Electric car sales in the US were a mixed bag again in March. Several plug-in hybrid models, led by the Chevy Volt, had a strong month and first quarter, but several fully electric models saw lower sales than in the previous year. I think these sales are still depressed by people waiting for longer-range electric vehicles that are around the corner (Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, 2nd-generation Nissan LEAF, etc.). Low gas prices may also be contributing to that, but my guess is that gas price is a smaller factor.
The big changes in sales comparing March 2016 to March 2015 were as follows:
- BMW i3 down 64%
(332 vs 922)
- Fiat 500e down 77%
(270 vs 1195)
- Nissan LEAF down 31%
(1246 vs 1817)
- Ford Fusion Energi up 48%
(1238 vs 837)
- Chevy Volt up 192%
(1865 vs 639)
- Tesla Model X up from 0 to 1200 (11% of the EV market)
Overall, I think we have 3 clear categories in the current EV market:
- medium-range (or short-range if you’re pessimistic) fully electric cars
- plug-in hybrids (including extended-range electric vehicles)
- Teslas… long-range fully electric cars with Supercharging (which together make road trips convenient/practical)
I think category #1 is getting hit hard by the coming Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, and other long-range electric cars. While these cars still make sense for millions of people as second or third cars, it’s very tempting to wait for an electric car that can conveniently drive across the country for the same price… and that also comes with better performance, better handling, autopilot, and cool features like a glass roof.
Category #2 is holding up as a transitionary option between short-range EVs and long-range, affordable EVs — especially with the much-improved 2nd-generation Chevy Volt.
Tesla is, of course, growing fast and is clearly production constrained, with thousands or tens of thousands of people in line for the Tesla Model X, and hundreds of thousands for the Tesla Model 3. It is in the lead in many respects, and it seems like no one is eager to really bring competitive products to give Tesla a run for its money.
With these trends (and probably others) at play, fully electric car sales in the US were down 15% in March and 8% in the 1st quarter, while PHEV sales were up 64% and 48%, respectively. Combined, that put all plug-in car sales up 9% in March and 10% in the first quarter.
Here are the charts and table for more number fun: