What Q1 EV Sales Have to Say, 25 State Attorneys General Sue to Block Federal Emissions Rules

Makers of electric passenger vehicles are continuing to experience the reality of being in the auto market. Car shoppers want to see purchase prices come down, which is happening; and they also want to see range and infrastructure increase.

That comes from Kelley Blue Book (KBB), along with the following sales figures for battery electric vehicles in the U.S. While 2023 sales grew by leaps and bounds overall, this year is seeing much more conservative gains. The U.S. market saw 268,909 EVs in the first quarter of 2024 — 2.6% more than in the first quarter of last year. But that’s down from a 46.4% growth rate for Q1 2023 vs. Q1 2023.

The volume started softening in Q4 2023. The Cox Automotive Economic and Industry Insights team reported that EV sales in Q4 were higher than in Q3 by roughly 5,000 units. Cox Automotive (KBB’s parent company) expects that growth to continue this year through more new EV product, more incentives, more inventory, more leasing, and more infrastructure. If all this happens, it could lead to the share increase going up to 10% this year for battery electric vehicles. That forecast, which came out on January 9, could come down later this year with such a decrease in first quarter results.

Nearly 1.2 million (1,189,051) new EVs were sold in the U.S. in 2023. That made up about 7.6% of the domestic market last year. It was up from 5.9% of the market in 2022, and represented a 46% increase in EV sales during 2023.

Plug-in hybrids reached record sales in 2023, with more than 250,000 new vehicles sold, or about 20% of total plug-in vehicle sales, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Plug-in hybrids made up slightly less than 2% of the total U.S. market last year.

The combined market share of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs rose to 16.3% of total light-duty vehicle sales in the U.S., up from 12.9% in 2022. Non-plug-in hybrids make up a slightly larger share of those sales than EVs do, coming in just under 8% of the total market. Hybrids have been seeing their sales increase over the past two years.

KBB’s three factors (price, range, and infrastructure) comes from polls and studies. It also comes from Tesla continuing to lead the way in price cuts — as the company continues to grow and become a more mainstream part of the U.S. and global auto market. As we all know, market share continues to be the leading bragging factor for global automakers to their shareholders; no matter what the cost might be for factory and management employees who see more job cuts coming so that profits and market share continue to rise.

Tesla’s average transaction price was $52,315 in Q1, down roughly 13.5% year over year according toe KBB. Competitors are following Tesla’s lead and cutting prices. Automakers and dealers are also advertising incentives even more to stand out in the market.

Leasing is helping out
Leasing is another incentive being offered with monthly payments coming down for consumers. In the first quarter, about 27% of all EVs were leased — more than daub le the year before. Several EV models qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit rebate when leased; and far fewer qualify when purchased outright, according to KBB.

The Tesla Model Y continues to see sales gains at 96,729 units sold in the U.S. during the first quarter compared to its 394,497 total units sold last year. The Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model X, while both in the top 10, are down compared to the rate they were selling at last year. Earlier this month, Tesla announced a decline in quarterly deliveries for the first time in nearly four years.

As for models doing well, the Rivian R1S, an SUV, sold 8,017 units in the first quarter compared to 24,783 in 2023; and when compared to the 7,946 units sold during Q1 2023 for all its models. The model climbed up to No. 4 in EVs sold in the U.S. during the first quarter, following the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 has been getting a lot of accolades, but it’s sales aren’t impressive. The company sold 6,822 units in Q1 compared to 33,918 for the year. However, the South Korean automaker is certainly pleased to see that its overall EV sales shot up 62% in the quarter versus that same quarter a year ago.

One method that has been working well for Hyundai and its Kia division is that leasing offers are helping quite a bit. While the fact that they’re not made in the U.S. kept them out of the $7,500 incentive from the Inflation Reduction Act. But Hyundai and Kia took a strong approach in making lease offers to take advantage of that loophole and it is paying off.

And in other news………..

EPA rules challenged in court: Republican attorneys general from 25 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency today to challenge the passenger vehicle emissions rules finalized on March 20 in the White House. The suit alleges that the EPA exceeded its legal authority when making those rules. Those state attorneys general are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The suit was filed by attorneys general from states led by Kentucky and West Virginia in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

More on robotaxis: Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s April 5 announcement that the company will unveil a robotaxi on August 8 has been stirring up a lot more discussions on that new mobility service. General Motors’ Cruise is redeploying robotaxis in Phoenix after nearly five months of paused operations, the company recently said in a blog post. The cars will be in “manual mode,” so they won’t be driving themselves, to address safety concerns coming out of the incident last year in San Francisco where a pedestrian was stuck under and dragged by a Cruise robotaxi. The pedestrian had some injuries but survived the incident. The city is closely watching Cruise and Waymo to see how they’re doing, with many concerns being expressed. A recent announcement that Didi Global and Guangzhou Automobile Group’s (GAC) electric-vehicle unit will be entering that market also stirred more interest. A joint venture between the two Chinese companies will start producing robotaxis next year, the companies said.

Ride services In SoCal: How you can cut through the gridlock

If you come to Southern California for a work conference, a business trip, vacation time, or to visit family and friends, what’s the best way to get around? For someone who lives here and loves to go to concerts, theater, sporting events, and the beach, I’d recommend being very informed and creative about it; and if you’d like to do it in a sustainable, socially conscious and cost-effective manner, it’s good to know your options.

Traffic congestion is the top complaint by visitors to LA, and sometimes to locals. Having options for not being bound to your steering wheel can be very appealing for us. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in Blade Runner (1982) got to take LA rides in automated flying cars, but those won’t be here until a few more decades from now. It is nice to have options in place so that you’re not just stuck behind the wheel. As for now, here are a few ride options to consider………….

Mobile app ride services
There isn’t much left beyond Uber and Lyft for hailed and shared rides on mobile applications outside traditional taxi and livery services. Somewhere around 2015, Sidecar, Flywheel, and Curb were ready to compete by linking riders to drivers in taxis, black cars, and other vehicles. As for now, Curb still has a presence in the market as a taxi service in Los Angeles, along with New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Uber tends to be a cheaper ride than Lyft in California. A study by CashNetUSA found that an Uber ride will be, on average, $1.16 less than a Lyft ride. For the past couple of years, fares have stayed low in both networks. You can find the classic expensive rides, but that’s well outside the norm. You’ll usually find the drivers to be unhappy with their situation — what they’re being paid and how it could be a series of short low-paying rides that offer little appeal beyond the passengers.

Old school methods
Pre-Uber rides are still out there — shuttle vans, charter bus trips, taxi rides, chauffeured transportation, and public transportation — but the fleets are smaller and harder to find for private transportation. Some of the rides can be expensive and customized for clients who can afford to pay for it, such as corporate accounts.

Super Shuttle went of business in late 2019. Now there are several small independent operators available. Long Beach Shuttle offers a direct shuttle from Long Beach (LGB) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $52. Charter bus trips are still desirable for riders. They can cost up to $40 per passenger for the whole trip to group outings such as wineries or a Hollywood tour. However, if you do your homework it can be a lot cheaper. For example, we take a bus ride from the Lakewood Mall to the Hollywood Bowl and back for $7 for the round trip if you order ahead and $12 at the point of departure. That program is called Hollywood Bowl Park & Ride. Metropolitan Shuttle and US Coachways do a lot of business in this region — offering buses to corporate events, sporting events, festivals, public rallies, and other events.

As for taxi rides, California Yellow Cab covers Orange County, and there’s Los Angeles Yellow Cab. Independent Cab Company’s rate calculator reports that there’s a $3.10 base charge, $2.97 per mile, and $0.33 for every 37 seconds in wait time or traffic time. For trips from LAX Airport, there’s a mandated $16.50 minimum fare plus a $4 airport surcharge. Taking a taxi to and from John Wayne Airport in Orange County would be lower, with only a $3 airport surcharge.

Vanpools and rideshare services
There are more than 1,000 vanpools operating throughout Southern California, and many are seeking new riders. You can go to Go511.com, Southern California’s largest commuter database, to get a free list of vanpools in your area. Some of these workforce commuter and event rideshare services are coming through public transit agencies and California Vanpool Authority, a public transit agency, that supplies qualified drivers with late model vans.

There are also vanpool ride services set up through Metro in Los Angeles county and Orange County Transit Authority, University of California campuses, and a few cities. Rideshare services SoCal 511 at Go511.com is an online platform for counties in Southern California to manage employer rideshare services; among other resources assisting users in finding all types of people movement resources. Some of these transit organizations offer subsidies to employers to use vanpools. You can view the map section to see if there are any road closures with details on why it’s closed and how long it will go on.

Electric vehicle sharing
This has been a tough business to survive in — whether that be providing Uber and Lyft drivers with electric vehicles, or rideshare services offering EVs only. One service that’s still around is BlueLA powered by Blink Mobility. The business provides members with new, fully-electric vehicles for their everyday needs. Clean and convenient EVs can be picked up and dropped off at 40 locations around the city, eliminating the need to own a secondary car — or primary for local residents who tap into public transportation, biking and mobile app services instead of owning a car. It’s a 100% electric car-sharing service and part of the City of Los Angeles’ mobility strategy. 

Access — SoCal’s ADA paratransit network
For those needing paratransit mobility, you don’t just get to call a number or sign-up online. They’re usually vans customized with wheelchair lifts and other functions to assist disabled and elderly riders access the vehicles, with the support of the driver. Those interested in becoming riders usually need to have an evaluation done to see if they qualify, a requirement of the public funding through transit agencies. But then it will be very much worth it, with fares kept down low for those riders. Access is the service name of the ADA Complementary Paratransit service for functionally disabled individuals in Los Angeles County and beyond. OC Access Service is the Orange County Transit Authority’s service. Access does provide a network for all the Southern California agencies offering these services, as you can see from this link.

Metro Rail and Metrolink
Metro Rail is a network of seven Metrolink lines that serve the counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. The system includes a large number of stations that can help people travel to employment centers and major destinations. It’s a much better rail system than what was originally started in the 1980s and 1990s. It hasn’t restored the excellent streetcar system that was essentially hijacked through a conspiracy — automakers, tire makers, oil companies, and other companies doing behind the scenes lobbying to get the Yellow Cars removed in the 1950s to facilitate Southern California soon becoming the world’s largest car market, with plenty of gas stations. But what we have now is safer, better, and covers more ground than the original efforts to restore it; though it might be moving on some of the original train tracks.

Parking apps
If you’re driving and need to park somewhere, make sure you do a bit of research on how parking is done for an event or to a destination you’re aiming for. They might have reasonably priced parking, but you will probably also need to have parking apps on your smartphone to make sure you don’t get overcharged or have to walk way too far. ParkMobile, INRIX ParkMe, and Park Whiz do a good job of offering parking spots throughout SoCal. Prices will vary, too, but it does make the driver’s life a little bit easier.

And in other news…………..

Sustainable fleet resource: The State of Sustainable Fleets is offering a Policy and Funding Trend Brief to download. You can learn more about the impacts of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s new emissions standards, California’s zero-emission mandates, and their implications for fleets and engine makers. It covers regulatory and funding milestones transforming the commercial transportation sector.

Electric Transportation Funding Webinar: On April 11, 2024 07:00 am PST, a webinar will cover electric transportation funding options for communities in the Southeast US with specific focus on the Charging Fueling Infrastructure Program. Attendees will be able to hear presentations from recent CFI awardees, including Henrico County, VA and the Atlanta Regional Commission, as well as multiple technical assistance providers who can help in all aspects of applying for and managing federal awards for electric vehicles.

Autopia getting electric race cars: Autopia, a gas-powered attraction located within Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, is finally getting electrified. “As the industry moves toward alternative fuel sources, we have developed a roadmap to electrify this attraction and are evaluating technology that will enable us to convert from gas engines in the next few years,” Jessica Good, a Disneyland Resort spokesperson, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
(Editor’s note: In 2011, I called Disneyland’s sustainability officer and requested that the Autopia race car ride get electric cars instead of the smelly and loud gasoline-engine cars. He thought it was a good idea but doubted it would be carried out, as other sustainability projects were high priority.)