By on February 2, 2013

EV sales had shown minor signs of life in the last quarter of 2012, only to collapse sharply in January. “Sales of the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius Plug-In and Nissan Leaf each had deep dropoffs in January from December,” Reuters says.

“Even after accounting for the fact that January is one of the slowest months of the year for auto sales, the dropoff for plug-in electric cars was considerable,” Michelle Krebs of Edmunds told the wire. According to Krebs, consumers are opting instead for less-expensive standard hybrids, rather than plug-in electric cars. OEMS blame other factors, such as limited supply, model year changeovers, or changeovers from Japanese to U.S. production, as it is the case for the Nissan LEAF. GM says January sales were down for the Volt because people bought before the end of the year to gain the 2012 tax credit. Which may have been the power behind the last quarter rise of the still tiny segment.

The chart above (data courtesy tells its own story. Ford did not report January sales of the C-Max Energi and the Ford Focus Electric. Not included.  The chart also does not reflect sales by Tesla and Fisker who do not report data on a consistent basis. We do not believe that this has a material impact on the general trend.

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49 Comments on “EVs Run Out Of Juice...”

  • avatar

    EV cars aren’t ready for prime time. I drove my co-worker’s Leaf to find out about it and just going up a hill at 20 mph it lost 5 miles of its projected range. Range anxiety has to be a significant factor re: lack of sales.

    IMO, it doesn’t help that the Leaf isn’t pretty, though none of the competition is remotely close to being ‘eye candy’. Obviously Nissan was looking to style a car that would be immediately recognizable.

    • 0 avatar
      James Courteau

      The Leaf’s range projection feature is notoriously awful, its based on driving history rather than driving conditions. For example, if you drive like a lunatic, charge it up, and drive like grandma, the miles remaining will tally based on you crazy lunatic driving. There is an aftermarket state of charge gauge you can buy. It plugs into the OBDII port, and is a much better tracker of battery power. 2013 Leafs will include a SOC gauge, I think.

      • 0 avatar

        I expect they all do that. The Prius certainly seems to do so.

      • 0 avatar

        NO it is based on current driving conditions not history which is why when you go up a hill or floor the pedal you can watch the available range drop very quickly and as soon as you let up on the pedal the miles left increases. If you are going up a hill then it increases significantly on the way down, if you drive right, since you can regenerate and your current use goes way down.

      • 0 avatar

        Scoutdude has it right. I don’t know anyone who goes uphill both ways on their commute.

      • 0 avatar

        Gslippy, are you sure? When I was a kid I always heard the stories of how great I had it that I could ride a bus to school instead of walking 5 miles to school, up hill both ways, in the snow, with no shoes. :)

  • avatar

    “GM says January sales were down for the Volt because people bought before the end of the year to gain the 2012 tax credit. Which may have been the power behind the last quarter rise of the still tiny segment.”

    The tax season probably explains all of it. And January sales were stil twice as high as January of last year.

  • avatar

    The “All EV” sales graph just about tracks the value of AAPL stock. Coincidence? I think not…

  • avatar

    Lots of EV Christmas presents?

  • avatar

    The Volt works great for me. I can drive 35-50 miles on a full charge. After that the car seamlessly switches to gas. Having 240V at home helps but there are a lot of public chargers. My best day was 115 EV miles but others have 200+ at

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this is such a troubling trend. I agree with racer-esq that end-of-the-year tax incentives were probably a factor. Another factor is the relatively poor performance of EVs in cold weather. Why make an expensive purchase if your first impression is going to be rather negative? You will feel less cognitive dissonance if you buy during warm weather.

    There’s another interesting thing shown by the graph: volt sales fell in lockstep with the ramping-up of Ford C-Max Energi supplies.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree- I think the Ford C-Max Energi is taking away a lot of sales from these older plug-ins. After all the novelty has worn off of the Leaf, Volt and Prius.

      Also- Nissan is going to sell a cheaper version of Leaf- maybe some people are waiting for the cheap Leaf to show up in the showrooms?

  • avatar

    C-Max Energi sales are almost certainly down a lot. C-Max sales reported were down quite a bit.

    We have ready access to Volt production numbers but do we know how many Prius PHVs are imported to the US? Or has Toyota said anything about Prius PHV inventory? That could be a factor in reduced Prius PHV sales. I would not make the claim but I can’t rule it out.

    It seems that CA dealers are marking down the Volt off invoice. With $7500 in US tax rebate, $1500 in CA rebate (some states give more) and $2-3K in dealer markdowns, the Volt nets for maybe $28K, one commenter elsewhere said he net prices went under $25K. Given the relatively low potential net price, I’m surprised that they sell as poorly as they do. Maybe nobody trusts an advanced tech Chevrolet.

  • avatar

    It looks like iMiev sales ticked UP. I wonder why that is? If it’s because they’re having a fire sale and Mitsubishi is letting them get away for under $19K, I’d be willing to consider one.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    EVs are costing countries unnecessary waste. They might make the “greener feel good” senses come alive, but someone has to pay for EVs as they aren’t viable.

    I’m not against EVs persay, they have a lot to offer in maybe 50 years. Currently they are expensive inner city vehicles. Don’t tell me reasearch is need now, without EVs electrical accumlators will progress.

    With the current availble lithium deposits globally, how many EVs can be manufactured?

    The government money (tax payer money) wasted could be put to better use to reduce greenhouse emissions.

    About 25% of the US’s crude oil cut goes to industrial and domestic heating, why not use the wasted subsidies ie, Solyndra, EV research etc to put in place infrastructure to move natural gas around the country. Look at some satellite imagery and compare the US to Europe and see who is polluting more.

    Change the trade barrier designed CAFE/EPA regulations to allow diesel to be competitive.

    I think its laughable the controls the US has put in place to protect its future energy security.

    It is good to see sales of EVs going down, maybe the waste can be put to better use. Someone has to pay for this and the west is broke.

    • 0 avatar

      We really can’t estimate the economic benefits of making Greenies feel good about themselves. So we’ll just keep throwing money at EVs. No big. It’s not like the country is facing trillion dollar deficits or anything.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll address just one of your statements: We can thank GM for killing the diesel market in the US for 50 years, due to the awful 350 diesels they offered in the 1980s.

      Secondly, diesels haven’t been associated with very reliable brands in the US: VW and Mercedes, primarily.

      Diesels may get some traction if Toyota offers them, but not before.

      Besides, US gas is still relatively cheap. The cost per mile driven is on par with diesel, and diesel engines still carry a price premium.

      • 0 avatar

        My rant isn’t at you so don’t take it as such.

        But GM didn’t kill jack shit. This country’s inability to grow the fukk up and realize that technology has vastly improved over the past 30 years did that. People still think a Domino’s pizza is free after 30 minutes… and that was over 30 years ago!

        I do agree with all your other points though, and have even made the same arguments myself.

  • avatar

    Four words – tax breaks and fiscal cliff.

    Buyers are going to be a lot more tuned into if I buy X I get xxxxx in dollar for dollar tax cuts in the 4th quarter. Any demand from fence sitters has been churned through. Those that didn’t understand the implications of the fiscal cliff and were fence sitting were probably motivated to buy, not knowing if sweeping roll backs in the tax code would make the breaks go away or not.

    As long as sales volumes are niche, and the tax break exists, I think you will see this pattern (fiscal brinksmanship in D.C. or not) continue with a spike in 4th quarter sales. Tax breaks, end of year, and the new models showing up create a perfect storm to motivate fence sitting buyers.

    All few thousand of them. ;-)

  • avatar

    With the new LEAFs being priced, and improved, its natural that all battery EVs take a breather until LEAF 2013 supply ramps up. Look out for the 2013 lease rates from March onwards.

    Similarly with upcomers like Honda Accord PHEV, Mitsubishi Outlander SUV Plug-in PHEV, BMW i3 the Ford, GM and Totoya PHEVs have new entrants that potential purchases want to evaluate.

    Later the new entrants will have to deal with
    Nissan Altima PHEV
    Hyundai Sonata Plug-in PHEV + Kia equiv.
    BMW i8
    Tesla Model X and possibly Gen3
    Nissan Infiniti EV, Nissan NV200 EV

    Tesla being Tesla, seems to have achieved production, sales and delivery rates 6 months early by being part scrooge and pushed Christmas holidays into January.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla only hit 60% of their 2012 target, delivering about 3000 Model S to customers, well short of the 5000 they targeted.

      They did some funny money accounting (nothing too funny, but still) to plump up the balance sheet and buy themselves another 6 months or so before they need to be meaningfully profitable.

      • 0 avatar

        If that were due to lack of demand, it would be a severe concern.

        But as far as I know, it’s just production delays, which are to be expected in a project of this complexity.

        I think they still have an order backlog of about 20,000 cars, which means their full projected production for this year is already sold.

        Customers are very happy with their cars. There are a few gripes on the forums, but almost everyone agrees the pluses way exceed the minuses.

        I’m impressed, so far.

        I have a gut feeling that the stock has fully captured all good news, though, and so I’m unconvinced it’s a buy at current prices. Which I think is too bad, but there you are.


      • 0 avatar

        I saw a report that Tesla finally hit their production rate goal. That may have been for only one week, but it’s a good sign that can turn the corner. I’m pulling for them.

        If they had a compact or midsize car equivalent to the Model S, but closer to $40k price point, it would get serious consideration to be my next car.

      • 0 avatar

        @David Dennis

        Deposits do not equal deliveries.

        Just ask Nissan that saw about 60% of their deposited “pre-sold” sales go up in smoke when would be owners found out they couldn’t install chargers (in many cases) or had other issues in the urban areas where electric cars are best suited for. Admittedly Tesla appears to have a better deposit does equal delivery track record.

        The Volt had an “unofficial” wait list of over 50,000 people, and that did not include the 25,000 fleet commitments three years ago – they haven’t even sold 50,000 examples yet.

        Tesla has yet to be truly profitable without funny accounting (not too funny but still) or building current cars based on the deposits they have future deliverables (some would call that a Ponzi scheme). A red flag is their lack of presence at car shows this year.

        They have a huge uphill battle, and again had they not shuffled some money and raised some more equity, they would have had their back to the walls at this point. Elon Musk tweeted about six months ago that if they didn’t nail their delivery targets for 2012 Tesla’s ability to be a growing concern would be in serious doubt.

        The niche Toyota deal isn’t helping as the electric RAV-4 is not selling, basically at all.

        The other thing that will be a drag on Tesla’s balance sheet is they are basically “selling” electric car credits to other makers so they can meet their CAFE requirements. As these electrified vehicles (selling poorly none the less) roll out, the need to buy credits from Tesla is drying up and with it their biggest revenue stream (when you look at the books).

        I will confess, I didn’t think Tesla would get this far, about 2,800 more Model S have been delivered than I thought would happen.

        I see three huge dangers for Tesla:

        1) The market isn’t there – that’s the biggest issue. I know it goes completely against their guiding principals but it seems a good medium term survival plan is to offer up a gas burning version of some of the products to increase showroom traffic and bridge the gap until the market matures more and then go pure electric. A $40,000 Tesla is not going to drive huge volume sales. There is huge competition languishing at that price point and Ford, Toyota, General Motors, and Nissan can slap big money on their collective hoods to move their $37K (loaded Leaf) to $49K (RAV-4 Electric) offerings. Telsa, will never, ever, win a war of price attrition – they don’t have the resources and investors will SCREAM.

        2) The loss of selling credits to other makers

        3) None of the partnership deals they’ve cut are bearing real revenue fruit because of one above – they are only going to survive selling their own iron

        Historically Elon has always looked for an exit plan to all of his ventures, successful or not — I suspect at one point sinking or soaring, Tesla will look to be acquired or may acquire a zombie semi-luxury brand (God knows there are plenty of them) and breathe massive life into it.

        I think the only way Tesla “makes it” is the market matures, and fast. Once the initial demand is gone the sales are going to tumble.

    • 0 avatar

      I already see Tesla S on streets of our town so people actually buy them. I personally would buy Volt if I decided to buy electric vehicle. What I actually thought about since Volt’s monthly lease payment equals to how much I pay for gas each month. So Volt would be for free with no range anxiety.

  • avatar

    THE TESLA MODEL S is the only serious EV there is. Everything else is a compact car.

    The platform they designed is absolutely brilliant. You can put ANY design on it – including a Crossover – and still have an excellent EV.

    Unfortunately, the main problem with the Tesla Model S is that the vast majority of people don’t want to buy an EV without a range extending gas powered generator. The trust just isn’t there yet.

    The Volt doesn’t excite me at all – not until it gets the interior space of the Lacrosse. In fact, if the Volt had the interior space of the lacrosse and was less than $50,000 it would probably be a better all around buy than the Tesla Model S.

    I just drove XJ-L today 390 miles back and forth to PA so I could take my friends and fam shooting. I only needed to get gas once and “range” was never even a consideration. While I think the new supercharged V6 with AWD would have been better for the snow and rain that happened to fall, I don’t think I’d have felt comfortable doing that same drive in the Model S.

  • avatar

    I never understood the appeal for EVs, and obviously most people see no appeal in EVs either.

    My brother in Palm Springs bought a Volt last year after retiring his old Prius, but the Volt is his number three vehicle behind his F150 and his wife’s Lexus ES. Kinda like a toy he wheels around in on short hops throughout Palm Springs and the surrounding area.

    Most irritating to me is that when he comes to visit me he asks to plug in his Volt to my wall external outlet!!!!! Hey, I don’t ask him for gas money when I go to visit him.

    I could see where EVs may have some appeal in large cities or congested metropolitan areas but sales don’t reflect that either.

    • 0 avatar

      “and obviously most people see no appeal in EVs either.”

      Or they can’t afford them. Or they don’t know that they exist.

      • 0 avatar

        Or they don’t have access to them.

        Tracking internet searches would be much better way to gauge their appeal. After all, if we judged Ferrari’s appeal based solely on sales, it would look even worse.

  • avatar

    EVs are just junk we got tired of. It happens, nothing personal. We all did our part and now it’s time for the next generation of EVs. Special thanks go out to all those that participated, with or without a subsidized rebate.

    • 0 avatar

      So, is that why Jan ’13 sales are still ~2x Jan ’12?

      One data point does not a trend make. Let’s see what the real year-over-year trends are before drawing conclusions.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        The way that I interpret the data is that based on Jan sales of the Volt 2013/2012 is that it’s on track to sell twice as many units in 2013 as it did in 2012 or around 50K units for 2013.

        So we need to change the title to “EV Sales Explode in January 2013” Geeesh this Editor stuff @ TTAC is easy!…….LOL

  • avatar

    Where is Tesla?

  • avatar

    Predictable. After the “first responders” bought, others simply aren’t interested and never have been. The type that “live every minute as greenies” are a small yet noisy group, nothing else.

  • avatar
    GT3 for all

    The Volt is NOT an EV, it is a HYBRID. it has a gasoline MOTOR.
    To lump it in with EV’s is mistaken identity.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      The Volt an is not an EV? Really? I wonder how I was able to put 125 miles on one I demo’d without burning a drop of gas?

      • 0 avatar

        No the Volt is not an EV since you can power it with gas, it is a Hybrid. The regular Prius on the other hand is not a Hybrid, ALL of it’s energy comes from Gasoline. It is a Gas powered car with an energy recapture and storage system.

  • avatar

    It’s not like EVs are less powerful, more expensive, and less convenient.

    Oh wait, they totally are! Maybe that has something to do with it…

  • avatar
    Uncle Wainey

    To conclude that EVs have “run out of juice” is an oversimplification of the EV market. The short-range EV market (Leaf, Focus Electric, i-MiEV) is fundamentally different from the long-range EV market (Tesla Model S, ???). Market saturation of cars that can go only 75 miles per charge–or those that go 20 and then burn gas, for that matter–does not imply market saturation of those that can go 200-300 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Very good observation. The short range EV’s are indeed a hamstrung creature. Whereas the Tesla S is a perfectly useable car which is comparable to a gasoline car.
      Also- EV’s are a totally different animal than PHV. So lumping the Volt, the Prius PHV and the C-Max Energi in with the Leaf and Miev makes no sense at all. PHV’s are expensive, but they are perfectly practical vehicles with no range problem whatsoever.

  • avatar

    Electric technology is its own worst enemy. Who actually needs a car that doesn’t use gas? The people that drive ALOT on a daily basis. But those people tend to prefer diesel. As diesel has no range anxiety and can quickly ‘recharge.”

    People that drive only on the short trips that electrics are suited for don’t use much gas so they need tax credits to even consider electrics.

    Throw in the fact that people are going to eventually figure out that natural gas can run cars and its costs about 1/3 of what gasoline costs..and watch out. EVs have a tough road ahead of them..

    I don’t think we are going to see the switch over until we actually start running out of fossil fuels. Like say Saudi Arabia stops shipping oil..

  • avatar

    Just curious – what did the “regular” car market do during January? I was under the impression that January was always a slow month for car sales…

  • avatar
    Bob Knows

    If a Volt will go 36 miles on a July afternoon in Los Angeles, how far will it go on a January morning in St. Louis while providing enough heat to warm the driver and melt ice off the windows? What? Are we STUPID? LOLOL.

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