Some EV Sales Improvement, But Still Way Below Obama Forecast

ev-for-postingHave you been keeping up with the car buying public’s interest in electric vehicles (EV)? The many models of EVs that are on the market are quite astonishing.  Nearly all the manufacturers have a model or two.  The sales are still well below the Obama Administrations projections.  But 2016 brought some joy to the makers of plug-in EVs.

Probably most of you that are reading this know about the different versions on the market, but for those that have not been following EVs closely, let me give you some guidance.

The Toyota Prius has been the sales leader. Later on, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf came on the scene but they have not equaled the Prius sales volume.  Those three vehicles represent the three major categories of EVs.

The Hybrid (HEV) is a vehicle that has both batteries and an internal combustion (IC) or diesel, fossil fuel powered motor to propel the vehicle. The batteries are not charged by an external plug-in arrangement but are charged by the onboard motor. The Prius is a HEV

The PHEV has both a IC or diesel motor and batteries, but in this category the batteries are charged by plugging into an external power supply.     The Chevy Volt is a PHEV.

The BEV vehicle has only batteries for motive power and those batteries are charged from an external power supply.  The Nissan Leaf is a representative of this category as are the Tesla and the GM Bolt.

I guess that to really make a dent in the use of fossil fuels, the PHEVs and the BEVs will have to someday dominate the market. Will they ever do that or is the question when will they do that?  An overview of the differences between BEVs and PHEVs is shown in the following charts from

BEV Characteristics
Propulsion Electric motor / battery only
Refueling Recharge with electricity
Range BEVs can travel between 70 – 100 miles (some go even further) on a full charge. Most Californians travel less than 40 miles per day.
Charging Time: Full size BEVs take about 4-6 hours to fully charge using a 220-volt charger.

Charger Type: A 220-volt charger can be used for fastest home charging, but all PEVs can also charge from a 120-volt outlet.

Cost: BEVs typically cost about $1 per gallon equivalent (when charged during off-peak hours at 10₵ kWh).

Battery BEVs on the market today typically have lithium ion batteries that are between 24kWh – 36 kWh in size.
Emissions BEVs are zero emission vehicles. The only emissions are from utility generation mix.


PHEV Characteristics
Propulsion Electric motor / battery plus gasoline engine
Refueling Recharge with electricity OR refuel with gasoline
Range PHEVs can travel on battery power alone between 15 – 35 miles, and 300+ in gasoline-electric hybrid mode.
Charging Time: PHEVs take about 1 hour to fully charge using a 220-volt charger, and about 3 hours at 120-volts.

Charger Type: Charging from a 120-volt outlet is usually preferred by PHEV drivers, since there is no cost for charging equipment and the time to charge is minimal.

Cost: The cost will depend upon the ratio of electric to gasoline miles you drive.

Battery PHEVs typically have Lithium Ion batteries, but they are smaller than those found in pure BEVs.
Emissions PHEVs have very low emissions. Actual emissions depend upon the electric to gasoline ratio used.


The batteries in the HEVs and the PHEVs provide only limited range but having a motor accompanying the batteries, their range is about equivalent to the standard automobile.    The BEVs have a much more modest range maxing out at about 100 miles on a charge.  And if weather is cold or hot, use of the heater or A/C can result in a substantial reduction in mileage.   The model S Tesla BEV is an exception with ranges reported that are 2X to 3X the majority of the BEVs. Obviously, this necessitates a much higher vehicle selling price.

Back to sales of these vehicles.  The chart below and some commentary are from the Power For USA blog operated by Donn Dears.  You can see the entire posting by clicking here.




2016 346,948 72,837 86,887 159,724
2015 384,404 42,958 50,995 114,022
% Change -9.7 +69.6 +70.4 +40.1


Slight drop in HEVs and a big jump, percentage wise, in PHEVs and BEVs.

Dears give his take on these EVS as follows:

Sales of PHEVs and BEVs remained minuscule, at less than 1%, when compared with total light vehicle sales.

The media hype for BEVs continues, but sales remain so small that they must be considered cars for the rich and famous. While sales increased by 70% year over year, they amounted to fewer than 100,000 vehicles.

Total sales of BEVs from 2011, essentially when they entered the market, through 2016 were still only 292,992 vehicles. This is far short of Obama’s prediction of 1,000,000 BEVs by the end of 2015.

The business model for BEVs is highly questionable, with Tesla, for example, having received much of its income from the sale of California Zero Emission Credits amounting to over $390,000,000.

There is also the question of whether the federal government will continue to allow a $7,500 subsidy for BEVs.

The introduction of the Bolt by GM, and Tesla’s Model 3, priced at $35,000, and currently still eligible for the $7,500 tax credit, could determine whether battery-powered vehicles go mainstream.

BEVs have four important impediments.

  • Insufficient range, compared with ICE vehicles
  • The high cost of batteries, which results in the high cost of BEVs
  • The lack of charging stations
  • Time required to charge batteries

PHEVs eliminate range anxiety, and partially reduce the cost penalty for the battery.

The real issue is whether BEVs and PHEVs can become a replacement for internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles, without subsidies and EPA fuel mandates for gasoline powered vehicles.



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