By on May 29, 2012
4 Months 2012 4 Months 2011
BMW ActiveE 879 -
Smart electric drive 2 79
Chevrolet Volt 5,377 1,703
Mitsubishi i 215 -
Nissan Leaf 2,103 1,025
Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid 2,552 -
Total plug-in 11,128 2,807
EV share 0.2% 0.1%
Table courtesy Automotive News

“A disconnect is emerging between the White House and the auto industry over the short-term future of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids,” says Automotive News [sub]. The White House wants to go forward. The auto industry is backpedaling.

The Obama administration still wants to see 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, even if that costs more tax payer money in the form of added subsidies.

Already generous handouts could not energize tepid EV sales. Automakers are now “emphasizing more traditional fuel-saving technologies in the short term,” AN says.

“Everybody rushed toward EV vehicles and hybrid vehicles,” said Mark James, director of Lotus Engineering to AN. “Now, they’re going back, and saying, ‘Actually, we need to look at engines.'”

Michael Martin, owner of Dudley Martin Chevrolet in Manassas, Va., found a use for the Volts in his showroom:

“We’re still seeing a strong demand for small cars They’re looking at the Volt, but they’re going to a gas-powered vehicle.”

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36 Comments on “Amidst Disappointing Sales, Auto Industry Has A Change Of Heart About EVs...”


  • avatar
    KixStart

    Sales quadrupled and share only doubled? Unless the overall market also doubled, this seems like dubious math.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Said it before, I’ll say it again. You can’t have five significant digits in part of a table if you only report 1 significant digit in another line. It just won’t add up.

  • avatar
    gcorley

    This is a “rounding” problem.

    The actual numbers are 0.239% for 2012 & 0.067% for 2011.

    The market size increased by 10.3%.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    How about we compromise? The left stops the subsidy, and the right agrees not to call them flip floppers at election time.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Our reliance on fossil fuels threatens our economic stability and national security.

    Fund additional EV/credits, research and manufacturing and biofuels by diverting 1% of the DOD budget.

    • 0 avatar
      Botswana

      Funny how suddenly this is about national security. We have plenty of oil right here in the US we’re not tapping and more oil in Canada. We don’t need to rely on foreign oil but those efforts are continually blocked.

      Want to “improve national security”, then let us drill right here in the US.

      Conversely, the national security argument rankles me because talking about taking out terrorist organizations as a national security matter was scoffed at when Bush was in office.

      I figure what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Funny how suddenly this is about national security”

        The North Africa campaign was fought during WWII to keep the Nazis from gaining access to Middle Eastern oil.

        The Carter Doctrine was the US policy to wage war if necessary to ensure that the US had access to Middle Eastern oil.

        Nothing sudden about it, really.

      • 0 avatar
        Botswana

        “The North Africa campaign was fought during WWII to keep the Nazis from gaining access to Middle Eastern oil.

        The Carter Doctrine was the US policy to wage war if necessary to ensure that the US had access to Middle Eastern oil.”

        You seem to have conveniently skipped over some major points in my reply.

        This argument about national security is suddenly very popular among those of a certain political persuasion if it will promote EV’s, but just a few years ago any comment made about doing something for the sake of national security was scoffed at.

        I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, so for some reason it actually bothers me how one side can so blatantly use the exact same argument they used to criticize the other side for using it. Maybe if you’re invested in a party the hypocrisy doesn’t seem so bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “This argument about national security is suddenly very popular among those of a certain political persuasion if it will promote EV’s, but just a few years ago any comment made about doing something for the sake of national security was scoffed at.”

        As I pointed out to you, oil has been a national security issue in one way, shape or form since the 1940s.

        Nothing “sudden” about it. While I can appreciate that this throws your narrative into a tailspin, you are still blowing it on the facts. There are credible arguments against EVs, but you aren’t making them.

      • 0 avatar
        Botswana

        My narrative is fine. My whole point was this.

        There is PLENTY of oil available in the US and Canada. We don’t need it from the Middle East. Yet the same people pushing EV’s are also blocking more drilling here or purchasing from Canada.

        If it is truly a national security issue, then we can solve it ourselves.

        I suspect it is less of a national security issue and more of a green agenda that keeps us from taking advantage of resources in our own backyard. The national security issue is a smokescreen.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “My whole point was this. There is PLENTY of oil available in the US and Canada”

        I knew that was your point. Unfortunately, it was an inaccurate, factually deficient and otherwise lame point when you first made it, and it hasn’t become any more accurate, factual or reasonable since.

        The US isn’t anywhere close to being energy independent. I know that facts don’t interest you much, but they are what they are.

      • 0 avatar
        Botswana

        Seriously?

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/center-of-gravity-in-oil-world-shifts-to-americas/2012/05/25/gJQAjeuVqU_story.html

        BTW – I’ll drop it after this reply. My apologies to the Editors and readers of TTAC about this whole exchange.

        I think being called lame and talking about narrative tailspins is hardly a “debate”. There is far more than just this single article. I am not just pulling this out of my lower rear orfice. I’d appreciate more meaningful debate then “Nuh uh!”

        I’ve often said Autoblog is where reasonable discussion goes to die. This is the sort of discourse I expect there, not here.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        “The North Africa campaign was fought during WWII to keep the Nazis from gaining access to Middle Eastern oil.”

        The goal of the North African Campaign originally wasn’t oil, it was a conflict started by the Italians which the Germans had to intervene in to keep Libya in the hands of Fascist Italy after they were losing ground to the British. It was only after Rommel had taken Tobruk in June 1942 was thought given to an invasion of Egypt and a thrust into the Middle East, most ideally linking up with elements of Army Group South and converge on Stalingrad and the Caucuses’ oil fields in late summer 1942.

        from Wikipedia:
        Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army’s 11th Hussars crossed the border into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. This was followed by an Italian offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940 and then in December 1940 by a Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian 10th Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps—commanded by Erwin Rommel—was dispatched to North Africa—during Operation Sonnenblume—to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Seriously?”

        Yes, seriously. As much as you’d like to believe, your link doesn’t support your case.

        Shale isn’t oil. It’s costly to convert into oil, requiring substantial quantities of water to produce and is environmentally questionable.

        You ought to apologize for grasping at straws. Until it can be demonstrated that the US can produce substantial quantities of shale at reasonable prices, you’ll continue to confuse a possibility with reality.

        “The goal of the North African Campaign originally wasn’t oil”

        The Nazis wanted to control the Suez Canal and move eastward. They needed the oil.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Our debt is a far greater threat to our national security than our reliance on fossil fuels. We need a war on Keynesians.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Of course Mr. Mellon – you’re theory has worked so well in the past.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Andrew Mellon’s economic plans worked brilliantly in the 1920s. They would have dramatically shortened the depression of the 1930s had Hoover implemented them. Hoover, sadly, went for Progressive nostrums and high tariffs, which were a disaster. Roosevelt might have helped a bit by suspending gold payment (i.e. defaulting on the US’s treasury bonds) and by his jolt of inflation (raising the price of gold to $35/oz), but his other policies prolonged the depression and made it worse, see the papers by Ohanian at his web site at ucla.edu.

      • 0 avatar
        dfp21

        Surprise! Keynesian policies FDR employed were also used by Obama and the results are similar.

        (August 10, 2004) FDR’s policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate

        “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.”
        http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/FDR-s-Policies-Prolonged-Depression-5409.aspx?RelNum=5409

  • avatar
    dfp21

    Electricity doesn’t create itself. In the U.S, electricity is created from oil (37%), natural gas (25%), coal (21%), nuclear (9%), other, mostly hydro dams (8%). So your “electric car” is probably powered by fossil fuels.

    • 0 avatar
      rolosrevenge

      Um, your numbers are way off, you’re using total energy consumption percentage. Only 2-3% of the electricity is produced from oil. The US has more coal and nuclear reserves so oil reserves. Even if the electricity comes from fossil fuels, it is fossil fuels extracted in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        Yeah, that’s what he did.

        Look at EIA’s total energy (2011) report:
        http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/major_energy_sources_and_users.cfm

        And then look at this graph of energy inputs and consumption:
        http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/images/charts/source_sector_2011-large.jpg

        Petroleum does make up 35% of our national energy usage. 71% of the petroleum used goes into transportation, 23% into industrial uses (plastics, etc), 5% into residential (heating), 1% into electric power.

        The electric grid inputs are 46% coal, 20% natural gas, 33% renewables (mostly hydro) & nuclear, 1% petroleum.

        It’s certainly true that an electric vehicle powered by the local grid will be partly powered by fossil-fuels, with the local mix varying from a few percent to 70+%. Representing electric vehicles as “zero emissions” in the typical use case is a fallacy .. but they do represent a path to that goal, one that ICE can never deliver on.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        When I was in university I interned with PSNH in project management. Schiller station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire use to run on either coal or fuel oil. Every morning they would run the formula for cost per BTU for running coal versus the cost per BTU for running oil. Based on the math that is what we would burn for the day.

        To burn coal it had to be crushed into a fine powder to work in the furnace. The conversion was always, interesting. If you got a static charge build up in the feed lines you could get a flash explosion. The energy would travel up the feed line toward the boiler, and would blow out the glass on the view ports. Our officers were about 50 feet away – the booms were epic. During the conversion no one was allowed in the area. I suspect this kind of activity no longer goes on, OSHA probably has a very dim view.

        PSNH had one power plant that ran dedicated fuel oil, single boiler/generator. When I was there it was during the 80’s oil crash so it was pretty inexpensive to operate. It was also the cleanest plant. Funny story – in order to get to the offices you had to walk on a series of catwalks about 85 feet above the plant floor. They were delivering a new photo copier and it would not go around a 90 degree turn in the catwalk, so they raised it up over the rails in an attempt to maneuver it over the turn. Ya, you guessed it, sucker dropped 85 feet to the floor below. Didn’t see it but heard about it.

  • avatar
    Bob

    Why doesn’t GM just put a regular hybrid system in the volt to compete with the Prius?

    • 0 avatar
      Botswana

      Kind of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t think the market is entirely ready for EV’s but I think baby steps are a good start.

      The problem is Obama is trying to force something the market is not ready for. I think there is REAL interest in EV’s and Hybrids, just not to the level the US government is trying to force it.

      The Volt is an interesting piece of technology with far more riding on it then is fair to the platform. It doesn’t need to be gotten rid of, it needs a fair shake. Unfortunately, it has been given expectations that have nothing to do with what it can realistically accomplish from a sales perspective.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Because they’re “leapfrogging” Toyota.

      Also, who’s to say, modified as you suggest, that it would actually “compete?” The Volt is heavy, the engine technology is stale, it gets mediocre range-extended fuel economy and it looks to me like they willingly sacrificed packaging and aerodynamic efficiency for “style.” Change it as you suggest and I think you’re looking at a 45mpg hybrid that retails for $28K.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      BEVs are the technology of the early 20th century. not the future. They didn’t cut it 9oyears ago, and nothing has changed since then, except that ICEs are much, much better.

      Hybrids are kludge that has little to do with BEVS.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Toyota’s hybrid system is covered by patents. They would license it to GM, but that costs money. Toyota cross licenses Ford, which has its own patents.

      GM has its own so-called two mode hybrid system that was adapted from work they did for buses. The system works well, and for trucks and SUVs it is the way to go because it preserves their towing capacity. Unfortunately, the system is expensive to produce, and the only vehicles that GM has produced it for are the full size trucks and SUVs. The GMC Yukon Hybrid is listed at $52K, while the non-hybrid Yukon is $40K.

      Farago used ridicule GM for the system (he ridiculed GM for everything). But I thought, and I still think, that they should make the hybrid system standard on all non-diesel trucks and SUVs. This might mean suffering reduced profit margins because they would have to price against Ford Eco-boost, but it would help them build the volume to lower their cost to produce the system. They will really need it when CAFE kicks in in a couple of years.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see “Disappointing Sales” on the chart. Sales quadrupled in just a year. “EV Sales Quadrupled Since Last Year” would also be an accurate headline, no?

    Perhaps compared to the “1 million cars by 2015″ target, sales are currently disappointing. But if the numbers continue to increase at this rate — admittedly, a big IF — you’ll crack 1,000,000 cumulative EV sales before 2014 is over.

    Looks to me like electric cars are EXPLODING.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      They’re doing fairly well, but their sales performance is failing to live up to some of the hype. That doesn’t mean they’re doing poorly.

      My understanding is that Volt sales have taken off recently because of the California HOV lane exemption. There was a healthy amount of pent-up demand for EVs, some of that has been bled off after the release of the Leaf and Volt. Sales now are increasing as people get exposure to EVs and become more comfortable with them, and as they become available for sale nation-wide.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …“We’re still seeing a strong demand for small cars They’re looking at the Volt, but they’re going to a gas-powered vehicle…”

    This is the part where I say, ehem, I TOLD YOU SO.

    Customer walks into showroom to look at a Volt, drives off in a Cruze Eco – that’s a win for General Motors.

    The Cruze Eco is sold for profit, the Volt is sold for a loss. I’d rather GM sell 1,000 Cruze Ecos that a million Volts right now.

    [INSERT PROVE GM IS MAKING A PROFIT STRAWMAN ARGUMENT HERE]

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      It’s truly the ‘green halo’ principle at work.

      If I had to purchase a car today, I’d “look” at the Volt, but I’m 99.999995% sure I’d be driving home in a Cruze Eco.

      All that said, I am seeing more Volts on the streets of Western Michigan. It’s like a floodgate was released.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Volt = halo?

      That dog won’t hunt.

      The people who go into a showroom to look at a Volt are hard core EV intenders and many of them have a Prius to keep or trade. It seems more than unlikely that this group is going to drive out in a Cruze. If they look at the Volt and feel it’s not ready for prime time, they’ll go get another Prius.

      And Halo cars are best kept out of the editorial pages.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …The people who go into a showroom to look at a Volt are hard core EV intenders and many of them have a Prius to keep or trade. It seems more than unlikely that this group is going to drive out in a Cruze. If they look at the Volt and feel it’s not ready for prime time, they’ll go get another Prius…

        Did you even bother to read the whole TTAC story before you replied. It seems the Volt is doing a good job as a halo car, just as the early Prius was a great halo car for Toyota. Customer walks in to Toyota to look at a Prius circa 2003, drives off in a Corolla. WIN for Toyota. Prius was sold at a deep loss at the time, Corolla equal profit.

        The Prius is quite profitable for Toyota – not sure about the plug-in model, but given the top version is $40K – suspect they are at least break even. Lithium-ion batteries are serious bank.

  • avatar
    Southerner

    Dear Shaker, No. Each dollar wasted by DoD is far more beneficial to the nation than one “invested” in green….anything.


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