It Is The Best Of Times, It Is The Worst Of Times — EV Sales Predictions Are All Over The Place

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EV sales are going to plummet in 2020. EV sales are going to surge in 2020. It all depends on who is doing the talking. Wood Mackenzie predicts EV sales will drop 40% this year, mostly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, that prediction needs some context. All sales of durable goods will get slammed this year as people slam their wallets shut and decide to stay home for the duration of the emergency. Auto sales in general will drop dramatically. It’s seems a bit disingenuous to single out electric cars at this point. In fact, as we’ve seen in many markets, electric vehicles are so far doing much better than fossil-powered vehicles.

EV sales forecast
Credit: Wood Mackenzie

“Most new EV buyers are still first-time owners of the technology,” says Ram Chandrasekaran, principal analyst for transportation and mobility at Wood Mackenzie. “The uncertainty and fear created by the outbreak have made consumers less inclined to adopt a new technology. Once the epidemic is contained in China, we suspect consumers will flock back to car dealers and reaffirm their confidence in EVs.”

He expects that return to confidence to occur later this year in China and Europe, with the US lingering behind the pack into next year. Not only has the virus impacted all sales of durable goods, but they argue electric cars in particular are now hampered by record low oil prices and rollback of fuel economy standards, all of which undercut many of the reasons people buy an electric car in the first place. Though, the links have not been as strong — if there at all — as generally claimed. People may be buying electric cars these days with little attention to oil prices. There are other reasons to go electric.

Even Ram Chandrasekaran admits EV sales were booming in Europe before the pandemic hit. They saw a 121% increase in January even though the overall new car market was down 7%. That trend continued into February, only slowing down as the disease swept across the Continent. As we’ve reported in the past week here on CleanTechnica, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, and Norway each had incredible EV registration results in March. We’ll report on more countries as the data roll in.

Globally, Tesla just had its best first quarter ever despite all the headwinds from low gas prices and a raging global pandemic, with the Tesla Model 3 rising to #6 on the US car market.

Tesla Model 3

Many industry observers are good with numbers, but they don’t necessarily understand sales. As any sales professional knows, people buy on emotion and justify their decision later with facts. It only takes one ride in an electric car to experience the quietness and the instant acceleration for people to say, “Oooohh, I want one of these.”

All the true cost of ownership analyses, the comparison between the cost of electricity and the cost of gasoline, the discussion of how long brake pads last — all those things are just the icing on the cake. Many analysts don’t know how to evaluate the “Wow!” factor that comes from driving a computer on wheels instead of a boring old conventional car.

Teslas are popular not only because they are electric, but also because they are so obviously at the the bleeding edge of new technology. People may need a new car, but they want a Tesla, and there is no mathematical formula that can capture that equation.

Range? Charging speeds? All are important when comparing electric cars, but what people really want is Tesla’s technological edge. And it is that advantage that is driving Tesla sales forward even as other carmakers falter.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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