US Sees Nearly 10,000 EV and PHEV Sales in January and February 2013, Tripling 2012 Sales For Same Period

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) more than tripled during January and February of 2013 when compared to the same period in 2012.

Overall, sales totaled 9781 during the first two months of 2013 vs 3089 during the same period of 2012.

Significantly reduced prices of lithium ion batteries has allowed automakers to offer substantial incentives on EVs and PHEVs while still making a profit. In addition, the number of plug in hybrid and base electric vehicles keeps expanding. The result has been a massive sales jump over 2012.

Leading EV and PHEV sales is the Chevy Volt with nearly 3,000 US sales so far in 2013. Chevy expects to sell 36,000 Volts globally, a healthy increase over strong 2012 sales. The Volt’s competitors the Plug in Prius Hybrid and the Ford CMax and Fusion Energi PHEVs also made strong showings with combined sales of these models only a few hundred less than that of the Volt. While sales of competing vehicles continues to grow the Volt’s long base electric range of 40 miles combined with a number of very appealing purchase incentives provide a strong basis for the Volt’s continued lead in the PHEV market. Ford CMax and Fusion Energi which both support base electric ranges of 20 miles appear poised to take market share from the shorter range Prius Plug-in although significant incentives and strong marketing may help support the Prius for some time.

Base electric vehicles including the Leaf, Tesla luxury EVs, the Ford Focus Electric, Toyota’s RAV 4, Honda’s Electric FIT, and the Mitsubishi iMiEV showed combined sales of about 4,200. Among these, the increasingly cost-competitive Leaf, the Mitsubishi iMiEV, and Tesla’s luxury brands appear to dominate. A very economic SMART ForTwo EV will begin selling in March for a base price of 25,000 dollars without incentives and a range of 68 miles. As a city-only vehicle and including state, federal and dealer incentives, the ForTwo will likely be very appealing to customers in metro areas where the price of gasoline currently averages over 4 dollars per gallon (cutting 2,000 dollars or more each year off the gas bill).

If current trends in EV and PHEV sales continue, it appears these vehicles may approach the 100,000 sales mark by the end of this year. Gasoline prices are likely to continue to push drivers toward these far more efficient vehicles with prices for gasoline in 2012 showing highest ever averages that are unlikely to abate much through 2013.



Chevy Volt, EVs Provide Californians Opportunity to Take On High Gas Prices

As near back as two years ago, consumers had very limited options when it came to combatting high fuel prices. But, thanks to the EV charge led by the Chevy Volt, those options are no longer relegated to bike riding, car pooling, and staying at home.

And, for Californians suffering from the highest spike in gas prices in state history, this new option couldn’t come too soon. Over the past few weeks, a supply crisis has disrupted fuels shipped to California  and resulted in gasoline prices averaging over $4.60 a gallon statewide and over $5.50 a gallon in some locations.

“I haven’t seen a series of incidents like this, and it has led to the worst panic-driven rise in gasoline prices that I have seen in 35 years,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times continued to note that the high prices were likely caused by too few people controlling consumer access to gasoline:

“When you’ve got such a small handful of owners controlling 14 refineries, it is inevitable that prices will go through the roof where there is friction in the delivery system,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

“There are too few oil companies controlling too few refineries and they want too much in profits.”

But a recent surge in electric vehicle sales, over 5600 sold last month, is providing fed-up California drivers with options they never enjoyed before. Of the 5600 electric vehicles sold, a high proportion were purchases by California motorists. State support for EVs is through the roof and eccentric inventor Elon Musk keeps pounding the electric vehicle drum-beat.

Musk, just today, heightened investor interest in electric vehicles by purchasing 35,000 shares of his California-based EV manufacturer Tesla Motors. This was, perhaps, a consolidation ahead of a potential buyout of the niche electrics manufacturer.

Meanwhile, prices keep falling for the Chevy Volt which is now offering leases for as low as $249 per month — a very attractive offer when fuel prices are above $5 per gallon. A Volt could save a driver as much as $2000 dollars per year in fuel costs at California gas prices, so it may be no wonder that the Volt has hit record high sales for two months in a row.


Bob Lutz: Chevy Volt On Verge of Profitability

A recent flurry of Volt bashing has arisen in the conservative media, likely, due to some desperate need to show that President Obama is a failure as Mitt Romney continues to trail in the polls. However, these destructive attacks target a source of American innovation and achievement as well as directly inhibit efforts for increasing energy independence at a time of rising fuel prices and climate instability.

So the question arises, do these sources really want to fight this battle?

The primary line of attack seems to have crystallized around a radical notion that each Volt is losing 40,000, 50,000, or even 60,000+ per vehicle sold. The fuzzy math includes investment in the production figures and makes a number of bad assumptions on the costs for vehicle systems. In the end, the numbers presented in the articles just don’t add up. And Bob Lutz agrees.

Lutz is both a conservative and a former executive at General Motors. So Lutz knows his business. And he apparently doesn’t wish to be drawn into the wrong side of a media war waged for political gain. In a recent interview Lutz noted:

“The statement that GM “loses” over $40K per Volt is preposterous. What the “analyst” in whom poor Ben Klayman placed his faith has done is to divide the total development cost and plant investment by the number of Volts produced thus  far. That’s like saying that a real estate company that puts up a $10 million building and has rental income of one million the first year is “losing” 9 million dollars, or several hundred thousand per renter.”

In the statement, Lutz refers to a recent article in Reuters which estimated the Volt lost 49,000 dollars per sale. Over past months, Reuters has been notorious for spewing this kind of bad information from everything related to alternative energy and climate change. They vacillate between responsible journalism and outrageous claims like the one posted above.

Lutz countered by noting that the Volt is likely very close to profitability already:

“Thus, the “Volt”, by my estimate, is either close to “variable break-even” or may be on the cusp of a positive gross margin. Deduct the per-unit allocation for all fixed cost, depreciation and amortization and it is, surely, still “under water”….but not by much, and less and less so as the volume builds and other, higher-margin GM cars, like the Cadillac ELR, piggy-back off of the Volt’s initial investment.”

Lutz’s comments come on the heels of two consecutive months of record Volt sales. A series of records some ‘journalists’ seem desperate to downgrade. I suppose the prospect of an American electric vehicle revolution is just too much of a good thing for some to stomach? In any case, despite these salient admissions by Lutz, the mad, ill founded, and half-crazed attacks on the Volt continue unabated. One would think that conservative-linked sources would have learned that attacking American innovation and the prowess of American workers was bad political policy. We’ll have to see how things bear out in the coming months and days. But, with each passing week, the purveyors of this form of ‘slanted beyond the tilt’ messaging are becoming more and more of a laughingstock.


Chevy Volt Hits New Record, Breaks 16,000 US Sales for 2012, Total Sales Worldwide Now Around 30,000 vehicles

September saw another record month for Chevy Volt sales in the US. Overall, 2851 Volts were sold just edging out August’s previous record of 2831 US sales. A combination of word of mouth, new Volt marketing strategies, and very appealing incentives to buyers pushed the revolutionary new auto out at ever-increasing rates.

Overall US sales are now 16338 for 2012 with total US sales since December of 2010 at 24335. Worldwide total sales for both the Volt and Ampera are now likely within a few vehicles of the 30,000 mark making the Volt the best selling electric vehicle of all time.

This month’s sales come despite a massive negative media storm in the conservative press attempting to kill off the revolutionary and disruptive new vehicle and a plug in electric design that threatens to lay the groundwork for breaking transportation’s dependence on fossil fuels across the world. The shrill storm of what could only be called negative advertising included a wide range of attacks using fuzzy math to inflate the Volt’s cost, to brand the vehicle as a taxpayer subsidized failure, or to, in an schizophrenic kind of wobbling criticize the Volt’s lowering cost to consumers.

I suppose these various magazines and pundits are against the American people getting a good deal on a revolutionary new technology that promises to kick open the door to US energy independence? In any case, the deafening silence from these sources on over 40 billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies is telling to say the least. When will the fuzzy math stories on subsidized $10 per gallon gasoline emerge? We’re waiting.

In any case, the Volt is the spearhead in a surging US electric vehicles market. Overall, about 5,000 electric vehicles have sold in the US just this month alone. Surging Volt sales in August and September were met by rising Leaf sales as well. The Nissan Leaf, which had seen declining sales over the past few months staged a comeback in September and saw 984 vehicles fly off lots for the month. Nissan had said the Leaf would stage a comeback and made good with a 43% increase over the previous month. In all, a total of 5,212 Leafs have sold so far this year in the US. In addition, a longer-range, lower priced version of the Leaf is about to release. These new advances should make the race between EVs ever more interesting.

Though figures for Toyota’s plug-in Prius haven’t yet posted for September, they should be in the range of 800-1200 based on initial estimates. Toyota’s plug in, though boasting less all electric range than the Volt, is seen as a somewhat affordable competitor. But it appears that Chevy’s own discounts and affordable leasing options on the Volt have made it more appealing to the slightly less electric Prius. Toyota, however, is a powerful brand and shouldn’t be counted out in this competition.

Additional electric vehicle sales came from Tesla, Fisker, Mitsubishi and Ford. Given the increasing interest and expanding market for US electric vehicles, it appears that the domestic market is on its way to breaking 50,000 total EVs and PHEVs sold by the end of 2012. Overall, a substantial leap forward for an appealing and highly beneficial new technology.


Chevy Volt Breaks Monthly Sales Records Again

America’s most customer-loved automobile broke a new monthly sales record this August. According to GM, sales figures for the Chevy Volt exceeded 2,800 vehicles for August. The Volt’s previous best sales month was March at 2,289 vehicles.

So far this year, the Volt has sold over 13,000 automobiles in the US and is on track to sell nearly 20,000 by the end of this year. Worldwide, the Volt has already sold over 25,000 vehicles in 2012.

In 2011, the Volt was the highest-rated vehicle for customer satisfaction. This despite a wide-ranging political attack by republicans and oil-special interest sources to discredit the vehicle.

The Volt’s revolutionary engine system allows the vehicle to travel for 40 miles in an all-electric mode before switching to gasoline assisted driving. Many Volt drivers report making it more than 1,500 miles between fill-ups in day-to-day driving.

If large portions of the US vehicle fleet were made up of cars like the Volt, it would drastically reduce oil imports. Just a 30% market penetration of plug-in electric hybrids could cut US oil consumption by as much as 2.5 million barrels per day. That’s more than twice the domestic oil produced via Eagle Ford and Bakken combined.

In addition, the Volt emits far less in the way of greenhouse gasses. According to the EPA, the Volt emits 84 grams of carbon per mile averaged over its lifetime. In comparison, a similar-sized combustion engine sedan emits four to five times as much carbon over its lifetime. Considering that personal vehicle transport accounts for 20% of CO2 emissions, a world-wide adoption of vehicles like the Volt could cut total emissions by as much as 15%.

This beneficial reduced fuel demand, however, is likely to eat into oil company profits. Which is probably one reason why the Volt has drawn flack from certain media and political circles. Increasingly, these sources have towed the oil industry line in messaging, both denying global warming and simultaneously attacking any replacements for fossil fuel energy. This destructive attempt at market domination would result in vast harm to technological progress as well as call into question the future health and even continuance of civil society should the worst impacts of climate change emerge.

So one should take any such dissuasion with a grain of salt. These aspersions hold no value and result only in harm to US interests and world climate security.

Who is to Blame for High Gas Prices?

As the presidential election’s silly season continues, as the most outrageously pandering promises are made to all people across the political spectrum, a single issue seems to have outdistanced the rest — who is to blame for high gas prices?

Republicans, for their part, seem to enjoy blaming Obama who, supposedly, is keeping millions of magical drilling rigs hostage. If only freed from their bondage, republicans claim these rigs all alone, all by themselves, could, in a puff of faerie dust, reduce the price of gasoline to $2.50 per gallon.

But do the republicans have a rational leg to stand on in their endless drill, baby, drill diatribe? To find out, we’ll have to examine some facts.

Obama brings massive increase in drilling

Since Obama entered office, there has been a massive increase in US drilling. And the sad truth, despite republican rhetoric, is that the US would be engaged in increased drilling regardless of who held the office of president. The US is so addicted to oil that it can’t afford, at this time, not to exploit every economic source. As a result, drilling has increased by over 350% under Obama.

Huge drilling efforts result in only moderate supply increases

Considering tripling US extraction efforts, one would think that US oil production would rise dramatically. In truth, production has risen, but by only a small amount. The net result of a massive 350% increase in drilling has only been a moderate bump in oil production of 14%. US crude oil production increased from a 2008 level of about 5 million barrels per day to today’s level of 5.7 million barrels per day.

Moderate increase in supply does not result in oil price drops

So all out drilling under Obama has resulted in some increase in supply. And you would think, all things being equal, that the price of oil would also fall. But all things are not equal. Oil is traded on the world market and there are an expanding number of factors keeping the price of oil high.

First, Saudi Arabia has claimed that $100 per barrel is a ‘fair’ price for oil. Saudi Arabia produces more than 10 million barrels each day and is the world’s second largest oil exporter. They are the only country in the world left with substantial spare capacity. This means that Saudi Arabia is the only oil producer with much influence on supply or price. But Saudi is saying it will defend $100 oil. And the means Saudi has to defend this price is through cutting supply. So should oil prices decrease, Saudi will cut production. In fact, it did this during 2009-2010. And since Saudi cut production at that time, prices have risen from $40 per barrel to over $105 per barrel now. As the world economy recovered in 2010-2011, Saudi Arabia brought production back. But demand was so high that the new oil didn’t result in substantially reduced prices.

Second, the reason Saudi Arabia is the only producer with spare capacity is the fact that all other oil producers are pumping oil flat out. And despite this all-out production, the world’s supply of crude oil has remained flat at around 74-75 million barrels per day (blue line on graph) since 2004. This means that despite the highest average price for oil ever, for eight years running, world crude oil production has structurally leveled off. The reason for this plateau is that new production of crude oil is only enough to keep pace with the rate of production decline from existing wells. In short, when it comes to crude oil production, the world is running to stand still.

Third, high cost unconventional oil fills in the gap. Today, the world produces 18 million barrels per day of unconventional oil along with other substances such as wet gas and condensate (condensate is usually included in the crude oil figure, but it’s a different substance altogether). This includes supplies of tar sands from Canada, deep water oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels. Much of this oil costs $50 dollars per barrel or more to produce. And the fact that the world is reliant on this ‘oil’ means prices will never fall below the high cost of a marginal barrel.

Most unconventional oil isn’t really oil at all. For example, Canada uses 8% of its entire natural gas supply to hydrogenate tar and ship it to us as ‘oil.’ The fact that we are calling hydrogenated tar ‘oil’ is a certain sign of how desperate we’ve become. And biofuels certainly aren’t oil. They’re fuels interchangeable with oil derived from crops. And it is through the production of these very expensive and difficult to produce fuels that the world has been able to increase production at all.

Fourth, the nominal demand for oil is about 98 million barrels per day, this is ten million barrels per day higher than the combined total production of crude oil plus unconventional oil. What this means is if prices go down, demand will keep going up until we hit a level of consumption of around 98 million barrels per day. The reason for this very high nominal demand is the fact that so many machines using so much oil are operating around the world. Oil-consuming automobiles alone are being produced at a rate of 80 million each year with more than one billion of these machines in existence around the world. With so many hungry machines, any new oil produced will be rapidly snatched up.

These combined issues mean that the US would have to produce more than ten million barrels per day of additional low-cost oil in order to create a situation where long-term gas prices of $2.50 cents per gallon or less were possible. But, in truth, achieving this feat is a bald impossibility.

All new oil is expensive oil

The reason why drilling cannot dramatically bring down the price of gasoline is that the cost of producing all the new oil is dramatically high. ‘Conventional’ oil from fracked wells costs $50 per barrel just to produce. Prices for biofuels, deep water drilling, polar drilling and Canada’s hydrogenated tar are about the same. But even the most wildly optimistic projections from all these sources show only slow increases in production requiring massive expense and effort.

Options for drastically increasing production do exist, however, if you’re willing to pay much more for gas. Oil shale contains 1.5 trillion barrels of potentially recoverable goop called kerogen. The US kerogen, however, is even less energy-dense than Canada’s tar. So the cost of producing this ‘oil’ is around $100 per barrel. And this cost hides the fact that a huge amount of natural gas would be needed to hydrogenate the kerogen. Furthermore, the oil shale is in a water poor region. Massive volumes of water would be needed to produce this goop. But the water doesn’t exist in the high volumes needed, so it would have to be piped in.

The result is that a immense and terrifying industrial effort would be needed to rip an enormous hole in America’s heartland to produce this ‘oil.’ And the irony is that, if we are forced to produce the oil shale, it will only result in even higher prices than today.

New drilling can’t dramatically lower prices, even though that’s what oil companies want you to believe

So, in short, the republicans are either misinformed, or they’re not telling the truth. This is hardly surprising considering that oil companies paid 18.5 million dollars into republican campaigns this year alone. Money to democrats from oil companies was substantially lower — only 2 million dollars. And what this oil company money is going to is keeping us all dependent on increasingly expensive oil.

Oil companies don’t want us to realize that even more drilling can’t radically reduce prices. But they do want to continue their dominance in the energy markets. They do want to continue their position as the dominant provider of transportation fuels. And in order to do this, they must convince us that the best solution to high gas prices is more drilling, even if it is not.

Real solutions — increased efficiency, alternatives

The only real solution to the oil depletion problem is switching away from fossil fuels and dramatically increasing efficiency. And even though republicans aren’t very good at proposing sustainable solutions, they are very good at demonizing policies and technologies that actually help.

This was recently demonstrated by republican efforts to demonize the Chevy Volt. Number 1 in customer satisfaction in 2011, the Volt dramatically reduces dependence on oil by making commutes all-electric. Since 80% of all gasoline consumption occurs in commutes, a transition to electric vehicles like the Volt would drop US oil consumption by 7 million barrels per day. If these vehicles became common-place around the world, oil consumption could fall by as much as 35 million barrels per day. And that would dramatically lower oil prices as well as eliminate the need for new oil production. This powerful new technology represents a potential future oil companies and republicans most definitely do not want. A future, however, that would be dramatically more prosperous for the rest of us.

But republican attacks aren’t limited to demonizing revolutionary American technologies like the Volt. Republicans have also worked to de-fund all government incentives to produce solar energy, wind energy, and to increase vehicle efficiency. Solar and wind energy reduce dependence on fossil fuels and since gas and coal are increasingly interchangeable with oil, they indirectly reduce oil prices. Finally, republicans attacks on energy efficiency directly increase the price of oil by increasing demand.

Republican policies push high prices higher

Only a dummy or someone bought and paid for would make the argument that civilization should remain dependent on an increasingly expensive and scarce resource like oil. And that’s just what republicans are doing. Though republicans aren’t to blame for the fact that oil itself is more expensive because it is depleting, they are to blame for pushing policies that enforce dependence on oil, for fighting at every turn to reduce efficiencies, and for doing their best to demonize and destroy any alternatives to oil.

Foremost, the republican push for drilling as the only solution is doomed to failure. At best, new drilling is a temporary stop-gap. Long term, without alternatives, it dooms the world economy to spiraling increases in energy prices. This policy is one born out of the myopic special interests of oil companies and their continued drive for dominance and outrageous profits. A true allegory to this failed policy was the conservative/republican push for deregulating the banks and the housing market in the 1990s. The result was a world financial collapse in 2008. We don’t want to see the same thing happen in energy. But blinded by profits and donations, republicans are,once more, trying to force us down a dangerous path.


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