EV Sales — Important Context Often Overlooked

Ford C-Max Energi at LA Auto Show Via WikiCommons Some Rights Reserved
Ford C-Max Energi at LA Auto Show via WikiCommons (Some Rights Reserved)

Tagging onto my recent post about the fact that plug-in electric vehicle sales are actually doing quite well for this stage of their development, TreeHugger‘s Michael Graham Richard had a good post adding even more context that puts EV sales in a good light. Some of these things crossed my mind while writing the first post — not sure why I didn’t mention them then and there. So, I’m happy Michael created this post and even came up with a few that didn’t cross my mind at that time.

Here are Michael’s wise and concise words putting EV sales into even more context:

2) Another important thing is availability. Most plug-ins are first introduced in only certain countries, and often in only certain regions within those countries. Dealerships only get a few units of inventory, if any at all. All of this is getting better over time as production ramps up, but it does mean that for at first, a lot of people who might be interested will end up not buying now either because the plug-in they want is not available where they live or because there’s a waiting list.

3) People want the best deal, and it’s pretty obvious with EVs and PHEVs that they are getting better every year, that prices are coming down, and that the number of charging stations is increasing exponentially. Unless you’re an early-adopter who just has to have it now, sometimes the best move is to wait a bit. It doesn’t mean that there’s no demand, just that people prefer version 2.0, when all the kinks are ironed out and there’s a bigger support ecosystem out there.

4) Transportation is usually people’s second biggest expense after shelter. Unless you’ve been living in a cave since 2007, you know that the world economy hasn’t exactly been vibrant in the past few years, and this certainly has an impact on the sale of expensive stuff like plug-in cars. It’s not easy for the industry to try to achieve economies of scale (which would make prices go down) during this period. If the very same vehicles had been launched during a period of economic vigor, they’d probably have sold better.

5) Politics is also a factor. For some reason, partisan hacks have decided to turn hybrids and plug-ins into a symbol rather than just seeing it as a useful technology under-development, with evolving pros and cons. It probably won’t matter too much by the time prices have come down enough to make electric vehicles affordable to most people, but in the meantime, it is an unwelcome headwind.

6) Even car-makers couldn’t be sure how many units they would sell. It’s a lot harder to predict these things for entirely new technologies than for the 10th generation of the Corolla or whatever. Whether they have over-estimated how much would be sold or under-estimated it doesn’t make the current numbers a failure or a success. Otherwise, they could just always provide ridiculously low estimates and always beat them.

Regarding number two on his list, I’ve received notes from several people who wanted to buy an electric vehicle but didn’t have it for sale anywhere even close to their region — I’m sure this is an issue stalling faster adoption. And I’ve received notes from even more people backing up number three on Michael’s list. Great additional points under number four. Regarding number five, I think that anyone who at all follows EV news knows that Fox News, other conservative media outlets, and many leading members of the Republican party have done everything they can to bash EVs and slow their growth.

One additional point I’d throw in is that I don’t think any of the car companies did a very good job of actually conveying to consumers some of the biggest benefits of plug-in electric vehicles versus gasmobiles. Hopefully that will get better soon.

6 thoughts on “EV Sales — Important Context Often Overlooked

  1. “And I’ve received notes from even more people backing up number three on Michael’s list”

    Indeed, most people are not early adopters

  2. The “Fox News conspiracy” line gets old. There is a lot of justified criticism of the government funding green company “losers” to the detriment of other green companies with better products (and less political connections). The fact is PEVs make economic sense only because of the government subsidies. This includes the $7500 rebate and not paying the road tax (that makes up a significant portion of the price of a gallon of gas). That being said I really like the idea of going electric for a commuter car and adding enough home solar for a zero energy commute as well as zero energy home. I expect I’ll buy a PEV by the end of this year because it is starting to be economically practical (but only because of the incentives). If PEVs start making up a significant percent of cars on the road they will have to come up with a use tax to pay their share for the roads they use. Hopefully the battery technology gets good enough and cheap enough that PEVs can compete on a level playing field.

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