by Brett Williams
As part of a legislative briefing in Sacramento hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a new presentation now available on the UCLA Luskin Center EV Market Dynamics page characterizes the market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) thru the end of February 2014. It includes updates to information posted previously characterizing the first three years of the “post-modern electric-vehicle era,” along with up-to-date characterizations of PEVs currently on the market, including prices, incentives, and EPA-rated electric-performance specifications.
What PEVs are currently on the market, and how much do they cost (before and after incentives)?
16 major models are currently on the market, including the latest release, the Cadillac ELR. This December addition, a plug-in-hybrid EV, brings the plug-in-hybrid total to 7. Accompanied by 9 all-battery vehicles, consumers can now choose from three-score electric-drive-vehicle options (including all-gasoline hybrids).
Slides 5–7 of the presentation show the 7 currently available plug-in-hybrid models, as well as 8 plug-in-hybrid EVs announced for release in the next year or two.
Plug-in hybrids at this point tend to be reasonably-sized sedans and typically are priced in the low-to-mid $30,000 range. If you forget to plug them in, they operate as gasoline hybrids, averaging between 40 and 50 miles per gallon (mpg). However, as I like to say, “The more you plug, the less you chug”; on electricity, these vehicles are rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to average roughly 100+ miles per gasoline-gallon-equivalent of electrical energy. They can operate on electricity for between 10 and 40 miles, on average, before the gasoline engine takes over fully for the next 400–600 miles or more.
Two recent additions to the market are luxury sedans, a Porsche and a Cadillac, with higher price points. Coming soon, pretty much every major automaker will be offering a plug-in hybrid in the next year or two.
On the all-battery front, slides 8–10 of the presentation show the 9 currently available all-battery models, as well as 6 announced for release in the next year or two. These vehicles tend to be a little smaller, but there is considerable variation in the size, price, and range. They include some relatively affordable vehicles capable of going 60–100 electric miles on a charge, as well as some fancier models capable of going much farther, like the Tesla Model S (which my neighbor likes to call the Newport Prius, because in certain posh circles it is now very important to be seen in your Tesla).
Figure 1 from slide 11 of the presentation shows the prices of 15 PEV models (the Mitsubishi i is temporarily in-between model offerings), arranged in order of increasing “discounted price”—that is to say, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) minus the federal tax credit (in green) and the California rebate (in red). Three vehicles cost less than $20,000 on this basis, 7 between $20,000 and $30,000, 2 between $30,000 and $40,000, and 3 over $60,000. Federal and state incentives cover between 6% and 40% of MSRP.
Figure 1: PEV prices and incentives
I note that the order of increasing discounted price is not the same as the order of increasing MSRP: some vehicles that are cheaper on an MSRP basis become more expensive because they receive lower incentives. This is typically true for plug-in-hybrid EVs relative to similarly-priced all-battery EVs, because the federal incentive is based on battery size and the state incentive gives a lower rebate to plug-in-hybrid EVs. It might be worth re-examining both policies if you believe arguments about the current state of the market articulated previously in this blog about the Path of Least Resistance or e-miles [also partially illustrated in slides 23–24].
How are these cars doing?
After 3¼ years on the market (thru Feb 2014), roughly 181,000 light-duty plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have been sold in the U.S., over 100,000 of which, or 56%, are plug-in hybrid EVs [slide 16].
What are the best-selling PEVs in the U.S.?
California, with roughly 70,000 PEVs, accounts for over one-third of the total market [slide 17]. Here, with aggressive policies in support of all-battery EVs, the market split is more even, with plug-in-hybrid EVs accounting for only 52% of the market. Further, the rebates given out by the state flip this majority on its head, with roughly 52% of 52,000 rebates having been given thus far to all-battery vehicles [slides 18–19].
Collectively this U.S. fleet of 181,000 vehicles represents $7B in revenues and can drive 12 million electric miles on a full charge. This is unprecedented success and is having a significant real-world impact reducing emissions and petroleum consumption today. However, when compared to the roughly 15 million vehicles sold in the U.S. each year, PEVs barely register [slide 20]. These markets are young and will need support for some time to come.
How does this compare to hybrids when they first came out?