Edmunds Says 2021 Will Have Record US EV Sales

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A couple weeks ago, Edmunds predicted that 2021 would be a record year for electric vehicle sales, rising from 1.9% of sales in 2020 to an estimated 2.5% this year.

“After years of speculation and empty promises, 2021 is actually shaping up to be a pivotal year for growth in the EV sector,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights. “We’re not only about to see a massive leap in the number of EVs available in the market; we’re also going to see a more diverse lineup of electric vehicles that better reflect current consumer preferences. And given that the new presidential administration has pledged its support for electrification, the U.S. is likely to see incentive programs targeted at fostering the growth of this technology further.”

One of the big drivers of the bump in sales is the availability of more models to sell to a wider range of consumer tastes. Only 17 models from 12 brands were available on the market in 2020, but by year’s end, Edmunds analysts say there will be 30 EVs from 21 different brands.

Perhaps more importantly, there will be more diversity in the EV market. Instead of just econobox cars, luxury sedans, and some limited crossovers, the mix of available EVs will be more diverse. In 2020, 10 cars and 7 crossovers were available. In 2021, that’s supposed to grow to 11 cars, 13 SUVs and six trucks.

“Americans have a love affair with trucks and SUVs, to the detriment of EVs, which have until recently been mostly passenger cars,” said Caldwell. “Automakers should have a much better shot of recapturing some of the EV buyers who they’ve lost now that they can offer larger, more utilitarian electric vehicles.”

Other trends that Edmunds cited as contributing to the predicted rise is an increase in consumer interest, more advertising for electric vehicles, and greater consumer knowledge of them that has grown over time.

Edmunds did have some words of warning for potential buyers, though:

“Buying an EV is an entirely different beast than a traditional car purchase, so extra research and diligence are key,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of insights. “Range and weather conditions play a huge factor in determining whether certain EVs make sense for your everyday needs, and whether you own a home with a garage or rent an apartment could affect your charging situation. Federal and state tax incentives are at play with these purchases. And with a number of manufacturers following Tesla’s direct sale model, there might not be opportunities to take a test drive, or even to trade in your current vehicle, like you would at a traditional dealership.”

Our Take On This

They got things right here, but missed some important trends that will lead to growth.

First, yes, it’s vastly important that manufacturers are taking EVs seriously. They’re selling new models from more makes, and they’re actually advertising them (even if the ads are a little weird). Those two things make a big difference. Potential buyers can tell whether a manufacturer thinks the vehicles are worth buying, or if they’re just compliance cars that the manufacturer is selling to please regulators. The attitude has dripped down from automakers to dealers, who amplified that by mixing in their own problems with EVs.

The result? People looking for an EV couldn’t find them in many states, and even when they could find them, it was only in the bigger cities. When dealers did have one on the lot, they did dumb things like leave the tires flat or not charge the vehicle.

Manufacturers are taking EVs seriously, and in some cases just aren’t giving dealers a choice to act that way. Cadillac is a good example, here. When GM said to invest in selling EVs or hit the road, some dealers chose to hit the road. That’s probably a good thing.

Diversity is also important. I know many Tesla fans think that Teslas are the best car for everyone, but that’s just not possible. People have too many different tastes and priorities for everyone to be served by one automaker. There’s a reason that so many different makes and models are available on the market, and when the EV market doesn’t reflect the larger market, it won’t grow as much. With a broader availability of different vehicles available with a battery pack instead of a gas tank, more buyers will feel comfortable jumping in.

There are a couple of trends that Edmunds missed out on though.

First, they didn’t look at the availability of charging. Just 3-4 years ago, buyers looking at any EV not built by Tesla were often horrified to see that the cool EV they were looking at couldn’t make it from one end of the country to the other. It’s not like most buyers actually go on many road trips, but nobody wants to take on an extra car payment and other ownership costs just to drive the car once or twice a year. And car rentals aren’t very affordable, either, in many cases.

Today, Electrify America has made a huge difference. With a 200-mile EPA range EV, one can now readily travel across the country on several different corridors. Yes, there are still huge gaps that need to be filled, but interstates are a lot less of a problem than they once were. People can take a lot more trips than they used to be able to in an EV.

Another thing they missed out on was how people are starting to see EVs as mainstream. Just 8-10 years ago, EVs were an oddball thing that people would buy. Cars like the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV looked like alien space pods that had an insect trying to break out of it. This led many to feel like EV buyers were virtue signaling, and they didn’t want in on that look.

Today, EVs look like the rest of the cars on the road. People rolled coal at me when I drove a 2011 LEAF, but the 2018 LEAF doesn’t scream “THIS IS AN ECO CAR! PLEASE ROLL COAL AT ME TO PROVE HOW MANLY YOU ARE!”

It’s just a Nissan that happens to be powered by batteries.

The factors Edmunds identified are important, but when mixed with greater utility and a more favorable social environment, things are definitely changing for the better.

Featured image: A Ford Mach-E, one of the new models coming out this year. Image by CleanTechnica.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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