Which Clean Energy Vehicle is Best for Rideshare?

More than 1 billion… That’s how many carbon spewing internal combustion engine vehicles presently operate on the road today. Approximately 2.6 billion — that’s how many tons of carbon the use of this ground transport spews into the atmosphere each year (see also).

We’re Well Behind the 8-Ball on Climate Change — So What to Do?

Simply transforming this system to electrified transport would remove roughly half of these heat-trapping emissions. Emissions that are, even now, worsening our weather, melting our glaciers, warming our world, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the emergence of a Hothouse Earth. And 90 percent or more of vehicle based carbon emission could be removed by linking electric vehicles to clean energy generation sources like wind and solar.

hothouse earth

(Tipping into a hothouse Earth state will happen if we keep burning fossil fuels. Individual and group action is now needed to prevent this catastrophe. Image source: The Potsdam Institute.)

Doing this would provide a big step forward in addressing the climate crisis. It would help to peak carbon emissions early on a global scale. It would provide the needed energy storage production for transforming the larger energy system. And it would prove to the world that we do not need to sacrifice quality of life or life-saving technologies in order to clean up our act.

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Welcome to the second installment of Extreme Clean — my personal journey to cut my carbon emissions to zero and to multiply my clean energy footprint by sharing it with others. I hope you will join me in this much-needed endeavor.

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From the standpoint of a single individual in a massive system that presently injects mountains of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere each year, the question needs to be asked — what can I do to speed up the clean energy transition process? In such a large world, how can the actions of a single individual matter? And how can I multiply my impact?

Choosing a Clean Energy Vehicle to Meet My Needs

For my part, and for the first phase, I have decided to purchase a clean energy vehicle. But I’m not just going to buy one and keep it for myself. I’m going to rideshare it through the Uber app. Thus multiplying my clean energy impact. I’m already living a veg-vegan lifestyle. My wife, two cats, and I already live in a relatively modest abode. But this is not enough. Not nearly enough. So step one is cleaning up my transport and sharing it with others.

Swallow Falls

(Cat and I hiking at Swallow Falls in 2018. For clean energy to work, it needs to provide for families like mine. We’re going to see if it’s possible to do that and more.)

In order to do this, I’ve go to make a choice. I’ve got to pick a clean energy vehicle that meets my transportation needs. This includes driving my wife to her work at the Humane Society of the U.S. about a mile away. It includes a vehicle capable of making the trek to the mountains where we enjoy hiking and camping. It includes one that is able to make the annual family reunion trip to Murrell’s Inlet some 500 miles away. One that can make the seasonal treks to my parents and grandparents in Virginia Beach — which is about 250 miles from my abode in Gaithersburg, MD. And if I rideshare it, I’m going to need something capable of consistently driving 100 to 200 miles per day on a 4-5+ day a week basis.

In other words, what I need is an affordable advanced clean energy vehicle. And for my purpose, for this blog post, I’ll be evaluating the capabilities of these vehicles before making a choice in a future installment. This first evaluation will look directly at the vehicles themselves. In particular, I’m interested in their range, their features, their price,  their level of efficiency, and their charging speed. In a second blog, I’ll be looking at another key feature — the availability of the charging infrastructure that supports them. This is crucial for me — as I presently live in a condo with no home charging capability. So I’ll need access to nearby local charging stations and fast charging stations. But, for now, I’ll be looking simply at vehicles themselves.

Five Highly Capable Clean Energy Vehicles on Offer

Luckily, at this point in time, there are now numerous affordable, advanced clean energy vehicles on offer. Even just last year, this was not the case. But, for the U.S. market, the number of clean energy vehicles that roughly meet my stated needs is about five. Last year, it might have been 1 — the Chevy Bolt. Arguably, the Tesla Model 3 also met my needs in 2018. But, on price (at around 50,000 dollars and up), it was then unattainable.

No more. The 2019 Model 3 Standard and Standard + are now within reach as well.

In 2019, Nissan is also offering a longer range version of its global best-seller — the Nissan Leaf. In 2018, the longest range a Leaf could achieve was approximately 150 miles. For my needs, this was a bit too short-legged. But the new Leaf + now boasts more than 200 miles of all-electric range. So we can add it to our list.

Rounding out the final two we have that Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro Electric. Both offer 200+ miles of range and prices in the mid 30s before some still substantial incentives.

If I wait until 2020, there will probably be more electric vehicles on offer that meet my needs. But at this time strong government incentives are now available for early adopters. In addition the purpose, for me, is to help provide a climate saving impact. To send a signal to markets demanding clean energy now. So acting sooner rather than later is very helpful to support this goal.

Evaluating the Cars

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the features and capabilities of these five vehicles. So hold onto your hats! The information is about to get dense!

Chevy Bolt

(Achieving a mass market debut in 2018, the Chevy Bolt is a highly capable, affordable electric vehicle featuring 238 miles of range and a number of highly attractive options. Image source: Chevy.)

Digging deeper into the individual cars on range, we find that the Chevy Bolt presently boasts an EPA range of 238 miles. This compares favorably to the Tesla Model 3 Standard at 220 miles of EPA range. However, the similarly priced Model 3 Standard + edges the Bolt out at 240 miles. Nissan Leaf Long Range is very close but lags a little at 226 miles. It is also worth noting that the Nissan is the only vehicle on offer with a passive cooling system. In the past, this has had negative impacts on battery life — which means that there’s a bit higher risk that the Leaf’s range could degrade more rapidly over time. Depending on local climate and use, my mileage may very. But this is a concern given the big swings in temperature the D.C. area has recently experienced. Moving over to the Hyundai Kona Electric, we get a bit of a break-out with 258 miles of range. This is pretty impressive and is one of the features that makes the Kona a pretty attractive offering to me. Finally, the Kia Niro matches the Standard + version of the Model 3 with 240 miles of electric range.

To me, this is all very impressive and roughly matches what only versions of Tesla’s Model S and X could do on range just a few years ago — but for around 75,000 to 90,000 dollars. Of course, none of these vehicles are as luxurious as the S or X. But the longer legs makes them all far, far more attractive to potential EV buyers — further shrinking the range gap with the ICE.

Looking at features, I’m going to provide a rough overview of the various aspects of each car. This is by no means fully comprehensive, but it does give a rough overview. Chevy Bolt is a relatively roomy sub-compact with 94 cubic feet of interior space and 17 cubic feet of storage. It has five seats, but might be a crunch for some larger folks in ride-share. Like most sub compacts, it can expand its cargo capacity by lowering the rear seats. The base Chevy Bolt comes with a rear camera and a 10.2 inch digital touch screen. Like many electric vehicles, Bolt has a lot of zip with 200 horsepower. Pretty surprising to pack so much torque into a sub-compact body design. Autonomous and more advanced AI features are available on the 41,000 dollar version. But the base version is, well, pretty basic in this respect. In addition, a number of people have complained about the seat comfort of the Bolt. An issue that, hopefully, Chevy is working to address.

Model 3 Standard

(At 35,000 dollars base price, the Model 3 Standard is Tesla’s fulfillment of its promise to provide an affordable mass market electric vehicle. And it’s a real thing of both beauty and clean energy aspirational achievement. Image source: Tesla.)

Features for the Model 3 Standard and Standard + are a bit more luxurious and muscular than the Bolt. The interior for the Model 3 is 97 cubic feet. However, storage is less than the Bolt at a still respectable 15 cubic feet including the front and rear trunks. Seating for the standard version is cloth, but the Standard + boasts vegan leather (faux leather) along with front heated seats. Basic level of autonomy including collision warning is standard for the vehicle. However, full autopilot is a 7,000 dollar upgrade (and out of reach for me). The central screen is 15 inches and includes most control options for the vehicle. Doors and windows both open at the push of a button from the inside (no levers). And outside entry is controlled either by fob or cell phone. Even the Standard Model 3 features sport car performance at 130 mph top speed and 5.6 second 0-60 acceleration. With the Standard + improving to 140 mph and 5.3 second acceleration. Overall, the feel of the Model 3 is that of a pretty awesome clean machine featuring minimalist styling, impressive design, decent AI capability, and powerful road performance. In terms of overall features, it’s a step beyond the competition, putting it in a class all its own.

Nissan Leaf + features include a unique customizeable display panel — which is pretty cool. Standard also includes automatic breaking — a basic autonomous capability. Like many EVs, the 226 mile/62 KwH battery is pretty muscular providing 214 horsepower and quite a bit of torque. Top speed is limited to 98 mph and 0-60 time is about 7 seconds. Central screen is a bit small for the class at 8 inches. Another compact model, the Leaf does boast a rather large storage area at 23.6 cubic feet. Hatchback design allows for good optimization of space. Other standard provisions include a heated steering wheel — nice for cold mornings.

Nissan Leaf Long Range

(Nissan has already sold more than 400,000 all-electric Leafs globally. Its new 226 mile range offering is bound to extend the legacy of this clean energy vehicle brand through seriously expanded capability. Image source: Nissan.)

Hyundai Kona Electric comes standard with another relatively beefy 201 hp electric motor. The vehicle is equipped with a relatively small 7 inch central display screen. Autonomous features include forward and side collision avoidance. A crossover/compact SUV, the vehicle looks really attractive both outside and inside. It sits higher than Bolt, Model 3, and Leaf — which likely provides some additional interior comfort. Overall cargo space is a decent 19.2 cubic feet. Seating for five might be a bit tight in back for larger riders — a repeating theme for the class of new, affordable electrics. Overall, a very attractive vehicle with notably high review ratings.

Kia Niro Electric rounds out our list with another 201 hp motor. It’s worth noting that the basic design is shared with the Kona, so a number of vehicle aspects will be similar. Kia Niro’s body, however, is roomier than Kona — with more space for those five passengers and 19. 4 cubic feet of storage. It is worth noting that Niro is still not yet available in the U.S. — so details are a bit less specific than the other options above. If the vehicle is not available in Maryland by mid April, it may opt itself out of the running for me. In general, there have been some issues with U.S. availability for the Kona as well — which appears to be limited to around a 20,000 vehicle per year global production rate. This compares to Bolt which will likely hit above 30,000, Leaf at around 100,000ish for 2019, and Model 3 at 250,000 to 300,000 (estimated figures).

Price comparisons are pretty comparable between these various high-performance, lower cost EVs. Chevy Bolt starts at $36,500 while the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + start at $35,000 and $37,500 respectively. The longer range Nissan Leaf starts at $37,445. Kona shows a starting price of $36,500 — at the same point as the shorter range Bolt. Meanwhile it’s suggested that Niro will start at $37,500. Model 3 and Bolt have both lost the full $7,500 dollar tax credit, however. So at present that incentive is bumped down to $3,750 dollars. In addition, Maryland offers its own $3,000 dollar subsidy for electric vehicle purchases — which applies to all of the above models. Other features related to price include reported generous rebates on Bolt by Chevy as well as very attractive financing offers by Tesla (3.75 percent) and Bolt (zero percent for some qualifying buyers). Adding money to the ledger could include hidden costs like Tesla’s 1,200 dollar destination fee. All vehicles would be subject to sales taxes for their regions.

Kona Electric

(Kona Electric is a beautiful, highly capable 258 mile range EV crossover. But can Hyundai produce enough to meet expanding global EV demand and will it reach all markets in the U.S. during 2019? Image source: Hyundai.)

Not included in the price is the likely savings over time for lower maintenance and fuel costs. For regular drivers, this is pretty substantial — amounting to $1,000 dollars in savings per year or more. For higher usage drivers involved in rideshare, this savings is likely in the range of $3,000 per year when including reduced fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on brakes, no need for an oil change (I’ve changed my oil once per month on the Hyundai!), and overall return due to more simple design. These savings may be somewhat offset by rarer parts for EVs and potential longer periods in the shop as the maintenance infrastructure for EVs is somewhat smaller than for ICEs at present. In addition, use of aluminum to lighten the frames for Tesla vehicles may also add to body costs as aluminum work tends to be a specialized skill. Reports are, however, that Model 3 was simply designed for ease of use, manufacture and repair. We shall see if these claims hold out.

Efficiency is one factor where electric vehicles are head and shoulders above their ICE counterparts. Electric engines, in general are about 3 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So far less energy is wasted overall. This is one reason why even EVs plugged into standard grids get far better fuel economy ratings and emit far, far less carbon than their ICE counterparts. EPA rated efficiency numbers for all the above vehicles are quite extraordinary. But it is an interesting metric to compare and determine which vehicle(s) stand out and which lag a bit. In the end, those with the highest efficiency will produce the lowest carbon footprints in use when plugged into the grid — which is important to me.

Kia Niro Electric

(Kia Niro Electric is another beautiful and highly capable affordable EV crossover. Will it release in time and in large enough numbers to have an impact on the U.S. market, much less make it available as a viable choice for me? Image source: Kia.)

EPA testing shows that the Chevy Bolt comes in at 119 mpge fuel efficiency. This is an amazing rating approximately four times better than my present Hyundai. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + leap ahead with a 134 mpge rating. This is amazing considering that the vehicles have a rather high curb weight. But Tesla’s newer batteries appear to be breaking ground in a number of respects. Nissan Leaf long range lags both Bolt and Model 3 at a still impressive 112 mile per gallon equivalent. Kona follows at 120 mpge efficiency — which is also pretty strong. Finally, Niro rounds out the pack at 112 mpge. Overall, very impressive but with Tesla coming in as a clear leader.

Last but not least, we finally come to the important metric of charging speed. Typically, most of these vehicles can recharge at a rate of around 15 to 30 miles per hour of range through level 2 charging stations or the same capability charger at a home garage. However, in a pinch, all of these vehicles possess some form of fast charging capability — enabling charging rates of 150 miles per hour or more. For rideshare, this is important due to the fact that I might find myself relatively far afield and need to return home while still a 100 or more miles out. In addition, since I’m going to be using my vehicle for long trips, rate of charge will be a major factor in determining how long it takes for me to get to a distant destination.

Starting with the Chevy Bolt we find that this EV supports up to 50 kW rates for fast charging. What this means is that the Bolt can go from a low level of charge to a near full level of charge in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Nissan Leaf also is capable of recharging at 50 kW per hour rates and produces comparable recharge times during fast charge. True to trend, Kona and Niro also both charge at 50 kW per hour rates. And this rounds out the rest of the pack.

Pretty decent, but nowhere near as fast as the Tesla Model 3 using a Supercharger. Present Superchargers can provide between 72 kW and 120 kW of charge at most locations. For Model 3 Standard, these can provide a near full level of charge within between 40 minutes and an hour. A new version 3 supercharger rated at 250 kW is being introduced in California during early 2019. The Model 3 is equipped to handle this level of charging — which could cut near complete charging times down to 20-30 minutes or less. However, it will take a few years for these ultra-fast chargers to trickle through Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. It is worth noting that the Supercharger Network is presently closed to rideshare drivers. However, a Tesla representative recently noted that fair use of the network was typically considered to be once or twice per week. So on the rare occasion that I’m stranded far from home while ridesharing, I can simply turn off the Uber app, drive to the nearest Supercharger, get enough charge to return home, then link up with a local level 2 charger for the remainder (more on charging networks in another blog). So still useful in a pinch.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m 2900 words into the report and what I can say is that I’m very impressed with all the electric vehicles on offer. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that five very attractive EVs with this price range and capability would be available in 2019, I would have hoped you were right, but I might have doubted your conclusion. In addition, I’d like to add that there is a lot to consider when buying an EV for extreme clean energy use. Far more than I had initially thought. The details in this report are pretty extensive and, for me, quite a lot to digest.

At this point, I’m still evaluating which vehicle to choose. And I’d like to ask you for your help and opinions — so please feel free to post them below! I’ve also added a twitter survey at the start for feedback.

For our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ability of various charging networks to meet my stated needs. The availability of chargers is a big deal for me given the fact that I live in a Condo, don’t have a personal garage, and don’t have a charging station presently in my parking lot. So, yeah, access to various chargers nearby is going to be pretty key.

As ever, thank you all for joining me. I hope you have found this evaluation helpful. I also hope that some of you will decide to take the leap and rideshare in a clean energy vehicle. If you do, please help this blog by using my Uber referral code: ROBERTF3028UE. And if you have found this blog helpful and informative, please share widely! Warmest regards and, until next time, ciao!

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U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Hit 24,560 in May as Tesla Dominates

The rampant rate at which fossil fuel based industry is pumping heat trapping gasses into the atmosphere is a serious and growing problem. A problem that is best answered by a transition to clean energy. Anyone telling you something different is lying or selling the energy equivalent of snake oil.

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With atmospheric CO2 equivalents hitting 493 parts per million during 2017 (and likely ramping to 496 ppm this year), the call for a clean energy transition couldn’t be louder. 550 parts per million is enough to warm the Earth by 3 C over one Century time scales. And, over the longer term such high levels of heat trapping gasses would melt most of the land ice on Earth, raise seas by 200 feet, and cause additional warming in the range of up to 6 C.

(Tesla’s record EV production rate for the Model 3 is enabling the all-clean-energy company to dominate U.S. sales.)

With most of the world’s carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel burning in transportation, electricity generation, and industry, transitioning to non-carbon emitting energy sources in these segments is crucial to addressing ramping climate harms. And, thankfully, clean transportation in the U.S. in the form of electrical vehicles is presently making rapid gains.

During May of 2018, according to reports from Inside EVs, 24,560 electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. representing about a 50 percent growth year-on-year over 2017 and setting a new May record for EV sales. This surge in EV sales was led by the Tesla Model 3 which hit 6,250 sold during May. Adding in Model S and Model X, Tesla moved more than 9,200 electrical cars — representing nearly 40 percent of the May market.

Chevy Bolt, on the other hand, eeked out just 1,125 sales even as Chevy Volt sold 1,675. Both behind second place Toyota Prius Prime at 2,924. Chevy has talked a good game RE electrical vehicles — recently marketing the Bolt as a so-called ‘Tesla killer.’ However, Chevy’s sales force has consistently failed to deliver in volumes that are high enough to match the talk. Chevy’s Volt, a plug in electric hybrid with 52 miles of all-electric range, is likely a superior value and overall more attractive vehicle than the Prius Prime (with just 25 miles of electric range). But the new energy Prius frequently outsells the Volt by a large margin.

Other major EVs of note during May include Nissan’s Leaf — which sold 1,576 in the U.S., but is a major seller on the international market. Earlier this year, we thought the Leaf might present the Model 3 with a bit of a challenge in the U.S. But that competition did not emerge as the Model 3 rapidly hit higher and higher sales volumes.

(According to Inside EVs, U.S. plug in sales hit 24,560 during. This is nearly 50 percent growth year on year.)

Another PHEV to watch is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Pacifica recently secured a 62,000 vehicle order from Waymo. At 620 U.S. sales during May, the Pacifica also had a rather decent showing for a new PHEV. Although we’re pretty confident that it could sell well north of 2,000 if Chrysler decided to get serious.

Overall, the story is presently one of Tesla dominance. And over the coming months Tesla’s lead is likely to only lengthen as it reaches and exceeds 5,000 per month production capability.

Earned Respect: As Other Automakers Promise, Tesla Delivers

Clean energy and climate change action advocates take note — Tesla is working hard to deliver on its sustainability promises. It is expanding EVs, solar, and battery storage on many fronts. And it has produced an all clean energy business model that no western corporation has yet to successfully emulate at scale.

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There’s been a lot of news during recent months about Tesla Model 3 production delays. And it presently appears that Tesla is manufacturing around 700 Model 3s per week.

This is still far short of Tesla’s stated goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of this Quarter. It is even further from the 5,000 Model 3 per week goal it has established for 2018. However, most other EV manufacturers are being left in the dust by this so-called ‘slow’ production ramp.

Take the Chevy Bolt, for example. Here’s a well-built EV that some claimed would steal Tesla sales. That Chevy originally stated it expected to sell at a rate of 50,000 per year. Last year, Bolt sold 26,000 worldwide. Pretty decent. But if GM had marketed the high-quality, long range car with the same fervor that Nissan markets the Leaf, it’s entirely likely that Chevy could have gotten much closer to that 50,000 goal.

(Tesla’s vision for a clean energy future is a work in progress that is refined step-by-step. Case in point — adding solar panels to the Tesla Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. Image source: Building Tesla.)

Now Bolt is selling at the rate of about 1,250 per month in the U.S. during early 2018. Chevy is assuring prospective EV customers it will ramp up production again soon. But, so far, these are just assurances. Meanwhile, Model 3, despite delays, just sold about 2,485 in February and, in all likelihood, will approach or cross the 3,000 mark during March. Another way of putting it is that a delayed Model 3 just blew Chevy Bolt sales out of the water.

It’s worth noting that top EV analysts like Zachary Shahan over at Clean Technica are speculating that despite Tesla’s stated and pursued goals, the company may well be tracking closer to its original build path of 500,000 EVs per year by 2020. A build path that practically everyone said was impossible at the time it was announced in 2013 but which expanded following unexpectedly high demand for the Model 3.

To set out a marker, Tesla sold approximately 100,000 vehicles globally during 2017. This year, depending on how quickly the Model 3 ramps up, it will likely sell between 150,000 and 250,000.

The activity of Tesla in deploying EVs and other clean technology could well be described as building and improving a plane already in flight. Tesla vehicles are produced and sold to employees during beta testing even as the production line is refined and worked out. Low rate initial production then follows. And after that, mass market production and scaling. We saw this most clearly in the launch of the Model X which, though slow, ramped up to produce the best selling all-electric SUV in the western world.

(Tesla historic quarterly production through end of 2017. Note that Model 3 will likely produce between 6,000 and 8,000 units during Q1 of 2018. Data source: Tesla. Image source: Daniel Sparks.)

The Model 3 is simpler. It is, overall, easier to produce. However, a new battery pack design appears to be the source of its initial delays. Not much has been broadly confirmed about the Model 3 battery pack. But it implies a greater energy density than past packs. And getting any production kinks worked out is critical for both Model 3 and also Tesla’s future designs like Model Y — including upgrades to the S and X.

Despite likely battery production kinks, Model 3 will probably deliver between 6,500 and 8,500 units during Q1 of 2018 or nearly twice the number of Model X’s delivered 3 quarters in. It’s also about 25 to 60 percent more than the number of Model S’s hitting roads after 3 quarters. Facts that should be taken into account.

At the same time that Tesla is working through the Model 3 production ramp, it is also continuing to innovate. Recent satellite photos reveal that the Nevada Gigafactory 1 — which is producing batteries even as it is under modular construction — is starting to add solar panels to its roof top (see image at top). These panels will reduce the amount of carbon emitted in producing each battery pack. In turn, reducing the sunk carbon cost of producing each Model 3 and, ultimately, each Model S and X. Thus increasing the already substantial net carbon reductions achieved by each Tesla clean energy vehicle vs dirty gas and diesel guzzlers.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Semi — which was announced just 112 days ago — is already entering Tesla’s factory vehicle fleet to haul freight in the form of Nevada Gigafactory produced battery packs shipped to the California production plant. So it seems that the all-electric Semi has shortly started its own live testing prior to expected sales during 2019. And the Semis, like the solar panels are helping to further improve Tesla’s already substantial carbon emissions reductions.

In other words, Tesla’s work in progress model is working. It is producing. It is testing, and improving. It is delivering. Clean energy Model 3, Model X, Model S and the Semi are not just concepts. These are designs in operation that are being sold and used even as their production paths are expanded. This is what actual delivery of innovative, cutting edge, climate change impact reducing products looks like. The form an actual value-driven (as opposed to solely profit-driven), sustainability-driven business model takes. The rest of the auto industry should be standing at attention.

Respect.

Tesla Model 3 Production Ramp — Steady as She Goes

If a person were to define the goal of aspiration, not in the dictionary sense, but in the ideal sense, a part of it would include attempting to achieve things that were previously considered impossible.

From the point of view of Tesla, setting seemingly impossible goals and then shooting to attain them has apparently become a new model for doing business. As the old adage goes — shoot for the stars. Go ahead try. If you miss them you might hit the moon instead.

With the Model 3, it appears that Tesla, so far, may have just managed to land on the moon after setting some pretty amazingly ambitious initial star-shot-type goals. That said, the moon, at this point, appears to be a temporary way-station as the company course corrects, but is still aiming for some ridiculously starshot-high production goals through 2018.

According to recent announcements from Tesla, the company achieved 2,425 units of production in the 4th Quarter of 2017. This is a considerable jump from third Quarter production of around 260 Model 3s. It is not, however, anywhere near the 5,000 vehicle per week target by year end that Tesla had initially aimed for. In other words — some moon, but no stars as yet. And it’s obvious that some Tesla watchers are disappointed. Perhaps more frustrating to those of us who are EV lovers, Tesla has again scaled back its targets somewhat — shooting for 2,500 vehicles per week by the end of Q 1 of 2018.

(Ramping Model 3 deliveries in a record 4th Quarter for Tesla. Image source: Electrek.)

But before we leave it at that, let’s add just a little context.

The first bit is that reviews for the Model 3 are coming back as very positive. Even Jalopnik, which regularly tears Tesla a new one, recently complained that there wasn’t enough to criticize about the Model 3. Meanwhile, previous Tesla owners are raving about the car. So some credibility must be given, there, to Musk’s recent claim that the company is aiming for a slower ramp to focus more on quality early and push the mass quantity part back for later. But how much later is still a pretty serious question on everyone’s mind.

The second piece of context that’s worth considering is the fact that as of December, the Model 3 was likely the 5th or 6th best selling EV in the United States. If Tesla manages to achieve an average production rate of around 500 to 1,000 vehicles per week in January, then the car will likely be ranked between 1st and 3rd. By March, if the ramp continues to scale up, it’s likely that the Model 3 will hit over 5,000 monthly sales and be the best-selling EV in the U.S.

(Despite moderate production delays, the Tesla Model 3 continues on its ramp to mass production. As you can see from the above video, fans really love this car. Meanwhile, many analysts don’t see major issues with the present Model 3 ramp and still expect Tesla to be selling north of a million EVs per year by the early 2020s.)

Looking still closer, we should take Tesla’s claims of 750+ vehicle per week production in late December with a dash of salt. It’s clear that Tesla production is now ramping. That bottlenecks are being cleared. That said, this announced sustained rate is the highest yet achieved over a relatively decent period of time. And, if past is any guide, it’s likely that Tesla will be speeding and slowing the line as they address issues. We probably shouldn’t assume that every week from now on will produce 750 or more. It could. But it’s likely we’ll see a kind of two step forward, one step back, two step forward progression as Tesla continues to refine the Model 3 line.

To this point we should probably also add that when Tesla says it is aiming for 2,500 vehicles per week by end of Q1, that’s probably a snapshot of peak production. Not of average weekly production during March. Same for the 5,000 vehicle per week target by June.

It’s a lot to digest. But I think those of us who’ve been following EVs for some time should sit back and take stock of what is a really big achievement underway. It may not be happening as fast as many had hoped. But it is happening. And even with its less ambitious ramp, Tesla appears set to at least double its overall EV production during 2018.

Steady as she goes…

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Growth Continues Ahead of Model 3 Tsunami

During August of 2017, U.S. electrical vehicle sales continued to increase at a respectable pace year-on-year.

According to Inside EVs, total sales for electric-powered cars in the U.S. totaled 16,624 during August. This represents another record — growing by 2,032 or 12.2 percent above 2016’s previous record August total of 14,592.

The Tesla Model S and Chevy Bolt EV held the first and second rank among individual model sales by sending 2150 and 2107 vehicles out to new owners respectively. The 238 mile range Bolt priced at $36,000 before incentives continued to show strong sales growth as Chevy accelerated expanding offerings to new states across the U.S. Model S sales, while holding top position, were down year-on-year — likely in part due to anticipation of the Model 3 ramp-up.

(Elon Musk recently reassured investors that the Model 3 will achieve its 10,000 per week production target in 2018. Image source: EV Network.)

Inside EVs estimates that 75 of the game-changing Model 3 — with best in class features, a 220 to 310 mile range, and a 126 MPGe fuel efficiency rating — were produced and sent to customers during August. If this number is correct, it would signify a somewhat slower ramp than the expected 100 sales for the month. However, this report is preliminary and may be subject to revision. And there have been more than one or two hints circulating around the web that Tesla is actually ahead of its production goals — hitting 200 vehicles by end August (see tweet below).

Presently ranked 30th on the EV sales chart for all of 2017, the Model 3 (with its approximate half-million reservations) is likely to climb into the top 20 by end September. At that point, Tesla expects about 1,500 Model 3s to be produced monthly. By October, monthly sales of the Model 3 may eclipse all other U.S. EVs as production exceeds 5,000.

At this point, the Model 3 will likely start having a noticeable influence on overall U.S. EV sales — with that impact further dilating during November and December. And if Tesla meets its December sales goal of 20,000 units for the Model 3, then the U.S. overall may see December 2017 total EV sales from all models nearly double December 2016 numbers (of nearly 25,000 units).  Meanwhile, through 2018, the Model 3 could help to drive total U.S. EV sales to around half a million or more.

In other words, the U.S. EV market is about to be hit by a tidal wave of very high quality and relatively low cost Model 3s — with profound and long-lasting results. This is good news for renewable energy and climate change response advocates. For such a large wave of electrical vehicles coming to market provides considerable opportunity for reduced carbon emissions from both vehicle based fossil fuel burning and from the ancillary electrical power market where batteries used for EVs can also replace base load coal and gas fired power stations with energy storage linked to wind and solar.

Links:

Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard

Plug In Electric Car Sales for August

Tesla Model 3 Production

Tesla Model 3 Information

The Electric Vehicles are Coming — Global Sales Likely to Exceed 1 Million During 2017

Electric vehicle (EV) performance has been improving so quickly and prices have been falling so fast that the internal combustion engine (ICE) wouldn’t be able to compete for much longer. You will soon be able to get Porsche performance for Buick prices and when you get that, neither Porsche nor Buick are able to compete.Tony Seba

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We talk a lot here about tipping points. Often this is in the negative sense when it comes to climate change. But when it comes to electrical vehicles, which is one of the key renewable energy technologies that has the capacity to mitigate climate harms, it appears that the world is rapidly approaching a much more positive kind of economic tipping point.

Steadily, markets are opening up to a new wave of far more capable electric vehicles. And this is good news — because the combination of wind + solar + electrical vehicles + battery storage has the capacity to act as a market force that, on its own, will begin to dramatically cut the global carbon emissions now driving dangerous climate change the world over.

850,000 EV Sales for 2016, Possibly More than a Million During 2017

During 2015, as EV ranges extended, as charging networks expanded, as countries like China and India began to incentivize electric vehicles in an effort to fight choking air pollution, and as high value vehicles like Tesla’s model X became available, global EV sales jumped to over 500,000. This momentum continued during 2016 despite plummeting gas prices — a year when sales of electric vehicles are now expected to rise by more than 60 percent to 850,000.

By 2017, it is likely that global annual EV sales will lift still further — hitting over 1 million in the world market as lower cost, longer range electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model 3, and an upgraded Nissan Leaf are expected make their entry.

ev-volumes

(Plug in vehicle sales including EVs and PHEVs are expected to jump about 60 percent during 2016. Rising vehicle quality and concerns about pollution and climate change are the primary drivers. Image source: Plug in Electric Vehicles Sales Growth.)

While climate and environmental policy is helping to spur this beneficial trend — with smog-choked cities and countries concerned about climate change pushing for fossil fuel based vehicle bans — it’s important to note that overall EV performance and quality now also appear to be a major underlying driver pushing EV adoption rates higher. In other words, a vehicle with a more powerful engine, faster acceleration, and a larger interior, one that produces less noise while driving, generates no toxic stink from a tail pipe and costs less to fuel and maintain, and one whose operation (when coupled with a renewable electricity supply) won’t contribute to all the nasty droughts, floods, heatwaves, animal deaths and rising tides that are becoming so pervasive due to fossil fuel burning, is looking increasingly attractive.

Rising EV Quality, Lower Cost Helps to Drive Adoption Rates

Rising rates of adoption, in essence, come both from various performance advantages as well as from an increasing societal awareness of EVs’ greatly lessened harmful impacts. Moreover, electric vehicles — like wind and solar — have the ability to produce great leaps in performance, capability, and cost reduction. As a result, they are increasingly narrowing the gap with fossil fuel based vehicles on range and price even as already superior power and efficiency expands.

chevy-bolt

(Higher capability electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 will help to further increase global sales during 2017. On acceleration and torque, both of these vehicles will be able to outperform many ICE based sports cars for a lower price. But the larger point here is that EVs are advancing very rapidly and are likely to be able to outperform ICEs in almost every way by as soon as the 2020s. Image source: Chevy Bolt.)

Vehicle ranges across almost all model lines are rising. The Nissan Leaf, for example, now has a range of 107 miles — compared to 84 miles just two years before — even as the company is expected to provide a 200 mile capable model in the near future. Meanwhile, today’s Leaf’s range is less than half that of the comparatively priced Chevy Bolt whose late 2016 release model boasts a 238 mile capability (about 4 times that of typical electric vehicles from just 2-3 years ago). Well-selling higher end vehicles like Tesla’s model S and X still dominate the longer range category. The base Model S’s range is 210 miles with larger battery pack versions now extending the vehicle’s legs to up to 315 miles.

The Chevy Bolt is the first mass market, moderately priced, fully electric vehicle (starting at around 35,000 dollars) with a highway range in excess of 200 miles available for US buyers. A vehicle that Motor Trend Magazine has rated very favorably. Lower maintenance and fuel costs will further add to the vehicle’s economic value and overall appeal. In late 2017, the Tesla Model 3 will join the Bolt in this category. Both vehicles represent high quality and higher performance options for buyers. And these models should help to considerably increase the number of electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. and around the world as they become available.

Electric Buses Promise to Help Revitalize Urban Areas, Make Public Transport More Attractive

(Gothenburg is one of many cities around the world moving to electric bus based transportation. This form of transport is not only clean, it provides unique features that aid in city planning and urban renewal. Video source: Electric Buses Regenerate City Planning.)

Larger electric vehicles such as trucks and buses are also starting to become more widely represented. For example, Chinese EV manufacturer BYD recently received an order for 50 new all-electric buses from Argentina. Proterra, another electric bus manufacturer, just had an order from the city of Seattle for 73. King County, which includes Seattle, plans to have all its buses powered by electricity within 3 years. Electric buses have seen major advances in recent years and now feature ranges as long as 350 miles and charging times in as little as 3-30 minutes.

Better Access to Charging Infrastructure, Faster Charging, Superior Performance

Expanding EV charging networks are also making these vehicles more accessible to the public. Tesla has invested heavily in placing chargers along highways in the U.S. and around the world. And it is the only automaker presently making superchargers — capable of fully charging an electric vehicle in about an hour — available as a special service to its drivers. These networks are adding to EV ease of use and are helping to further reduce range anxiety. Meanwhile the ability to charge at home, at work, and at numerous destinations such as grocery stores, rest stops, and malls adds to EV versatility and ease of use — providing convenience that ICE vehicles lack.

tesla-superchargers-destination-chargers

(Tesla’s ever-expanding charging network includes both super-chargers and more conventional charging stations. Image source: Gas2.)

EVs now also provide superior performance when compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in a number of areas. Though gasoline is presently more energy dense than batteries (a situation that is changing as battery technology improves), electric motors are far and away superior to internal combustion engines. Smaller electric motors save weight and space — allowing for larger vehicle interiors and storage. Meanwhile, an electric motor’s ability to rapidly deliver energy to the drive train produces superior acceleration and torque compared to ICE based vehicles. It is this feature that allows the Tesla Model S to outperform even motorcycles in acceleration. Simplicity of design is also a superior feature of electrical vehicles — one that is enabling EV owners to dramatically reduce maintenance costs. Less moving parts and less complicated engines enable this benefit. Add in greatly reduced fuel costs and it becomes pretty clear why EVs are enjoying such rapidly rising rates of adoption.

Helping to Combat Global Climate Change

Increasing EV popularity and access helps to combat global climate change on a number of levels. First, EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions. Second, EV engines are more efficient than internal combustion engines — so they use less energy overall than fossil fuel based vehicles. Third, EVs mated to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar produce zero or near zero carbon emissions during operation. Finally, the batteries used to charge EVs can provide storage for intermittent sources like wind and solar energy. And this energy storage can occur both while the batteries are sitting in a stationary vehicle and after-market when batteries are removed following the end of the vehicle’s time of use.

EVs are also transformative in that they greatly reduce and provide the potential to eliminate emissions from large segments of the transportation sector. And this is a pretty big deal as global transport is presently one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. With EVs, supply chains for food delivery and manufacturing have the potential to be decarbonized — which also helps to reduce various material and food based carbon footprints.

So the EVs are coming. A liberating economic force that’s helping to drive an energy switch that the world, at this time, desperately needs.

Links:

Dramatic Plug in Vehicle Sales Growth During 2016

EVs Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Regular Cars

Norway to Ban Petrol Vehicle Sales

Chevy Bolt

New Nissan Leaf With 200 Mile Range is Coming

Tesla Model S

Chevy Bolt vs Model S

Electric Buses Regenerate City Planning

BYD Sells 50 Electric Buses to Argentina

Seattle Buses to be All-Electric

Gas2 — More Tesla Charging Stations

Hat tip to JPL

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