Electric Vehicle Growth Slowing – For Now

Electric Vehicles Charging

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently offered a look at how electric vehicles (hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and battery electric) have been selling over the last five years. From 2012 through 2017, EVs consistently accounted for between 2.5 percent and four percent of total light-duty vehicle sales. During this same stretch the number of available models increased from 58 to 95.

Hybrid electric vehicles have historically accounted for the largest share of EVs, but their share of sales has fallen as plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) shares have increased slightly. The battery electric vehicle share of total light-duty vehicle sales has grown the most since 2012, but only accounted for 0.6 percent of 2017 sales.

The PHEV share grew from 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent, and non-plug-in hybrid electrics declined from three percent to 1.9 percent of total light-duty vehicle sales between 2012 and 2017, based on Ward's Automotive sales data.

According to the EIA, several factors may account for the limited growth in these vehicles.

  • Until very recently, gas prices have remained relatively low.
  • The fuel economy of conventional vehicles has increased.
  • Initial purchase prices for many electrified vehicles remain relatively high, especially for several PHEV and BEV models, even with federal and state incentives.
  • A limited charging infrastructure exists for plug-in vehicles in many areas.

Data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that households owning BEVs and PHEVs tend to have more vehicles per household - 2.7 vehicles compared with the household average of 2.1. The survey also shows that both PHEVs and BEVs tend to be used 12 percent less than other vehicles on an annual basis.

As national averages for gasoline creep towards $3/gallon, it will be interesting to see if these sales numbers continue at their current pace or gain momentum. It seems most automotive OEMs feel that the continued rise in gas prices and improving efficiencies and range of electric vehicles provide a solid path for future growth.


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