Green vehicle sales data tough to find these days, but there is good news out there

If you’re fascinated with green vehicle sales, where do you go to find that information?

Not long ago, you would have gone to InsideEV’s EV Sales Scorecard, HybridCar’s Hybrid Dashboard, Electric Drive Transportation Association’s monthly report, Green Auto Market’s Extended Edition (for paid subscribers); regular coverage in Green Car Congress. EV-volumes.com, and CleanTechnica; and special reports that might be released by EVAdoption, International Energy Agency, BloombergNEF, Statista.com, and occasionally, other sources.

So, what have we got left these days?
After spending time researching that question, it looks like there are only three main sources available at this time:

US Dept. of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. The agency offers cumulative figures, and some details on the latest market developments, on hybrid electric vehicle sales, plug-in vehicle sales, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. You can also view charts on US plug-in vehicle sales since 2010, and mostly sales data for electric vehicles. The problem here is that you have to magnify the chart and gaze at lines of color to estimate those volumes.

CleanTechnica’s news coverage and quarterly US electric vehicle sales charts. CleanTechnica is a very good publication to follow for those interested in the state of renewable energy, climate change policies, energy efficiency, sustainability campaigns, and the role that electric vehicles is playing in the market. That might include EV models doing well in Europe and other global markets.

Veloz.com: Veloz is a fairly new nonprofit organization dedicated to “leading the electric car revolution.” The NPO’s members come from key sector companies, agencies, and nonprofits. Its focus is on California, but its reporting does include national figures. The organization’s Sales Dashboard data comes from the California Energy Commission and includes the most current cumulative figures on zero emission vehicle (ZEV) sales in the state, including plug-in vehicle and fuel cell electric vehicle sales in California and in the US. You can also view cumulative data on California’s EV charger and hydrogen stations, and on California vehicle models available meeting the state’s ZEV guidelines.

What’s missing is monthly sales data on models. How is the Tesla Model 3 doing in US sales last month compared to a year ago? Two years ago? How many units have been sold since it was introduced in 2017? What are the closest plug-in models in sales from other automakers? These and other good questions can’t be answered now — unless you have a research firm that you’ve paid to do that project; or some of it may be provided to member organizations in NPOs and through alliances with government agencies. Even better yet, you get the automakers to provide their monthly sales data reports directly to you.

What happened to all that wonderful data?
In late 2019, and into the next year, announcements started being made that these sales reports would be coming to an end. As you can see on Argonne National Laboratory’s page: “As of November 2019, Argonne no longer reports the number of E-drive vehicles sold by make and model.”

Argonne offers details on where it’s data used to come from, but if you visit these sites, you’ll notice they’re missing — with or without announcements on the last of the detailed reports. I think the main reason for these changes was publications having less resources to spend the necessary time, and to tap into existing relationships, to get these reports done and published. Media sources were going through cutbacks in staff, mergers and acquisitions, and a perception that green vehicles were not the hot commodity for getting more active readers and advertisers. Maybe that would be going over to smartphone apps like Apple CarPlay, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and the latest and coolest high-performance cars powered by fossil fuels.

Green Auto Market stopped publishing these charts around this time to subscribers as well — that came from having less of the data available; and changes in my own career path that included stopping regular editions out for about seven months.

That being said, what is going on in green vehicles sales?
Here’s a few market trends that I’ve noticed:

  1. Battery and electric vehicle sales are coming back gradually, but the long-term effect looks pretty good.
    A total of 53,779 light-duty plug-in vehicles — 37,967 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and 15,812 plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) — were sold during May 2021 in the US, up 329 percent from sales in May 2020, says Argonne National Laboratory.

Cumulatively, 230,687 PHEVs and BEVs have been sold in 2021. US plug-in vehicle sales in 2020 totaled around 296,000 units, which was down significantly from the 331,000 in sales in 2019 due largely to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Platts Analytics Future Energy Outlooks’ report.

The chart featured above, from Argonne National Laboratory, supports the idea that plug-in vehicles are back on track for gradual growth and integration into new vehicle sales. That would go for North America, Europe, and China, according to this report and other sources.

  1. Light-duty trucks make up most of hybrid sales.
    Here’s a telling one…… light trucks (pickup trucks and SUVs) were on pace to account for 76.2 percent of all US new-vehicle retail sales in May 2021, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. The ratio was down for light trucks versus cars in hybrids, but the same trend carried over.

About 64 percent of US new hybrid vehicle sales from January through May 2021 were led by light trucks. During that month, 75,025 hybrid electric vehicles sales (27,085 cars and 47,940 LTs) were sold in the US,. It was up 170.5 percent from the sales in May 2020. Toyota is doing very well here. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been No. 1 lately in US hybrid sales, with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid at No. 2.

  1. Northern Europe leads the way.
    Plug-in vehicles are still down as marginal share of total new vehicles sales in the US (about 2 percent last year), but that’s far from true in a few other countries. Northern Europe is leading the way here. The top five (percentage of 2020 total new vehicle sales) were Norway (74.8 percent), Iceland (52.4 percent), Sweden (32.3 percent), Netherlands (25.0 percent), and Finland (18.1 percent).

That data from International Energy Agency, presented in a Pew Research Center study, shows the world average at 4.6 percent. Massive EV market China came in at 5.7 percent of new vehicle sales going to plug-ins last year.

  1. Tesla still dominates the market.
    While the Model 3 may not have total domination of the market anymore, it’s still doing very well. And it’s No. 2 behind the new Model Y. That new small crossover had 44,680 units sold in the US during the second quarter, while the Model 3 came in at 36,300. The Model S and Model X were down on the list of Q2 2021 US sales, but still in the top 10. Tesla had a slight decline in its share, but it still controls 71 percent of US plug-in vehicle sales this year.

Catalytic converters a hot topic for car thieves — and for a filmmaker who exposes ‘smog conspiracy’

How did catalytic converters become such a hot topic lately — whether that be about car thieves or an entertaining movie about its history and cover up by automakers? The technology has been around for years and was essential for automakers to meet state and federal rules on manufacturing vehicles producing less smog emissions, but there is something of high value to thieves beyond that purpose.

You may have noticed in local news coverage that catalytic converter units have been cut off and removed by thieves at an alarming rate over the past year. Many arrests are being made regularly, and recovery of stolen goods is being claimed by law enforcement around the country whenever possible.

The technology uses precious metals as catalysts that process raw exhaust gases and converts them over to less harmful gases in water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

Why are thieves stealing a lot of them these days? They’re not reselling the converters; it’s that the precious metals used in manufacturing catalytic converters have quite a lot dollar value to buyers, according to Roadshow editor Brian Cooley. Platinum, palladium, and rhodium, though in small quantities, make the theft worthwhile for these precious metals.

Where did it all begin? A series of air pollution and air quality federal laws starting in 1970 eventually led to a 1975 federal mandate on emission standards that included the catalytic converter. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 was another influential factor on the federal government adding the 1975 rules. States eventually enacted rules on aftermarket catalytic converters that would meet federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.

That eventually evolved into California requiring the use of California Air Resources Board-compliant catalytic converters on Jan. 1, 2009. Other states followed along including New York (6/1/2013) and Maine (6/1/2018) mandating the use of CARB-compliant converters for certain model year vehicles. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Colorado became the latest state to call for the use of. CARB-compliant catalytic converters typically use an enhanced combination of washcoat technology and higher precious metal load to meet the state’s stricter emissions conversions standard.

What the new movie deals with
No Sudden Move, a 2021 film streaming on HBO Max and starring Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro, was directed by Steven Soderbergh. It’s a crime thriller about a 1954 theft of the first catalytic converter system. As mentioned, that air pollution reduction system did become mandated by the federal government in 1975 — but had been floating around in the backdrop for over two decades. That plays into the classic conspiracy theory about major automakers buying patent rights, or conducting legal battles in court or through lobbying efforts, to suppress clean vehicle technology. One idea here is that America already has a vast network of gas stations. Switching over to alternative fuels and energy would be incredibly costly; and who would foot the bill?

Actor Matt Damon plays an anonymous auto industry executive in No Sudden Move who becomes similar to “Deep Throat” in All The President’s Men. He refers to moves being made by automakers to control the catalytic converter and how big bucks would be paid to get the technology returned from the thieves. At the end of the movie, text rolls across the screen explaining how, a few years after the film’s historic placement of its storyline, the federal government sued major carmakers for conspiring to hide evidence that vehicles were causing pollution; and the automakers were suppressing catalytic-converter technology that could help combat the problem.

Damon’s shadowy character also responds to questions about the “redlining” of neighborhoods in Detroit that would later bring down housing market value and encourage crime waves in America’s black community neighborhoods. Redlining segregation went far beyond Detroit, the auto executive said.

The catalytic converter reference at the end of the film goes to a 1969 lawsuit by the US Dept. of Justice against American Motors, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, who were charged with conspiring between 1953 to 1969 to delay both the manufacturing of pollution-control devices and their installation in cars. It took on the slang term, “smog conspiracy” in media coverage.

Soderbergh, best known for his Ocean’s 11 trilogy, has kept his hand in geopolitical battles and conspiracy theories over his career. Oscar-winning Erin Brockovich (2000), features Julia Roberts playing the title character on a crusade with her law firm employer to hold accountable Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) for its role in the Hinkley groundwater contamination incident. Traffic (2000) explored the drug trafficking industry and the futile attempts to suppress it by criminal law and enforcement; Contagion (2011) set the tone for Covid-19 when a business traveler having an affair in Hong Kong contracts a pandemic virus and brings it back to the US. Jude Law plays an anti-pharmaceutical industry activist — and conspiracy theory champion — who benefits financially from his own clandestine efforts to spread the story.

Automakers tend to stay out of these stories and accusations, choosing to focus more on winning high-performance racing competitions and growing sales and profit margins each quarter. In more recent years, they have tended to cooperating more with regulators and participate in discussions with California on zero emissions, fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen, and charging infrastructure. They also continue to ask for a national standard by the federal government on fuel economy and emissions.

Complying with catalytic converter rules is one of many that automakers must follow in safety, fuel economy, and reliability. Suppressing the technology is less likely these days, and after the 2015 Volkswagen diesel car debacle, they’re especially less likely to take on those types of risks.

The catalytic converter is likely one of several technologies that will eventually go away if the projected model of electric, autonomous, connected, and shared vehicles becomes the global industry’s norm. For now, state and federal laws require vehicles to be equipped with these transitional technologies, and for automakers to do their part in making sure it happens.

And in other news………
EA doubling infrastructure: Electrify America announced its “Boost Plan”  to more than double its current electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in the United States and Canada, with plans to have more than 1,800 fast charging stations and 10,000 individual chargers installed by the end of 2025. The expansion will increase the deployment of 150 and 350 kilowatt chargers – the fastest speed available today – and help pave the way for more electric vehicles in North America.

New Honda CEO on EV alliances: Honda Motor Co.’s new CEO Toshihiro Mibe said today that the automaker is willing to form new alliances to make electric vehicles profitable. One alliance partner is General Motors, and the two companies have said they will meet two objectives: introduce two jointly developed large-sized EV models in North America, using GM’s Ultium batteries, in 2024; and roll out several new models which feature a new EV platform they’re calling ‘e:Architecture.’

Mibe, who took this job in April, made points during a press conference on issues affecting all automotive executives — the economic and regulatory pressures to share technology and costs with competitors, meet stringent clean air and climate change mandates, and to transition over to autonomous driving.

New ride-hailing startup: Finally! Something positive and constructive related to the ride-hailing market: a driver-owned cooperative in New York City. How a union organizer, black car driver, and former Uber executive, took on a huge challenge: building a new ride-hailing platform that gives profit and control to drivers. Read all about it.

RNG brings carbon negativity: Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) and Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) announced that California fleets fueled with bio-CNG achieved carbon-negativity for calendar year 2020. They also say that 92 percent of all on-road fuel used in natural gas vehicles in California last year was renewable natural gas (RNG). According to data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) the annual average carbon intensity score of bio-CNG in that mix was -5.845 gCO2e/MJ. The carbon intensity of California’s bio-CNG continues to drop. -0.85 in Q2 and -17.95 in Q3.

BYD sales skyrocket: BYD sold 51,015 vehicles in June, with 49,765 units of passenger vehicles and 1,250 units of commercial vehicles respectively. In China, the company’s new energy vehicles shot up 207 percent year-over-year in June. During the second half of 2021, BYD will continue increasing its production capacity to meet market demand and use innovative technologies such as the DM-i hybrid system and the blade battery to create more sales in the future.

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