2018 Blog Archive


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Past blogs from 2018

Sunday January 14, 2018 Fire and Flood

Sunday January 7, 2018 December 2017 EV Sales

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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