Is the EV revolution dead? To hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media and online you might think so. But according to Inside Climate News, talk of an implosion in the market for electric vehicles in the US is verging on the ridiculous. How can the two be reconciled?
In the post-truth era brought on by the rise of social media, it’s hard to be well informed. People with money pay the Mark Zuckerbergs, Sergei Brins, and Elon Musks of the world to push their ideas out to a global audience without any fact checking filter at all. The internet gurus who do this get get paid twice — once by those who want their point of view distributed to millions of followers and again by advertisers who couldn’t care a flying fig leaf about the message but want ads for the products they are selling to be seen by lots of people online.
The EV Revolution Is Alive & Well
While there are some serious challenges surrounding EVs — such as the need to build out the nation’s charging infrastructure — leading forecasters agree that EV sales and market share will continue to grow in 2024. They may disagree on the rate of growth and give different weights to some of the main factors that affect the market — from gasoline prices to the availability of low cost models — but they agree EV sales in the US are destined to increase this year and in the years ahead.
Pessimism about the EV market gained momentum last year when Ford and General Motors said EV demand was falling short of expectations and then scaled back their EV production plans. At the same time, Tesla warned investors of “enormous challenges” related to the production and rollout of the Cybertruck. Some auto dealers raised concerns about difficulty selling EV models. One group vehemently opposed to the EV revolution is franchise auto dealers. More than 4,700 of them wrote to President Biden asking him to slow down on rules that encourage the shift away from conventional cars powered by infernal combustion engines.
These problems get amplified by commentary, often from partisan sources, that seems eager to hold a funeral for the EV revolution. A recent opinion piece in The Hill has this headline: “As demand for EVs plummets, Biden’s green fantasy is pummeling U.S. auto dealers.” ICN reports the author, Mandy Gunasekara, was chief of staff at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration and is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank created and partially funded by oil magnate Charles Koch.
The truth is that EV sales were strong in 2023. US consumers bought 1.19 million all-electric vehicles last year, up 46% from the prior year, according to Cox Automotive. EV sales were 7.6% of the overall car and light truck market in 2023, the first year ever when more than one million EVs were sold in the US. The prior year, they accounted for 5.9% of new car sales. “EV sales are increasing faster than any other segment in the industry,” said Michelle Krebs, executive auto analyst for Cox.
More Low Cost EV Models, Please
A major impediment is that the market doesn’t have enough EVs that cost $35,000 or less, said Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific. “We have too many EVs now that are at luxury price points,” he said, referring to models that are priced at $50,000 and above, which is one reason his firm is expecting EV sales growth to slow compared to 2023.
However, there are several EV models priced well below that $50,000 threshold with more coming in 2024. Several more affordable models are set for release in 2024, such as the Chevrolet Equinox EV and Volvo EX30. But it may still be a few years before every automaker has one or more lower priced options.
Ed Kim predicts 2026 will likely be when more affordable EV models, such as a new model from Tesla and the second generation of the Chevy Bolt, are available. Also by then, the build-out of a nationwide network of EV charging stations funded by the Biden administration should be nearing completion, easing the charging anxiety level of many potential EV buyers. In addition, most EV drivers will have access to the Tesla Supercharger network by then, no matter what brand of electric car they own.
Electric Car Sales To Increase
The shift to electric vehicles is far from a smooth ride, but the numbers — both 2023 sales and 2024 forecasts — do not support the idea that we are in some kind of apocalyptic event for this segment of the auto market, ICN says. The forecasters expect EV market share to reach 9% to 11% this year, which would be a substantial increase from the prior year.
If market share grows at that pace despite the many challenges, this bodes well for the middle and latter part of this decade, when there will be many more models available and charging infrastructure should be much more robust. For now we need to avoid reading too much into individual data points. For example, anyone pointing to Ford’s 11% drop in EV sales in January, compared to the same month last year, is grasping at straws if they are trying to make a larger point about EV demand.
January is part of the slow season for auto sales, and it is prone to weather factors that make it especially unhelpful for drawing larger conclusions. “January is not any month that you should judge anything for,” according to Michelle Krebs.
The writers and staff at CleanTechnica see the torrent of negative EV news spreading across the internet and mainstream press and wonder where all this bad news about electric cars is coming from. Actually, it’s not too hard to figure out that US auto dealers are responsible for much of it. They have fiercely resisted the idea that EV sales are the wave of the future and they have plenty of clout in state and federal governments.
Some of us suspect certain manufacturers are actively undermining the EV revolution, and why not? They make huge profits on conventional cars and trucks. Do they really want to sell cars with lower profit margins? It’s a conundrum.
There is a great deal of fear about electric cars getting spread on social media and the press. The EV revolution is forcing lots of people to rethink the future and there will always be those who wish to cling to the old ways, which are familiar and safe. New technologies also inspire fear in people.
Just today I was touring the former Ponce De Leon hotel in St, Augustine, Florida. It was built by Henry Flagler in 1887. Thomas Edison was an admirer of Flagler and offered to install electricity in his new building. But electricity was new and scary at the time. Many people thought you could get shocked by operating a light switch and so Flagler had a staff of “switchers” — minions who would turn the lights on and off for his guests. There are plenty of people today who believe you cannot drive an EV through a puddle or a car wash because of the danger of getting an electric shock. Somethings never change.
Not so many years ago, people thought trains were dangerous because they went too fast. Same with cars in the early days. There are people alive today who have never flown in an airplane because the idea fills them with dread. The transition to electric cars will proceed in fits and starts, with periods of great progress followed by times of slower adoption rates. But electric cars and trucks are coming whether dealers or automakers want them or not. The EV revolution may be pausing to absorb the lessons learned so far but it has not stopped.
The cars of the future are on the drawing boards. The batteries of the future are in development. Charging infrastructure is being pushed forward. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the EV revolution are greatly exaggerated.
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