Plug-in Electric Vehicles: the First Three Years (of the "post-modern" era)

Plug-in Electric Vehicles: the First Three Years (of the "post-modern" era)

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Mon, 12/09/2013 - 4:48am

By Brett Williams

December 2010 marked the launch of what I call the “post-modern” electric-vehicle era (the original era being around the turn of the 20th century, and the modern era beginning in the 1990s.) With the advent of plug-in hybrids and the re-commercialization of all-battery vehicles, this new era of "plug-in electric vehicles" (PEVs) is now well underway. After three years on the market (thru November 2013), roughly 160,000 light-duty PEVs have been sold in the U.S. [please see Figure 1 below and slide 4 in the presentation update now available on the UCLA Luskin Center EV Market Dynamics page]. The overall PEV sales rate has increased exponentially, as several major models experience growth or steady sales while new models continue to be added.

Figure 1: Three years of PEV sales


What types of electric vehicles are on the market? What is a PEV again?

PEVs, or electric-fuel vehicles, include all-battery and plug-in-hybrid vehicles. The presentation includes a typology to help you sort out what is what [slides 24–30].

15 major models are currently on the market, including the latest release, the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. This November addition, a plug-in hybrid, brings the hybrid grand total (gasoline, plug-in, and fuel-cell) to some 50 models [slide 27]. Accompanied by 9 all-battery vehicles, consumers can now choose from three-score electric-vehicle options.

What are the best-selling PEVs in the U.S.?

Cumulative sales: 

  • By model: The U.S. fleet consists primarily of over 50,000 Chevy Volts, nearly 40,000 Nissan LEAFs, well over 20,000 Toyota Prius Plug-ins, nearly 20,000 Tesla Model S’s, and several thousand Ford C-Max Energi’s and Fusion Energi’s [Figure 2 and slides 5–6, 16]. The first two of these were the original entrants into the post-modern PEV market, the next two mid-market releases, and the last two relatively new additions.

Figure 2: Individual PEV model sales

  • By PEV type: Four of these market-leading vehicles are plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), which account for 57% of the market and total over 90,000 sales [Figures 3–4 and slides 7–8]. Because of this, and despite smaller batteries and lesser electric capabilities per vehicle than all-battery vehicles (BEVs), PHEVs are probably providing more total daily electric miles and associated petroleum-displacement benefits, as discussed in a previous blog [Does size matter?: EVs, batteries, and electric miles]. 

Figures 3 and 4: BEV and PHEV sales and share


How are sales changing over time?

Figure 5: Monthly PEV sales by model


Monthly sales:

  • By PEV type: On a monthly-sales basis, BEVs dominated much of 2011, but lost significant market share late in that year [slides 10–11]. Starting in the third quarter of 2012 and driven by the rise in the Tesla Model S and reduction in the price of the LEAF, BEVs have made a monthly-market-share come-back, but at a decreasing rate as 2013 progressed. The BEV monthly share has accounted for less than 50% of PEVs sales for several months, but November continued to apply slight pressure on the cumulative average towards a more even split. Plug-in hybrids still hold the monthly record of over 6,000 vehicles sold in August 2013.
  • By model: At one time or another, the Volt, LEAF, Prius Plug-in, and Model S have all been monthly leaders [slide 14]. The Volt holds the monthly record, with 3,351 vehicles sold in August 2013. The Volt and the LEAF hold on to over 20% each of the increasingly competitive monthly PEV market [slide 13]. The Prius Plug-in and Model S command well over 10% each and each of the two Ford Energi models roughly that much.

Yearly sales:

  • At nearly 87,000, 2013 sales thru November have exceeded all previous years combined (roughly 71,600 2010–2012) [slide 17].
  • After trailing BEVs for most of 2013, plug-in hybrids now command 51% of annual PEV sales thru November.

How does this compare to hybrids when they first came out?

  • Acknowledging a decade of differences, PEV sales (in 2010–2013) continue to outpace gasoline hybrid sales (in 1999–2002) when examined from the year of category introduction [Managing EV Expectations and Figure 6]. In fact, year-4 PEV sales surpassed, in just 6 months, total year-4 gasoline hybrid sales. Further, in 10 months, year-4 sales of each type of PEV (BEVs and PHEVs) individually have now exceeded total year-4 hybrid sales [slide 19].

Figure 6: Conventional hybrids, BEVs, and PHEVs from year of introduction


December 2010 marked the launch of what I call the “post-modern” electric-vehicle era (the original era being around the turn of the 20th century, and the modern era beginning in the 1990s.)

By Brett Williams