was the most interesting graphic, at least for me,  in the whole report; the trend on battery costs per kilowatt hour.  The graphic shows that while the cost of batteries makes up about 25% of most electric cars, battery costs have been falling rapidly dropping as much as 80% from 2010 to 2016.  If this rate can be sustained the optimistic view shows that the point where electric and ICE car costs reach parity, which is $150 per KWh, could be reached as early as 2022.  Even at conservative rates parity would be expected no later than 2030. 

 

In the end the conclusions drawn are somewhat wishy-washy.  The problem is that while the report looked closely at the way batteries were evolving it failed to consider other innovations in the electric car space.  These include longer range vehicles  with ranges in excess of 200 miles such as the latest version of the Renault ZOE and the Chevy Bolt that are just starting to emerge.  Unfortunately it doesn't look like GM will be making a RHD version of the Bolt so this may not be available in the UK.  Tesla's Model 3 will also be making it's appearance later this year but may not get to Europe until 2018.

 

Advances are also being made in fast charging.  Right now we have the ability to take a Chevy Bolt up to  about 50% in around 30 minutes and faster charger options are beginning to be devised.  In my opinion the fall of battery prices are going to go into adding more range rather than reducing costs in the near term, so I don't expect price parity to occur until 2030.  There are other reasons for buying an EV though including the smooth quite ride and the ability to charge overnight at home, not to mention that the ICE puts out toxic fumes that cause major health problems, so I think that the market will continue to grow and evolve.


Sunday June 11, 2017 Richard Hammond's EV Crash Yesterday former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond was involved in a crash while driving the Rimac Concept One electric supercar.  At the time he was filming a segment for his new show, The Grand Tour, at the Hemburg Hill climb course outside the town of St Gallan in Switzerland. 

 

The car, which appeared to be working well suddenly appeared to be accelerating out of control towards a 90 degree turn.  The car couldn't make the turn and flipped over and rolled down the hill finally bursting into Flames.  Fellow presenter Jeremy Clarkson later tweeted "It was the biggest crash I've ever seen and the most frightening".

 

Fortunately Richard Hammond was able to crawl out of the overturned car before it caught fire.  He was very shaken but awake and talking.  He was airlifted to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with  a fractured knee.  Looking at pictures of the crash it seems incredible that anyone could have survived but this goes to show just how far we have come with crash protection for the occupants of vehicles. 
 
The Rimac Concept One is built by Rimac Automobili in Croatia and has been described as the worlds first electric supercar.  It has electric motors powering all four wheels with a total power output of 811 KW and is capable of accelerating from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds.  The 90 kWh Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide battery pack gives the car a range of 310 miles per charge.  Starting in 2014 a limited production run of just 8 cars was done and all 8 cars were sold.  Reports are that the car involved in the collision was worth over two million dollars.

 

We can expect a lot of misinformation about the crash over the next few days until the investigation is complete and the true cause is known.  I've already read one report that says the car burst into flames then veered off the road which is clearly incorrect.  I should also point out that in such a horrific crash having an ICE car catch fire would not be considered strange at all.

 

I've also heard a lot of comments about Hammond, May, and Clarkson getting too old to be driving fast cars but in this case it doesn't seem to be Richard Hammond's fault.  I suspect that these three will begin to slow down a bit though and get someone more like the Stig to do the fast driving.  I remember the tag line on the ads for The Grand Tour which said "what could go wrong"; well now we know.


Sunday Jun 4, 2017 May 2017 EV Sales Another month, another sales record.  May 2017 was the best May 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 16,568 plug-in cars were sold in May, well ahead of the previous record set in May 2015 which saw estimated sales of 11,540 cars.  This is partly due to having more choices in more locations than ever before.   

 

After selling 1,807 cars in April, May saw Volt sales inch higher to 1,817 cars.  Like April, sales were down from May 2016 but this time only by about 4%.  It does appear that sales of the Chevy Bolt is having a small impact on Chevy Volt sales.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt increased in May up from 1,292 cars sold in April to a new record high of 1,566 cars in May.  Increasing sales are a result of both better inventory and the availability of the Bolt in more of the CARB States.  It is now available in 11 States but full nationwide roll-out won't happen until the 2018 model becomes available later this year. 
 
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.  January and February were tied at 4 cars, while sales in March dropped to just 3 cars and in April only 1 car was sold.  It looks like inventory is now deleted because no sales were recorded for May.

 
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.  Somehow in March they managed to find 2 more cars to sell and even managed to sell 7 in April but dropped back to 0 in May.

 

April saw the first sales of the new Cadillac CT6 here in the US with a total of 6 cars being delivered.  In May sales increased to 16 cars.  The CT6 is a plug-in hybrid with an all electric range of around 30 miles.  The car is built in China and imported into the US. 

 

In May GM sold a total of 3,399 plug-n cars, up from the 3,113 it sold in April.

 

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 first month of the quarter Tesla always focuses on international sales so domestic volume is typically at its lowest .  April was no exception with Tesla selling an estimated 1,840 cars for the month.  The second month of the quarter on the other hand is usually sees medium sales as Tesla does a mixture of domestic and international sales.  In May Tesla sales were an estimated 3,350 cars. 

 

After selling an estimated 1,125 Model S sedans in April, sales in May climbed to an estimated 1,620 cars.  This was still better than the estimated 1,200 cars sold in May, 2016.

 

After disappointing sales of just 715 Model X in April, Sales more than doubled in May at an estimated 1,730 cars. This is only the second month since it went on sale that the Model X has outsold the Model S.

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in May selling 2,082 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and May was no exception with sales of exactly 1,000 cars, up from the 905 cars sold in April. 

 
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.  March saw another slight bump in sales with 662 cars sold, and the trend continued in April with an additional 749 cars delivered and jumped again to 950 cars in May.
 
 In March Ford sold an astonishing 407 Focus EVs as it cleared out inventory to make way for the newer longer range model.  It couldn't last though and sales dropped back to the usual 100 to 200 range in April with sales of 120 cars and stayed there in May with a slightly higher 132 cars being sold.

 

Toyota started delivering the new Prius Prime in the second week of November and it has become the sales success of the year so far.  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.  In March, with the sales area slowly expanding but still very limited, they managed to sell and additional 1,618 cars.  In April they set a new record month of sales with 1,819 cars being sold, outselling the Chevy Volt to make the Prius Prime the best selling plug-in for the month.  In May the Prius Prime held onto the crown posting a very impressive 1,908 sales, a new all-time high, even though dealer inventory is barely over 1,000 units.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in April they sold 106 Mirai FCEVs.  In May sales jumped to 162 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,613 Mirai.

 

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 April they sold a total of 1,612 cars spread across their five plug-in models.

 
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 2016. In April they sold 516 cars, dropping to 506 cars in May.

 

I'm not sure what happened to the BMW i8 but sales seem to have totally tanked.  They used to traded in the 150 - 200 range but so far this year they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range and in May they didn't even manage that with sales of just 18 cars.  Previously in April they had sold 23 cars.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e used to trade in the range of 400 - 600 but this year they have only been trading in the 200 - 400 range. In May they actually got back into the old range managing to sell 433 up from the 291 cars they sold in April.

 

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 is 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.  January saw sales drop back to 129 cars but sales did rebound a little to 144 cars in February and March saw another all time record set at 365 cars.  In April sales fell back again to a still respectable 260 cars but bounced right back up again to 475 cars setting a new all time high monthly sales record.

 

BMW were supposed to release the 530e in April and it turns out they did just that selling 6 cars for the month.  Sales really didn't get underway until May though when a total of 147 cars left dealer lots.  I expect the story on the 530e will be the same as that of the 330e and 740e where inventory is low as cars are built for Europe first so sales will be constrained for some time to come.

 

In May sales of the BMW 740e was just 42 cars after selling 123 cars in April.  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 and will fluctuate depending on when inventory arrives in the US.

 

Nissan is scheduled to announce the new version of the Leaf in Tokyo this September and they have been offering lease extensions to those who might be interested in upgrading to the new vehicle when it becomes available.  Sales have been surprisingly robust given that a new model is just around the corner and in April they delivering 1,063 cars.  Sales were up in May climbing to 1,392 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America is not a big fan of plug-in cars and do not break out sales separately.  InsideEV does a very good job of estimating sales from new car registration and state rebate information so I have been using their estimates.  In total Fiat Chrysler delivered an estimated 1,150 Plug-in Cars in May.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that in April sales were 441 cars.  This jumped to 665 cars in May.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid Minivan and actually sold 12 in January.  Chrysler extended the Christmas and New Year break for an extra week because of an general oversupply of vehicles at its dealers and this impacted production on the Pacifica Hybrid.  Compounding the issue, a quality control hold was placed on the vehicles so cars have just began arriving in dealerships around April 17.  In April 205 Pacifica Hybrids were delivered to Customers.  May saw that number more than double to 485.  This has probably taken care of most of the people who had pre-ordered and had delivery delayed so it will be interesting to see what June will bring.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. In April they sold a total of 850 cars.  This was a nice increase from the 795 cars sold in April.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  In March they popped up above their normal range selling 414 cars, but in April they just managed to squeak into the bottom of the range selling just 301 cars.  Sales fell a little bit more in May down to 294 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in March sales were  right in this range at 342 cars.  Like Audi in April they also squeaked into the bottom of the range selling just 307 cars but sales climbed right back up to 381 in May.

 

The bright spot in April for the VW was the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid which sold a solid 185 cars, there best result since selling 197 cars back in August 2016.  They couldn't quite manage this in May falling 11 short with174 cars being sold.

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamera 4 e-hybrid which was expected to show up in US dealerships some time in May but doesn't appear to have arrived yet.  February saw just 1 car being sold, in March this number tripled to 3 cars, and April split the difference landing at 2 cars sold, while in May sales dropped back to 1 car.  It seems unlikely that more will be shipped to the US so sales will be scarce until the arrival of the new model.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were 295 cars in March but pulled back to 280 cars in April then dropped again in May to 220 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.

 

In April Hyundai also began sales of the all electric version of the Ioniq in California delivering 19 cars to paying customers. May saw sales climb to 75 cars.  Hyundai say the car will eventually be sold nationwide.  The Ioniq Electric has a range of around 120 miles with a price starting at less than $31,000 before incentives so it should sell reasonably well if Hyundai can get cars to dealerships.  A plug-in hybrid version is also expected later in the year.

 

In May Hyundai sold a total of 295 plug-in cars. 

 

I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  They have normally traded in the 100 - 200 range straying above that only once when they sold 217 cars in September 2016. In May Kia once again stayed within it's normal trading range selling 129 cars.  This was quite a bit less than the 167 cars that were sold in April.

 

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.  In March sales fell back to 70 cars but jumped up in April to set a new monthly sales record at 86 cars.  In May they sold 1 less at 85 cars and

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 214 plug-in cars in May.

 

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.  April saw a little bit of a breakout when sales hit 66 cars but in May sales dropped back to a more normal 46 cars.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars with March sales hitting the top of this range at 60 cars but sales of the S550e also jumped out of this normal selling range delivering 81 cars in April and 83 cars in May.

 

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. Sales bounced back a little in February to 59 cars but in March sales fell again to 47 cars and even further in April to 36 cars.  The downward trend continued in May with just 33 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 had 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, while sales in March plummeted to just 17 cars while in April just 3 cars were sold.  In May only slightly more where sold with a total of 7 cars.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 169 Plug-in cars in April.

 

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. March saw the SUV return to it's normal trading range of 100 - 200 range selling 103 cars while April saw sales land squarely in the middle of the range with 145 cars sold In May sales rose by just 1 to 146 cars..

 

I have to ask, when will the upgraded Smart Electric Drive begin to arrive in the USA.  Sales have been down to almost nothing since the older model went out of production last year.  In March sales were just 13 cars and April saw a further pull-back when Smart sold only 3 cars and even less in May with just 1 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, 3 sales in March, and 2 sales in April.  May matched January with no cars being sold. It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

Honda isn't currently selling a plug-in car but like Toyota they are investing heavily in Fuel Cell Vehicles. In May they sold 119 Clarity FCEVs. 

 

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.  The Porsche Panamera 4 e-Hybrid, the next generation Smart EV, and the Mini Clubman PHEV should start to arrive in dealerships soon.  By July the Tesla model 3 should be rolling off the assembly line so we should start to see sales of that model starting to hit the streets in August.  The indications are that first sales will be at the very end of July but early sales are likely to go to Tesla Employees who will basically be beta testers. 


Sunday May 28, 2017 Climatology Let me start by saying that I am not a climate scientist although I do have a background in science and engineering, but since there is much confusion about Climatology, I thought that I would take a shot at removing some of the confusion on this subject. 

 

First of all there is a lot of confusion between Climatology and Meteorology.  Meteorology looks at short term systems in an attempt to predict what the weather will be like in the near future and is typically focused on a the local area.  For example it will be trying to predict what the temperature, precipitation, and wind speed will be like locally for the next day, week, or two weeks.  Climatology on the other hand is trying to asses the impact that weather averaged globally over a period of time and identify trends and their impact globally when they are projected into the future.

 

To do this climate scientists generally build models.  Now use of models is often criticized by skeptics but they are essential to make sense of extremely complex processes that are occurring around the world.  The problem is that until someone invents time travel climate scientists can't go into the future to measure what the temperature is.  To try and predict these values they build a model.  The model is then compared with data that has been collect over time for say the last 30 years to see how well it fits the actual climate trend.  Models are refined over time to accommodate new data and new understandings about how the climate works.  These models are then used to project the trends into the future to give a pretty accurate idea of how the climate is changing over time.

 

Meteorologists also use models that are designed to predict how weather patterns will move over time based on historical data about how they have moved in the past.  It is one of the ways that weather prediction has improved over the years.

 

Climate models are built around climate patterns which are known as modes of variability.  The best known of these is the El Nino Southern Oscillation which is a a cycle characterized by warming and cooling of surface temperature in the Eastern Pacific.  This cycle lasts on average 5 years although it is quite variable.  The phenomena leads to warming and cooling of surface temperatures around the world and is characterized by an increase in the frequency and strength of typhoons. 

 

Other things that impact the climate modules are called Forcings. Climate Forcings include variability in the amount of energy emitted by the sun, variability in the amount of energy absorbed by the Earth, and variability of energy radiated back into space from the Earth.

 

Energy flowing from the sun tends to vary in an 11 year cycle that is tied to the occurrence of sunspots.   The more sunspots there are the more energy is emitted by the sun.  As sun spots increase and decrease over time the the amount of energy falling on the Earth also increases and decreases.  We are now in the 24th sunspot cycle since measurement began in 1755 and this has been the weakest solar cycle in the last 100 years.  The cycle peaked in April 2014 and since then the sunspot activity has been steadily decreasing. 

 

Feedback loops are also important in climate models.  Feedback loops are effects that occur as a result of Forcings with the effect occurring again with greater or lesser strength.

One feedback is caused by the greening of the planet.  Global warming skeptics often point out the increased CO2 in the atmosphere helps plants grow which sounds like a good thing.  Well, as ice melts in the Artic and Antarctic it exposes rock and mosses begin to grow on there.  The ice was while and used to reflect heat back into space, but mosses are dark green in color and absorb heat,   This creates a feedback loon where the air heats up which causes more ice to melt exposing more rock which grows more moss leading to more heating.

 

So what about CO2?

 

Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, is one of a group of compounds known as Greenhouse Gasses.(GHG).  Energy from the sun passes through the atmosphere and heats up the ground during the daytime.  This energy is then radiated back into space as a longer wave infrared radiation.  GHGs like CO2 block this outgoing radiation, reflecting the heat back down the Earth.  This is the same phenomenon that keeps a greenhouse warm because glass has a similar effect to GHGs.  It is also why your car gets really hot inside when you leave it parked in direct sunlight.

 

Greenhouse gases have become particularly important to Climatology for a very simple reason.  Since the start of the industrial revolution the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising.  Examining the isotopes of CO2 in the air scientists can see that the rise has been mostly caused by the burning of fossil fuel.  When Climatologists work with their models the only way that they can fit the model to the data from about 1880 onwards is to put in a forcing for CO2.  This shows a direct relationship between the rate the climate has been heating up and increase in CO2 in our atmosphere.

 

Climatology is much more complex that what I have detailed here but I hope this will help people understand some of the major impacts on world climate and to better understand why we should be worried about the effects that our burning of fossil fuel is having on this world.


Sunday May 21, 2017 Next EV for EV Drivers This week Cleantechnia released the results of a survey they conducted of 2,000 EV drivers in 28 countries asking questions like what EV they will purchase next and what they desired in a future EV.  The survey results have some bias as it was not taken from a random selection of people but amongst Cleantechnia readers who voluntarily filled out their survey.  Still, the results are quite interesting.

 

The survey responses were classified in to six categories.  First they were split between North America, which includes Canada, and Europe.  Each regional group was divided into Tesla Drivers, none Tesla BEV drivers, and plug-in hybrid drivers.

 

Some of the results of the survey were quite interesting.  The most common reason for getting a plug-in car was Environmental with results varying from 30% - 45% across the six groups.  There was also a desire for a broader range of vehicle types especially for mid-sized sedans and vehicles in the SUV/Crossover categories..   
 
Most respondents said they expected their next EV to have more than 200 miles of range even though they indicated that they didn't really need so much range.  They also wanted cars that were capable of Level 3 and super-fast charging even though most respondents said they rarely used such charging.

 
Surprisingly, most respondents said that public charging infrastructure was convenient, accessible and reliable.  However, most respondents said they usually charged at home while very few said that they regularly use public charging.

 

For environmental benefits most advocate EV plug PV.  An interesting statistic from the survey is that the number of people who had solar panels installed on their home varied across the groups going from 28% to 40%.  This ties in well with surveys done here in California that found that people that bought EVs were more likely to go solar.

 

The most interesting results from the survey came from the question about what EV the respondents would buy next.  the majority of respondents said that their next EV would be a Tesla model 3.  This was the number one answer in all six categories and I suspect many of the respondents have already placed their deposit on one.  In particular, the vast majority of Tesla owners said that their next EV would be another Tesla.

 

Outside the desire for a Tesla, the survey showed a quite a degree of brand loyalty.  For example Chevy Volt drivers indicated that their next vehicle would be either another Chevy Volt or a Chevy Bolt.  Nissan leaf drivers also were more likely to replace their existing car with another Leaf.  There were a couple of cars that were under represented in the survey because they sell best in countries that have a small number of Cleantech readers.  The Renault ZOE is the best selling EV in Europe but most sales are in France. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the best selling plug-in in Europe but is a best seller in the Netherlands.  Because they were so under-represented it is difficult to tell drivers of these vehicles exhibit the same degree of brand loyalty.

 

Clearly there is a lot of bias in this survey.  For example it doesn't look like there was an option to say that their next car would be a FCEV or perhaps that they would go back to ICE cars.  A small number of people did respond to say that they thought that their current EV would be the last car they bought as they expected it to last the rest of their lives.  Still, it does tend to affirm what many EV advocates have been saying for a long time, once a person gets used to driving an electric car they never want to go back to gas.


Sunday May 14, 2017 Range Anxiety I read a couple of interesting articles this week about range anxiety so I thought that it was time to revisit this topic as it is often cited as a major reason why people are not buying electric cars. 

 

In truth, limited range is slowly loosing pull as a reason that people are not buying electric cars as advances in battery technology means that the new crop of vehicles have significantly longer range than the earlier vehicles.  Where cars like the first generation Nissan Leaf had a range of around 80 miles, more recent models like the Hyundai Ioniq have an all electric range of 110 miles.  The average driver does 30 miles per day so basically the additional range of the latest electric cars give an additional day of driving before needing to charge.  Cars like the Chevy Bolt, with an EPA estimated range of 238 miles have started to push the range even further giving most people plenty of range for their day to day driving. 

 

One of the articles I read said that range anxiety is something unique to electric cars but this is not totally true.  The worst case of range anxiety I ever experienced was traveling across the desert with no other cars in sight watching the fuel gage drop lower and lower then finding that the only gas station for miles around was closed, now that's range anxiety.  I experienced this many years ago driving my old Chevy.  I was able to stretch out my available fuel and make it another 20 miles to an open gas station but it was the most nervous I have ever been in a car, gas or electric.

 

The real problem is not really the range of the car but the time it takes to charge.  Even with a level 2 charger the Chevy Bolt is going to take at least 10 hours to charge and people worry that they have to wait for 10 hours to charge their car making long distance travel take an extended length of time.  Fortunately a lot of new cars also come with a fast charging option which allows the car to fill up in a much shorter time.  For the Chevy Bolt I understand that it takes about an hour on most fast chargers to get up to 80% charge which gives you plenty of time to get a meal or do some shopping while waiting for the car to fill.

 

Using a fast charger is still a lot slower than filling up an ICE car and this is really the issue that is pushing some companies like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai into experimenting with fuel cell cars.  Gas cars tend to have a much longer range than electric cars, although my old Chevy with its V6 engine and relatively small gas tank was lucky to give me 175 miles around town.  Still, the convenience of spending just 5 minutes at a gas station to fill up for another 300 miles of driving is compelling for many people, especially those who don't know the convenience of waking up each morning with a full tank.

 

For the average driver, a 10 hour overnight charge from a 110V outlet will cover the average 30 mile drive.  For a car like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric that would mean making your regular 30 mile drive each day and having 80 miles of additional range in case you needed to run errands during the week. 
 
There is another issue that was also brought up this week triggered by a BMW i3 driver in Canada who was very upset that he wasn't getting the 200 KM range advertised by BMW.  This is partly due to the European manufacturers over-promising on range because they initially measure range on the very lenient European test cycle.  The EPA test cycle gives a range that is somewhat closer to real world driving and for the BMW i3 the range  is 81 miles (130 KM).  It shouldn't be surprising that someone expecting a 200 KM range who is only getting 130 KM would be upset.

 
Real world range is another reason that people would get range anxiety.  Range tends to vary quite a bit depending on conditions and driving style.  This is true of gas cars as well as electric but becomes a lot more noticeable in an electric car.  With a gas car, you typically get a fuel gage that measure the amount of fuel in the gas tank.  If you turn on the air conditioner it isn't going to change the level of fuel in the tank so you would have no idea that your range just dropped quite a bit.  Only if you track your fill-ups would you really notice the difference in mpg. 

 

In an electric car it's quite different.  Most cars provide an estimate of miles remaining based on the state of charge of the battery pack.  In my Prius Plug-in, when I turn on the AC my miles remaining is immediately going to drop by about 20% which is really going to freak out someone who is already close to the limits of their range. Of course in a plug-in hybrid I know that the gas engine will kick in when I run low on charge so I wouldn't be worried but in a pure electric this could be cause for concern.

 

In the case of running the AC it might be the difference between making it to the destination and needing a charge before you get there.  Of course the miles have not been consumed by turning on the AC, the estimate just changed to reflect the higher current draw on the batteries that is created by the AC.  If I turn off the AC the range would go up by 20% again, so I could drive home without the AC even though this might not be as comfortable as the driver would like.

 

There are other things that affect range too.  One of the worst is the need for heat in cold environments.  ICE cars get their heat by using the waste heat created by the engine but there is very little waste heat for an electric car, not enough to heat up the cabin on a sub-zero day.  EVs are usually equipped with either heat pumps or electric heaters and both these pull a lot of juice out of the battery.  In really cold climates this can suck as much as 40% of the range out of the batteries and this has to be taken into account when choosing an EV.  Plug-in hybrids usually get their heat from running the ICE engine so they are much less impacted by cold weather. 

 
Another factor affecting range is how heavy footed you are.  Jackrabbit starts can be a lot of fun for torque junkies and an EV can usually out-accelerate and ICE by quite a margin but this does negatively impact range.  High speed also has consequences.  Driving a Chevy Bolt on the freeway at 80 mph will yield significantly less than 238 miles of range.  Again this is not isolated to EVs, anyone who drives an ICE on the freeway at 80 mph will also see their mpg significantly reduced.
 
To make EVs long range cars there is an ever growing number of chargers being installed across the country.  There are several issues with the charging station networks at the moment that need to be considered when buying an EV. 

 

The first is the nature of these charging locations.  They tend to be distributed around urban areas where there are a significant number of electric vehicles on the roads.  Here in Southern California there are lots of level 2 charging stations scattered around so you can usually find one wherever you go.  In some areas of the country though chargers are few and far between making long distance travel very difficult unless you have someone at the other end who will let you plug in at their home.  Charger networks are being built out slowly and it does make sense to put chargers where the cars are and as EVs become more commonplace the EV charger networks will expand to incorporate more remote areas.

 

Fast DC chargers, also known as Level 3 chargers are more of an issue.  The biggest problem is that there are 3 incompatible standards for Level 3 charging.  Tesla has its well known network of Superchargers that are well distributed along major highways allowing Tesla drivers to travel coast to coast with little more effort than an ICE driver.  The Japanese carmakers use their own standard called ChaDeMO which is used on cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.  The US and European manufacturers use a third standard called Combined Charging System (CCS) which is the charger type used on cars like the BMW i3 and Chevy Bolt. 

 

The problem with multiple standards is that this just makes it harder to get more coverage.  Typically Tesla goes its own way although they do now offer an adapter that will allow Teslas to use ChaDeMO chargers.  while the other companies rely on charger network providers like Chargepoint and.EVGo to set up chargers.  This sometimes means a location will have just ChaDeMO or just CCS so a driver has to plan carefully when he wants to travel long distances.  This does lead to range anxiety and discourages many from risking longer distance travel with their EV.

 

The biggest driver of range anxiety is worry about getting to a charger and finding it in use or blocked.  Last time I was at Westfield's Century City Shopping Center I found all 8 chargers were in use and there was already a guy in a BMW i3 waiting for a charger.  Fortunately Westfield's is planning to add more chargers as part of their expansion of the Mall which should be completed by Fall of this year.  My biggest beef is going to a charger location and find that somebody has parked in one of the charging bays but isn't charging.  Tesla drivers are the worst offenders here but I've seen lots of other plug-ins blocking chargers.  Getting to a charger when your range is getting low and finding it blocked can really spark an attack of range anxiety.

 
Earlier this week on Twitter I saw someone complaining about Plug-in Hybrids hogging the chargers.  Chelsea Sexton had a good comeback for this pointing out that the chargers are there to maximize electric miles driven and so it is beneficial for plug-in hybrids to be able to charge.  I can understand how it might be worrying for an EV driver to get to a charging station and find all the chargers being used by plug-ins and this is another trigger for range anxiety.  Personally I'm in favor of more 110V outlets rather than a limited number of Level 2 chargers.  It takes a lot longer to get a full charge at level 1 but it is quite enough for many PHEVs which could then leave the faster Level 2 chargers to the EVs.

 

There are solutions coming down the pike to address range anxiety.  The first one is faster Level 3 chargers so that an EV can fill up in 5 minutes instead of 60 minutes.  I think that it will be a while before such chargers become available but higher voltage Level 3 chargers are already starting to appear that will cut charging time down to about half what the current models take.  Another solution is destination charging.  Given the growth of plug-in cars I find it amazing that charging stations are not becoming commonplace at hotels everywhere.  The availability of even Level 1 charging at a hotel would make travel much easier.  On the last trip I took there were no chargers at any of the local hotels with the exception of Pechanga Hotel-Casino which has about 8 Level 2 chargers most of which were in use on the couple of times I visited.  I finished up charging at one of two locations provided by the city of Temecula in Old Town. 

 

Range anxiety shouldn't bother people who want to use an EV for things like a daily commute and running errands around town.  Unless someone has a really long commute a simple overnight charge should provide more than enough range for most people's daily needs.  Where range anxiety kicks in is when you need to take that EV on a long distance trip.  For some this is just not feasible but for many all it takes is a little extra planning and a little extra time.  As EVs improve over time this will become less and less of an issue. 


Sunday May 7, 2017 April 2017 EV Sales Another month, another sales record.  April 2017 was the best April 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 13,152 plug-in cars were sold in April, well ahead of the previous record set in April 2016 which saw estimated sales of 10,531 cars.  Set this against a backdrop of general auto sales which were down about 4.7% in April and thing begin to look bright for plug-in sales, although it is the increasing number of plug-in models that is helping keep sales growing. 

 

After selling 2,132 cars in March, April saw Volt sales decline to 1,807 cars.  Sales were down about 9% over April 2016 verses a general decline in GM light vehicle sales of 5.8%.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt on the other hand increased in April up from 952 cars sold in February to a new record his of 1,292 cars in April.  Even the record high sales were a bit of a disappointment as some dealerships had been heavily discounting the car and appear to have plenty of inventory.  I think a good part of the problem is the issue with seats.  While many drivers have said they are OK with the seating in the Bolt some owners are not happy while others have given uncomfortable seating as a reason for not buying one.  It appears that Chevy might have some issues with the seat which seems to have a lot of variability in the padding causing some seats to be uncomfortable for some drivers. 
 
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.  January and February were tied at 4 cars, while sales in March dropped to just 3 cars and in April only 1 car was sold.

 
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.  Somehow in March they managed to find 2 more cars to sell and even managed to sell 7 in April.

 

April saw the first sales of the new Cadillac CT6 here in the US with a total of 6 cars being delivered.  The CT6 is a plug-in hybrid with an all electric range of around 30 miles.  The car is built in China and imported into the US. 

 

In April GM sold a total of 3,113 plug-n cars, just 2 less than it sold in March.

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but Inside EV does a pretty good job of estimating their overall monthly sales.  In the Third month of the quarter Tesla always does a big push to try and meet their quarter end projections.  March was no exception with Tesla selling an estimated 6,200 cars for the month.  The first month of the quarter on the other hand is always very low as Tesla switches to sending cars to fulfilling international orders.  In April Tesla sales were 1,840 cars. 

 

After selling an estimated 3,450 Model S sedans in March, sales fell in April to an estimated 1,125 cars.  This was still better than the estimated 900 cars sold in January, the first month of the previous quarter.

 

The Model X also saw the expected large drop in Sales in April falling from March sales of an estimated 2,750 cars to just 715 cars being sold in April.  This was also less than the 750 Model X that were estimated to have been sold in January 2015.

 

Toyota started delivering the new Prius Prime in the second week of November and it has become the sales success of the year so far.  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.  In March, with the sales area slowly expanding but still very limited, they managed to sell and additional 1,618 cars.  In April they set a new record month of sales with 1,819 cars being sold, outselling the Chevy Volt to make the Prius Prime the best selling plug-in for the month.

 

Sales could have been a whole lot higher for this PHEV but sales are still limited to a very small area of the country and dealers just can't get enough of them with a car staying on the dealer lot for an average of just 2 weeks.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in March they sold 118 Mirai FCEVs.  In April sales dropped to 106 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,451 Mirai.

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in April selling 1,774 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and April was no exception with sales of 905 cars, down from the 1,002 cars sold in March. 

 
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.  March saw another slight bump in sales with 662 cars sold, and the trend continued in April with an additional 749 cars delivered.
 
So what happened with sales of the Ford Focus Electric?  It seems like there was a lot of incentives to move the older car to make room for the new model with and EPA estimated range of 115 miles.  In March Ford sold an astonishing 407 Focus EVs.  It couldn't last though and sales dropped back to the usual 100 to 200 range in April with sales of 120 cars.

 

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 April they sold a total of 1,213 cars spread across their five plug-in models.

 
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 2016. In April the sold 516 cars, quite a bit less than March were they sold 703 cars.

 

BMW i8 Has normally traded in the  150 - 200 range but so far this year they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range.  In February they sold 58 cars but the total dropped to just 49 cars in March and they only managed sales of 23 cars in April.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e used to trade in the range of 400 - 600 but this year they have only been trading in the 200 - 400 range.  In March they were close to the top of this new range with 397 cars being sold, but in April they fell back to what has become the new norm selling 291 cars.

 

The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  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.  January saw sales drop back to 129 cars but sales did rebound a little to 144 cars in February and March saw another all time record set at 365 cars.  In April sales fell back again to a still respectable 260 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 and February saw sales climb to 35 cars.  March saw another increase in sales going up to 42 cars sold.  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 so April sales of 123 cars came as a complete surprise.

 

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.  March got even better as sales hit 1,478 units, and they managed to stay above the 1,000 mark in April delivering 1,063 cars.  Nissan is expected to announce the next generation Leaf, probably with a 200 mile range, soon with sales expected to begin towards the end of this year.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. In April they sold a total of 795 cars.  This was a sizable drop from the 885 cars sold in March.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  In March they popped up above their normal range selling 414 cars, but in April they just managed to squeak into the bottom of the range selling just 301 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in March sales were  right in this range at 342 cars.  Like Audi in April they also squeaked into the bottom of the range selling just 307 cars.

 

The bright spot in April for the VW was the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid which sold a solid 185 cars, there best result since selling 197 cars back in August 2016.  This was quite a decent increase over the 126 cars sold in March.

 
The Panamera S e-Hybrid is being phased out and will be replaced by the Panamera 4 e-hybrid which is now expected to show up in US dealerships some time in May.  February saw just 1 car being sold, in March this number tripled to 3 cars, and April split the difference landing at 2 cars 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.  March sales came in at an estimated 355 cars and in April sales increased to an estimated 441 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid Minivan and actually sold 12 in January.  Chrysler extended the Christmas and New Year break for an extra week because of an general oversupply of vehicles at its dealers and this impacted production on the Pacifica Hybrid.  Compounding the issue, a quality control hold was placed on the vehicles so cars have just began arriving in dealerships around April 17.  Typical of Fiat Chrysler America they refuse to split out sales of the Pacifica Hybrid so once again I turned to Inside EV who estimated that in April 205 Pacifica Hybrids were delivered to Customers.

 

In total Fiat Chrysler delivered 646 Plug-in Cars in April.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV in was 190 cars falling to 175 cars in February.  Sales recovered somewhat in March climbing back up to 295 cars but pulled back to 280 cars in April.  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.

 

In April Hyundai also began sales of the all electric version of the Ioniq in California delivering 19 cars to paying customers.  Hyundai say the car will eventually be sold nationwide.  The Ioniq Electric has a range of around 120 miles with a price starting at less than $31,000 before incentives so it should sell reasonably well if Hyundai can get cars to dealerships.  A plug-in hybrid version is also expected later in the year.

 

In April Hyundai sold a total of 299 plug-in cars. 

 

I've always said that the Kia Soul EV should be a good seller but Kia has always kept inventory constrained on this car.  They have normally traded in the 100 - 200 range straying above that only once when they sold 217 cars in September 2016. In April the Kia Sould once again stayed within it's normal trading range selling 167 cars.  This was slightly less than the 171 cars that were sold in March.

 

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.  In March sales fell back to 70 cars but jumped up in April to set a new monthly sales record at 86 cars.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 253 plug-in cars in April.

 

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.  March was no exception with sales falling to 50 cars but April saw a little bit of a breakout when sales hit 66 cars.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars with March sales hitting the top of this range at 60 cars but sales of the S550e also jumped out of this normal selling range delivering 86 cars in April.

 

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. Sales bounced back a little in February to 59 cars but in March sales fell again to 47 cars and even further in April to 36 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 had 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, while sales in March plummeted to just 17 cars while in April just 3 more cars were sold.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 186 Plug-in cars in March, a slight increase after two months of declining sales.

 

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.  March saw the SUV return to it's normal trading range of 100 - 200 range selling 103 cars while April saw sales land squarely in the middle of the range with 145 cars sold.

 

I have to ask, when will the upgraded Smart Electric Drive begin to arrive in the USA.  Sales have been down to almost nothing since the older model went out of production last year.  In March sales were just 13 cars and April saw a further pull-back when Smart sold only 3 cars.  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, 3 sales in March, and 2 sales in April.  It looks like the i-MiEV will continue to trade in the 1 to 10 car range going forward.

 

Plug-in car sales did OK in April with a 30% increase over April 2016.  This is in a month that has been difficult for carmakers who have almost all seen declining sales.  It should also be remembered that April had one less sales day that March. 

 

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.  The BMW 530e and Porsche Panamera 4 e-Hybrid should start to arrive in dealerships during May.  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.  The indications are that first sales will be at the very end of July but early sales are likely to go to Tesla Employees who will basically be beta testers. 


Sunday April 30, 2017 New EV Tax in California This week Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new bill that will increase gasoline tax by about 12 cents per gallon to fund improvements to the California's infrastructure.  Since EVs don't use gasoline they would not contribute to these infrastructure improvements so the bill includes a provision to place a $100 tax for electric vehicles that will be added to the annual registration fees.  These taxes will rise each year as they are inflation linked.

 

This increase in vehicle registration fees has been roundly opposed by EV Supporters including Plug-in America.  There is some good news in the fine print of the law though.  While the gas tax increases starting November 1 of this year the $100 fee is only applicable to cars that are 2020 model year and later, and will become effective on July 1, 2020.  Now, the bill actually states that this amount is applicable to "zero emission vehicles" so it is unclear if this will also apply to plug-in hybrids too as these would get hit by both the gas tax and the $100 fee.  What is clear is that this tax will apply to fuel cell vehicles.

 

Of course the right wing is up in arms about this and have even started a movement to recall one of the legislators, Democratic Senator Josh Newman, who voted for the tax.  Senator Newman narrowly won his seat in normally republican Orange County.

 

The money from this tax hike is desperately need to fix some of California's ailing infrastructure.  It is designed to plug the $59 billion hole in what is needed to fix California's bridges and roads.  The American people are wildly tax averse and so while they complain about the state of our roads they don't want to foot the bill to pay for them being fixed.  Now it's time to pay the piper.

 

What's funny is that Donald Trump ran on a platform that included investing billions to fix America's crumbling infrastructure but that promise seems to have disappeared from his agenda, at least for his first 100 days.  The problem is that since President Bush did his massive tax cuts there has been huge deficits in the national budget.  As a result things like infrastructure problems have been placed on the back burner and the nation's roads and bridges have continued to deteriorate.  With the Republicans holding the purse strings for much of his two terms, President Obama was unable to get the Bush tax cuts rolled back and so things continued to get worse. 

 

Now President Trump has plans to fix infrastructure and his way might work, but if you think we are going to get away without paying for it you are going to be in for a big surprise.  The extreme right is looking for almost no government at all with the exception of spending large amounts on the defense budget.  So let the private sector do the repair.  If a bridge needs fixing then let them fix the bridge using a toll to recoup the costs and make a profit.  What you end up with is paying tolls whenever you want to drive.  This is already being done around the country, even here is California.  It's called a toll but it is really a usage fee, so you can pay the money as a tax or you can pay the money as a toll but in the end the money is still going to come out of your pocket. 

 

The only difference is that I can choose not to travel so I don't have to pay the toll.  Then again, if I don't travel I don't burn gas, so I don't pay the gas tax either.  Gas tax is a usage fee too, only it's called a tax so Americans are opposed to it.

 
Now the $100 fee being slapped on the zero emission vehicle driver is something different.  EV owners are going to pay the fee whether they drive or stay home.  It really is a tax not a usage fee.  I personally think that in the end we will finish up with a system that is based on miles traveled and vehicle weight as these are the real things that determine the damage that traffic does to the road.  This would mean tracking cars using GPS technology and this opens up a whole new can of worms including privacy issues and out of state travel.  For now the usage fee tagged on to the registration fee is a workable compromise.

 

It was inevitable that some form of taxation would be levied on electric cars so that they would help fund the maintenance of our roads and bridges.  I just hope that the electric car market has become strong enough by 2020 that it won't be badly impacted by the introduction of this $100 annual fee. 


Sunday April 23, 2017 BMW Installing Chargers Last week BMW installed the first of 100 chargers it is planning on rolling out to National Parks across the country.  The first four chargers were commissioned at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in Orange New Jersey.  On top of that BMW is going to be picking up the cost of the electricity for the first six months making the chargers free. 

 

The chargers are Sema level 2 charging stations that are capable of providing power up to about 7.2KW and should be able to charge at rate of 20-25 miles per hour if the EV is equipped with a charger capable of charging at that rate.  The irony here is that BMW is installing AC chargers at the place from which Thomas Edison advocated using DC for electrical power. 

 

This sounds like a good thing to me but Seth Weintraub from Electrek wasn't impressed.  He thought that BMW should have been installing DC fast chargers.  His logic sounded reasonable.  He argued that if he drove a BMW i3 the 60 miles to attend the opening event he would need to wait around for a couple of hours after the event to get a full charge while he would only need 30 minutes if they had DC fast chargers.

 

In the comments section he also added that a 30 minute charge would allow 6 to 10 drivers to get a charge in the 3 to 5 hours that a typical patron spends at the museum.  He also suggested that Level 2 chargers should not be installed at places like grocery stores and shopping centers.

 

Studies have shown that level 2 chargers, and are the most cost effective solution for places where people stay for extended periods of time.  For really extended stays level 1 charging even becomes more cost effective but in this case the 3 to 5 hours typical stay is pretty good for level 2 chargers.  The BMW that Seth talked about would have gotten 60 miles of range in a 3 hour stay which should have been plenty to make the 60 mile trip back home. 

 

On the other hand, it the charger had been a DC fast charger then the drive would most likely have just left the car at the charger for the duration of their visit blocking it for other users. Not to mention that the charger might not be usable at all if the chargers were Chademo and the BMW uses CCS.  Of course there could always be parking restrictions put on the DC charging station charging bay.  Seth is suggesting 30 minutes of charging.  Assuming that the parking restrictions are being policed, and I have found that in many cases they are not, the the person would need to leave the museum tour and head back to their car after 30 minutes.  In fact they would probably have to wait with the car or risk getting ticketed so that's 30 minutes wasted time.

 

Now don't get me wrong. fast chargers are desperately needed but not at places where people are going to spend an extended amount of time.  Fast chargers are needed at places like highway rest stops and in town places close to the highway.  If there was a fast charger close to the highway the Seth would have had the option to stop for a 30 minute charge on his way home rather than wait 2 hours for a charge at the Edison National Park.

 

One thing that I do agree with Seth on is that level 2 chargers are mostly useless at grocery stores except where these are part of a larger shopping center where people will spend lots of time.  Most people spend 20 to 30 minutes in the grocery store and that is only going to give you at best 10 miles of range.  Here is an example from personal experience, this lunchtime I went to a local Whole Foods store and plugged in there while I shopped. While I was there I bought food from their food bar and ate it in the little area set aside for this.  Getting back to my car I had take just 30 minutes and my car had accumulated just 4 miles.  Now keep in mind that my Prius Plug-in only has a 2.4 KWh battery charger so charging rates are pretty slow.  The i3 Seth was talking about would have accumulated about 10 miles in that same 30 minutes but still, that's not much. 

 

DC charging makes some sense at a Grocery Store as it can give you a decent amount of range while you pick up your groceries.  For the BMW i3 this would have boiled down to about 64 miles of range for that same 30 minutes which is a decent amount of range but installing a DC fast charger is expensive so the store is going to find it cost prohibitive.

 

In the case of a shopping center they really want you to spend time there so the slower charging rate is going to work to their advantage.  It keeps customers there to browse or eat and this can mean impulse buying and more business for the shopping center.  It can also be a reason to choose a shopping center over a competing shopping center that does not provide charging options.

 

Let me illustrate my point.  Yesterday I decided to go to the beach.  On a nice warm day like we had yesterday I can get about 11 miles of range out of my batteries.  There is no way that I can make it to the beach and back again on a single charge as the closest beach is about 8 miles away.  If I go to Santa Monica I can usually find available Level 2 chargers.  There are a few Level 1 chargers in Santa Monica place too but because of the charger bay layout most of these are inaccessible.  I was able to find an available charger and get a full charge while I ate, did some shopping, and walked around enjoying this beachside community.  Because of availability of chargers I was able to make the round trip without burning any gas while Santa Monica vendors were the recipients of my discretionary spending.

 

One last thing, Seth ended up taking a Chevy Bolt to the BMW event instead of the i3.  This meant they could easily make the round trip without a charge.  To his credit he didn't use one of the chargers so it was available to someone who needed it.  Now, I would have had no problem with him using the charger especially since the pictures I saw indicated that most of them were not being occupied during the event.  What I do take exception to is EV drivers who block charging stations but are not using them.


Sunday March 12, 2017 2017 New York Auto Show This weekend saw the opening of the 2017 New York Auto show and there were a few new electric cars and concepts on display.  As fuel economy standards get tougher around the world companies are responding by increasingly electrifying their vehicle line-up and we saw quite a bit of this in this years show.

 

When Honda announced their newest version of the Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle in Los Angeles they also hinted that this would be the first of a family of Clarity vehicles that would include a battery electric and plug-in hybrid versions.  At this years New York Auto Show Honda made good with this promise showing off both the Electric and Plug-in hybrid Clarity cars.

 

The Clarity Electric will only be available in California and Oregon but Honda did hint that if there was enough people wanting to buy the car in other states they might consider expanding the sales area.  The Clarity EV will be powered by a 161hp electric motor driven by a 25.5 KWh lithium ion battery pack which Honda says will provide a range of about 80 miles on a charge and a EPA estimated 111-Mpge fuel economy rating.  The car will also offer fast charging capability using the CCS charge connection capable of charging to 80% in about 30 minutes.  While I am sure that this will appeal to die-hard Honda fans the range is way short of the 100+ miles that the latest generation of EVs are now offering and way way below the 200 mile range of the Chevy Bolt, next generation Leaf, and Tesla Model 3.  It looks to me like a car that was designed to fail. 
 
The Clarity Plug-in hybrid on the other hand looks like a winner to me if it is priced correctly.  The car is driven by a 181hp electric motor that is powered by a 17KW lithium ion battery pack which is said to provide an estimated 42 miles of all electric range.  On the ICE side is a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder Atkinson-cycle motor that is based on the current Fit power unit and appears to function as a range extender with the ability to also drive the wheels which is similar to the Voltec power train on the Chevy Volt.  EPA fuel economy is rated at 105-Mpge which is comparable to the 106-Mpge of the Chevy Volt even though the Clarity is a larger vehicle.

 
So far there is no indication of when we should expect these two vehicles will be available, all that Honda said is "later this year" but it was hinted that like it's FCEV cousin, the Clarity Electric will initially be offered as lease only.

 

Kia has the Soul EV on sale here and just recently began selling their Optima plug-in hybrid in the US.  At the New York Auto Show they introduced a new plug-in hybrid that is bound for sale in the US, a PHEV version of the Niro Crossover.  The Niro PHEV will be driven by the same 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine and AC motor as the Niro Hybrid but the battery will be bumped up to an 8.9 liter lithium ion pack that Kia claim will power the car for up to 34 miles of all electric range.  I expect this is based on a more lenient standard and once the official EPA numbers come out the range will be more like 28 miles.

 

The Kia Niro PHEV is expected to go on sale in Europe in the fall but so far no release date for the US has been specified.

 

Just when we thought it was gone the Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid appeared once again at the New York Auto Show as the Porsche Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid.  Take the Panamera V-8, add a couple of turbo chargers, then hook it up to a 14.4 KWh lithium ion battery pack and you end up with a power train that can kick out 680hp, but can also give an all electric range of 31 miles.  When pushed the car can do 0-60 in just 3.2 seconds and offers a top speed of 193mph.  There is no indication of when this car will go on sale but it has been priced starting at $182,450.

 

Lucid Motors also showed a couple of concept cars at the New York Auto Show this year.  First they had a version of the Lucid Air sedan which is basically a test mule which will give a pretty good indication of the car that they plan to put on sale in a couple of years.  The Lucid Air is aimed at the luxury car market and will be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model S.  It is expected to come with a dual motor set-up offering capable of outputting 1,000hp with power coming from a 100 KWh lithium battery pack.  This is expected to give the car a range of over 300 miles and offer a 0-60 time of just 2.5 seconds.

 

The second car that Lucid showed was the Air Alpha Speed which had recently been clocked at 217mph at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio.  Lucid pointed out that 217mph was the maximum speed that could be tested and is not necessarily the top speed of this car.  The Air Alpha Speed appears to use the same power train as the Air but there was no indication if this is what should be expected of the Air when it launches in 2019 or if this is going to be offered as a separate high performance model.

 

The electrification of vehicle power trains continues to move forward and at each show we are seeing more new plug-in models headed to showrooms.  I wonder when the tipping point will occur and demand for Plug-in cars begins to eclipse demand for regular gas models.


Sunday Apr 9, 2017 March 2017 EV Sales Another month, another sales record.  March 2017 was the best March on record for EV sales and the second best monthly sales numbers of all time.  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 18,107 plug-in cars were sold in March, destroying the previous record set in March 2016 which saw estimated sales of 13,857 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.  March was no exception with Tesla selling an estimated 6,200 cars for the month.  They also exceeded analysts expectation for the first quarter reporting more than 25,000 vehicles sold worldwide, their best quarter ever. 

 

After selling an estimated 1,750 Model S sedans in February sales jumped in March to an estimated 3,450 cars.  This was still below their sales for March 2016 when an estimated 3,990 cars were sold.

 

The fall-off in sales of the Model S was more than made up for by an uptick in the sales of the Model X which saw its best March sales with an estimated 2,750 cars being sold.  In February Tesla had sold only 800 Model X.

 

After selling 1,820 cars in February, March saw Volt sales climb back above 2,000 with sales of 2,132 cars.  This was the best March for the Volt since they sold 2,289 cars back in March 2012.

 

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.  In March sales increased slightly to 978 cars but still fell short of the 1,000 car mark. 
 
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.  January and February were tied at 4 cars While sales in March dropped to just 3 cars.

 
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.  Somehow in March they managed to find 2 more cars to sell. 

 

In March GM sold a total of 3,115 plug-n cars.

 

Once again Ford was a strong performer in March selling 2,071 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and March was no exception with sales of 1002 cars, up from the 837 cars sold in February.  This is the first time that Ford has sold more than 1,000 Fusion Energi this year which may indicate that they have overcome inventory problems that resulted in 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.  March saw another slight bump in sales with 662 cars sold.
 
So what happened with sales of the Ford Focus Electric?  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 - 100 car range.  What a difference a few extra miles of range can make!  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.  Ford did some clearing of inventory of the older version hitting sales of 228 in February.  In March they began clearing a long backlog of orders for the new version which resulted in sales of 407 cars. This was their best sales month ever for the Focus EV well ahead of the previous record of 264 set in August 2014.

 

Toyota started delivering the new Prius Prime in the second week of November and it has become the sales success of the year so far.  During November, 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.  In March, with the sales area slowly expanding but still very limited they managed to sell and additional 1,618 cars just short of December's record sales tally.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and in February they sold 110 Mirai FCEVs.  In March sales climbed again to 118 cars.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 1,345 Mirai.

 

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 February they sold a total of 830 cars but sales jumped to 1,556 in March.

 
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.  March sales recovered somewhat climbing to 703 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 February they sold 58 cars but the total dropped to just 49 cars in March.

 

Sales  of the X5 xDrive40e moved closer to the normal trading range of 400 - 600 cars in March with sales of 397 cars.  In February they had sold just 275 cars.

 

The 330e is a good seller in Europe and I expect it to do well here in the US too once dealer inventory builds to sufficient levels.  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.  January saw sales drop back to 129 cars but sales did rebound a little to 144 cars in February and March saw another all time record set at 365 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 and February saw sales climb to 35 cars.  March saw another increase in sales going up to 42 cars sold.  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.

 

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.  March got even better as sales hit 1,478 units.  Nissan is expected to announce the next generation Leaf, probably with a 200 mile range, soon with sales expected to begin towards the end of this year.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. In march they sold a total of 885 cars.  This was a little better than the 815 cars sold in February.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  In February they hit the top end of their normal trading range by selling exactly 400 cars.  In March they popped up above their normal range selling 414 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in March sales were  right in this range at 342 cars.  Previously in February 293 e-Golf were sold.

 

After selling 177 cars in January sales of the Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid fell to 121 cars in February but increased a little to 126 in March.

 
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.  February saw just 1 car being sold and March this number tripled to 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.  February sales came in at an estimated 240 cars and in March sales increased to an estimated 355 cars.

 

Fiat Chrysler America have begun production of the much anticipated Pacifica Hybrid Minivan and actually sold 12 in January.  Chrysler extended the Christmas and New Year break for an extra week because of an general oversupply of vehicles at its dealers and this impacted production on the Pacifica Hybrid.  Compounding the issue, a quality control hold was placed on the vehicles so cars have just begun shipping again and are expected to begin arriving in dealerships around April 17.  As a result, no sales of the Pacifica Hybrid were recorded in March.

 

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.  Sales recovered somewhat in March climbing back up to 295 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.  In February things improved a little and 152 cars were sold and in March a further 171 cars left dealer lots.  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.  In March sales fell back to 70 cars.  This is one of the few cars that sold less cars in March than it did in February.  It will be interesting to see how well this car sells in the coming months.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 241 plug-in cars in March.

 

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.  March was no exception with sales falling to 50 cars after selling 56 cars in February.  Rumor has it that supply will remain limited until the next generation, expected to offer more than 200 miles of range, becomes available. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars with March sales hitting the top of this range at 60 cars.  Previously in February 51 cars were sold.

 

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. Sales bounced back a little in February to 59 cars but in March sales fell again to 47 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 had 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, while sales in March plummeted to just 17 cars.  I expect that this car will sell well if Mercedes-Benz can supply enough inventory to its dealers.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold a disappointing 174 Plug-in cars in March, the second straight month of declining sales.

 

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.  March saw the SUV return to it's normal trading range of 100 - 200 range selling 103 cars.

 

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 but then sales in March dropped to just 13.  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 and 3 sales in March.  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 March with a 30% increase over March 2016.  This is in a month that has been difficult for carmakers who have almost all seen declining sales especially in the small car segment. 

 

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.  The Ioniq Electric, Cadillac CT6 PHEV, BMW 530e and Porsche Panamera 4 e-Hybrid should start to arrive in dealerships during April, and  sales of the Pacifica Hybrid are also likely to resume.  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.  The indications are that first sales will be at the very end of July but early sales are likely to go to Tesla Employees who will basically be beta testers. 


Sunday April 2, 2017 Tesla Inventory Remember when you used to place an order for a Tesla and then had to wait months to get a car, unless we are talking about the model 3, Tesla has inventory.

 

While this is something not really expected of Tesla it is something that is common for most car manufacturers.  While sales ebb and flow the manufacturer wants to keep the production line running at a pretty constant rate.  I remember when I worked in the automobile industry stopping the production line was a really big deal. What that means for the company is that sometimes production falls below demand and sometimes it exceeds demand. When production falls below demand and the production line maintains the same rate, then cars build up at the factory.  When demand picks up again the production line stays steady and the excess demand is filled from already built inventory. 
 
What usually happens is that if demand does not recover then production is slowed, often by shutting down the production line and laying of workers temporarily.  If demand gets too great and inventory becomes too depleted, then this means overtime as the factory attempts to increase production to fill the demand.  It the production engineers have done their jobs properly these two situation occur very rarely.  In Tesla's case this shouldn't be considered a bad thing, it's just part of normal business in the car industry.

 

For the person who is interested in a Tesla it does add an opportunity.  You can go to the Tesla web site and click on either Model S or Model X then click on New Inventory.  You will get a list of new cars that are currently built and ready to go.  There is a slider that can be used to set your price range and you can see what cars are available in that range.  There is also a function that lets you calculate shipping costs.  I live in Southern California and when I ran the shipping cost function it came up as a no cost item but as they say in the auto business "your mileage may vary".

 

On closer inspection it looks like most of the cars currently in inventory were showroom models and do have a little bit of mileage on them although they appear to have never been registered so may be eligible for both Federal and State tax incentives. 

 

The advantage of buying this way is that you can get a new Tesla much quicker than if you order from one of their showrooms.  On the web site Tesla quotes a delivery time of 14 days.  The disadvantage is that you have to take what is available, you don't get to configure the car exactly the way you want. 

 

I also noticed that they had a few Model S with the 60 KWh batteries in inventory.  These cars are still available for order but that option goes away in about two weeks.  If you still want one of the S 60 models then there may be a few left in inventory after they stop taking orders for them.  When I looked at inventory the difference between the cheapest S 60 and the cheapest S 75 was $8,650 so if you don't need the additional range of the 75KWh battery this may be an opportunity to get into an S 60 model even after they have stopped taking orders for them. 

 
Of course since the 75KWh battery option is just a software upgrade Tesla might choose to perform the upgrade on any remaining S 60 models in inventory once the 60 KWh option ends.. 

 

If you are looking for a Tesla and don't feel you need a test drive then the option to buy from existing inventory might be a good way to get a Tesla into your garage.


Sunday March 26, 2017 Discounted EVs One of the biggest problems we have faced in recent years that has been holding back the sale of electric cars is a shortage of vehicles on dealer lots.  This is still an issue for many of the vehicles currently on sale but once in a while we see plug-in cars being discounted and we have that situation at the moment with the Chevy Bolt.

 

I did a quick survey of the 9 Chevy dealerships in the Los Angeles area and all of them had Bolts on their lots.  The numbers ranged from 9 to about 240 cars with an average of around 100 cars available per dealer.  Most of these dealerships appear to be offering the cars at MSRP but 3 were offering discounts of between $1,000 and $2,500.  From articles I have read it appeared that discounting was much widespread, although I'm sure that armed with the knowledge that other dealers are offering discounts would give a buyer some leverage when negotiating the purchase price.

 

I must say that I was very surprised to see such deep discounts on the Bolt this early in the sales cycle since it is only in it's fourth month of sales.  In general the automotive press has been very positive about the Bolt and it has received several awards including Green Car of the Year.  Car and Driver had this to say about the Bolt, "Anyone with a typical new-car budget can afford a Bolt. And, in the bigger picture, it no longer matters if Tesla goes belly-up. Electric cars appear to have laid down permanent roots in the automotive landscape with the first long-range, affordable EV from an established, mainstream automaker".

 

The biggest criticism of the Bolt doesn't appear to be about the car at all but about the Fast charging infrastructure.  The problem stems from the fact that GM is not going to drive expansion of the CCS fast charging infrastructure as Tesla has done with their superchargers.  This has left huge gaps where it becomes very difficult and time consuming to drive between some cities because there is no fast chargers on the route.  To exacerbate the situation one of the main providers of fast charging, EVGo has set up its chargers to stop charging after 30 minutes.  That means if you want to fill your Bolt you have to initiate 3 charging sessions at $10 per session so a full charge is going to cost $30 which puts the cost to fill up on a par with an equivalent sized gas car.

 

Eventually infrastructure will get built out and there is already a move amongst Bolt drivers to boycott EVGo stations if at all possible so they are going to have to fix the situation or suffer the consequences. 

 

GM Sold 2,114 Bolts in the first two months of this year and it will be interesting to see how many they sell in March.  I expect that the discounting that we see may help boost sales this month.

 
Toyota on the other hand doesn't seem to be needing to discount the Prius Prime.  Dealers appear to be having trouble keeping them on the lots.  With an average time on the lot of just 16 days Toyota dealers in California are asking for more inventory just to keep up with demand.  I've seen people in other states complaining about California hogging the Prius Prime after being told by their dealership that there will have to wait for months to get a car allocated for them.

 

One company we know that will have difficulty filling orders this year is Tesla.  With over 300,000 orders for the Tesla Model 3 it appears that there is going to be a long wait before they can ramp up and begin producing cars at sufficient volume to meet that much demand.  There is good news on this front though, this week Elon Musk posted a video on Twitter showing a beta version of the Model 3 being tested on the streets.  Mr. Musk has also been sending out tweets that are intended to set expectation levels for the Model 3.  This all bodes well for the car and it looks quite possible that Tesla will be able to start deliveries close to the end of July target they set for themselves.

 

I reported a few weeks ago that there were a large number of heavily discounted lease returns showing up in the used car market.  Now with the ability to get a big discount on a Chevy Bolt there has never been a better time to buy an electric car. 


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.