As of today, Plug in America says there have been 100,000 of the new generation of “plug-in” electrified vehicles (PEVs) sold in the U.S.
Since the launch of highway legal cars such as Chevrolet’s Volt and Nissan’s Leaf in December 2010, plus a modest beginning for Tesla’s Roadster before that, and others following, the 100,000 number is being seen as a significant if not yet paradigm-changing milestone.
“Our current estimate, based on monthly sales figures from automakers, is that the 100,000th highway-capable plug-in vehicle will be sold on May 20,” said Tom Saxton, Plug In America’s chief science officer. “We are calling this the #PIA100K mark, and we are excited to see the continued growth of the market.”
Plug in America now has a PEV unit-sold-in-America counter posted on its Web site, and announced a drawing which consumers can enter online for a free vehicle charger to those who purchase a plug-in vehicle between May 15 and Jun 15.
In overview, electrified vehicle proponents see today’s boundary crossing as a sign of progress while acknowledging resistance, fundamental lack of awareness and accurate understanding, and politicized push back as well.
Plug in America board member Barry Woods blogged in anticipation of the 100,000 unit milestone that he has observed a slow changing of the tide in the face of staunch obstacles plug-in vehicles must yet overcome.
“Misinformation abounds – about the costs, range, battery resiliency, EV carbon emissions, the superiority of other alternative fuels, a “green” political pre-disposition,” wrote Woods of various sources of resistance on May 9. “Unfortunately, too often those with the biggest bullhorn shape the ‘facts.’”
But progress is happening in spite of all this.
Based on the current average household size, Plug in America estimates a quarter million people have been exposed to the viability of daily life with all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars. He noted that in March in the Portland metro area, Nissan dealers collectively sold more Leafs than any other model, even more than the best-selling Altima.
Woods is directly involved in selling chargers, and he has noticed a shift in attitudes at dealers he visits.
“Where are we today? We have Nissan, Tesla, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, FIAT, manufacturing PEV models with their own branding,” said Woods. “Now when I go into auto dealers, they invite me back to speak to their sales staff and discuss charging as an issue and what their customers will need to make better use of the car’s range capabilities.”
Other highlights include:
• Tesla’s Model S is outselling the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 series and the Audi A8
• Chevy Volt drivers alone have logged over 187-million electric miles
• The plug-in vehicle market is approaching 48 percent annual growth with both Battery Electric (BEV) and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) vehicles finding growing interest
• Plug-in vehicle adoption exceeds the adoption of hybrid vehicles over the same timeframe in their market developments
• The domestic EV fleet now offers over 2,000 megawatts of battery storage, which may offer significant opportunities for the future management of our electrical grid and the increasing role of intermittent renewable energy sources
• Manufacturers making EVs now include Nissan, Tesla, GM, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, and Fiat. These plug-in cars have received a wealth of consumer and industry awards
Is It Enough?
The above question is not ours, but was first posed by USA Today noting 100,000 units “is just slightly less than the sales of a single conventional model, the Ford Fusion, over the first four months of the year. And the Fusion was only the sixth most popular model in the U.S.”
Objections persist over range, charging time and costs, writes USA Today – not to mention several other objections noted by Woods above.
A More Bullish Perspective
With seemingly eyes wide open, Woods noted EV proponents were nonetheless correct about the prospects for plug-in technology and the growth on a percentage basis has been markedly more significant than hybrid market growth.
That is true, but when one starts from a base of zero units, and grows to higher levels, percentage points can appear impressive if viewed without context.
Beyond this, Woods said advocates were also correct that American car shoppers would accept choices other than gasoline if given a long haul value.
“A virtuous market – and policy-based cycle has developed to bring down prices and spur R & D,” said Wood. “We appreciate that these vehicles are not just ‘green,’ they are advanced vehicle technology creating better transportation choices and superior driving experiences. They can become the Car of the Year.”
To be sure, the 100,000 milestone is well short of being on track to hit an early goal set by President Obama for 1 million EVs and PHEVs sold in the U.S. by 2015.
At the same time, things are accelerating, and even if the goal is not hit on time, there is a sizable and growing number of PEVs on American roads leading toward a “tipping point” as Plug in America describes it, in favor of larger scale adoption.