By on September 10, 2014

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

A shock that may come to no one among the B&B, California leads the way in sales of plug-ins with just over 100,000 units sold in the past four years.

Bloomberg reports the figures, accounting for 40 percent of the plug-in market, were compiled by the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative from data gathered between December 2010 and August 2014 by the California Air Resources Board, Hybridcars.com and Baum & Associates. Baum also reported overall U.S. sales checked-in at around 250,000 units over the same period.

Though California has 40 percent of the plug-in market covered — thanks in part to legislation pushing automakers to bring more ZEVs to market — the milestone is a long way from the goal of 1.5 million plug-in vehicles by 2025, let alone the Obama administration’s target of 1 million such units by the end of 2015.

As for the present, Baum & Associates founder Alan Baum — who says 300,000 total units will hit the road by the end of this year — believes California’s stake in the market will likely shrink “as certain mass-market models that were initially sold only in state are introduced more broadly across the country.”

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54 Comments on “California Dominates US Plug-In Market...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    We got a potload of them in Atlanta, too. My daughter counted nine LEAFs on a 10 mile roundtrip last night .

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The other 60 percent were also sold in jurisdictions that are temperate and predominantly urban.

    In other words, plug-ins will probably never sell anywhere that gets significant snow, or that has low population density.

    Nothing wrong with that, but it puts a hard limit on potential sales. I think that some of the hypotheticals assume that plug-ins are just like other trends that started in CA and spread along the coasts and then inland. Won’t happen this time.

    • 0 avatar
      harshciygar

      There are plenty of plug-in cars driving around New England, which is neither temperate nor urban (ever shovel three feet of snow? I have).

      There are an estimated 250,000 plug-in cars on the road in America, and while that’s a small fraction of overall sales, we’re on the cusp of a second generation of EVs that cost less, go farther per charge, and have less-polarizing looks.

      I’m not talking about the Tesla Model III either; the next Nissan LEAF is rumored to be able to go as far as 150 miles per charge. If they can keep the cost to around $35,000 before the tax credit, that’s a very compelling car.

      Also keep in mind that manufacturers themselves are setting hard limits on plug-in car sales. The Fiat 500E, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV were all relegated to the bare minimum number required to meet CARB rules, despite the fact that all three cars people lining up to get into them.

      This way these companies can claim “No one buys EVs!” because they have plans they don’t include them. But like many people, I think electric cars ARE the future of personal transportation, they’re just where cellphones were 20 years ago. I think we’ve got at least another decade before EVs really catch on due to cost parity with conventional cars…but once an electric car costs the same and can travel the same distances as conventional cars, consumers will probably choose the car they can refill at home over the one that requires a stop at the gas station once per week.

      At least that’s my 2 cents.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        You do see BEVs here in MN, too, and our winters are hardly mild and ice-free. I asked a Leaf owner about living with one through the winter… “I’m retired.” Well, there’s a market to tap.

        But there are some people commuting with them, too, year-round. However, in this climate a Volt-like car would make more sense to me, if the cost can be made competitive. Low battery due to the cold? Go ahead, start the ICE. There’s no such thing as “waste heat” here in January.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        “This way these companies can claim “No one buys EVs!” ”

        You have this wrong, they only sell a few because they’re massively unprofitable, not because people don’t want them.
        Either pay an extra 20k per unit and find >50k others to do the same every year, or deal with the current way.

    • 0 avatar

      “The other 60 percent were also sold in jurisdictions that are temperate and predominantly urban.”

      Not necessarily. The DC area is probably the 2nd largest market for plugins. While DC doesn’t receive as much snow as the North East, they have the worst snow management. Plugins are also popular in Southern Connecticut, Boston, NYC and Seattle. Plugins will get more popular once people realize that they can manage without a car a few days a year. Most people here telework on snow days anyway. The only disadvantage I can think of is winter range which is not a problem if you have enough EV range buffer on your commute.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I would think a plug in hybrid would be ideal for a cold climate. You can use the engine when you need heat, and go back to battery when the car is warm. Also, when the car’s plugged in, you can set a temperature and time and the interior will be warm when you get in.

      Plus, since you use the traction motor and the high voltage battery to start the engine, you won’t have to worry about a dead 12 volt battery.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Actually, you still have to worry about the 12V battery, for different reasons however, and not nearly as much. If your 12V battery dies in an (ER)EV, the HV battery won’t get connected as the main battery switch is on the 12V bus.. Volt also had an issue where certain iPhones or other bluetooth gizmos would cause the 12V to lose charge. However, you can ‘jumpstart’ EREVs 12V systems!

        http://www.plugincars.com/tesla-owners-encounter-ev-related-problems-12-volt-battery-129287.html

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “In other words, plug-ins will probably never sell anywhere that gets significant snow, or that has low population density.”

      Such as Norway, in which the Leaf has occasionally been the #1 or #2 volume car?

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Almost half of Norway’s population lives in and around Oslo, which has temperate weather and huge electric car subsidies.

        Yes, Oslo does get significant snow, but that is due to the proximity of a large body of water (what Upstate New Yorkers would call “lake effect snow”).

        This article was about the US, and areas in the US that get significant snow usually also have prolonged cold winters.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          Perhaps you should spend a winter in Oslo before telling people about the light snow and mild winter temps. Average lows are in the teens F, and mid-upper 20s F highs from December to February. Snowfall can be heavy – the snowpile by my driveway was over 6 feet high last winter. Electric cars suck in cold weather, but the Norwegian government almost pays people to buy them so they are popular despite their poor winter range.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            “Perhaps you should spend a winter in Oslo before telling people about the light snow and mild winter temps.”

            If you re-read what I wrote, I mentioned significant snow, not light snow. In other words, you are agreeing with what I wrote, but complaining about what I did not write.

            Average Oslo temps (as published) seem mild to me, although they would seem harsh to someone living further south or on the West Coast.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      The state with Tesla’s highest sales per capita is Colorado. Granted, they established a hell of a niche when you could get 40% off of a roadster, but they sell a lot of cars here, winter or no.

      Granted, it’s typically a nth car, where the upper-income buyer already has an SUV for winter driving, but you saw them surprisingly often with snow on the ground last year.

      BTW, they look particularly impressive downtown around the holidays, in fresh snow…

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    A friend just picked up a used Leaf at a screaming good price. He’s using it for daily 20 mile roundtrip commute and haul the kids to sports usage. Of course they have two other “evil carbon powered” cars also.

    If you can pay golf cart prices and have a golf cart usage profile, these have a definite niche. That will be a decent slice of the market.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I’m wearing my shocked face.

  • avatar

    “the milestone is a long way from the goal of 1.5 million plug-in vehicles by 2025”

    2013 saw 96,000 plug-in sales and they are just ramping up. I expect sales to reach 300,000 a year once Volt 2.0, Leaf 2.0 and other vastly improved, cheaper plugins are out. There may be no Moore’s law for battery tech but even at a gradual 7% improvement a year they will soon be cost competitive with ICEs. The biggest problem will be to get automakers to care. Except Nissan and Tesla, no one seems to be giving two [email protected] Even at the current pace of 110,000 units a year, 1.5 million is an easy target by 2025.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “at a gradual 7% improvement a year they will soon be cost competitive with ICEs.”

      If you look at total lifecycle costs, including fuel, present EVs are already cost competitive. However, that initial high purchase price is hard to swallow, even if it is paid off by the much lower fuel costs.

      If the initial costs for EVs ever end up comparable to a hybrid option ($2k-$3k premium), EVs would be a complete no-brainer for a great many buyers.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I’m interested in seeing how long the batteries last, and what the replacement costs are 10 or 15 years out.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      This.

      +1, Sir.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      My prediction, at least for <25kWh EVs, is they'll run the cost of a high-end replacement transmission for a like-for-like swap ($2500+ with core charge), and hopefully there'll be upgrades putting higher energy densities in the same formfactor.

      However, batteries with active management and liquid cooling will last rather longer than most people suspect, especially those that are super-babied like the Volt's. The Volt's battery will have the same usable power (~10.5kWh) though the reserve will likely go down (say from 6kWh to 3kWh).

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      M-B, a lady I know, an early adopter, kept her Hybrid Prius for seven years, doing a roughly 100-mile roundtrip commute 4 days a week to White Sand Missile Range and back.

      After those seven years of desert duty the battery in that Prius had degraded to ~40% efficacy, meaning that in seven years it had lost close to 10% per year of its capacity.

      The replacement cost of that battery (I no longer remember what she said it was) was enough for her to go to the Toyota dealer and trade her Prius in for a brand new Corolla.

      IMO, keeping a PEV or Hybrid for the duration of the factory warranty is probably OK, if you are seriously considering buying one. The other option is to lease one for three-year terms.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the cost of a transmission replacement on a Prius:

        https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#tbm=shop&q=prius+battery+replacement+-auxilliary+-optima

        BTW, our 2007 doesn’t seem to be degrading much and we have about 100k on it.

        I think replacement costs on the LEAF battery are about $5k from Nissan. I’m sure we’ll see creative third parties knock that price down – maybe with replacements crafted with cells from the Gigafactory.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Nationwide, our Electric power plants are straining to keep up. And with the trend to not allow nuclear, the war on coal, extreme EPA restrictions, we’re not going to have the capacity to re-charge electric vehicles. Many of the requests by the power companies for construction of new power plants have been denied, with this situation, can it be long before “Lights Out?”

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      You’re just absolutely wrong. Besides, most electric car charging is done overnight when the demand is low. I can get overnight electricity for 4.5 cents per kwh, and there’s one utility in Texas that has a free overnight electricity promotion going on for electric car owners.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The irony of electric cars in California isn’t lost on me every time another power station is taken off-line by the misanthropes, every potential new one is blocked by the same vile crowd, and every time we have a brown-out on a warm day. The BS about electrics charging at night using current that would otherwise spill into the ground unused has been demonstrated to be a play on the ignorance of the brainwashed on every level too. Never mind that power stations only produce what’s needed. The people driving plug-ins do as much charging on their hosts’ dimes as they can, and that means every EV is sucking juice during the work day and at shopping centers. It’s a race to see what self-inflicted wound brings down civilization, but subsidizing wasteful technologies at the exclusion of efficient ones is doing its best to compete.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I agree with the situation you describe, but EVs are not to blame – politics is.

      That, plus a misinformed public. Who really wants a nuke in their back yard – you? Me, either, even though I know they’re pretty safe – until they aren’t.

      Also, with EVs comprising a small percentage of the US market, and each only adding maybe 20% to a household electric bill, we’re a long, long way from “lights out”.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Do you know the difference between base load and peak load, when those loads occur, and when EVs typically charge?

      Someone who actually knows those things would say that air conditioners are a much bigger threat to the grid than EVs. Because air conditioners come on strongest during peak hours (which is part of why they’re peak hours), they are a proximate cause of brownouts and blackouts.

      When do EVs typically charge, and when is base load utilization the lowest? Here’s a hint: they’re at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        EVs typically charging at night is not proven. Find an empty subsidized EV charging station during the day. Why would people that are comfortable being a burden to their fellow men use electricity they have to pay for when they can leech off their employers, stores, and the public at large?

        • 0 avatar
          Master Baiter

          My workplace is loaded with free EV charging stations. Charging cars….during the DAY!

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            And in Austin, they’re entirely powered by renewables.

            If EV charging becomes an issue with the grid, power costs and tiering will follow. There’s no tiering where I am, so I’m not incented to reschedule my use. If I were, I would.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            In other parts of TX, TXU has been offering a free nights plan–electric usage between 10 PM & 6 AM is free.

            I could buy a scrapped Leaf/Volt battery with at least 5 kWh of usable capacity and then charge it at night to power my house during the day. That would be enough to cover my base load (but not AC during summer) so that I would have no electric bill.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            As EVs become more common, how long do you think that will last? Around here, there are few and I expect it will remain that way.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          http://www.theevproject.com/downloads/documents/46.%20A%20First%20Look%20at%20the%20Impact%20of%20Electric%20Vehicle%20Charging%20on%20the%20Electric%20Grid%20in%20The%20EV%20Project.pdf

          ~80% of EV charging is at home, and most of that is at night.

          In areas without ToU or tiering, it doesn’t matter when you charge, because if it did and the utility had problems accomodating peak load, they would introduce ToU and tiering.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @CJ >> Why would people that are comfortable being a burden to their fellow men use electricity they have to pay for…

          Okay, so we can all pretty much agree that EVs are kind of expensive, so people that earn a lot of money are the ones buying them. Right? So, high earners are a burden to their fellow man? Is that what you’re saying?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Speaking of power plants, do you know when the last new refinery was built? Do you know how hard it is to get a new one approved? How close we are to our refining capacity? There’s a reason gas prices spike when refineries go offline for maintenance.

      Personally, I’m more confident in our ability to generate more electricity than our ability to spit out more gasoline. If nothing else, I can buy solar panels, but I’m not going to put a chemical plant in my garage/back yard.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        There are no refineries being built because there is no need for them. Gasoline consumption peaked sometime last decade, and jet fuel consumption is at best flat. Diesel’s off a bit as well. The major oil companies have been closing or selling refineries, yet we still have enough surplus capacity to export a record amount of refined products.

        Any future capacity needs would be met by expansion of existing refineries should that be needed. Most likely it will not.

        http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I live in a western suburb of Minneapolis and Chevy Volts are not exactly a rare site. In fact there are quite a few lease returns listed on CL right now. So if your looking to pick one up used the choices are pretty good. Might be time to trade in the GMC Sierra 2500HD!

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    @ DKN -That’s OK, I still have a Tahoe that will be parked like the GMC is now. I’ll use that for towing, family road trips, and a back-up support vehicle for when the Audi is in the shop!……LOL We never needed two full size BOF V8 trucks to begin with. I blame that bad decision on the wife.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Don’t let her drive the EV, you’ll never get to drive it again!

      Frankly, the Model X will likely sell more than the Model S precisely because women prefer bigger CUVs, while men will want the power and seating position. If Model III isn’t available as a CUV from launch, Tesla is crazy.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        We demo’d one with the big VOLT decals on the sides a few years ago for almost 3 days. That’s why I want one! 125 miles, zero gas burned, soo quiet and smooth.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          That’s one of the reasons electric cars will succeed, those that have driven one don’t want to go back to a conventional gasoline drivetrain. I drive a Fusion PHEV and I don’t think I will ever go back to a nonelectified drivetrain, I just prefer the electric driving experience so much.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @FormerFF those that have driven one don’t want to go back to a conventional gasoline drivetrain.

            That’s so true! Just a test drive was enough for me. Put it to the floor to merge onto the freeway. No down-shift-followed-by-high-revs like with an ICE – just instant silent acceleration enabled by all of that wonderful instant torque. So sweet.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Right-on! The driving experience is soo much better than an ICE vehicle people will drive them for that alone. “I’ll never go back to an ICE vehicle” is something that comes out of the mouths of a lot of Volt, Leaf and other EV owners.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Pure EVs will be second or third cars, but not only cars, until recharging times get near the time to refuel with gasoline or the like. Chicago to Denver is a long day’s drive with a gas powered vehicle. It’s two days or more with an EV because you spend more time recharging than driving.

    For a person who only needs one car, pure EVs don’t make financial sense unless they are so cheap to buy that their purchase price plus running costs are lower than the running costs alone for a gas powered car.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Pure EVs do make financial sense as a sole vehicle for those who don’t need to travel that far at one time. There are many people out there that would never drive from Chicago to Denver, if they had to make that trip they would fly no matter what car they owned. I know a guy that had a Leaf as his only vehicle and it got him where he needed to go. He only sold it because he quit his job and went to school where he didn’t need a car.

      I also know a couple who own 3 cars and all of them are EVs, Tesla Roadster, 1st gen Rav-4 EV, and a Leaf. They are quite happy with that and have taken longer trips in the Roadster.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If you’re somewhere where power is super-cheap (like, say, the PNW, where I live) you may save more than enough in EV running costs to rent a gas car on the one occasion every year when you take a road trip.

      My wife and I have two cars, and one of them could easily be an EV if there were one on the market that I liked enough and could afford.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    It is all about the HOV stickers, don’t you know?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Take away the subsidies and get back with me on the impact on sales.

    • 0 avatar
      furiouschads

      take away the oil subsidies and get back to me on ICE advantage

      (subsidies like aircraft carriers in the gulf, iraq war, iranian revolution, 9/11, depletion deduction, intangible drilling costs, pollution externalities, rolling coal to atmosphere instead of into cab)

  • avatar
    Burger Boy

    Having lived in Southern California briefly with average highway speeds around 15mph, I would think that range anxiety would keep most out of plug-in cars. They must have a commuter car and a “Ralph’s” car.

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