2018 Blog Archive

   


About EVFinder   EVents Calendar    FAQ    EV Selector   Links    The EV Finder Archive Site Map


Past blogs from 2018

Sunday May 13, 2018 – Charging Model for Malls

Sunday May 6, 2018 – Shorting Tesla

Sunday April 29, 2018 – China has Huge Lead in Electric Buses

Sunday April 22, 2018 – Electrified Roads

Sunday April 15, 2018 – Beverly Hills Policy Change Follow-up

Sunday April 8, 2018 – March 2018 EV Sales

Sunday April 1, 2018 – Beverly Hills Charger Discrimination

Sunday March 25, 2018 – More EV Bashing in Forbes

Sunday March 18, 2018 – Still Hard to Buy a BEV

Sunday March 4, 2018 – Tax Credit Phase Out

Sunday February 25, 2018 – Ioniq Problems

Sunday February 18, 2018 – EV Corridor Analysis Tool

Sunday February 11, 2018 – Volt Sales Decline

Sunday February 4, 2018 – January 2018 EV Sales

Sunday January 28, 2018 – It's Weather

Sunday January 21, 2018 – Solid State Batteries

Sunday January 14, 2018 – Fire and Flood

Sunday January 7, 2018 – December 2017 EV Sales

View Older Blogs


Sunday May 13, 2018 – Charging Model for Malls – Yesterday I was wandering around West LA where I checked 7 different chargers and all of them were in use.  I began to get hungry so I stopped by Westside Pavilion Mall to get a bite to eat in the food court and an idea struck me about charging at Malls and Shopping Centers.

 

Westside Pavilion used to be one of my favorite Malls.  It was my place to go on a wet weekend and I have spent hours there walking around the mall while my wife went shopping.  They were also one of the early places to support public charging infrastructure and this was the first place I charged and EV when I rented an EV1 from EV Rentals back in 1999.  After the car makers crushed most of this generation of EVs these chargers were hardly ever used and while Malls like Century City and Santa Monica Place kept the chargers available Westside Pavilion had them removed. 

 

It has been obvious for some time now that brick and mortar stores are in decline as more and more people switch to buying online.  Westside Pavilion is one of the most obvious examples of this.  In the last year they have lost both of their anchor stores as Nordstrom and Macy's have moved operations to the more upscale Century City Shopping Center.  It is widely expected that the mall will close and be repurposed so I was quite surprised to find a sign that gave a phone number for lease information.

 

The whole thing got me thinking about charging and how plug-in vehicle ownership is growing at rate much faster than public infrastructure can keep up with, and new and better plug-in cars start to arrive in dealerships, this growth is accelerating.  New charger installations have not been keeping up and this leads to a situation like I had yesterday where I couldn't find an available charger near where I was.  It should be noted that this area of West LA is very short of chargers.

 

Earlier in the day I had been to my local supermarket and used my rewards card to get discounts that are offered to card holders.  Two of the local store chains, Pavilions and Ralphs, also offer discounts on gas for there rewards customers.  Both use the same method of calculating the reward, every dollar spent gets you 5 cents per gallon discount.  The discount has to be used by the end of the following month or it is lost.

 

This discount process actually rewards bad behavior.  I don't use that much gas often going for months without refilling and when I do visit the gas station I typically add between 7 and 8 gallons of gas which would be a saving of about 35 - 40 cents.  A more typical fill-up, at least here in LA, would be 12 to 16 gallons of gas giving savings of 60 - 80 cents.  The bigger the car, the more you save at the pump for the same amount spent at the store rewarding people for using more gas.

 

I have always been a supporter of using EV charging as a way to bring customers into the store.  Khol's was an early adopter of this strategy installing EV charging at their stores to attract plug-in owners.  Companies like Whole Foods and Wal-Mart have also used this strategy.  Volta, the company that provides the chargers for many of the Whole Food stores around LA have a model that uses advertising to pay for the charger costs.

 

My thought was to combine a rewards program, like the ones that are used by supermarkets, with EV charging designed to bring customers into Malls and Shopping Centers.  In this case the user could have a rewards card for the Malls that they frequent regularly.  The rewards card does not have to be unique to the company but could be done through an independent company like Plenti who manage a common rewards program for a number of customers.

 

The program would work like this.  The Mall or Shopping Center would install a group of chargers that would be available for a fee of say 25 cents per KWHr.  People who have the location's reward card would earn, say, 3 KWHrs free for each $100 they spend at participating locations.  Additional charging would be billed at the appropriate rate.  The more people spent at participating locations the more free charging they would earn. 

 

The downside here is that people may have to carry around a whole bunch of different rewards cards.  Having said that it should be noted that people already do this although many locations allow you to use a phone number instead of scanning the rewards card.  Another issue is that the availability of rewards will encourage people to use the chargers when they normally would not need to charge.  This may cause bad will if people cannot find a charger and as a result loose their accumulated free KWHrs at the end of the month.

 

The use of charger availability as an incentive to shop brick and mortar stores is a way that can help get people back into stores.  Lets face it, shopping online is both easy and convenient.  People now need an incentive to get out from behind a computer and visit a store.  I can't help but wonder if Westside Pavilion would have fared batter if they had ungraded their charger infrastructure rather than removing it.


Sunday May 6, 2018 – Shorting Tesla – Tesla released its results for the first quarter of 2018 and while these results exceeded analysts expectations there has been a fall in stock prices.  This has been accompanied by another round of investors shorting Tesla stock.

First lets take a look at Tesla's first quarter results.  Tesla posted a loss of $3.35 per share beating analysts estimates of $3.54 per share.  Revenue was posted at $3.41 billion for the quarter, again better than analyst expectations of $3.22 billion in revenue.  Tesla built 9,776 Model 3s in the first quarter and delivered 8,182.  There were a couple of things that were a little bit of a concern, first the cash on hand fell to $2.7 billion although the company reported that they didn't need to raise additional capital as it wasn't needed.  This lower number is a result of faster cash burn rates.  The second thing is that production of the model 3 reached 2,020 for the last week in March which is way behind the 5,000 cars they had predicted.  This number is still well ahead of analyst predictions.

 

Now, while the numbers for Tesla are not great they did manage to beat analysts estimates on almost everything but the stock fell anyway.  I guess the old saying came to pass, buy on rumor sell on fact.  There are now a growing number of people who are shorting Tesla.  Elon Musk didn't exactly help this when he cut off a couple of analysts who were asking questions about Tesla's finances at the earnings conference call Q&A.

The question now is does shorting Tesla make sense - If my theory is correct, those that short Tesla may make some money in the very short term but it needs to be short term because if they short Tesla for too long they are going to get burned. 

 

My theory is that Tesla is trying to avoid passing the 200,000 mark in sales until after the end of the second calendar quarter.  There is a distinct advantage to them from doing that and it all relates to the way that the phase-out of the Federal tax credit works.

 

Most people think that the tax credit will begin to phase out immediately after the company hits 200,000 cars, so the poor guy that takes delivery of car number 200,001 will only get half of the tax credit, but this is incorrect.  The wording says that the phase-out will begin at the start of the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter where the company hits 200,000.  If Tesla delivers its 200,000th car on June 30th, the last day of the 2nd calendar quarter, then the phase out will begin starting October 1.  However, if they sell their 200,000th car on July 1, 2018 then the phase-out will not begin until January 1, 2019.  This does not have much of an impact on Model 3 sales but will probably have a major impact on Model S and Model X sales as these vehicles do not have long wait times for delivery and have good profit margins for Tesla.

 

Here is what I expect to see.  I expect that production in May will stay pretty low especially as Tesla are going to do a long shutdown this month to fix "issues that are causing production delays".  We will then see production rates start to increase rapidly in June.  Tesla will make its 200,000th delivery some time in early July after which production will  really begin to take off.  Investors who have short positions on Tesla at the end of June will get seriously burned.


Sunday April 29, 2018 – China has Huge Lead in Electric Buses – This week I read an article on Bloomberg about how electric buses were cutting oil consumption to the point where it was beginning to hurt the oil industry.  While this may be true the real story highlighted by the article was the huge lead that China was developed in the electric bus industry. 

 

China has a big problem, as industry has grown at incredible rates its cities have become extremely polluted.  Polluted to the point where it is estimated that 1.6 million people die prematurely each year due to pollution related health issues.

 

LA had a similar, though not quite so severe, problem.  Even though LA relies much less heavily on public transportation that cities in China it was recognized that diesel buses were a big source of pollution, especially small particulate pollution which has been linked to many health problems including respiratory had heart illnesses.  To solve the problem LA mandated that all its city buses would be converted to run on much cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG).  Both Santa Monica and Culver City also followed suit by converting their bus fleets to natural gas.

 

China also recognized that public transportation needed to be cleaned up but instead of following LA and using CNG they tried something different; electric buses.  In 2011 they launched a pilot program with  BYD in the city of Shenzhen.  The results were quite dramatic, while pollution continued to climb in China's major cities the air in Shenzhen actually got cleaner.  The pilot project became a full scale replacement of diesel buses and by the end of 2017 all of the buses in the city had been replaced by electric buses. 
 
The experience in Shenzhen has been so positive that China is now repeating the process in other major cities.  It is estimated that they are now replacing diesel buses at a rate of about 9,500 every 5 weeks.  To get an idea of the scale of what is happening this is the equivalent of replacing the whole of the London bus fleet every 5 weeks.  By the end of 2017 there were 385,000 electric buses in service around the world and 99% of these are in China. 

 

This gives the Chinese electric bus manufacturers a huge advantage in both economies of scale and in on road experience, which will allow them to manufacture buses cheaper and deal with the real world issues that come out of operating electric bus fleets.  China is now the world leader in electric bus technology while other countries struggle to play catch-up.

 
Adding electric buses to a fleet is not always easy.  The high cost of the battery pack means that the up-front cost to buy an electric bus much higher than the cost of a diesel or CNG bus.  The costs are recouped over time because running costs, including both fuel costs and the service costs are much cheaper.  This also means that there will be less time off the road for vehicles as electric buses don't need oil changes and other time consuming maintenance.  Regenerative braking also means less need for brake system overall and replacement brake pads.  There is some uncertainty; the likely need to replace the battery pack at least once during the service life of the bus.  Battery prices are currently falling at a very fast rate but in a lot of cases we don't really know how long a battery pack will last, so this adds uncertainty to the overall cost, and most financial guys don't like uncertainty.

 

The need for cleaner air is beginning to win out and cities around the world are now starting to add electric buses to their fleets.  London now has four routes that are fully serviced by BYD electric buses and are planning to roll out many more over the next few years.  BYD even showed off an electric version of the famous London double decker busses.  This one has a range of 180 miles which means it can operate all day on many London routes without needing to recharge.  London plans to eventually replace all of its buses with zero emission buses.

 

In the US things have started off a little slower.  Here in Los Angeles the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) approved the purchase of 35 electric buses for the Orange line in the San Fernando Valley in July 2017 later approving an additional 5 buses.  These buses will be manufactured by New Flyer America, a Canadian owned bus manufacturer based here in the US.  This is part of a plan to convert all 2,200 MTA buses to zero emissions by 2030.

 

BYD will also be supplying buses to Los Angeles as it replaces 14 aging diesel buses, and add six additional buses to the fleet used to shuttle passengers between terminals at LAX.  They will be using 60 foot articulated electric buses will raise the total number of zero emission shuttle busses at LAX to 32  The buses will be built in a BYD facility located in Lancaster, CA about 75 miles north of LAX.  With the provision of the new buses LAX will have the largest fleet of electric shuttle buses of any airport in the world.

 

It is clear that China has taken a huge leap forward in electric bus production and will likely continue to dominate this segment.  Other bus makers are also moving toward electric bus manufacture but will have to play catch-up, while many government bodies are slow to take up this new technology, preferring the lower up-front cost of diesel, rather than the long term cost advantage and intangible savings from lost productivity and higher medical that happens when diesel is used.


Sunday April 22, 2018 – Electrified Roads – This week Twitter has been awash with tweets with links to an article in the Guardian titled "World's first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden".  The article is about an experiment being conducted on a 1.2 mile stretch of highway where an electric strip has been installed to allow vehicles to charge as the travel along the road. 

 

The concept is nothing new, it is the same concept that is used to power the slot racers I played with as a boy.  This time, for the first time I am aware of, the idea has been applied full scale on a public highway.  A metal strip has been embedded in the road and carries an electric current.  Cars equipped with a special movable arm can connect to the metal strip and pick up current to both power the car and charge the batteries.  For safety the metal strip is actually buried about 6 inches below ground and even when the road was flooded with salt water the voltage at the surface was only 1 volt.  The track is divided into sections of about 50 yards and each section is only electrified when a vehicle is over that section.  When the vehicle comes to a halt the current is switched off.

 

This system is very similar to the third rail system used in subway systems like the London Underground.  It's more practical for road vehicles than the overhead wires that are used to electrify surface rail systems, and was a common sight when trams and trolley busses were used extensively for public transportation.

 

While this is the first time that I am aware of that a metal strip system for powering electric cars on the highway has been tested, the Guardian is wrong to suggest that this is the first time a road has been electrified for this purpose.  There is currently a test being conducted in the UK using a different and, in my opinion, a more promising solution, using inductive charging.

 

Inductive charging uses a process called induction where an electrical current in a circuit creates a moving magnetic field which can then create a current in another circuit close by.  It is actually the principle that makes transformers and electric motor work.  This can be used to transfer power from one circuit to another wirelessly.

 

This process was the basis for the inductive charging system adopted for the EV1 and the first generation RAV4-EV.  The latest round of electric cars use a conductive charging system where the power is fed directly to the charger but this required an physical connection.  The Swedish system also uses a physical connection.  The system being tested in the UK embeds loops of wire under the roadway.  When a vehicle passes over the loop an electrical current is induced in the vehicle's charging system and the vehicle's batteries are charged. 

 

Tests of this kind of system have been conducted before, most notably on a stretch of interstate 8 in San Diego County here in California and also in Korea.  So far the Koreans have taken this the farthest using the system to charge buses in some municipalities.  In this case they don't electrify the whole road, just a stretch at each stop.  When the bus comes to the stop it pulls over the section of road fitted with loops.  The batteries are given a charge at about 100 KW with charging efficiency of about 85%.  This allows the bus to run the complete 15 miles route with a battery pack about 1/3 the size that would normally be required.

 

The advantages of being able to power the car and charge the batteries where driving are pretty obvious.  Range issues become non-existent.  There is no longer a need to stop for a lengthy time to charge the batteries you just keep driving until you are ready to take a break and that break is no longer governed by how long it takes to charge or if the charger is available when you arrive.

 

Inductive charging from the road also means that you need less batteries.  For most people a car like the Honda Clarity BEV with an 80 mile range is fine as a daily driver but would be a bit of a pain if you wanted to drive the 120 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego.  With inductive charging you can now do the drive with no worries and arrive in San Diego with a full charge.  Even if you use most of your 80 mile range while staying in San Diego you can still make the drive back without recharging and arrive back in LA with a full charge to take you home after leaving the highway.

 

I see charging as you drive as being inevitable.  It is not a matter of if but of when.  I expect inductive charging to be the method of choice.  While it is not the most efficient means of getting electricity into the vehicle it is the most convenient way to do it.  It is likely  that bus routes will be the first to use this technology in a manner similar to that used now in Korea, but eventually it will be deployed to the highway.  Roads will be powered by solar and wind energy providing clean reliable transportation.


Sunday April 15, 2018 – Beverly Hills Policy Change Follow-up – Two weeks ago I reported on the change that the City of Beverly Hills had made to their charger policy banning plug-in hybrids from using the city owned chargers.  I wanted to see the impact that it made on charger utilization and so I have been monitoring some of the charger locations to see how the change impacted charger utilization.

 

The reason for the change appears to be that pure EV drivers have been complaining that they could not get a charge when they  needed it because the chargers were being use by plug-in hybrids so the response was to ban plug-in hybrids from using the chargers.  They also added charging fees that would offset the cost of electricity and also make it very expensive to stay longer than 2 hours at the charger. 

 

The new policy went into effect on the morning of April 2 including new signage and flyers posted by the elevators warning of the change.  I visited one of my favorite charging locations about 8:30 on the first morning.  This would be the time that I would normally pick up my car after charging.  This location is one of those that has been updated from the old J1772 plus 110v outlet to the power sharing units with two J1772 connectors.  Three of the charging bays were in use but all three had PHEVs charging there.  The forth slot, which is also designated a disabled slot, was vacant..

 

Later that day I checked out a couple of other spots and I found only 1 EV, a Tesla actively charging.  I did come across a Honda Clarity Electric that was connected but apparently was full as there was no active charging.  There was a BMW i3 with range extender (not a battery only electric vehicle) charging and in all the location I checked there were available chargers.

 

Over the following two weeks I gradually saw the number of Plug-in hybrids diminish but these were not replaced with battery only  electric vehicles, they were replaced with empty charging bays.  PHEVs continued to charge at the chargers in ever diminishing numbers.  For the most part the ones remaining were those that were considered Range Extended electric vehicles like the Chevy  Volt and i3 REx although Yesterday afternoon I did see a Pacifica Hybrid charging at the Beverly Hills public library.

 

What I did see was BEVs continuing to treat these chargers as convenient parking spots.  On several occasions I came across one that was either not connected or connected but either full or on a timer so they were not actively charging.  Last Friday I checked out the charging station in the city owned lot next door to Whole Foods and both  charger slots were occupied by Teslas but neither if them were connected to the charger.  It was really frustrating driving home on Friday night with the gas engine running, knowing that there were loads of unused chargers and chargers being blocked by BEVs, but I wasn't being allowed to charge my car.

 

During the whole time that I was monitoring the chargers I did not see a single car with a traffic citation leaving me to wonder if I just hadn't been there at the right time, or if it was that the chargers are now fee based that was keeping people away.  In the past Beverly Hills traffic enforcement had never bothered to police the chargers which lead to a lot of abuse.  What I didn't see was hoards of BEVs using the chargers now that they are not being blocked by Plug-in Hybrids.  In fact I saw almost as many BEVs blocking chargers as I did actually charging.

 

While I am sure that the chargers no longer being free has an impact on the number of people using them, I do see people using more expensive charger options.  For example at Westfield's Century City they charge 96 cents per hour which for a typical PHEV is about 30 cents per KWhr v 25 cents per KWhr in Beverly Hills yet their chargers are almost always fully occupied.  Yesterday I visited Bristol Farms in West Hollywood.  The EVGo Level 2 chargers there are $1.50 per hour.  There was a Chevy Bolt charging there with one charger available, and a BMW i3 was using the DC fast charger. 

 

It looks to me like those BEV owners who were complaining about not being able to charge were really thinking that they deserved a free charge more than the PHEV owner.  It all depends on what your objectives are for having public chargers.  If it is to maximize the number of electric miles driven then clearly shutting out the cars that most need the charge is counterproductive.  If your objective is to be a lifeline so that battery only electric vehicles can have somewhere to charge if they stray beyond the point where they can get home, then the Beverly Hills new policy makes sense, but you are basically penalizing half of all Plug-in drivers because a few drivers made bad choices.  With the latest cars having ranges of well over 100 miles, and the ability to fast charge, then this seems to be a throwback to 1997 when range was limited and public infrastructure was rare. 

 

So what should Beverly Hills be doing.  First they should get rid of the stupid rule that bans plug-in hybrids from charging at their charging stations.  This will increase electric miles driven which benefits everyone.  They need to be more active in policing the chargers making sure that if there is a vehicle parked in the charging bay and not connected it gets ticketed and/or towed.  If they are really concerned about lack of charging for battery only electric vehicles they should consider adding some DC fast chargers.

 

They should leave the price structure in place.  Based on 4 miles of range per KWhr and gas in the area at around $3.39 per gallon, 25 cents is the equivalent of the cost to fuel an ICE car that gets 59 mpg which is about a wash for my Prius Plug-in but better for most people.

 

As for me, I've been burning more gas than usual but I have also being spending less than usual too since I no longer feel an obligation to do business in Beverly Hills.  Over the last 2 weeks I have spent approximately $100 less in Beverly Hills than I normally would have.  Some of this has gone to businesses in West La and West Hollywood, and some have just been reductions in spending from things like making my own lunch instead of buying lunch in Beverly Hills.  This all provides me with some savings that will offset the extra cost of gas.

 

Well, I am off to do some shopping in West LA where I anticipate spending around $150 - $200, about half of which would have been spent in Beverly Hills had charging been available for me there.


Sunday April 8, 2018 – March 2018 EV Sales – Another month, another sales record.  March 2018 was not only the best March on record for EV sales but the best month ever for EV Sales.  The last time that EV sales have not set a year over year record for a month was in May 2016 which fell just 173 cars short of May 2015.  Overall an estimated 26,373 plug-in cars were sold in March, beating the previous all time record set in December 2017 when an estimated 26,107 cars were sold.

 

It should be noted that several manufacturers have stopped breaking out plug-in sales for models that have a plug-in version.  This includes Hyundai/Kia, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.  To fill in the gaps I am relying on the good folks at InsideEV who have had a track record for pretty accurate estimates of sales from the likes of Tesla and Fiat. 

 

Tesla never gives out how many cars they sell each month but InsideEV 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 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 estimates. In March Tesla sales were an estimated 10,020 cars.

 

After selling an estimated 1,125 Model S sedans in February, sales in March Climbed to an estimated 3,375 cars.  This was down just a little from the 3,450 Model S sales in March 2017.  It appears that Tesla is diverting resources away from Model S production to the Model 3.

 

Sales of the Model X in March was an estimated 2,825 cars. This was up a a little from the 2,750 sales in March 2017.  Previously in February Tesla had sold an estimated 875 cars.

 

It appears that Tesla is starting to resolve its issues with the ramp up production of the Model 3 and appear to be close to reaching 1000 cars per week on a consistent basis.  This translated to March sales of an estimated 3,820 cars.  Previously in February they delivered 2,485 cars.  It remains to be seen how quickly sales will continue to ramp up over the next few months but I am of the opinion that Tesla is ramping up slowly so they don't hit the 200,000 sales mark until July which will preserve the full $7,500 Federal tax credit through the end of this year.

 

After selling a disappointing 983 cars in February, Volt sales increased to a 1,782 cars in march.  This is the first time since selling 1,745 cars in June, 2017 that the Volt has actually outsold the Bolt.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt have been increasing steadily each month since April setting new monthly sales records every month.  This run finally, though not unexpectedly, came to an end in January with sales of 1,117 cars.  Sales in February increased somewhat to 1424 cars and climbed even further to 1,774 cars in March.  GM has announced that it is planning to increase production of the Bolt in the coming months.

 

Cadillac managed to sell 17 CT6 PHEV in March down a little from the 24 cars they sold in February. 

 

In March GM sold a total of 3,573 plug-in cars.

 

Toyota continued to do well with the Prius Prime falling just short of selling three thousand cars in March with sales of 2,922 cars after selling 2,050 cars in February.  The base Prius Prime is priced such that after the Federal Tax credit it is actually cheaper than the base Prius model.  The Prius Prime is still not available nationwide.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in March they sold 83 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 3,209 Mirai.

 

BMW sales have been all over the map for the past year or so and now they have stopped breaking out sales of their models that are plug-in versions of other models.  This is going to make the estimation of plug-in sales quite difficult.  In March it is estimated that they sold a total of 2,662 cars spread across their seven 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.  Februart saw sales of 623 cars but sales Jumped to 992 cars in March.

 

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 recently they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range.  In March they stayed in this range with sales of 47 cars up fom the 38 cars they sold in February.

 

The BMW X5 xDrive40e sales have also been up and down but now seem to have moved back into their old selling range of 400 - 600 but recently they have only been trading in the 200 - 400 range. In March they sold an estimated 627 cars.  Previously in February  an estimated 450 cars were sold.

 

Sales of the 330e also increased a little in March to 202 cars after selling 179 cars in February.

 

The BMW 530e which set a new all time sales record selling 872 cars in November after selling 583 cars in October.  There was a slight pullback in December but they sill managed to sell 706 cars, then in January sales plummeted to just 224 cars but rebounded to an estimated 368 cars in February and increased further to 689 cars in March.

 

Sales of the BMW 740e is expected to remain low for the rest of this year as the car is basically sold out so the US only received a token inventory.  In March they sold an estimated 31 cars after selling an estimated 48 cars in February.

 

The one bright spot for BMW in January was sales for the Mini Countryman PHEV which set an all time high month selling 127 cars.  February was yet another monthly high with estimated sales of 178 cars.  This must have depleted inventory as sales dropped to just 74 cars in March.

 

With sales of the next generation Nissan Leaf just getting started sales of the Nissan Leaf reached a low point in December with  only 102 cars being sold.  In January sales picked up a bit hitting 150 cars but jumped to 895 cars in February.  In March sales finally topped the one thousand level again when sales hit 1,500 cars.  Nissan claim to have 13,000 orders for the Leaf so I expect sales go back to the 1000+ range beginning in March.

 

Honda returned to the plug-in market in full force when they started selling the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity at the end of November.  In March Honda sold 1,109 plug-in Vehicles.  In contrast to some other manufacturers they have also begun breaking out sales for each of the different Clarity models.

 

Sales of the Clarity electric got off to a surprisingly good with 507 cars being sold in December, after November sales of an estimated 439.  In January sales fell to 262 units and the trend continued falling to just 104 in February.  It looks like Honda just hasn't been shipping new inventory and sales of the Clarity BEV fell to just 48 cars as many dealers reported no inventory at all during the month.

 

Sales of the PHEV seem to be doing very well with sales of 1,061 cars in March making it the 8th best selling plug-in for the month. Previously in February 881 cars were sold.  The Honda PHEV seems like a really excellent car so I expect to see good sales assuming Honda provides enough dealer inventory.

 

Like Toyota, Honda is also investing big-time in Fuel Cell Vehicles and in February they reported sales of 121 cars.  For the second month in a row the it outsold the Toyota Mirai.

 

With the C-Max Energi being phased out and no new plug-in to replace it Ford sales were expected to drop but they still did quite well selling 1,024 cars in March. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and March was no exception with sales of 782 cars down just a little from the 794 cars sold in February 794.

 
Sales for the C-Max Energi fell in March to 105 cars after selling 142 cars in February.  Ford has already halted production of the C-Max Energi so sales numbers will continue to fall as remaining inventory is depleted.
 
After two months of trading below its normal range of 100 to 200 cars the Ford Focus EV returned to normal sales levels by selling 137 cars in March.  Previously in February 70 cars were sold.

 

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 765 Plug-in Cars in March.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that February sales were 235 cars.  In  February sales rose slightly to an estimated 285 cars.

 

Chrysler appears to be making a genuine effort to sell the Pacifica Hybrid Minivan and I even see ads for it on TV from time to time.  Sales have been all over the place but this year they seem to have settled in the 300 to 500 range.  In February to 450 car were sold and this increased slightly to 480 cars in March.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. Sales have been a little disappointing though with March sales of just 624 plug-in cars.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron used to sell in the 300 - 400 range but lately seem to be trading in the 100 to 300 range.  After selling an estiamated 199 cars in February sales climbed a little to 214 cars in March.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars but like Audi they appear have dropped lower this year.  In January the sold 179 cars.  In February they fell just 2 short of their normal trading range coming in at an estimated 198 cars but in March sales dropped again with only 164 cars delivered to customers.

 

The Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid sold only 23 cars in December, but managed to sell 113 cars in January, 121 in February, and continued their upward trend in March rising to 197 cars.

 
The Panamera 4 e-hybrid finally showed up in dealerships in February with sales of just 1 car.  Sales picked up a little in March reaching 49 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 but last year they sold in the 200 - 300 range for a time. So far this year they have gone back to the 100-200 range with sales of an estimated 115 in January,135 in February, and 157 in March.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, 2016 but sales didn't actually kick off until January, 2017.  In February they sold 95 cars climbing to an estimated 165 cars in March.

 

Kia also began sales of the Niro PHEV in January and sold 155 cars.  Sales improved a little in February climbing to 170 cars, and showed another improvement in March with sales of 227 cars. The Niro PHEV is a plug-in version of the Niro crossover and offers an all electric range of 26 miles.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 540 plug-in cars in March.

 

It appears that Mercedes-Benz is going to discontinue production of the B250e later this year so I expect sales will continue to be low for this vehicle which normally sells in the 40 - 60 range.  February was right in the middle of that range with an estimated 49 cars being sold, but sales in March dropped to just 33 cars. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars but recently sales have been in the 10 - 30 car range with December seeing 26 cars being sold.   In January sales fell to just 13 cars but recovered in February when an estimated 40 cars were sold.  The recovery didn't last and sales in March dropped to just 11 cars.

 

Sales of the  Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV have recently hovered in the 30 - 60 range.  In February sales hit an estimated 70 but sales leaped to 181 cars in March.

 

The Mercedes-Benz C350e has been their best seller in recent months and March was not exception when an estimated 208 cars were sold. Previously in in February when an estimated 172 cars were sold.

 

In February Mercedes-Benz began selling the GLC 350e Plug-in Hybrid SUV with sales of just 5 units.  For its first full months of sales the GLC 350e manage sales of 57 units. 

 

Overall Mercedes-Benz sold 490 Plug-in cars in March.

 

After many false starts Mitsubishi finally began selling the Outlander PHEV in the US with Sales of 99 cars for December.  January was the first full month of sales for the Outlander PHEV and an impressive 300 cars were sold.  They followed that by increasing sales to 323 cars in February and 373 in March.  The Outlander PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 22 miles of all electric range.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were135 cars in November climbing to 195 cars in December but falling back to 52 cars in January and 65 in February.  In March they delivered an additional 78 cars to customers.  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.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric seem to have stabilized in the 30 to 80 range.  In March  they sold 60 cars after selling 56 in February.  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. 

 

In January Hyundai finally began delivery of the Ioniq plug-in hybrid delivering 22 cars.  In February this climbed to 30 cars they took a massive jump to 218 cars in march.  The Ioniq PHEV delivers 29 miles of all electric range and has an impressive combined fuel economy of 52mpg.

 

In March Hyundai sold a total of 356 plug-in cars. 

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV normally sells in the 100 - 200 range.  In January they fell 1 short of the normal trading range selling just 99 cars.  February saw a return to the normal trading range when 126 vehicles when sold, but in March sales dropped back to 93 SUVs.

 

Volvo also sells the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid SUV.  In March they sold 167 cars after selling 140 cars in February.

 

In September Volvo introduced their first plug-in hybrid sedan, the S90 T8 PHEV selling 5 units.  October saw sales increase to 28 cars with a further increase to 32 cars in November and 52 cars in December then falling to 27 cars in January but recovering to 49 cars in February and 52 cars in March.

 

In March Volvo sold a total of 312 Plug-in Vehicles.

 

Smart currently has the distinction of being at the bottom of the list in terms of number of plug-in sales this month.  Considering that they sold 103 plug-in cars during the month of March, this says quite a bit about the current state of plug-in car sales.  In total Smart sold only 110 cars in the US this month so they really close to being an EV only company.  Previously  in February Smart sold 90 plug-in cars.

 

2018 got off to a slow start but for plug-in sales.  January is historically the slowest month of the year as people rush to buy in December so they can take the Federal tax credit the following March.  This means that inventories are typically low going into January leading to lower sales.  February, which is also normally a poor month for plug-in car sales, showed a decent uptick in sales volume.  Sales usually pick-up in March so we should see some new records smashed.  I don't expect things to go really crazy until the 3rd quarter when I expect Tesla sales to head into the stratosphere.


Sunday April 1, 2018 – Beverly Hills Charger Discrimination – This week I got a tweet from Chelsea Sexton about changes to the charging policy in the Beverly Hills city owned parking lots.  The policy changes range from reasonable to a knee jerk reaction that is going to have a negative impact on electric vehicle miles travelled (eVMT) and air quality.

Over the years I have held up the charging policy set by the city of Beverly Hills as an example that I think should be the basis of policy in most cities.  They had a policy that said that vehicles had to be connected for charging purposes, that vehicles couldn't reserve the charger by for example using a timer, and that once charging was complete they vehicle had 1 hour to exit the charger.  This policy was both fair to all and provided a good reason for plug-in car owners to visit Beverly Hills; except the rules were never enforced.

 

Once people realized that there were no consequences in not following the rules they just ignored the as people often do.  The result was that the chargers were regularly blocked by Plug-in cars that used them as convenient parking spaces.  Cars would sometimes be parked at the charger all day even if they were fully charged, and in some cases I even saw people do things like drive onto the cable so it couldn't be used by someone else then come out later and plug-in.

Part of the problem stemmed from the chargers used in some of the Beverly Hills lots.  These chargers were the Chargepoint combination chargers that provided a J1772 connector plus a 110V outlet hidden behind a door in the front of the charger.  At first many people didn't realized that the outlet was there so they assumed that there were 2 parking spaces but only one charger so it was OK to park in the second space.  Those of us that knew about these and carried the supplied charger in there car would not be able to use them because the charger was blocked.  Eventually more people began using the 110V outlets but the damage was done and people realizing that they were not going to be ticketed continued to park in the spaces.  This led to an issue where chargers were frequently not available especially to NEVs and conversions that only  have 110V charging capability. 

 

Eventually to fix this issue the city replaced all of these chargers with the shared power dual head chargers that Chargepoint offers.  These chargers have two J1772 connectors.  When the first person connects to the unit it provides charging up to 6.6 KW but when a second vehicle connects the charge rate for both connectors drops to 3.3 KW.  That is the theory at least but they don't appear to be set up correctly in Beverly Hills.  The issue is each location has 2 chargers for a total of 4 J1772 connectors.  When a car attaches to the second charger they are set up to drop power to the cars at both chargers so even though there are only 2 cars charging , one at each physical charger and each of these chargers still has another connector available, the charge rate is still dropped to 3.3 KW for each vehicle.

 

In my case it was even more frustrating as the charge rate on my car would also drop to half even though the my charger only pulls 2.3 KW maximum.  Generally the charge rate on my car would drop to 1.2 KW after about 5 minutes although sometimes I  saw as long as 15 minutes before the charge rate dropped.  This means that I would have to leave my car connected to the charger longer than I would normally and I would still end up without getting a full charge so I would need to visit the chargers more frequently.  The result is that the chargers got busier.

 

This change has also shut out cars that do not support level 2 charging such as NEVs and many electric vehicle conversions that can only charge at a standard 110V outlet.

 

It appears that some of the more vocal BEV owners have been complaining hard to the City or perhaps a city employee couldn't charge his BEV so the city decided to change its policy.

 

I have no problem with the first change in policy, instead of charging being free they are going to introduce a fee.  Starting April 2, 2018 it will cost 25 cents per Kilowatt hour to charge at the City's 35 public charging stations.  The fee is quite reasonable and is the same as tier 2 pricing for Southern California Edison.  For me that is about equivalent of $3.17 per gallon of gas which is about 50 cents less than the typical price for a gallon of gas in this area.

 

The second change attempts to fix the problem of people hogging chargers.  There will be a station fee of $6 per hour applied after the second hour.  This should stop drivers from staying more than 2 hours at the charger unless they really need a charge.  This is a way to stop people from just parking at the charger all day.  I've seen this before where a plug-in would be parked all day on a regular basis treating the unit as their own personal charger.  The hourly fee would be a deterrent to people parking all day at the charger and eliminate the need for parking enforcement to figure out if the car was fully charged or not.  I'm not sure how this will work if people move their car from one charger to the another every 2 hours but I suspect they will get away with it.

 

Personally I prefer the policy used in Santa Monica which restricts parking at chargers to 4 hours.  Santa Monica does actively police their chargers and will ticket cars that are blocking charging spaces or that exceed the 4 hour limit.

 

The down side to this practice is that it makes it very expensive for a BEV owner who need to get a full charge especially when the charger is going to cut the charge rate in half just because some else connects to another charger.

 

The third change is the one that I have the big problem with, "The new policy reserves the City’s EV charging stations for battery-only electric vehicles. All other vehicles (including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and any vehicle without an active charging session or not connected to a station may be subject to citation and/or towing at the owner’s expense."

 

In other words, only BEVs will be allowed to use the chargers in the City of Beverly Hills, all others, including the Chevy Volt and the BMW i3 REx will be barred from using these chargers.  This highly discriminatory practice is one that has been tossed around be BEV drivers since the time when EV charging was very scarce.  The idea is that Plug-in hybrids have a gas engine so they can safely make it home while BEVs have to be charged or they could run out of battery power before getting home.

 

The counter argument is that if you have to rely on public charging for your BEV then you have selected the wrong car for you so why should PHEV owners be penalized for your bad decision.  After all, most BEVs have 80 miles of range and more recent ones come with as much as 238 miles of range while a PHEV like mine is lucky to get 10 miles of range on a charge which means it needs to be charged more often to drive electric.

 

This leads us to what the philosophy is for public charging.  Are they there as life preservers for people who drive battery only electric cars, or are they there to maximize electric vehicle miles travelled?  I think the days where BEVs need a life preservers are long gone and what we really need to do now is to try and reduce carbon footprint and air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.  for that reason what we really need is to increase eVMT and this policy is going to have the exact opposite effect.

 

I spend quite a lot of time in Beverly Hills and charge there three to 4 times per week using on average a little under 6KWHr per week.  I do get to see the city's charging infrastructure on a fairly regular basis and I can say that about 70% of vehicles charging are PHEV.  I also see quite a few cars that are blocking chargers and most of the time these are BEVs.  PHEVs are more likely to  be hogging the chargers although this has become more rare in the past couple of years.

 

If we except the fact that Plug-in Hybrids typically have less range and so will need to be charged more frequently then it's a pretty good bet that many of these are going to be running on gas more often now that they are not going to be able to charge.  I know that I for one will no longer be travelling 1000 miles before filling up.

 

There may also be an economic downside to this change too but his is more likely to be felt by  the businesses in the city than it is for city government.  Part of my philosophy, and one that I have promoted in my blogs, is to support businesses that provide free charging.  That includes supporting business within a city that provides free charging.  It is a good way to bring customers into a location.  Since I charge a lot in Beverly Hills I have also moved a good deal of my purchases into the city too.  Whenever possible I prefer shopping or dining in Beverly Hills simply because I can get a charge for free so I take the money I would have spent on electric or gas, and quite a bit more, and spend it on other things. 

 

Now I am going to have to go back to spending money on gas and no longer have an obligation to prefer Beverly Hills locations.  My dollars will once again go to Shell or Chevron instead of Kelly's Coffee or Whole Foods.  I don't want this to sound petty, I am not talking about boycotting shopping in the city because of this policy, it's just that I no longer have a reason to drive into Beverly Hills and have coffee and a pastry while my car charges. 

 

It's difficult to gage how much economic impact this change will have.  Will the decline in people driving their PHEVs into Beverly Hills be offset by people with BEVs who feel more comfortable driving into the city now that they are more likely to be able to get a charge?  Only time will tell.

 

The next question is, are there alternatives that could solve these problems?

 

First I think that the City should have properly policed the charger network in the first place.  Second, if they set up the duel head chargers correctly so they only dropped charge when both connections on the physical charger were in use, and did not drop the charge rate on any one connection below 3.3 KW unless the car was requesting less than that, a lot of these issues would be reduced.

 

Most people who responded to Chelsea's tweet just said that the city needed more chargers and this is probably true.  There are better solutions to this issue than just plain banning more than half of all plug-in vehicles from using the chargers.  Providing some 110V chargers would be quite adequate for many PHEV drivers as well has those that drive NEVs and conversions. 

 

If the problem really is that the BEVs are not being able to charge then how about providing some fast chargers which would allow BEVs to get a pretty good charge in 30 minutes to an hour.  According to Plughare there is only  1 CHadeMo/CCS fast charger in Beverly Hills and that is in a private parking structure that has very expensive parking rates.  Another just opened at Bristol Farms in West Hollywood which is right on the border with  Beverly Hills.  Several more would alleviate the BEV charger problem, at least for the time being.

 

For me I have already begun to look for destinations that are going to offer me charging and I know that I will be spending more time in Santa Monica and less time in Beverly Hills in the future.  I've already found a new destination for when I am in the mood for Chinese food and I am sure I will find plenty more over the next few months.


4/2/2018 Noel added:

I just stopped by one of my favorite charging spots this morning a little after 9am.  The signs have been updated to read "battery electric only vehicles BEOV".  I did notice one additional statement that said the car must have an "active charging session" meaning that if you car becomes full you can be ticketed and/or towed.  3 of the 4 spaces were occupied, all of them by plug-in hybrids.  So far no tickets issued to these drivers.  I  wonder if they realize they are going to be charged for the session?


4/3/2018 Noel added:

What a difference a day makes.  I stopped by the same charging spot today around 8:15 which is about the time I would normally be moving my car after about an hour of charging.  Today there were no cars parked there at all, not one single charge connector was in use.  I'm not sure if this is because of the fee or because the people who use the spot regularly got ticketed, or hopefully just a warning, yesterday.


Sunday March 25, 2018 – More EV Bashing in Forbes – Once again Forbes has published an article by Steve Pociask that uses dubious information to bash EVs. In this case, his article is in support of removing the waiver that allows California to apply stricter air pollution reduction standards than those that apply through the clean air act. 

 

Mr. Pociask is the president of The American Consumer Institute which calls itself a "free market think tank"  It is set up so that donations are fully tax deductible.  I haven't been able to find out anything about who their donors are but given the right wing nature of the ACI I suspect the usual group who are more than likely heavily involved in the fossil fuel industry.  There are also going to be telecommunication companies too as the ACI is very vocal in its opposition to net neutrality.

 

His article is another of those that tries to show that EVs are actually worse for the environment than gas cars even though this has been debunked over and over again.  It relies on a couple of debunked studies.  One of his links actually points to an article in "What's Up with That", a well know global warming denier site.  This article actually does show something we do know, there is a lot of energy needed to create lithium ion batteries and this leads EVs having higher emissions of CO2 during the build phase.   What he doesn't tell us is that much of this CO2 production can be offset by using renewable energy.  To illustrate, Tesla's Giga Factory in Nevada is powered mostly by a 70 MW solar array with  additional power gathered from wind turbines.  They even use waste heat from the battery manufacturing process to heat the factory.

 

The other study used is the one done by Arthur D. Little in 2015 which shows that while electric cars create less CO2 over the life of the car it does produce toxins that will cause the deaths of more humans that if we were all driving ICE cars.  These conclusions come from some very dubious assumptions that drive the study. 
 
The first assumption is that the cars will require a new battery every seven to ten years.  This is true for cars powered by lead acid batteries and is pretty close to the mark for the RAV4-EV with  NiMH batteries but is not true for hybrid cars with NiMH that have been going along quite well with very few of these cars requiring battery pack replacement.  For lithium based chemistries the jury is still out.  There have been some issues with reduced battery capacity on the early Nissan Leaf cars but other than that we have no real hard data.  The Lithium batteries on the Tesla Roadster, some of which are now approaching 10 years old, appear to be holding up quite well.  The issue here is that we just don't have enough data to draw a conclusion. 

 

Another issue with the Arthur D. Little study is that is makes the assumption that people would need to keep an ICE vehicle around to deal with range issues on the electric car.  To compensate for this they attribute a certain amount of pollution from driving an ICE to the emissions of an electric car.  The problem with this is that what we see is the opposite effect.  Most families that have both an EV and an ICE vehicle tend to use the EV whenever possible.  In reality, the pollution from the ICE is being reduced because of more use on the electric.

 
Some of the pollution factors assigned to the electric car is also the old red herring "EVs are powered by coal".  Coal is actually in its death throws right now and we are seeing a general drop in the percentage of electricity generated by coal even in states where coal is king.  Wind power is now both cheaper and cleaner and is beginning to displace coal powered plants in the middle of the country where wind is plentiful.  Here in California, where 40% of all electric cars are bought, we now get only a very small percentage of power from coal while the percentage derived from renewables is increasing at a great rate.

 

The article also brings up a study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research but this study conveniently excluded down line emissions for producing gasoline which renders any of there findings totally invalid.  It should also be noted that while most of their backers of NBER are banks and insurance companies, they also include Exxon Mobile and GM.

 

The article also goes after the fact that those that can afford electric cars tend to be in a higher income category and tend to get the bulk of the benefit.  What they fail to realize is that this is one case where trickle down economics actually works.  The price of used electric cars tends to be lower because of the subsides paid to new buyers so this means that those with lesser incomes, who usually  buy used anyway, now have an option to get a used EV that is cost equivalent to a used ICE but with much lower running costs.

 

Once again, Steve Pociask has it all wrong, EVs are cleaner than ICE vehicles and they get cleaner as the electric grid gets cleaner.  Battery design and manufacture is also improving so that batteries are lasting longer and less pollution is being generated to produce them.  The clean air waiver for California isn't about electric cars though.  It's about fixing an air quality issue that had led to California having the worst air quality in the nation for decades.  Those of us that have lived here for a long time have seen the progress that is being made and we don't want to go back to air that is even worse, and more damaging to our health, just to put a few more dollars in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.  The waiver needs to stand but if it does not, there are actions that can be taken at the state and city level to keep the improvements moving forward.


Sunday March 18, 2018 – Still Hard to Buy a BEV – Back in 1999 I tried to buy a BEV and it proved way too hard which is why I  founded evfinder.com.  While it is much easier now it can still be frustratingly difficult as a friend of mine found out recently while trying to find an all electric car. 

 

His situation is probably not all that uncommon.  He had leased his Leaf a little over 3 years ago and at the end of the lease Nissan allowed him to extend the it a little while waiting for the new Nissan Leaf to arrive in dealerships.  Like many drivers who have driven electric he doesn't want to go back to an ICE although he does have a family minivan that he is hanging onto for the time being.  At the time of the launch, Nissan said they had 13,000 orders for the new Leaf, and as of the end of February they had only delivered about 1,000 cars so pickings at the dealerships are slim.

 

Tom hasn't been able to find a car that is the right trim level and color for him at the local Nissan dealerships and with only 2 more weeks before he has to return his Leased Leaf, and Nissan being inflexible about another extension even if he does place an order for the Leaf he wants and is waiting for it to arrive.  He ruled out the Bolt because he didn't need to 238 mile range and wanted a somewhat lower price point on the car.  The price point was also an issue with the e-Golf and the BMW i3.  Price, plus the 2 year wait list, also ruled out the Tesla Model 3.  He also wanted to stick with pure electric rather than going plug-in hybrid.

 

Tom is lucky as he lives in Southern California and so he doesn't have the issue with cars not being available here, at least on paper.  He has several choices that will fit his daily driving requirements within his budget, the Fiat 500e, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Smart Electric Drive, Kia Soul EV, and Honda Clarity Electric.  The Fiat 500e and Smart electric drive were ruled out up front because they were really too small for the needs of him and his family. Finding a suitable electric car from the remaining three became a challenge.

 

His first hurdle was finding actual cars on dealer lots.  Honda for example have an excellent lease deal on the Clarity electric which is only available for lease anyway.  The car fit his needs perfectly, it had the size and range he needed in a package that was well within his budget.  The problem was that nobody appeared to have them in stock.  He contracted several local dealers in his area and he found very few who were willing to admit that these cars even existed.  They wanted to push him into a regular ICE vehicle or perhaps the plug-in hybrid but none could offer him a Clarity Electric.

 

I did a search checking out the dealerships that were most likely to carry this car such  as Scott Robinson in Torrance who was the main Southern California Honda Dealer for the EV+ and the Civic CNG.  They had plenty of Clarity PHEV and even a couple of Clarity FCEV but no Clarity Electric.  I didn't search all the Honda dealerships in LA and Orange Counties but I did do a pretty good selection and I couldn't find a single Honda Clarity Electric in Inventory. 

 

Next I moved on the Hyundai to see if I could find an Ioniq Electric.  It was the same story I found at Honda, dealers had the Ioniq hybrid and the Ioniq PHEV but not the Ioniq Electric.  Again I tried a good sample of the local dealers especially the ones I know are large volume dealerships.  I even went as far as checking the Hyundai dealership in Palm Springs but could not find a since electric listed.  One thing that did surprise me is that in many dealerships I found that they had more PHEV that standard hybrids in stock.

 

I had a bit better luck with the Kia Soul EV.  I found that most dealers I checked had some in stock even if it was just one or two.  I even found a dealership in Glendale that had 22 listed in inventory although they did not list any pricing information on their web site, they just asked people to call for pricing.

 

I have a couple of suggestions for him.  Right now there are a few Chevy dealerships that still have some unsold 2017 Bolts in stock.  I also came across a few VW e-Golf that were at a lower price point than the normal price and these would probably meet his needs too.  I checked several VW dealerships and they also seemed to have one or two e-Golf in stock but I found I had to search around to find them, it wasn't obvious that they were there until I dug around a little.

 

Tom has recently been looking at deals on Volts which would probably allow him to do most of his driving in electric but he really wants to stay full Battery Electric.  His experience looking for cars has been pretty much what we have seen since 1997, car sales personnel who are clueless about electric cars, those that want to push you  into a car that makes them the most money which is never the electric model, and dealerships that just don't bother to stock cars.  I hope he can find something before he is due to return his Leaf.


Noel added

Just an update, Tom followed up on a lead I  gave him for an unsold 2017 Chevy Bolt that was heavily discounted and is now the proud owner of a very nice blue one. 


Sunday March 11, 2018 – February 2018 EV Sales – Another month, another sales record.  February 2018 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 16,489 plug-in cars were sold in February, about 30% ahead of the previous highest February sales set in 2017 which saw estimated sales of 12,375 cars.

 

It should be noted that several manufacturers have stopped breaking out plug-in sales for models that have a plug-in version.  This includes Hyundai/Kia, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.  To fill in the gaps I am relying on the good folks at InsideEV who have had a track record for pretty accurate estimates of sales from the likes of Tesla and Fiat. 

 

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 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 estimates. In February Tesla sales were an estimated 4,485 cars.

 

After selling an estimated 800 Model S sedans in January, sales in February Climbed to an estimated 1125 cars.  This was down from the 1750 Model S sales in February 2017.  It appears that Tesla is diverting resources away from Model S production to the Model 3.

 

Sales of the Model X in February was an estimated 875 cars. This was up a little from the 800 sales in February 2017.  Previously in January Tesla had sold an estimated 700 cars.

 

It appears that Tesla is still having issues with the to ramp up production of the Model 3 and they still appear to be struggling to reach 1000 cars per week on a consistent basis.  This translated to February sales of an estimated 2,485 cars.  Previously in January they delivered 1,875 cars.  It remains to be seen how quickly sales will continue to ramp up over the next few months but I am of the opinion that Tesla is ramping up slowly so they don't hit the 200,000 sales mark until July which will preserve the full $7,500 Federal tax credit through the end of this year.

 

After selling 713 cars in January, Volt sales increased to a disappointing 983 cars in February.  Volt sales are being hit from two directions, first it appear that sales of the Chevy Bolt is having a big impact on Chevy Volt sales.  The second factor is the arrival of a whole bunch of Plug-in Hybrids that are offering electric only ranges of close to 30 miles which, while nothing close to the 55 miles of range of the Volt, still makes them strong contenders.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt have been increasing steadily each month since April setting new monthly sales records every month.  This run finally, though not unexpectedly, came to an end in January with sales of 1,117 cars.  Sales in February increased somewhat to 1424 cars up considerably from the 952 cars sold in February 2017.  GM has announced that it is planning to increase production of the Bolt in the coming months.

 

Cadillac only managed to sell 6 CT6 PHEV in January but sales climbed back to a more normal 24 in February. 

 

In February GM sold a total of 2,431 plug-in cars.

 

Toyota continued to do well with the Prius Prime selling 2,050 cars in February after selling 1,496 cars in January.  The Prius Prime is priced such that after the Federal Tax credit it is actually cheaper than the base Prius model.  The Prius Prime is still not available nationwide.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in January they sold 166 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 3,126 Mirai.

 

BMW sales have been all over the map for the past year or so and now they have stopped breaking out sales of their models that are plug-in versions of other models.  This is going to make the estimation of plug-in sales quite difficult.  In January it is estimated that they sold a total of 1,885 cars spread across their seven 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.  January saw sales of 382 cars but sales Jumped to 623 cars in February as new inventory arrived in the US.

 

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 recently they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range, although December did see sales climb to 80 cars.  In January sales dropped back to 32 cars which has become the norm for the last six months.  February saw sales improve a little to 38 cars.

 

The BMW X5 xDrive40e used to trade in the range of 400 - 600 but recently they have only been trading in the 200 - 400 range. In  September sales were 333 cars and this fell by 10 cars in October to 323 cars.  Then in November sales went wild leaping to 929 cars setting a new sales record.  I would have expected sales to have fallen substantially in December due to lack of inventory but BMW still managed to move an additional 832 cars.  In January sales dropped back to just 261 cars but improved again in February  to an estimated 450 cars.

 

Sales of the 330e also did well in November selling 477 cars, the second best month ever.  In December sales pulled back a little to 363 cars and this trend continued in January as sales dropped further to just 101 cars.  February saw a bit of a rebound as an estimated 179 cars were sold.

 

The same thing happened with the BMW 530e which set a new all time sales record selling 872 cars in November after selling 583 cars in October.  Again there was a slight pullback in December but they sill managed to sell 706 cars, then in January sales plummeted to just 224 cars but rebounded to an estimated 368 cars in February.

 

Sales of the BMW 740e is expected to remain low for the rest of this year as the car is basically sold out so the US only received a token inventory.  In November sales fell just 3 short of tying the record sales month when 120 cars were sold.  December sales pulled back to 67 cars and dropped further in January to just 18 cars then rebounded to an estimated 48 cars in February.

 

The one bright spot for BMW in January was sales for the Mini Countryman PHEV which set an all time high month selling 127 cars.  February was yet another monthly high with estimated sales of 178 cars.

 

Ford saw a bit of a sales recovery in February selling 1,006 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 794 cars.  Previously in January 640 cars were sold.

 
Sales for the C-Max Energi fell in February to 142 cars after selling 234 cars in January.  Ford has already halted production of the C-Max Energi so sales numbers will continue to fall as remaining inventory is depleted.
 
The Ford Focus EV fell below its usual range of 100 to 200 cars selling 73 cars in January and continued the downward trend in February selling just 70 cars.

 

Honda returned to the plug-in market in full force when they started selling the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity at the end of November.  In February Honda sold 985 plug-in Vehicles.  In contrast to some other manufacturers they have also begun breaking out sales for each of the different Clarity models.

 

Sales of the Clarity electric got off to a surprisingly good with 507 cars being sold in December, after November sales of an estimated 439.  In January sales fell to 262 units and the trend continued falling to just 104 in February.

 

Sales of the PHEV started right at the end of the November and Honda says that it delivered just 5 cars. Honda reported sales of 898 cars for December and in January they sold an additional 594 cars and sales climbed again in February to 881 cars.  The Honda PHEV seems like a really excellent car so I expect to see good sales assuming Honda provides enough dealer inventory.

 

Like Toyota, Honda is also investing big-time in Fuel Cell Vehicles and in February they reported sales of 243 cars.

 

With sales of the next generation Nissan Leaf just getting started sales of the Nissan Leaf reached a low point in December with  only 102 cars being sold.  In January sales picked up a bit hitting 150 cars but jumped to 895 cars in February.  Nissan claim to have 13,000 orders for the Leaf so I expect sales go back to the 1000+ range beginning in March.

 

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 685 Plug-in Cars in  February.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that in January sales were 210 cars.  In  February sales rose slightly to an estimated 235 cars.

 

After a rocky start, sales of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivan seem to be taking off again after a glitch in July where sales were just 125 cars.  August got back to what appears to be more normal sales of 300 to 500 cars per month with sales of 345 cars and in September sales improved further to 475 cars.  Sales in October were previously misstated at 1,175 but have since been adjusted to 875 minivans being sold.  Unfortunately the plant where they are made was closed down for re-tooling for most of October so I was expecting sales in November to be hard hit by lack of inventory but they still managed to sell an estimated 570 cars.  In December with inventory beginning to arrive back at dealerships sales increased to 720 cars, while January saw sales drop back to 375 cars, but ramp up again in February to 450 car.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. With the 2018 model year cars now arriving,  February saw sales up  slightly to 519 units.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  Now that the 2018 Models have started to arrive sales returned to normal selling levels in December as 270 cars were sold.  In January sales dropped back to 145 cars and in February sales increased to an estimated 199 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in July sales came in right in the middle of the normal range at 308 cars.  Sales in August were just a little higher at 317 cars but fell to 187 in September.  They moved back into the normal selling range in October selling 203 cars and sales increased in November to 289 cars and 343 cars in December then fell back in January to 179 cars.  In February they fell just 2 short of their normal trading range coming in at an estimated 198 cars.

 

The Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid sold only 23 cars in December, but managed to sell 113 cars in January and an estimated 121 in February.

 
The Panamera 4 e-hybrid finally showed up in dealerships this month with sales of just 1 car.  There were no sales of the Panamera S e-hybrid.

 

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 but last year they sold in the 200 - 300 range for a time. So far this year they have gone back to the 100-200 range with sales of an estimated 115 in January and 135 in February.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, 2016 but sales didn't actually kick off until January, 2017.  In January they sold 86 cars climbing to an estimated 95 cars in February.

 

Kia also began sales of the Niro PHEV in January and sold 155 cars.  Sales improved a little in February climbing to 170 cars.  The Niro PHEV is a plug-in version of the Niro crossover and offers an all electric range of 26 miles.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 400 plug-in cars in February.

 

After many false starts Mitsubishi finally began selling the Outlander PHEV in the US with Sales of 99 cars for December.  January was the first full month of sales for the Outlander PHEV and an impressive 300 cars were sold.  They followed that by increasing sales to 323 cars in February.  The Outlander PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 22 miles of all electric range.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV normally sells in the 100 - 200 range.  In January they fell 1 short of the normal trading range selling just 99 cars.  February saw a return to the normal trading range when 126 vehicles were sold.

 

Volvo is one of the companies that has committed to electrifying their entire lineup of cars.  Toward this end they began selling the XC60 PHEV at the end of July.  December saw a monthly sales record of 174 cars but January fell a little bit to 109 cars and February was right in the middle with 140 cars.  The XC60 PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 18 miles of all electric range.

 

In September Volvo introduced their first plug-in hybrid sedan, the S90 T8 PHEV selling 5 units.  October saw sales increase to 28 cars with a further increase to 32 cars in November and 52 cars in December then falling to 27 cars in January but recovering to 49 cars in February

 

In February Volvo sold a total of 315 Plug-in Vehicles.

 

It appears that Mercedes-Benz is going to discontinue production of the B250e later this year so I expect sales will continue to be low for this vehicle which normally sells in the 40 - 60 range.  February was right in the middle of that range with an estimated 49 cars being sold.  Previously in January 40 cars were sold. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars but recently sales have been in the 10 - 30 car range with December seeing 26 cars being sold.   In January sales fell to just 13 cars but recovered in February when an estimated 40 cars were sold.

 

Sales of the  Mercedes Benz GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV have recently hovered in the 30 - 60 range.  In December they sold 82 cars, just 1 short of the record high month set in December, 2016 when 83 cars were sold.  In January sales fell back to a more normal 44 cars but sales in February hit an estimated 90 cars which would be a new monthly record if the estimate is correct.

 

The Mercedes-Benz C350e set a new sales record in August selling 212 cars.  This would have seriously depleted inventory and in September sales dropped to a more normal 126 cars then tumbled further to just 49 cars in October, 16 cars in November, and 14 cars in December.  January saw something or an improvement as sales climbed to 29 cars and the trend continued in February when an estimated 90 more cars were sold.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 269 Plug-in cars in February.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were135 cars in November climbing to 195 cars in December but falling back to 52 cars in January and 65 in February.  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.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Ioniq also seem to have faltered in November with just 23 cars sold after selling 28 cars in October but they ended the year with an all time high month in December selling 79 cars.  In January sales dropped back to just 35 cars but climbed again in February to 56 cars.  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. 

 

In January Hyundai finally began delivery of the Ioniq plug-in hybrid delivering 22 cars.  In February this climbed to 30 cars.  The Ioniq PHEV delivers 29 miles of all electric range and has an impressive combined fuel economy of 52mpg.

 

In February Hyundai sold a total of 151 plug-in cars. 

 

Smart currently has the distinction of being at the bottom of the list in terms of number of plug-in sales this month.  Considering that they sold 90 plug-in cars during the month of February, this says quite a bit about the current state of plug-in car sales.  In total Smart sold only 106 cars in the US this month so they really are moving towards being an EV only company.  Previously  in January Smart sold 84 plug-in cars.

 

2018 got off to a slow start but for plug-in sales.  January is historically the slowest month of the year as people rush to buy in December so they can take the Federal tax credit the following March.  This means that inventories are typically low going into January leading to lower sales.  February, which is also normally a poor month for plug-in car sales, showed a decent uptick in sales volume.  Sales usually pick-up in March so we should see some new records smashed.  I don't expect things to go really crazy until the 3rd quarter when I expect Tesla sales to head into the stratosphere.


Sunday March 4, 2018 – Tax Credit Phase Out – Normally for the first blog of the month I would report on Sales for plug-in vehicles but unfortunately some manufacturers have decided to stop breaking out sales numbers for plug-in vehicles.  This means that the actual number of sales will take longer to estimate and so there will be a delay in getting the numbers to report.  I thought I might take this time to review the Federal tax credit as it seems that some manufactures may begin the phase out period later this year. 

 

The Federal tax credit applies to plug-in cars with a battery capacity of at least 4KWhrs.  Tax credits range from $2,500 and increase by $417 for each additional kilowatt hour of capacity up to a maximum of $7,500.  This sum applies to the first 200,000 cars sold by each manufacturer after which the company enters a phase out period of 1 year.

 

The rules of the phase out period, per the IRS web site are as follows:

 

"The qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (“phase-out period”). Qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are eligible for 50 percent of the credit if acquired in the first two quarters of the phase-out period and 25 percent of the credit if acquired in the third or fourth quarter of the phase-out period. Vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are not eligible for a credit if acquired after the phase-out period."

 

So far no manufacturer has sold 200,000 vehicles but that is going to change this year.  Both Tesla and General Motors appear to be close enough that they will both hit the magical 200,000 number some time in the 3rd quarter of this year.  That will mean that these two companies will enter the phase out period. If my interpretation of the IRS rules are correct both companies should be OK for 2018 but will see reduced tax credits for 2019 and none for 2020.

 

First let me say that I am not a tax expert so you should check with your tax advisor before you purchase a vehicle.

 

The IRS document says that the tax credit will begin to phase out on the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter when they hit the 200,000 mark.  Let's assume that Tesla hits 200,000 in August 2018.  August falls in the third calendar quarter of 2018.  The first calendar quarter after that would be the fourth quarter of 2018 and for this quarter Tesla buyers would continue to received the full tax credit of $7,500.  The second calendar quarter would be first quarter of 2019 and for this quarter and the following quarter Tesla buyers would receive 50% of the tax credit which is $3,750.  For the final 2 quarters of 2019 Tesla buyers would receive 25% of the full tax credit which is $1,875.

 

The story at GM is probably going to be the same as they too are expected to hit 200,000 cars in the second quarter of 2018.  Nissan is probably going to be next but is unlikely to hit the 200,000 mark until some time in 2019 depending on how well the new Leaf sells.  The longer range leaf, due out late this year, will probably benefit from the reduced tax credit for the Chevy Bolt.

 

It is uncertain how the drop in tax credit will impact sales of vehicles like the Chevy Bolt or the Tesla Model 3 but this may prove to be a boon for some of their competitors who are getting ready to launch their own high range lower cost plug-in vehicles and will have the tax credit to provided competitive advantage.


Sunday February 25, 2018 – Ioniq Problems – This week I read an article on Electrek from Jordan Kahn, a resident of Toronto, Canada, who has been experiencing some intermittent charging issues when trying to charge using the 110V charger that came with his Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

I know from experience that intermittent electrical problems can be really difficult to diagnose.  What usually happens is that you have the problem then take it to the dealership and try to reproduce the issue but everything works OK.  The minute you get the car home the problem starts to happen again.  Jordan is experiencing the same sort of frustrating problems and as of the time of writing his car has been off the road for 30 days with no fix in sight.

 

Other owners have also reported a similar problem and in some cases have found a solution.  When the temperature gets down well below freezing, ice can build up inside the charge port causing the connector from the charger to not make a reliable connection, which leads to charging failures.  The solution for some has been to warm up the charge port using a hair drier before inserting the charge connector.

There have also been reports of people having trouble removing the charger after charging is complete.  One person in the UK posted on a message board that she had to have the Automobile Association come out and disassemble the charge port to get the charge cable removed from the car.  There is a recall on the Ioniq electric that is for the inlet actuator replacement but I haven't been able to find if this is related to the charge cable issue.  There was a similar issue with the Prius Plug-in but it turned out to be a rubber seal in the charge cable connector that doesn't actually do anything and the fix is to remove it.

 

Talking of recalls, there is also a recall for the 2017 Ioniq electric that is related to a coolant leak that can get into the EPCU and cause the car to stall.  This problem does not appear to be an issue with the Ioniq being sold here in the USA.

 

Another problem that seems to an ongoing issue at Hyundai is a rumored shortage of batteries.  This was the primary reason that the Outlander PHEV took so long to reach the US.  Sales were doing so well in Europe that Mitsubishi just couldn't get enough batteries to meet demand so adding additional sales in the US did not seem like a good idea.  Now I am hearing that they are having similar issues with the Ioniq Electric where sales are so good that they didn't order enough batteries from LG Chem.  Hyundai are denying this but it seems like a good problem to have with the solution of ordering more batteries.

 

I have also heard complaints coming from the UK that range is below expected.  This appears to be an issue with two causes.  First the range given in the UK is based on the European test cycle which tends to give higher ranges than real world driving.  In the UK range is quoted at around 150 miles compared to the 124 miles of range given by the EPA here in the US.  The second issue is that the UK is experiencing a pretty cold winter and we all know that range can take quite a big hit in very cold weather.  One particular report quoted a wake up range of 117 miles which is much closer to the EPA number than the UK number but still turned out a little high when the owner was doing freeway driving in cold weather.

 

The Hyundai Electric is a pretty new car and as with all new car models you can expect a few teething problems.  I think for the most part the issue being experienced are not too bad, but if you are not prepared for the possibility of encountering such issues it is probably better to go with a more established model rather being an early adopter.  I expect Hyundai to really get a handle on this and the 2019 model year will really rock.


Sunday February 18, 2018 – EV Corridor Analysis Tool – Earlier this week I received a press release from the Georgetown Climate Center announced the availability of an electric vehicle (EV) corridor analysis tool developed by M.J. Bradley & Associates.  This tool is designed to allow input from EV drivers about potential locations for DC fast charging stations that will serve major corridors in the North East from Washington DC to Main. 

 

The tool opens into a visualization map which shows the main corridors and has dots indicating which type of fast charger is available.  A dark green dot indicates locations that have both CHAdeMO and SAE connectors.  Light green dots indicate SAE only.  Light blue dots show sites that have only CHAdeMO.  Purple dots indicate sites that have Tesla and CHAdeMO.  The larger the dot the more charging ports there are at the site.

 

The first thing I noticed is the lack of Tesla charging locations.  The map only shows locations that were within 5 miles of a major corridor and I thought that might be the reason.  I took a look at Tesla's supercharger map and it was clear that they had charging locations along many of the area's corridors including many locations along interstate 95, the main north/south corridor.  It appears that by default, this map only shows Tesla locations that also have CHAdeMO chargers.  There is a button labeled layers which when pressed produces a drop down menu, and one of the selections there is Tesla charging locations.  If this option is checked then a little red T appears to denote the location of Tesla superchargers. 
 
The map could be useful for people who  want to see what charger options you have if you are travelling in this area as it shows just chargers located near the main routes so you don't have to deal with lots of chargers not near the freeways as you would if you used something like plug-share.  If you click on one of the dots you  get a pop-up showing information about the site.  I did notice that some of the entries showed the network the charger was connected to but many did not meaning that some additional research would need to be done to make sure that a planned charging stop was actually usable

 

The layering also allows other details to be added to the map including highlighting stretches of the corridors that have heavy traffic volume and showing areas that exceed EPA standards for Ozone.  There is even a layer that adds pop-up information on traffic volume when you click on one of the highlighted corridors.  You can then click on the Zoom and it will take you to a close-up of the area of road you clicked on.  Pressing the "-" button the map zooms out a little and allows you to look at a detailed plan of the nearest exit.

 
Using the visualization map for trip planning is not the intended use of this tool.  It is actually intended to be used by EV drivers to make recommendations on the desirability of locations where new chargers can be added.  When the tool is downloaded it is supposed to load information into an excel spreadsheet and allow the EV driver to alter parameters.  This didn't happen when I downloaded the tool so I'm not sure how well this will work.

 

For those that want to give this a try the tool can be downloaded from http://www.mjbradley.com/analytical-resources.  Registration is required and is free.  According to the website the tool runs best in a Microsoft Windows environment.


Sunday February 11, 2018 – Volt Sales Decline – Since the introduction of the Chevy Bolt in December 2016 Volt sales seem to have been in decline.  Most people, including myself, have often attributed this the Chevy Bolt taking sales from the Volt.  While I am still convinced that this is a major reason for the decline I think that the availability of higher range Plug-in Hybrids is also a factor. 

 

In Particular, the popularity of the Prius Prime has almost certainly taken customers away from the Volt.  In January the Prius Prime was the second best selling plug-in car with only the Tesla Model 3 selling more cars.  Sales of the Prime were more than double sales of the Volt.

 

Price may be a factor in this with the base Volt starting at around $33,220 and the Prius Prime starting at $27,100.  Some of this price difference goes away for those that can take the Federal tax credit which is $7,500 for the Volt but only $4,500 for the Prius Prime.  The Volt goes a lot further on a charge with an EPA estimated 53 miles of range, while the Prius Prime offers just 25 miles of range.  25 miles of range is still adequate for many people so the lower cost, combined with better fuel  economy when not in EV mode, will be big selling points.

 

The first generation of plug-in hybrids offered pretty short range From the Prius Plug-in at 11 miles to the C-Max Energi with 20 miles of range.  These cars were not able to handle most people's daily commute without running the gas engine, while the first generation Volt, with 38 miles of battery only range, could.  Now there is a new generation of plug-in cars coming onto the market and while The Volt is still king in terms of plug-in hybrid range these new offerings are beginning to give people alternatives.

 

Note, The BMW i3 REx has a lot more range than the Volt but this is a true Extended Range Electric car not a plug-in hybrid so while it does provide competition for the Volt it currently sits in a category all on its own and attracts a different buyer, one who primarily wants a BEV but worries they may need additional range from time to time.

 

Over the last few months a new set of plug-in hybrids have appeared on the market that, like the Prius Prime, will probably erode the Volts customer base.

 

The Kia Optima PHEV has been around for a while now and offers an electric range of 29 miles.  This car should be selling a lot better than it is, but Kia have kept inventories low and in many areas it has to be special ordered, so it has not really provided much competition for the Volt.  The same can be said for the Sonata PHEV from Kia's parent company Hyundai which offers a slightly lower 27 miles of all electric range and is also has dealer inventory heavily constrained.

 

In January 2017 Chrysler finally released a plug-in hybrid minivan when the Pacifica Hybrid went on sales.  This plug-in minivan is a little pricy with the base model starting at $39,995 but it does provide an EPA estimated all electric range of 33 miles and right now it is the only plug-in minivan on the market.  It offers minivan flexibility with enough range for typical school runs and taking the kids to soccer practice. 

 

In November Honda moved into the Plug-in Hybrid market for the first time when it began sales of the Clarity PHEV.  Unlike the Clarity BEV and FCEV this Plug-in is being sold, not just leased, and is going to marketed nationwide.  The Clarity plug-in, with a base price of $34,290 offers a range of 47 miles on a charge.  The Clarity PHEV is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit so while it is slightly more expensive than the Chevy Volt and gets slightly less all electric range it is going to be a strong competitor to the Volt.

 

In December the much awaited Hyundai Outlander PHEV finally went on sale in the US.  This car has been the best selling plug-in hybrid in Europe for quite some time and if Hyundai can keep dealer inventory well stocked I expect it to be a big seller here too.  It is a bit lacking in range at and EPA estimated 22 miles but at a base price of $35,500 this SUV should do well.  I suspect that it will appeal to people who want a plug-in but also want to be driving an SUV.

 

January, 2018 saw the arrival in dealerships of the Kia Niro PHEV giving yet another option for low cost SUVs with decent all electric range.  The Kia Niro PHEV has an EPA estimated all electric range of 26 miles and starts at a base price of just $28,840 before tax credits.  This is going to compete primarily with the Outlander PHEV but also has the possibility of pulling customers away from the Volt.

 
One other plug-in hybrid also arrived in dealerships in January, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV.  This car offers an EP estimated alll electric range of 29 miles and a base price of just $25,950 before tax incentives.  Since this car may be eligible for the full tax credit it will make for a very cheap way to get into a PHEV and should provide quite a bit of competition for the Volt.

 

When the Volt first came out back in 2010 there was no real competition.  Offerings from the other manufacturers began to arrive but none came close to offering enough range to meet the average daily commute of 15 miles each way unless they could charge both at home and at work.  There are now 2 other car offerings, the Pacifica Hybrid and the Honda Clarity PHEV that can handle a 30 mile daily commute and 3 more that can come pretty close.  All the plug-in hybrids listed above can handle a daily commute of 11 miles or less each way without the need for a charge at work.  This means a greater selection of plug-in cars for the average commuter and this is going to impact Volt sales to some extent. 


Sunday February 4, 2018 – January 2018 EV Sales – Another month, another sales record.  January 2018 was the best January 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 12,116 plug-in cars were sold in January, about 10% ahead of the previous highest January sales set in 2017 which saw estimated sales of 11,004 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 estimates. In January Tesla sales were an estimated 3,375 cars.

 

After selling an estimated 4,975 Model S sedans in December, sales in January plummeted to an estimated 800 cars.  This was down from the 900 Model S sales in January 2017.  It appears that Tesla is diverting resources away from Model S production to the Model 3.

 

Sales of the Model X in January was an estimated 700 cars. This fell a little short of the 750 sales in January 2017.  Previously in December Tesla had sold an estimated 3,300 cars.

 

It appears that Tesla has finally begun to ramp up production of the Model 3 and word is that towards the end of December they were building about 1,000 cars per week.  This translated to January sales of an estimated 1,875 cars  Previously in December they delivered 1,060 cars.  It remains to be seen how quickly sales will continue to ramp up over the next few months.

 

After selling 1,937 cars in December, Volt sales dropped to a very disappointing 713 cars in January.  Volt sales are being hit from two directions, first it appear that sales of the Chevy Bolt is having a big impact on Chevy Volt sales.  The second factor is the arrival of a whole bunch of Plug-in Hybrids that are offering electric only ranges of close to 30 miles which, while nothing close to the 55 miles of range of the Volt, still makes them strong contenders.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt have been increasing steadily each month since April setting new monthly sales records every month.  This run finally, though not unexpectedly, came to an end in January with sales of 1,117 cars, well down from the 3,227 cars sold in December.  Sales were also down a little from the 1,162 cars sold in January 2017.

 

Cadillac only managed to sell 6 CT6 PHEV in January after setting a monthly sales record with 35 cars sold in December. 

 

In January GM sold a total of 1,896 plug-in cars.

 

Toyota continued to do well with the Prius Prime selling 1,496 cars in January after selling 2,420 cars in December.  The Prius Prime is priced such that after the Federal Tax credit it is actually cheaper than the base Prius model.  The Prius Prime is still not available nationwide.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in January they sold 213 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 2,960 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 January they sold a total of 1,145 cars spread across their seven 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.  December saw sales of 672 cars but sales dropped again in January with 382 cars going to customers.

 

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 recently they have only managed to trade in the 20 - 60 range, although December did see sales climb to 80 cars.  In January sales dropped back to 32 cars which has become the norm for the last six months.  It will be interesting to see if the arrival of the i8 Roadster later this year helps boost sales.

 

The BMW 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  September sales were 333 cars and this fell by 10 cars in October to 323 cars.  Then in November sales went wild leaping to 929 cars setting a new sales record.  I would have expected sales to have fallen substantially in December due to lack of inventory but BMW still managed to move an additional 832 cars.  In January sales dropped back to just 261 cars.

 

Sales of the 330e also did well in November selling 477 cars, the second best month ever.  In December sales pulled back a little to 363 cars and this trend continued in January as sales dropped further to just 101 cars.

 

The same thing happened with the BMW 530e which set a new all time sales record selling 872 cars in November after selling 583 cars in October.  Again there was a slight pullback in December but they sill managed to sell 706 cars, then in January sales plummeted to just 224 cars.

 

Sales of the BMW 740e is expected to remain low for the rest of this year as the car is basically sold out so the US only received a token inventory.  In November sales fell just 3 short of tying the record sales month when 120 cars were sold.  December sales pulled back to 67 cars and dropped further in January to just 18 cars.

 

The one bright spot for BMW in January was sales for the Mini Countryman PHEV which set an all time high month selling 127 cars.  Previously in December 72 cars were sold.

 

Ford saw an across the board fall in sales in January selling just 947 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and January was no exception with sales of 640 cars.  Previously in December 875 cars were sold.

 
Sales for the C-Max Energi fell in January to 234 cars after selling 436 cars in December.
 
The Ford Focus EV fell below its usual range of 100 to 200 cars selling 73 cars in January after selling 112 cars in December.

 

Honda returned to the plug-in market in full force when they started selling the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity at the end of November.  In January Honda sold an 856 plug-in Vehicles.

 

Sales of the Clarity electric have been surprisingly good with 507 cars being sold in December after November sales of an estimated 439.  In January sales fell to 262 units.

 

Sales of the PHEV started right at the end of the November and Honda says that it delivered just 5 cars. Honda reported sales of 898 cars for December and in January they sold an additional 594 cars.  The Honda PHEV seems like a really excellent car so I expect to see good sales assuming Honda provides enough dealer inventory.

 

Like Toyota, Honda is also investing big-time in Fuel Cell Vehicles.  Unfortunately they don't appear to be reporting sales of their Fuel Cell vehicle. 

 

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 585 Plug-in Cars in January.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that in December sales were 385 cars.  In January sales dropped to 210 cars.

 

After a rocky start, sales of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivan seem to be taking off again after a glitch in July where sales were just 125 cars.  August got back to what appears to be more normal sales of 300 to 500 cars per month with sales of 345 cars and in September sales improved further to 475 cars.  Sales in October were previously misstated at 1,175 but have since been adjusted to 875 minivans being sold.  Unfortunately the plant where they are made was closed down for re-tooling for most of October so I was expecting sales in November to be hard hit by lack of inventory but they still managed to sell an estimated 570 cars.  In December with inventory beginning to arrive back at dealerships sales increased to 720 cars while January saw sales drop back to 375 cars.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. With the 2018 model year cars starting to arrive, in January they sold 436 cars.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  Now that the 2018 Models have started to arrive sales returned to normal selling levels in December as 270 cars were sold.  In January sales dropped back to 145 cars.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in July sales came in right in the middle of the normal range at 308 cars.  Sales in August were just a little higher at 317 cars but fell to 187 in September.  They moved back into the normal selling range in October selling 203 cars and sales increased in November to 289 cars and 343 cars in December then fell back in January to 179 cars.

 

The Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid sold only 23 cars in December, but managed to sell 113 cars in January.

 
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, 2017 but doesn't appear to have arrived yet.  Porsche dealers did managed to find 5 copies to sell in November but recorded no sales in December or January.

 

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 but this year have been selling in the 200 - 300 range since August, when they sold an estimated 300 cars, their best sales month ever.  They didn't do quite as well in September and October but still managed to stay well above the 200 car level selling 255 and 210 cars respectively.  In November they stayed above the 200 level with sales of 207 cars and in December they just squeaked in to the bottom of the range with sales of 204 cars and sales tumbled in January to 135 cars.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, 2016 but sales didn't actually kick off until January, 2017.  In December they sold 134 cars dropping to just 86 cars in January.

 

Kia also began sales of the Niro PHEV in January and sold 155 cars.  The Niro PHEV is a plug-in version of the Niro crossover and offers an all electric range of 26 miles.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 376 plug-in cars in January.

 

After many false starts Mitsubishi finally began selling the Outlander PHEV in the US with Sales of 99 cars for December.  January was the first full month of sales for the Outlander PHEV and an impressive 300 cars were sold.  The Outlander PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 22 miles of all electric range.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV normally sells in the 100 - 200 range.  In October it was right in its normal selling range with 174 cars sold but jumped above 200 in November with sales of 204 cars.  In December it set a new monthly sales record selling 368 cars but in January they fell 1 short of the normal trading range selling just 99 cars.

 

Volvo is one of the companies that has committed to electrifying their entire lineup of cars.  Toward this end they began selling the XC60 PHEV at the end of July.  December saw a monthly sales record of 174 cars but January fell a little bit to 109 cars.  The XC60 PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 18 miles of all electric range.

 

In September Volvo introduced their first plug-in hybrid sedan, the S90 T8 PHEV selling 5 units.  October saw sales increase to 28 cars with a further increase to 32 cars in November and 52 cars in December then falling to 27 cars in January.  If Volvo can stock this car in quantity is should sell quite well..

 

In January Volvo sold a total of 235 Plug-in Vehicles.

 

With sales of the next generation Nissan Leaf just getting started sales of the Nissan Leaf reached a low point in December with  only 102 cars being sold.  In January sales picked up a bit hitting 150 cars sold.  Nissan claim to have 13,000 orders for the Leaf so I expect sales to begin climbing over the next few months.

 

It appears that Mercedes-Benz is going to discontinue production of the B250e later this year so I expect sales will continue to be low for this vehicle which normally sells in the 40 - 60 range.  In December they surprised by selling 111 cars, their best results since September, 2015 when they sold 147 cars.  In January sales dropped back to a more normal 40 cars. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars but recently sales have been in the 10 - 30 car range with December seeing 26 cars being sold.   In January sales fell to just 13 cars.

 

Sales of the  Mercedes Benz GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV have recently hovered in the 30 - 60 range.  In December they sold 82 cars, just 1 short of the record high month set in December, 2016 when 83 cars were sold.  In January sales fell back to a more normal 44 cars.

 

The Mercedes-Benz C350e set a new sales record in August selling 212 cars.  This would have seriously depleted inventory and in September sales dropped to a more normal 126 cars then tumbled further to just 49 cars in October, 16 cars in November, and 14 cars in December.  January saw something or an improvement as sales climbed to 29 cars.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 126 Plug-in cars in January.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were135 cars in November climbing to 195 cars in December but falling back to 52 cars in January.  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.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Ioniq also seem to have faltered in November with just 23 cars sold after selling 28 cars in October but they ended the year with an all time high month in December selling 79 cars.  In January sales dropped back to just 35 cars.  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. 

 

In January Hyundai finally began delivery of the Ioniq plug-in hybrid delivering 22 cars.  The Ioniq PHEV delivers 29 miles of all electric range and has an impressive combined fuel economy of 52mpg.

 

In January Hyundai sold a total of 109 plug-in cars. 

 

I had been asking for a while now when will the upgraded Smart Electric Drive begin to arrive in the USA.  Well, it finally arrived in August with sales of 94 cars.  In September, as inventory improved, sales climbed to 123 cars but in October sales fell back to 73 cars and fell further to 68 cars in November but bounced back to 129 cars in December falling back to 84 cars in January.  To put this in context, Smart sold just 105 cars in the US for January so the electric model made up more than 80% of Smart sales for the month.

 

2018 got off to a slow start but for plug-in sales.  January is historically the slowest month of the year as people rush to buy in December so they can take the Federal tax credit the following March.  This means that inventories are typically low going into January leading to lower sales.  January saw the introduction of 3 new models and the first full month for a fourth, so it is likely that these models will begin to see improved sales as inventory builds up in dealerships.  The big question that is on everyone's mind though is just how quickly Tesla can ramp up production of the Model 3.


Sunday January 28, 2018 – It's Weather – Recently there has been a sever cold spell affecting the Mid West and Eastern parts of the United States and even Europe appears to have been impacted.  The right wing press has jumped on this as an indication that there is no global warming but that's not true. 

 

They often, sometimes on purpose, confuse climate with weather.  Weather is the local conditions that you will see reported on the news each night and is a good indicator of how to dress.  Do you  need shorts and a T-Shirt or do you need a thick coat, boots and gloves.  Climate on the other hand looks at the statistics of Weather over a long period of time.  Climate science looks at how things like temperature is changing planet wide over an extended period of time.

 

Think about this; video of a school bus sliding down hill on an icy road is going to hit the news and spread like wildfire on social media, but who is going to be surprised by a hot day in Los Angeles.  Well, the truth is that Los Angeles, and just about all of the West Coast from Alaska to the Mexican boarder, has been seeing lots of warmer than normal days this winter.  As I sit typing this blog we are looking at a day that is expected to be 17 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year.  This is not an isolated case either.  For most of the last three months the temperature around here has been between 5 and 20 degrees above normal.

 

The cause of all this unusual weather is a ridge of high pressure over the Pacific off the coast of California.  This, coupled with the unusual high temperatures in the artic causes the polar jet to rise up closer to the artic circle then dip down over the mid west and east coast.  This causes warmer drier conditions in the western USA and colder wetter conditions in the middle and eastern portions of the country.  This leads to drought in California and snow in places like Atlanta and even in Northern Florida..

 

Looking at just weather is like staring at a small portion of a painting and thinking that you understand the whole work.  When you pull back and look at the whole picture you will get a much different view of things.  That's what climate scientists try to do.  They don't just look at what is going on in one small portion of the globe, they try to look at the whole picture.  For example while York in Northern England is flooded at the moment, Cape Town in South Africa is in such a severe drought that they are close to running out of water and may actually shut off water to the city requiring people to get a ration of water from stand pipes.

 

When organizations Like NASA, NOAA, and the UK Met Office looked at the whole picture for 2017 they found that after 2 years of increasing heat partly attributed to an El Nino condition in the Pacific, 2017 was the hottest year on record that was not affected by an El Nino, and the third hottest year on record.  When they look at the trends since 1880, when reliable records first began to be collected, the trend has been going up.  It may get unusually cold where you live, that's weather, but the overall trend for the planet is that it is getting hotter, and that's climate.

 

l would also like to mention that the right wing media has also been pushing a story about a new study from the University of Exeter that claims that climate sensitivity to CO2 in the atmosphere is less than projected.  Using a new method of calculating the sensitivity they came up  with a new value of 2.8 + 0.6C.  Most climate studies use a value of 1.5 to 4.5C. 

 

So what does this mean.  The liberal press would have us believe that global warming would be limited to 2.8C and this is not going to be that bad.  In reality, business as usual would mean that CO2 doubled by 2100 going from a little over 400ppm to about 850ppm.  Now, the climate has already warmed by about 1.2C so a further 2.8C is going to mean the climate will be about 4C warmer by 2100 than it was before the industrial revolution.  It should also be understood that 2.8C is an average and the previous average was 3.0C so the numbers are actually just .2C different for the most likely scenario.

 

Scientists have warned that to avoid the worst affects of climate change we need to limit warming to 2C so 4C would still be very bad so no, we are not out of the hole.  The other thing they usually leave out is that this new analysis also says that the best case scenario is also unlikely.  The best case under the current assumptions is 1.5C of warming for a doubling of atmospheric C02 but the new figure says that the best case scenario would be 2.2C so while this study says things might not be as bad as we thought, it also says that it could be much worse than the best case scenario and most likely would be about the same. 

 

So next time you hit a cold spell don't think it means the end to global warming.  It's just the weather.


Sunday January 21, 2018 – Solid State Batteries – The recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas included a lot of announcements that were being made in the battery electric vehicle space and appearing among these were companies that said they were going to introduce solid state batteries to their electric car models.

Solid state batteries are batteries that replace the liquid electrolyte found in conventional lithium ion or lead acid batteries with a solid.  This type of battery has become the holy grail for automotive batteries as they provide many improvements over conventional batteries.

 

The biggest improvement offered by solid state batteries is in energy density.  Energy density is the amount of energy that can be stored in a given weight of batteries.  Solid state batteries currently being developed should be able to offer about twice the energy density of conventional lithium ion batteries.  The benefit of this can be simply illustrated.  A Tesla model 3 offers and EPA estimated range of 310 miles.  To accomplish this it needs to lug around over 700 lbs. of batteries.  If we double the energy density of the batteries then,  in theory, the same range could be achieved with just 350 lbs. of batteries.  It's even better though, since the car no longer needs to lug around an additional 350 lbs. it should be able to go even further on the same amount of energy stored.

It is also expected that solid state batteries will be able to charge faster than current batteries so that electric cars could reach another holy grail, the ability to get a full charge in 5 to 10 minutes, about what it takes to fill up a gas car.  While one of the benefits of an electric car is to be able to fill up while the car is sitting idle, the slow rate of charge is one of the things that is currently inhibiting sales of electric cars.  Ultra-fast charging would eliminate the problems faced by many people today who do not have access to convenient charging at home or at their place of work.

 

Safety is another concern with lithium batteries which, while safer than gasoline, have been known to produce some quite impressive fires when something happens, such as serious overheating or being punctured, which sets of a reaction that causes the batteries to ignite.  Solid state batteries are expected to be more stable making battery fires very rare.

 

Cost is another possible advantage of solid state batteries.  Right now the batteries being developed are very costly but that's to be expected when dealing with prototypes.  It is expected that once these batteries become ready for production costs will fall to the point where solid state batteries will be cheaper than conventional lithium for a given driving range.

 

Theoretically the solid state battery should also have a much better cycle life than current battery technology.  Conventional lithium batteries support about 1,200 cycles before dropping to about 80% if capacity.  Some solid state batteries have been tested and still held 90% of their capacity after 10,000 cycles. For a 310 mile EV this type of battery would still be performing pretty well and still offering about 280 miles of range after 3 million miles.


Several electric car makers have announced that they are working on solid state batteries.  At CES 2018 Fisker debuted the EMotion which will initially use lithium ion batteries from LG Chem and offer 400 miles of range but they are also working on the development of solid state batteries which will increase the range to 500 miles and be able to charge is as quickly as 1 minute.

 

BMW also announced at CES that they have partnered with a company called Solid Power.  They are jointly developing a solid state battery that BMW plan to use in their next generation electric vehicle, planned for 2022, that is projected to offer a range of 500 miles on a charge.

 

The production of a cost effective, stable, solid state battery with extended cycle life and high energy density has been an elusive goal for many years now but companies finally appear to be zeroing in on functional systems.  These battery developments have pulled the interest of many electric car makers and Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Dyson all of whom are now working with companies to develop this new generation of batteries.  It may all end in nothing but it is beginning to look a lot more likely that we will see solid state batteries entering the market in the next 5 years.


Sunday January 14, 2018 – Fire and Flood – One of the warnings given by the scientists that study climate change is that the number and severity of severe weather events is likely to increase as global temperatures increase.  2017 was a year where we saw some pretty bad disasters and 2018 is already beginning to show the signs that it too will be a bad year for weather related disasters. 

 

Changing climate patterns impacting the West Coast over the past few years have set up perfect conditions for disaster.  It started out when a huge high pressure area stalled of the California coast back 2012 leading to four years of drought.  This came on top of the period from 2006 - 2010 which were also drought years.  Droughts of this duration have occurred in the past, but this one seems to be continuing with just short pauses.

 

These climate patterns set up the perfect conditions for a major natural disaster which is unfolding right now.  The long dry spell was punctuated with a wet winter for 2015 - 2016 in Southern California as the El Nino condition in the Southern Pacific began to fade allowing the polar jet to move south brining rains.  This wet weather was enough to promote a large amount of growth of vegetation in areas that had been dried out over the previous 4 years.  The weather pattern didn't persist though and was followed by a hotter than normal summer then one of the driest Falls ever recorded.  Over the last 6 months of 2017 less than an inch of rain fell in the LA basin. 
 
All the vegetation that had grown and flourished in the winter of 2017 now became tinder dry.  By the end of the year we saw the start of the Thomas fire which would become the larges wildfire ever recorded for California.  The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but power equipment owned by Southern California Edison is a primary suspect.  Before it was fully contained the Thomas fire burned for more than a month consuming 281,893 acres which is a little over 440 square miles.  That's an area larger than the city of San Diego.

 
Mother nature wasn't done just yet.  After the long dry start to the season on January 9th Southern California received its first significant rainfall.  A Pacific storm slid down the coast dumping as much as 1 - 2 inches per hour over the Thomas fire burn area.  With the vegetation burned exposing topsoil the powerful rain soon turned into a river of mud and debris that descended on the town of Montecito destroying Million dollar homes and taking lives.

 

So far 20 people are confirmed dead and 5 people are still unaccounted for,  Hundreds of properties have been damaged or destroyed.  Some of these include the historic Montecito Inn and the San Ysidro Ranch, a famous getaway for Hollywood celebrities. 

 

The economic impact is being further exacerbated by the continued closure of the 101 freeway, the main route between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.  Tourist destinations in that area are suffering because the alternate route to these areas involves a 10 hour drive which  few are willing to attempt for a weekend getaway.  So far there has been no indication of when the 101 freeway is going to re-open but since this is a holiday weekend the loss of business is going to be hard on hotels, shops an restaurants north of Montecito who are loosing a lot of business.

 

While we can't clearly say that the events unfolding here in Southern California are caused by Global Warming we can be pretty sure that the effects have been amplified by the warming temperatures we are seeing around the world.  2017 is probably going to be the hottest year on record not linked to an El Nino event and so things that are happening here in Southern California, and even the record cold weather happening on the East Coast need to be raising a flag that we have to do more to reduce our carbon footprint and slow, then reverse, the warming trend.


Sunday January 7, 2018 – December 2017 EV Sales – Another month, another sales record.  December 2017 was the best December on record for EV sales and 2017 was the best year ever 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 26,087 plug-in cars were sold in December, well ahead of the previous highest December sales set in 2016 which saw estimated sales of 24,785 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 estimates. In December Tesla sales were an estimated 9,335 cars.

 

After selling an estimated 1,335 Model S sedans in November, sales in December increased to 4,975 cars.  This was substantially down from the 5,850 Model S sales in December 2016.  It appears that Tesla is diverting resources away from Model S production to the Model 3.

 

Sales of the Model X in December was an estimated 3,300 cars. This was the month of the year for the Model X in 2017 but still fell short of the 3,875 sales in December 2016.  Previously in November Tesla had sold an estimated 1,875 cars.

 

It appears that Tesla has finally begun to ramp  up  production of the Model 3 and word is that towards the end of December they were building about 1,000 cars per week.  This translated to December sales of 1,060.  Previously in November they delivered 345 cars.

 

After selling 1,702 cars in November, Volt sales climbed to 1,937 cars in December.  Sales were substantially down from December 2016 when 3,691 Volts were sold.  It does appear that sales of the Chevy Bolt is having a big impact on Chevy Volt sales and there is a rumor that GM is considering replacing the Volt with  a plug-in hybrid crossover.

 

Sales of the Chevy Bolt have been increasing steadily each month since April setting new monthly sales records every month.  This continued in December with sales climbing above the 3,000 mark for the first time at 3,227 cars. Previously, in November, Bolt sales were 2,987 cars.
 
With the arrival of the Bolt, sales of the Chevy Spark EV are being wound down as inventory is depleted and only 23 Spark EVs were sold in 2017.  Somehow in December Chevy managed to find 2 more Spark EV to sell after selling 7 in November and no cars in August, September, or October.

 
Sales of the Cadillac ELR have been steadily falling as existing dealer inventory is depleted and no more are being built. In July sales were just 2 cars while in August sales dropped down to 1 car and no cars have been sold since August.

 

The replacement for the ELR is the Cadillac CT6 PHEV and sales have been growing ever so slowly since it went on sale in April.  Each month has set a new sales record with the 29 cars sold in November rising to 35 cars sold in December. 

 

In December GM sold a total of 5,201 plug-n 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 December they sold a total of 2,792 cars spread across their seven 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.  November saw sales of just 283 cars but sales picked up again in December with 672 cars going to customers.

 

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.  July saw a little bit of an improvement as sales climbed to 55 cars, but August saw them drop  back to 29 cars while in September they pulled back further to 27 cars and in October there was a slight increase to 33 cars.  November sales improved again to 44 cars with a further improvement to 80 cars in December.

 

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  September sales were 333 cars and this fell by 10 cars in October to 323 cars.  Then in November sales went wild leaping to 929 cars setting a new sales record.  I would have expected sales to have fallen substantially in December due to lack of inventory but BMW still managed to move an additional 832 cars.

 

Sales of the 330e also did well in November selling 477 cars, the second best month ever.  In December sales pulled back a little to 363 cars.

 

The same thing happened with the BMW 530e which set a new all time sales record selling 872 cars in November after selling 583 cars in October.  Again there was a slight pullback in December but they sill managed to sell 706 cars.

 

Sales of the BMW 740e is expected to remain low for the rest of this year as the car is basically sold out so the US only received a token inventory.  In November sales fell just 3 short of tying the record sales month when 120 cars were sold.  December sales pulled back to 67 cars.

 

Following the trend at the Mini Countryman PHEV also fell back from 96 cars sold in November to 72 cars sold in December.

 

One of the big success stories of 2017 is the Toyota Prius Prime which is selling extremely well considering that it is sold in only a small number of states and dealer inventory is limited.  Like many of the plug-in cars the Prius Prime appears to have fallen into a selling range, in this case the range is 1,600 - 1,900 cars.  In October sales of the Prius Prime was 1,626 cars and this climbed in November to 1,834 cars.  December saw the Prime break the 2,000 sales barrier for the first time with sales of 2,420 cars.

 

Toyota is putting its money into Fuel Cell cars and  in December they sold 296 Mirai FCEVs.  By my reckoning, since they went on sale in January 2016, Toyota has sold a total of 2,747 Mirai.

 

Ford saw a modest gain in sales in December selling 1,424 plug-in cars split across its three models. 

 

Ford's best selling plug-in is typically the Fusion Energi and December was no exception with sales of 875 cars.  Previously in November 731 cars were sold.

 
Sales for the C-Max Energi fell in December to 436 cars after selling 523 cars in November.
 
The Ford Focus EV has remained in its usual range of 100 to 200 cars selling 113 cars in December after selling 121 cars in November.  At least it is consistent.

 

Honda have returned to the plug-in market in full force when they started selling the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity at the end of November.  Unfortunately they are not separating out sales of the electric from the FCEV so I am going to have to estimate sales of these, and by estimate I mean guess.  In November Honda sold an estimated 1405 plug-in Vehicles.

 

Sales of the Clarity electric have been surprisingly good with 507 cars being sold in December after November sales of an estimated 439.  December set a new record for the Clarity BEV.

 

Sales of the PHEV started right at the end of the month with and Honda says that it delivered just 5 cars in November. Honda is reporting sales of 898 cars for December.  The Honda PHEV seems like a really good car so I expect to see good sales assuming Honda provides enough dealer inventory..

 

Like Toyota, Honda is also investing big-time in Fuel Cell Vehicles.  In December I estimate that they leased 20 Clarity FCEVs. 

 

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 1,105 Plug-in Cars in November.

 

The Fiat 500e is just a compliance car for Fiat Chrysler America, but it is estimated that in December sales were 385 cars.  This was considerably better than the 215 cars they sold in November.

 

After a rocky start, sales of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivan seem to be taking off again after a glitch in July where sales were just 125 cars.  August got back to what appears to be more normal sales of 300 to 500 cars per month with sales of 345 cars and in September sales improved further to 475 cars.  Sales in October were previously misstated at 1,175 but have since been adjusted to 875 minivans being sold.  Unfortunately the plant where they are made was closed down for re-tooling for most of October so I was expecting sales in November to be hard hit by lack of inventory but they still managed to sell an estimated 570 cars.  In December with inventory beginning to arrive back at dealerships sales increased to 720 cars.

 

VW now has 4 plug-in cars being sold across its family of brands. With the 2018 model year cars starting to arrive, in December they sold 626 cars.

 

The Audi A3 e-Tron normally sells in the 300 - 400 range.  Now that the 2018 Models have started to arrive sales returned to normal selling levels in December as 270 cars were sold.  In November just 38 cars left dealer lots.

 

The normal selling range for the VW e-Golf is 200 - 400 cars and in July sales came in right in the middle of the normal range at 308 cars.  Sales in August were just a little higher at 317 cars but fell to 187 in September.  They moved back into the normal selling range in October selling 203 cars and sales increased in November to 289 cars and 343 cars in December.

 

The Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid sold 38 cars in November, but managed to sell just 23 cars in December.

 
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.  Porsche dealers did managed to find 5 copies to sell in November but recorded no sales in December.

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV normally sells in the 100 - 200 range.  In October it was right in its normal selling range with 174 cars sold but jumped above 200 in November with sales of 204 cars.  In December it set a new monthly sales record selling 368 cars.

 

Volvo is one of the companies that has committed to electrifying their entire lineup of cars.  Toward this end they began selling the XC60 PHEV at the end of July.  December saw a monthly sales record of 174 cars after selling 82 cars in November.  The XC60 PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 18 miles of all electric range.

 

In September Volvo introduced their first plug-in hybrid sedan, the S90 T8 PHEV selling 5 units.  October saw sales increase to 28 cars with a further increase to 32 cars in November and 52 cars in December.  If Volvo can stock this car in quantity is should sell quite well..

 

In December Volvo sold a total of 594 Plug-in Vehicles.

 

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 but this year have been selling in the 200 - 300 range since August when they sold an estimated 300 cars, their best sales month ever.  They didn't do quite as well in September and October but still managed to stay well above the 200 car level selling 255 and 210 cars respectively.  In November they stayed above the 200 level with sales of 207 cars and in December they just squeaked in to the bottom of the range with sales of 204 cars.

 

Kia also has the Optima PHEV which was expected to go on Sale here in the US starting in December, 2016 but sales didn't actually kick off until January, 2017.  In November they sold 213 cars dropping back to just 134 cars in December.

 

In total Kia managed to sell an estimated 338 plug-in cars in December.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Sonata PHEV were135 cars in November climbing to 195 cars in December.  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.

 

Sales of the Hyundai Ioniq also seem to have faltered in November with just 23 cars sold after selling 28 cars in October but they ended the year with an all time high month in December selling 79 cars.  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 in the fall.

 

In December Hyundai sold a total of 274 plug-in cars. 

 

It appears that Mercedes-Benz is going to discontinue production of the B250e later this year so I expect sales will continue to be low for this vehicle which normally sells in the 40 - 60 range.  In December they surprised by selling 111 cars, their best results since September, 2015 when they sold 147 cars.  Previously in November 31 cars were sold. 

 

Sales of Mercedes Benz's first plug-in hybrid model the S550e PHEV appeared to have settled into the range of 40 - 60 cars.   November sales fell below this range for the fourth straight month with 22 cars being sold and December showed little improvement with 26 cars being sold.

 

Sales of the  Mercedes Benz GLE 550e plug-in hybrid SUV have recently hovered in the 30 - 60 range.  In December they sold 82 cars, just 1 short of the record high month set in December, 2016 when 83 cars were sold.  Previously in November they sold 41 cars.

 

The Mercedes-Benz C350e set a new sales record in August selling 212 cars.  This would have seriously depleted inventory and in September sales dropped to a more normal 126 cars then tumbled further to just 49 cars in October and 16 cars in November and 14 in December.

 

Overall Mercedes Benz sold 233 Plug-in cars in December.

 

I had been asking for a while now when will the upgraded Smart Electric Drive begin to arrive in the USA.  Well, it finally arrived in August with sales of 94 cars.  In September, as inventory improved, sales climbed to 123 cars but in October sales fell back to 73 cars and fell further to 68 cars in November but bounced back to 129 cars in December.  To put this in context, Smart sold just 166 cars in the US for December so the electric model made up more than 75% of Smart sales for the month.

 

With sales of the next generation Nissan Leaf expected to Start early this year I have expected sales of the current model to fall off but that didn't happen until October when, after selling over 1,000 cars per month sales fell off a cliff at just 213 cars.  In November sales fell further to just 175 cars and in December they fell again to 102 cars.  Going forward I expect to see slow sales of the current generation Leaf as inventory is depleted in advance of the new model's arrival currently set for early 2018

 

After many false starts Mitsubishi finally began selling the Outlander PHEV in the US with Sales of 99 cars for December.  The Outlander PHEV is an SUV that offers an EPA estimated 22 miles of all electric range.

 

2017 set a new sales record for plug-in sales with sales of 199,806 cars sold in the year, well surpass the previous record high of 158,617 cars sold in 2016.  2018 should easily beat out 2017 if Tesla can continue to ramp up sales of the Model 3 and the next generation Nissan Leaf about to hit showrooms