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Tesla Model 3 Leads Record U.S. EV Sales in February of 2018; But Renewable Energy Transition Needs to Accelerate

At 1.1 to 1.2  C warmer than late 19th Century averages, the signs and effects of a worsening climate disruption due to fossil fuel burning abound. This level of warming and related harms, however, is mild compared to what we will face if we continue to burn those fossil fuels and dump carbon into the atmosphere. And that’s why, as it becomes clear to the U.S. and to the global community that climate harms are upon us, we need to urgently redouble our efforts to transition to clean energy based economic systems.

In February, a key aspect of the clean energy revolution continued to make strides. It appears that battery-based electrical vehicles sold around 15,000 units to the U.S. market for the month. This is a major achievement, representing about 20 percent growth following February of 2017’s 60 percent growth. It also represents the 29th consecutive month in which EV sales grew relative to past months.

Plug in scorecard

(Preliminary reports from Inside EVs estimates that 14,180 electrical vehicles sold to the U.S. market during February. Unaccounted for models will likely push this number to between 15,000 and 16,000.)

The top seller, according to Inside EVs, was again the Tesla Model 3. Logging an estimated 2,485 sales, the Model 3 rate grew by 600 vehicles over January’s estimated 1,875 sales. This represents about 621 vehicles sold per week at present — which is still below the 800+ per week estimated production mark. But Tesla continues to make strides. And it is doing so in a way that is dominating the present U.S. EV market.

It does appear that Tesla will be challenged in hitting its goal of 2,500 vehicles produced per week by the end of March, however. And this may leave space for some competitors. That said, Tesla still retains a number of key advantages including — charging infrastructure, top quality and top performance vehicles, extraordinary demand for its products, and what appears to be best in class battery technology. The company is also the only major manufacturer dedicated solely to EV production — which makes this Tesla’s market to lose.

(The Tesla Model 3 dominated U.S. EV sales during the month of February. If production continues to ramp, other automakers are going to have difficulty coming close to this new market leader. Image source: Tesla.)

Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Bolt rounded out the top 3 sellers — bouncing back from lower January sales. Prime gained by 554 cars sold to hit 2,050 while Bolt jumped by 247 to hit 1,424. Toyota appears to be somewhat more aggressively selling its plug-hybrid. GM, on the other hand, has received some amazing reviews for the Bolt so the relatively lower sales for this high-quality, long-range EV has caused some to question GM’s dedication to EV sales in general.

Tesla Model X and Model S sales also grew from January with the S seeing 1,125 sold and the X hitting 875. Tesla tends to push hard for end of quarter sales, so March should be a banner month. But the relative strength of S and X sales are notable considering the fact that some analysts predicted the Model might cannibalize S sales. This seems to be less the case.

Nissan was a notable factor in February sales as new Leafs going to customers surged from 150 in January to 895 in February. We expect that Nissan will be a major EV market player this year. Nissan has an aggressive sales strategy and the new 151 mile range Leaf is one of the best-priced EVs on the market with a base of slightly less than 30,000 dollars. The new Leaf also includes a number of desirable features such as increased acceleration, more horsepower, base level autonomy and a few more comfort and luxury perks. If there’s a car and a car maker that’s capable of challenging Model 3’s ramp during single months, it’s the Leaf. But they’ll have to do it soon even with Tesla experiencing some ramping difficulties.

EVs are a critical aspect of solving the present problem of massive human carbon emissions hitting around 11 billion tons per year. The ground transportation sector emits about 1/3 of the world’s carbon and EVs, using present energy systems, can reduce that number by half. Furthermore, mating EVs with wind and solar — both in production and on the road (as Tesla is doing — see image above), increases wells to wheels carbon emissions reductions. Ultimately this synergy can achieve a 100 percent or near 100 percent removal of the carbon problem.

But given the fact that climate harms are on the rise, we don’t have any time to lose. That’s why we all need to pitch in and encourage a more rapid ramp for the clean energy systems like wind, solar, EVs and battery storage that provide such a helpful mitigation to the crisis that is building.

(UPDATED)

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20 Comments

  1. Mike S

     /  March 1, 2018

    It’s great that EVs produce no carbon emissions or other air pollution. One further great thing about them that doesn’t get mentioned much is: less noise pollution.

    How many of you have had a big pickup truck pull up alongside you while waiting in traffic, and been irritated by the loud chug-a-chug-a-chug sound? I sure have, many times. I am looking forward to the era when all vehicles are a lot quieter by being EVs. I have never enjoyed listening to the varoom sound of a loud infernal combustion engine, whether it is in a muscle car, a pickup, a motorcyle, or whatever.

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    • There are a lot of perks and advantages. One of my favs is much lower maintenance.

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    • rhymeswithgoalie

       /  March 2, 2018

      After decades of driving combustion vehicles, I’m impressed at how little time it took after I got my Leaf for me to think of them as barbaric.

      No tail pipe, no muffler, no catalytic converter, no air filters, no oil filters, no oil changes, no gas tank, and excellent acceleration to merge onto the road. The one downside is that it is larger than my previous car.

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  2. Less driving, more efficient gasoline powered and hybrid vehicles, and more electric vehicles, mean less gasoline bought, therefor less reason for producers to produce gasoline so the cost of gasoline will go up. The trend will likely continue as there are many more hybrid and electric cars on the way, reports say over 140 new models by 2022. And now there are even electric semi-trucks, electric buses, and electric light delivery vans, all making more and more business sense.

    Another factor helping to increase EV sales is that people are finding electric cars are really nice to drive. I bought a low cost used one as a second car and now much prefer to drive it for local trips. And I suspect many more people will buy electric as their primary car now that the range is over 200 miles on some new models. And as the total cost of ownership drops below gas powered cars, it will make economic sense too.

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    • Well, what is likely to happen first is that once there are enough EVs to impact demand is that the price of oil and gas will go down. This will hit marginal producers which will add volatility to the markets. So you’ll likely see big swings in prices.

      That said, I absolutely agree with your EV assessment. Quieter, cleaner, so much easier to maintain. It’s like stepping into a different world.

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  3. Greg

     /  March 2, 2018

    Tesla, the Pope, Colbert, and Robert Scribbler are about all we are allowed to talk about in my home these days in order to keep hope and humor alive! That being said…. we have found out today, via a US House Committee report (with its own covert attempt to influence of course) that Russian sponsored agents funneled money to U.S. environmental organizations in an attempt to disrupt U.S. energy markets…Russian agents exploited Instagram by sharing images related to Native American social and political issues including the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Moreover, many of the Russian linked accounts targeted “highly visible tension points” in America, including “protests against pipelines…the Kremlin is attempting to make, as Senator Cardin’s report states, “useful idiots” of unwitting environmental groups and activists in furtherance of its energy influence operations. Between the Russians, the GOP and its non-US pseudo equivalents, and the energy giants, we are being played in so many ways. I feel molested. When Tesla has enough power to have these players visibly cower, I will smile.

    https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/SST%20Staff%20Report%20-%20Russian%20Attempts%20to%20Influence%20U.S.%20Domestic%20Energy%20Markets%20by%20Exploiting%20Social%20Media%2003.01.18.pdf

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    • They supported points in the discussion that were most likely to result in disruptive and violent conflict. That were most likely to generate fractures in U.S. society. This is not a smear on the people who were honestly fighting for clean water and against dirty energy. It does, however, show the depths to which a cynical agency will go to manipulate the present discourse and state of conflict. And if you find an agency that is promoting violent activism (as opposed to peaceful civil disobedience) it can many times be traced back to agencies like Russia or associated anarchist groups.

      Will also say that the Russians, like the Kochs and fossil fuel agencies have supported various false and divisive memes that originated within the environmental movement and turned environmentalists against each other. Primarily, Russia’s designed strategic interest is to continue business as usual fossil fuel burning. But also to dominate that market. They cynically believe that renewables aren’t powerful enough a market force to resist sabotage attempts and to overcome fossil fuels. That a U.S. with less pipelines won’t be able to compete with them.

      We should be clear that the Russians are wrong about this just as they are wrong in their bizarre notion that climate change somehow benefits them. Renewables are developing into a very powerful market force even as climate harms are visited upon their country with increasing frequency. Despite the clear signs, they believe that they can weaponize climate change against the rest of the world to their advantage. But the hits for them are as hard as they are numerous. And their present geopolitical worldview is as incorrect as it is harmful and corrupt.

      We should be clear that Russia’s support for the most divisive elements of environmentalism were a part of a larger campaign strategy to get Trump elected. They also provided broad support for Jill Stein. Both of these activities were a part of their larger divide and conquer strategy. A democratic party attacked by environmentalists is much less able to combat Trump and, ironically, much less able to actually support good climate policy and reinforced environmental laws. So these activities should be seen in light of what they were — attempts at sabotaging an otherwise benevolent movement and corrupting their activities to generate attacks against U.S. institutions and U.S. unity.

      In light of this, we should be clear that the left has been more resistant to corruption activities by the Russians than the right. The NRA, for example, has been led upon a path toward radicalization for some time — with policies that are increasingly extreme. Agencies like Fox News have embraced Russian messaging with open arms. And this is a big deal due to the level of harmful influence Fox exerts over the Republican base. Trump arose from Russian attempts to manipulate U.S. real estate for its own mafia state purposes. Trump, in other words, lacked integrity and was easy to manipulate to support Russian interests.

      That said, we should be clear that the Russian meddling targets both ends of the political spectrum and that it has consistently worked to enhance extremism in this country in order to generate fractures. At this point, it is imperative on both parties to resist their more extreme elements and work toward moderation and, most importantly, for the reinforcement of democratic institutions. This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep fighting for climate change responses. Quite to the contrary, we should redouble our efforts. But the way we fight should be to transform the agencies, businesses and institutions that can act as such a powerful force in confronting this crisis — not to work to destroy or topple them. To hold bad actors to account, but to elevate those good actors in government and industry as exemplars (like Tesla) for the kind of civil and business action that is most necessary going forward.

      The 100 percent renewable campaign is just such an activity. It generates innovation and radical change in society without generating systemic harm. It encourages all levels of society to embrace this change and to work on transforming the institutions that we all rely on.

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  4. kassy

     /  March 2, 2018

    A California Court Might Have Just Opened The Floodgates For Climate Litigation

    Back in 2011, however, the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark American Electric Power v. Connecticut decision rejected similar nuisance claims brought against companies for burning fossil fuels. The high court found that these lawsuits based on federal common law were improperly in federal court because greenhouse gas emissions were already regulated by an existing federal law: the Clean Air Act.

    But now, the California federal district court has said that the Supreme Court’s decision may not apply to all federal climate nuisance cases, and that some of them are still properly in federal court. In an about-face, the California court’s decision on Tuesday argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s AEP ruling does not apply to all federal climate-change nuisance cases. The pending cases against these oil companies are still properly in federal court, according to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, because the Clean Air Act only regulates the companies that burn fossil-fuels, not the companies that sell them (like the defendants).

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianpotts/2018/03/01/a-california-court-might-have-just-opened-the-floodgates-for-climate-litigation/#684a62a11851

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    • We should say that this legal conflict is just as important as previous civil liberties battles in that they will ultimately determine the course of this nation’s decline into barbarity or its rise to confront the crisis of our age.

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  5. bobinspain

     /  March 3, 2018

    We should all try to remain optimistic. Let’s keep the fusion reactor dream alive. There is some promising research going on. I’m holding out for some kind of breakthrough, on a number of levels. Let’s hope that people wake up at about the same time that the technology really kicks in. The real revolution will be sudden, dynamic and profound. Or, I could just be being a naive silly old optimist. I’ve got my money on fusion, still. They’ll break through, one day:
    http://news.mit.edu/2018/integrated-simulations-answer-20-year-old-question-fusion-research-0216

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    • bobinspain

       /  March 3, 2018

      Again-knock me down if I’m being naive but I find this research very exciting:
      https://www.iter.org/newsline/-/2877

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    • Renewable energy is the dream, Bob. It’s got a positive learning curve like nothing else. Beating out coal and gas as we speak.

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    • Perhaps these theoretical simulations of a fusion source of unknown cost and utility would make a match in heaven for the theoretical simulations of the many and glorious iterations of VW’s new proposed EV prototypes? /snark.

      Hey, I’m all for R&D. But I would rather make mandates in the real world. And would hope that means a RE future at the lowest possible cost and for everyone.

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