2018 Blog Archive

   


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Past blogs from 2018

Sunday March 11, 2018 – February 2018 EV Sales

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

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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