The Center for Automotive Research claims that its latest study [full document in PDF here] is not a forecast of EV sales, but rather “focuses on the expected deployment by states.” Still, by using hybrid vehicle sales to determine deployment patterns, and using a national estimate of electric vehicle market share annually (note: “the national estimates used in this paper do not constitute a CAR forecast and only reflect projections that were available at the time of this study”), the study finds that only 496,000 plug-in vehicles will be on the road by 2015, by which time the Obama Administration hopes to have a million EVs on the road. Still, the report envisions annual sales of plug-in vehicles as growing rapidly, from 77k units in 2012 to 140k annual units by 2015… a number that casts some serious doubt on the Administration’s recent (dubious) estimate that 1.2m vehicles will have been produced for the US market by 2015 (and not for the first time).
Speaking of which, how did CAR come up with its “non-forecast” of fewer than a half-million plug-in vehicles sold by 2015? Surely it was more thoughtful than the government’s simple re-printing of manufacturer production claims?
If one believes the company announcements, production of electric vehicles will experience a relatively steep ramp up over the next few years. Some previous company sales forecasts are optimistic and can be balanced out with a more conservative third- party forecast. IHS Global Insight and JD Power and Associates have created forecasts of electric vehicle sales in the U.S. The IHS sales forecasts for specific vehicle models included Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Roadster and Model S, and Fisker Karma electric vehicles. These model forecasts were aggregated to create a sales forecast for some of these early entrants.41 The Ford Focus Electric was not included in this aggregate forecast, because IHS does not differentiate between models of different powertrains that share the same nameplate. J.D. Power has created a forecast specifically for electric vehicles through 2020, however, that forecast excludes the Chevrolet Volt as it was considered a plug-in hybrid for the organization‘s purposes. For the purposes of this study, however, the J.D. Power forecast was modified to include the Volt in the electric vehicle forecast.
Of course, the report hedges fairly significantly, as lead researcher Kim Hill explains:
The study finds that many factors could affect deployment and annual market share. The estimated number of vehicles on the road in this time period could be pushed higher through an increased level of consumer acceptance, fleet purchases, new entrants into the market, and most importantly, through incentive programs at the federal, state and local levels, such as an expansion of EV-ready cities and regions, and consumer incentives.
But don’t worry EV manufacturers! Because the government has put political capital at stake in its EV goal, any projection of failure will simply draw more aggressive subsidies. Still, it would be nice to see someone in the White House at least acknowledge what the independent reports seem to be indicating, namely that one million plug-in sales by 2015 is going to be a tall order.