Big Picture: Great month for EV and hybrid sales, Your opinionated comments are requested

EV sales May 2014Automakers experienced their highest monthly US sales figure ever in May for battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and their second highest month for hybrid vehicle sales. Overall plug-in sales reached 12,453 – with 5,802 of them battery electric vehicles and 6,651 plug-in hybrids. For hybrids, 52,227 units were sold in the US during May, its second highest sales month on record. Plug-in vehicles hit the 211,097 sales mark in the US by the end of May; that’s more than double the total recorded one year ago. Nissan had a particularly good month for Leaf sales, hitting 3,117 units for the month – it’s best month ever and the first time Leaf sales passed the 3,000 mark. It also brought the Leaf past the 50,000 mark for its US sales – 52,511 sold, to be precise. The Leaf is still behind the Chevrolet Volt for overall sales and highest monthly sales number. The Volt continues to be sold at a lower level this year, coming in at 1,684 sold in May – only marginally up from the 1,607 sold one year ago. Sales were thin for other EV models including the Cadillac ELR at 52 units sold in May, the Honda Fit EV at 33, and the plug-in hybrid Accord selling 46 units in May. Toyota saw a much better month for its Prius Plug-in, which sold 2,692 units in May.

Hey there, opinionated people:  I would bet that several of you readers have interesting perspectives on clean transportation – cool new technologies, geopolitics, economics, environmental issues, how something could succeed, why another is bound to fail……..  Your opinions are requested – and you’ll find the “Leave a reply” link at the top of every post in Green Auto Market. I have met some interesting people through reader comments, along with what I regularly post on LinkedIn and Twitter. So please keep it coming!

And in other clean transportation news…….

  • Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has an opinion that a lot of people would disagree with – driverless cars could be on roads four years from now. Most of the forecasts think it will actually take longer (maybe 10 years), but Ghosn and Google have more ambitious expectations. The real stumbling block, according to Ghosn, is regulatory red tape. “The problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around … and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside,” Ghosn said at a French Automobile Club event on Tuesday.
  • Freightliner and Hino Trucks have been approved for the New York Tuck-Voucher Incentive Program. Freightliner’s M2 106 diesel electric-hybrid truck and Hino Trucks’ 195h and 195h-DC diesel electric hybrid Class 5 cabover engine trucks have been approved. New York’s program provides $19 million in incentives for clean vehicle technologies. The goal is to promote clean air by encouraging the adoption of advanced vehicle technologies in commercial trucks and buses.
  • Renewable Energy Group Inc., the nation’s largest biodiesel producer, announced the acquisition today of Dynamic Fuels LLC, which operates the first US large-scale renewable diesel facility. Dynamic was formed in 2007 by Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. as a 50-50 joint venture. The facility in southeast Louisiana has the potential of producing 75 million gallons a year of renewable diesel made from animal byproducts.
  • Lux Research reports that China and India dominate Asia’s alternative fuels landscape, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to hit government targets. China followed the US’s 10% ethanol mandate, but will only reach 4% of its gasoline by 2017. India is pushing for jatropha as its biodiesel blend; the Indian government wants to see it reach a 20% biofuels mandate by 2017, but the nation is way off – biofuels will only account for 0.6% of its diesel and 0.3% of its gasoline by 2017, according to Lux Research. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in China and India are being driven by cutting fuel expense – the fuel is costing nearly half that of gasoline – and the need to cut air pollution. India currently has the sixth largest volume of NGVs in the world, mostly in its public transportation.
  • Clean diesel passenger vehicles are selling much more than what I would have thought, according to an R.L. Polk & Co. research report commissioned by Diesel Technology Forum. The report states that diesel passenger vehicle registrations rose 11.5% from 6.3 million to almost 7.1 million between 2010 and 2013. During that same timeframe, hybrid vehicle registrations leaped 64.6% from 1.7 million to 2.8 million. It does seem a bit confusing, as recent new car data reports have shown hybrids to be a much higher sales volume than clean diesel cars. I would imagine that has to do with quite a few diesel pickups being included in the R.L. Polk numbers, versus other market reports that just include diesel passenger cars primarily sold by German automakers in the US market.
  • US fuel economy of new vehicles sold went up 0.4 miles per gallon in May to 25.6 mpg. That took place event the sales of trucks and utility vehicles were strong last month.
  • Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will go into production earlier than originally announced, with production planned for mid-December 2014. Toyota says that will lead to sales starting before the end of this year instead of the original intention of starting some time in 2015.
  • Ford Motor Co. has an affiliate relationship with Samsung Group that will install lithium-ion batteries and regenerative brakes on non-hybrid cars. This will be done to reduce carbon emissions; Ford also unveiled the prototype for a super-lightweight version of its Fusion.
  • BMW just began deliveries of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car at 126,000 euro ($135,700). It’s built on a lightweight carbon-fiber frame, is more fuel efficient than a Toyota Prius and can go faster than a Porsche 911; BMW refers to it as a “brand shaper.” But it faces stiff competition from the Tesla Model S, which starts at 65,740 euros in Germany.
  • Speaking of Tesla, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to name its third planned model, a compact battery electric car, the Model E. Ford got wind of it and threatened to sue, making reference to a 2010 agreement where Tesla agreed not to register or use Model E, which is part of Ford’s trademark. Musk explained it to CNNMoney: “A friend asked me at a party, ‘What are you going to name the third-generation car?’ Well, we have the S and the X, so we might as well make it the E.” Ford heard about Musk’s idea and called him, saying it would sue Tesla for using its Model E trademark. “And we’re like, Ford’s killing SEX … that’s terrible. So, OK, fine, we won’t use the Model E,” Musk said
  • Nissan has offered more insight on its plug-in vehicle strategy. Andy Palmer, the company’s head of global product development, said that start of plug-in hybrid production for Nissan remains slated for late 2015, presumably coming to market in one or more model-year 2016 vehicles. Nissan will be selling its second electric vehicle in Japan starting in October – the e-NV200 compact commercial van. It will cost between 3.88 million yen and 4.79 million yen in Japan (between $37,900 and $46,700). It’s not coming to North America anytime soon or possibly forever due to vehicle range and charging network concerns. It will be a slow start – selling about 500 units a month in Japan, where it qualifies for up to 850,000 yen ($8,295) in government incentives.

2 thoughts on “Big Picture: Great month for EV and hybrid sales, Your opinionated comments are requested”

  1. You are lucky opinionated comments are my specialty. Thank you for asking! : )

    I am the Green Fleet Coordinator for the City of Seattle, Fleet Management Division. We currently have one of the largest government fleet of EVs in the nation and are trying to expand even further. The biggest hurdle is very large electrical infrastructure upgrade costs. As it turns out, there is not typically an excess of power in dense urban areas, especially older Cities. Unfortunately Washington State is not offering any incentives to offset the infrastructure cost which is hindering expansion efforts in the private and public sector in my opinion. As we lobby for change I am trying to get creative. One option that has huge potential is solar panels with tandem energy storage systems. Not only can this provide EV charging, but it can also serve as an emergency power system independent of the electrical grid. But there is no sun in Seattle! How could this work? Well, solar actually works great in the Pacific NW due to the cooler temps and relatively good sun exposure (70% of LA). As an example, I have been talking to this company – PowerTech- out of Vancouver BC Canada, where they installed a 250KW solar array with a 500KW (equivalent of 10 DC Fast Chargers) storage system in Surry BC – which has similar solar radiation to Seattle. So it has been done successfully. I am exploring this option as a way to get around the facility electrical upgrades, but also provide grid-independent power during emergencies and further reduce our carbon footprint overall. Aparently, this idea is now gaining traction with State governments in warmer areas as an energy management strategy. I think its a win win all around. Anyways, a cool emerging technology that I thought I would share. I really love your blog. It keeps me up to speed on the green auto market front. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you for the update, Andrea. The solar power option sounds like a great fit for your fleet. Electrifying vehicles in the fleet is a big challenge out there, from what I’ve heard. CNG and hybrids are likely to come in a lot sooner. The cost of the charging infrastructure is one issue, as is the vehicle’s range potential on a full charge. That varies a lot by the types of trips taken, weather conditions, driving habits, etc. There is a lot of interest out there, but some fleets are taking a slow and careful approach to it – such as bringing in five EVs and one charging station. The incentives for the electric vehicles and charging stations vary by state, as you mentioned.

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