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U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rose by 30 Percent in November, Likely to Hit Near 200,000 by Year End

Good news continues in the U.S. on the renewable energy front where electrical vehicle sales increased by about 30 percent in November of 2017 vs November of 2016.

In all, 17,178 electrical vehicles sold on the U.S. market in November. This number compares to 13,327 sold during November of 2016. Top selling brands for the month were the Chevy Bolt EV, The Tesla Model X, the Chevy Volt, the Toyota Prius Prime, and the Tesla Model S. The Chevy Bolt topped the list of monthly best sellers with nearly 3,000 vehicles going to owners during the month. The top annual seller remains the Model S (at 22,085 estimated sales so far) — which the lower-priced Bolt is unlikely to surpass this year.

(Over the past few years, the performance of electrical vehicles has been steadily catching up to or outpacing that of conventional fossil fuel vehicles. The Tesla Roadster by 2019-2020 will have a 620 mile range, hyperfast charging, a top speed of 250 mph, and be able to go from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. A combined set of specs that no gas guzzler could hope to match. By 2022, most EVs will cost less and perform better than their comparable fossil fuel counterparts. Image source: Tesla.)

Total electrical vehicle sales for the year so far has hit nearly 174,000 through November. This compares to 158,614 for all of 2016. Given that December is often a top sales month and that Model 3 production is continuing to ramp, it’s likely that final sales for 2017 will hit close to or exceed the 200,000 mark for the year in the U.S.

Model 3 Production Ramp Rate Still a Mystery

Model 3 sales will likely continue to ramp through December as Tesla works through scaling production. Considering the fact that there are more than 500,000 Model 3s on order, the big question is — how fast? For even if Tesla were able to produce 10,000 Model 3s per week, it would take more than a year to fill all the orders.

Production is presently considerably lower. But it more than doubled in November to an estimated 345. A similar rate of increase would result in 800 of the vehicles being sold in December. Meanwhile, the company plans to be making 5,000 Model 3s per week by Q1 of 2018.

There are some indications that Tesla is preparing for a start of mass market releases. It is filling an LA Model 3 distribution site even as it has opened up ordering to customers outside of employees. Meanwhile, Panasonic recently announced that battery production issues will soon clear. Which raises the possibility of a faster ramp going forward.

Updated Nissan Leaf Begins Mass Production

New developments also include the start to mass production of the 2018 Nissan Leaf in the U.S during December. The 2018 Leaf features longer range (150 miles), lower cost (700 dollars less) and higher performance (more horsepower) than the previous Leaf. And it will be followed on by a (higher-priced) 225 mile range version in 2019 which will put it in a distance capability class similar to that of the Bolt and the base line Model 3.

Electrical Vehicles — Key Aspect of the Renewable Energy Transition

In context, solar energy, wind, and battery storage are the triad of new renewable energy systems that have the serious potential to really start cutting down global carbon emissions as they replace fossil fuels.

All these energy systems are getting less expensive. All have what they call a positive learning curve. And all can work together in a synergistic fashion while leveraging technological advances. Economic advantages that fossil fuel based systems lack.

In addition, renewable energy sources help to drive efficiency, even as they clean up transportation, power generation, and manufacturing chains they are linked to by producing zero carbon emissions in use.

(By transitioning to renewable energy as the basis for economic systems, we can dramatically reduce global carbon emissions. In order to stave off very harmful impacts from climate change, this transition will have to be very rapid. In the best case, more rapid than the scenario depicted above. Video source: IRENA.)

On the battery storage side, electrical vehicles are a crucial link in the battery development chain. As electrical vehicles are mass produced, this process drives down the cost of batteries which can then be used to store electricity and to replace base-load fossil fuel power generators like coal and gas plants. Meanwhile, battery electrical vehicles are considerably more efficient than gas or diesel powered vehicles and those linked to wind and solar or other renewable energy sources emit zero carbon in use.

Both electrical vehicles and other renewable energy systems have a long way to grow before they provide the same level of energy produced by dirty fossil fuels today. This large gap represents a great opportunity to cut back on the volume of harmful gasses hitting our atmosphere in the near future.

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24 Comments

  1. Greg

     /  December 5, 2017

    The direction and momentum are clear and are strong. Thank you for keeping up with it. I have been trying to get a handle on all the synergies that are resulting and saw another one today with regards to Tesla and the ongoing fires in Southern CA. The nearly indestructible glass for the new Semi electric is likely a product of the “forever” lasting solar glass tile work of Tesla. In the near future scenario: Those glass solar tiles, if put on roofs in CA to collect solar energy, would likely have saved many of the homes which burned when cinders landed on them. Those home owners would likely have had charged cars when they evacuated and electricity from their storage batteries at night, instead of having lost grid power from the fires, when they needed it before evacuation.

    Reply
    • Good point. It’s kind of an interesting irony that modern renewables generate infrastructure and efficiencies that add human resiliency to climate change even as they help to cut down emissions. To peak emissions sooner and to reduce the level of peak emissions.

      Reply
  2. Robert McLachlan

     /  December 5, 2017

    New Zealand EV market share just reached 2% in October; doubling every 9 months.
    Also, NZ announces carbon neutral 2050 goal, see my take:
    https://theconversation.com/a-fresh-start-for-climate-change-mitigation-in-new-zealand-87245

    Reply
    • Excellent analysis. Thank you for this comment and for your work.

      I’m going to break out one graphic from the article for the purpose of discussion.

      Note how renewables have already resulted in falling emissions from electricity in New Zealand. EVs have the potential to produce similar results for transportation. 2 Percent penetration is about where we start to see some impact.

      Reply
      • Mblanc

         /  December 8, 2017

        UK emissions down to 1900 levels, crikey. I can’t remember hearing that before, but I may well have forgotten. So many records are being set it is hard keep up, but I have read that the improvements in the UK will slow, because we are running out of coal plants to close.

        I think we are at about 2% in the UK, if you are talking about plug-in vehicles. If you are talking pure EV’s, it is a lot less, but growing fast.

        ….

        ‘Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) each month show that electric car sales in the UK have risen dramatically over the past few years. While only around 500 electric cars were registered per month during the first half of 2014, this has now risen to an average of almost 4,000 per month during 2017.

        By the end of 2016, almost 37,000 plug-in cars had been registered over the course of the year, the highest number ever for a complete year. The first 11 months of 2017 have already seen that figure surpassed, with the figure to the end of November sitting at more than 42,700 units. As a percentage of new car registrations, averaged over 2017, electric cars now represent around 1.8 per cent of the total new car market in the UK.’

        http://www.nextgreencar.com/electric-cars/statistics/

        Reply
  3. Paul in WI

     /  December 6, 2017

    OT, but here’s a good article I read today about the decline in the number (and imminent extirpation) of wolves on Isle Royale, and the surprising climate change connection to the decline. Researchers believe that only one wolf currently remains on the island.

    An excerpt from the article:
    “Wolves came to the island more than five decades ago by crossing a frozen Lake Superior in winter. The island’s wolf population once reached 50 wolves and averaged 25 wolves over decades before a population crash in recent years because of the physical and reproductive impacts of inbreeding. Changing weather patterns leading to fewer and smaller ice-overs of Lake Superior have made for fewer ice bridges between the island and mainland to potentially replenish the wolf population.”

    https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/12/04/isle-royale-wolves/918478001/

    Reply
  4. rhymeswithgoalie

     /  December 6, 2017

    Today I heard a man at the next cafe table gushing about his new (<2 weeks) Tesla. Mostly he was impressed by the self-parking, self-steering attributes.

    Reply
  5. Andy_in_SD

     /  December 6, 2017

    200,000 is really impressive!

    A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

    This offset would be 940,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Granted there will be still be upstream emissions due to the production of electricity in many areas. However coupled with the rapid increase in renewable energy sources, this is tremendous news.

    Reply
  6. utoutback

     /  December 6, 2017

    Just a comment on “the moron’s” downsizing of the Monuments in Utah. Although I now live in Bend, OR, I spent 10 years in the tiny town of Boulder,UT on the edge of the Grand Staircase – Escalante Nat. Monument. It is a magical place with slick rock mounds, weird rock formations, slot canyons, petroglyphs, hidden streams and fantastic hiking. They wanted to strip mine coal off the plateau before Clinton declared it a Monument and the locals thought he had stolen the economic benefits of that great industry from them. Instead a bounty of tourists came through and “outsiders” moved to the area, many of them like my wife and me bringing $$ to a poor area. But, really they would rather not have “those people” and their modern ways. So today they are celebrating.
    The day after “he” was elected I set up a monthly donation to the NRDC knowing that litigation was in the future. I am only hoping any action can be delayed until there is a change of Admin in Washington.
    Unfortunately, “the moron” is stuffing the courts with crazy reactionary judges, so who knows.
    I morn for our nation.

    Reply
  7. Bill h

     /  December 6, 2017

    Robert, you write:
    “solar energy, wind, and battery storage are the triad of new renewable energy systems that have the serious potential to really start cutting down global carbon emissions as they replace fossil fuels.”
    I would agree with all except the “battery” qualifier. I feel that we will need the full panoply of storage techniques: not just battery, but pumped storage conversion of existing hydro, Compressed air storage, especially the underwater variety, liquid air storage and, as I’ve championed earlier on these boards, power to gas, in view of the very high storage potential of hydrogen and methane produced by reaction of this hydrogen with carbon dioxide. There are others too.

    Reply
    • It’s the fact that it’s so easy to mate battery tech with solar and wind that makes battery an essential part of the triad.

      Consider:

      1. Batteries benefit from production economies of scale in a manner similar to wind and solar. Other forms of storage do not.
      2. Battery technology is diverse and capable of producing breakthroughs (similar to solar).
      3. Battery prices have fallen by 50-80 percent since 2010. By 2020 battery prices will fall by another 30 percent approx.
      4. Mass production of electrical vehicles will result in a major build of battery storage that can be used after market. These after market batteries will cost less than initially produced batteries.
      5. Batteries in electrical vehicles can be used as storage with the simple addition of technology that allows for energy to be fed back into homes or the grid from the EV.
      6. The mass production chain for batteries is established and capable of rapid growth.

      There’s no storage technology that possesses a similar positive learning curve and versatility.

      By the early 2020s, battery storage will be the least expensive form of storage on the present track, possibly by a considerable margin. In some applications, it is already the least expensive.

      This is not to say that compressed air, pumped hydro and other forms of storage won’t play a role. It’s just that it’s hard to see any of these technologies enabling the kind of growth curve that the synergy between wind, solar and battery does today.

      As for hydrogen — that medium presents serious technical challenges and is still very costly. Does not benefit from synergistic technological breakthroughs on the same scale and requires much more involved infrastructure to manage. That said, we can certainly imagine a world where low cost renewables (wind+ solar) allows for much lower cost hydrogen from electrolysis. So there are probably applications where this kind of thing can work really well.

      But if you’re looking at hydrogen v batteries as a storage medium for most applications, the battery’s versatility, ability to plug directly into electrical systems, lower cost infrastructure, universality, and rapid positive learning curve are big advantages.

      Reply
      • Related:

        For those who didn’t follow the link, battery prices for EVs fell by 24 percent this year…

        Reply
  8. Adding to the list of rainbombs: 150mm of rain falling in mere 5h in Minas Gerais yesterday (we are in the rainy season im Brasil, but this was the amount of rain expected for the whole month on that specific region) caused at least 3, probably 6 deaths (there are 3 disappeared persons) and widespread destruction of several small cities (Urucania, São Pedro dos Ferros, Rio Casca, Santo Antônio da Grama, Piedade de Ponte Nova e Santa Cruz dos Escaldados). One of the deaths was a wheelchair user that drowned in his own house… which had never flooded before. In some cases, more than 90% of the cities constructions were destroyed.

    http://hojeemdia.com.br/horizontes/enchentes-deixam-seis-desaparecidos-em-minas-bombeiros-fazem-buscas-nesta-ter%C3%A7a-1.579216

    Reply
    • Thanks for this report, Umbrios.

      For reference, 150 mm is 6 inches. Likely with a peak rate of more than two inches in a single hour.

      Reply
  9. Kassy

     /  December 6, 2017

    New science on climate models shows the ones with the worst outcome are the most accurate. Not really a surprise since the historical developments hint at that too. Improved models usually give worse outcomes:

    More-severe climate model predictions could be the most accurate

    The climate models that project greater amounts of warming this century are the ones that best align with observations of the current climate, according to a new paper from Carnegie’s Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira published by Nature. Their findings suggest that the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on average, may be underestimating future warming.

    Climate model simulations are used to predict how much warming should be expected for any given increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    “There are dozens of prominent global climate models and they all project different amounts of global warming for a given change in greenhouse gas concentrations, primarily because there is not a consensus on how to best model some key aspects of the climate system,” Brown explained.

    Raw climate model results for a business-as-usual scenario indicate that we can expect global temperatures to increase anywhere in the range of 5.8 and 10.6 degrees Fahrenheit (3.2 to 5.9 degrees Celsius) over preindustrial levels by the end of the century — a difference of about a factor of two between the most- and least-severe projections.

    Brown and Caldeira set out to determine whether the upper or lower end of this range is more likely to prove accurate. Their strategy relied on the idea that the models that are going to be the most skillful in their projections of future warming should also be the most skillful in other contexts, such as simulating the recent past. Brown and Caldeira’s study eliminates the lower end of this range, finding that the most likely warming is about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) greater than what the raw model results suggest.

    The researchers focused on comparing model projections and observations of the spatial and seasonal patterns of how energy flows from Earth to space. Interestingly, the models that best simulate the recent past of these energy exchanges between the planet and its surroundings tend to project greater-than-average warming in the future.

    “Our results suggest that it doesn’t make sense to dismiss the most-severe global warming projections based on the fact that climate models are imperfect in their simulation of the current climate,” Brown said. “On the contrary, if anything, we are showing that model shortcomings can be used to dismiss the least-severe projections.”

    The uncertainty in the range of future warming is mostly due to differences in how models simulate changes in clouds with global warming. Some models suggest that the cooling effect caused by clouds reflecting the Sun’s energy back to space could increase in the future while other models suggest that this cooling effect might decrease.

    “The models that are best able to recreate current conditions are the ones that simulate a reduction in cloud cooling in the future and thus these are the models that predict the greatest future warming,” Brown explained.

    “It makes sense that the models that do the best job at simulating today’s observations might be the models with the most reliable predictions,” Caldeira added. “Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 percent chance that global warming will exceed 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Previous studies had put this likelihood at 62 percent.”

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171206132220.htm

    Reply
  10. Mblanc

     /  December 8, 2017

    One more thing. We know that pure EV’s are the way to go. and that hybrids will only be competitive for a few years, and are viewed with skepticism by many of us (including me).

    Having said that, we can have hybrids now, at prices we can afford, in sectors with little in the way of pure EV’s actually on the market.

    The reason I’m mentioning then is this article, which makes a strong case that hybrids can be better than than we think. I’m not totally convinced, but the approach to looking at the numbers is novel to me.

    I still wouldn’t buy one myself, but maybe we should recognise that once you get beyond these ‘mild’ hybrids (10-20ish miles of pure electric range), you have a series of proper ‘range extender’ hybrids that are selling in big numbers already, and are going to make a real dent in total emissions.

    ….

    ‘Hybrid vehicles are often considered the fig leaf of electric mobility. However, plug-in hybrids with a real electric range of about 60 km drive the same number of kilometers electrically as battery electric vehicles. Hence, their carbon dioxide reduction potential also is the same. This is the result of a comparison of battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Germany and the US by scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Fraunhofer ISI (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research), which is now reported in Nature Scientific Reports.

    Apart from approximately 50,000 purely electric cars, roughly 40,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles are presently being operated on German roads. These hybrids combine a conventional internal combustion engine with a battery. They are often regarded rather critically by environmental organizations and political decision-makers, as they are not “real” electric cars and are supposed to have a poorer environmental record. A systematic empirical comparison of the electric performances of battery vs. hybrid vehicles has been lacking so far.’

    https://phys.org/news/2017-12-plug-in-hybrid-vehicles-reputation.html

    Reply

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