The numbers are in and 2018 turned out to be quite a solid year for electric vehicle sales in the US.
By my analysis using total vehicle sales of 17,334,481 as reported by Automotive News and 361,307 plug-in vehicles sales from InsideEVs, the US EV new vehicle sales market share reached 2.08% in 2018. Sales of EVs increased 80% over 2017, while vehicle sales overall increased 0.6%.
While surpassing 2% is a significant milestone, it isn’t yet time to throw a party. Most of this growth in 2018 comes from two factors: Delivery of nearly 140,000 Tesla Model 3s and California residents’ continued appetite for EVs, which will likely account for about 53% of US EV sales. About half of US states still have EV sales shares of less than 1%, while California approaches 10%.
US EV Year-Over-Year (YOY) Sales Without Selected Models
If you exclude sales of the Tesla Model 3, then growth would have been about 12% in 2018. Obviously, some reasonable percentage of Model 3 buyers would have opted for another EV, but it is difficult to estimate how many. My guess is that YOY growth at most would have been about 25% without the Model 3.
Further, if you exclude the Model 3, Honda Clarity PHEV, and Toyota Prius Prime PHEV, sales actually would have declined slightly — again with the caveat some buyers clearly would have opted for other EV models. The point, however, is simply that as it continues to be the case, annual EV sales increases in the US are driven by just a few models, and typically only new or recent models.
The 8 Top Selling EVs — 5 Increase, 3 See Declines in Sales
The chart below of the 8 best selling EVs is of course misleading as far as YOY growth, because both the Tesla Model 3 and Honda Clarity PHEV were not available during most of 2017. Further, of course, the Model 3 was production driven, rather than demand driven up, until about the fall of 2018.
The LEAF showed a nice rebound due to a larger battery pack and new styling, and the Model X had quite a solid increase. Prius Prime sales grew by almost one third, with about 80% of Prius liftback sales in the US now being from the Prime PHEV version.
Three of the 8 best selling EVs saw a decline in sales in 2018: Tesla Model S, the Chevy Volt, and Chevy Bolt. The Model S decline is not unexpected given the wide availability of the Model 3, so a decline of only 5% is actually not too bad. The Bolt likely lost sales to several competitors, especially the Model 3. And the Honda Clarity and Toyota Prius Prime PHEVs likely took a bite out of Volt sales.
The 12 Top Selling EVs: Total for 2018 & Monthly Average — Who Made the “2,000 Club?”
Four EVs averaged sales of at least 2,000 units per month in 2018 (the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Prius Prime). That’s a jump from the previous high in 2016, which had only 2 (Model S & Volt). In 2019, I expect the Honda Clarity PHEV to join the “2,000 per month club,” but that may be it (e.g., not the Hyundai Kona BEV).
12 Top EVs: Q4 Average vs. Full Year Monthly Average — BMW i3 All Alone
It was not a great Q4 for the BMW i3. Of the 12 top-selling EVs in the US, the i3 was the only one that did not have a higher Q4 monthly average than it did for all of 2018. Even the Ford Fusion Energi eked out better than average monthly sales in Q4 versus the entire year.
The Model 3 of course crushed it in Q4, but the less obvious story of the year for me was the strength of the Honda Clarity PHEV, which had the 5th highest per month average in Q4 at 2,231 units. Editor’s note: The Honda Clarity was a 2018 CleanTechnica Car of the Year finalist, in large part due to the broad appeal expected of that trim. (But the Tesla Model 3 easily won the competition, as it also did in the sales race.)
YOY Sales Increases — Models Available All of 2017 & 2018
8 EVs available in the US in all of 2017 and all of 2018 had YOY sales increases. Percentage-wise, the smart ED (+124.1%), Mercedes-Benz C350e (+110.6%) and Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e (+108.6%) had the highest increases, while the Toyota Prius Prime (+6,659), Tesla Model X (+4,785) and Nissan LEAF (+3,485) had the highest unit increases. (Author Note: The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid actually had an increase of 11,211%, but it only sold 18 units in all of 2017, so its inclusion would have been somewhat misleading.)
YOY Sales Declines: Bolt, Fiat 500e, Mercedes S500e, & Hyundai Sonata PHEV — Big Losers
14 EVs available in the US for all of 2017 and 2018 saw a decline in sales YOY. The Chevrolet Bolt (-3,163) and Fiat 500e (-2,938) had the largest unit declines, while the Mercedes-Benz S550e (-83.3%) and Hyundai Sonata PHEV (-74.3%) had the largest percentage declines.
Peak ICE Sales Likely Happened in the US in 2016
In the December 25, 2018 Financial Times (subscription required) article “Combustion engine car sales to hit peak demand in 2018, say analysts,” an analyst was quoted as follows:
“We will probably see the peak of combustion engine car sales in 2018 based on global sales through October, plus estimates for November and December,” said Felipe Munoz, global automotive analyst at Jato Dynamics, a supplier of automotive data.
While I haven’t yet done the math and forecast global vehicle sales, I did look at US sales. By my analysis, we already reached peak US sales of ICE vehicles in 2016, as it is unlikely that total vehicle sales will outpace growth of EVs in the future.