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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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