December was the best month ever for Plug-in sales in the US, both in terms of volume and share. A total of 24 000 units were delivered converting to 1.43 % of the light vehicle market.
The total for 2016 stands at 156 600 units and a share of 0,9 %; growth over 2015 was a healthy 36 % (41k units). This beats our estimate of 150 000 units at the beginning of the year and is somewhat of a surprise following weak October and November results. Read further down what we forecast for 2017.
The volume increase in 2016 can be attributed to Tesla (+95 % for S & X combined), the new GM Volt (+61 %), Ford Fusion (+63 %) and a number of newcomers, mostly in the Plug-in Hybrid category. The details for individual models are listed further down in the article. By its growth contribution, the Tesla Model X must be regarded the most significant vehicle this year.
The public charging infrastructure made good progress: the number of charging locations increased by 22 % from Oct 2015 to Oct 2016. For DC fast charging nearly 1300 locations for DC were added on the AFDC map. Their total number should be around 3300 by now, including Tesla Superchargers.
Interest rates stayed low, consumer confidence improved, employment went up and the overall light vehicle market finished 0.4 % above 2015 (+76 800 units). The 2016 total of 17 459 200 new cars and light trucks is a new all-time-high.
More attractive PHEVs
In 2016, the share of PHEVs in the mix moved decidedly upwards, from 38 % to 47 % of all Plug-is sold. This reasons were higher sales of the new Volt, Ford Fusion and many PHEV introductions from import makes. Meanwhile, the ever so popular Nissan Leaf (soon to be replaced) lost further buyer interest. We still deem this trend towards PHEVs to be temporary, until more affordable long range BEVs become available in larger numbers.
As a footnote, we have started tracking fuel cell vehicle sales. Not so much because of their efficiency and charging convenience (FCEV offer neither), but for the headlines they create, at times. In total, 1082 FCEVs were registered by 3 brands, 1034 of them were Toyota Mirai. The total for 2015 was 110 units.
Nearly 50 % of US Plug-in sales are still in California. The other 9 states with ZEV mandates (CT, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT) stand for 13 %. The data shows the accumulated sales between January 2011 and October 2016.
The 10 ZEV States typically have a combined 28 % of the total vehicle market but their share in Plug-in sales is around 62 %. In 2015 / 2016 the Plug-in share in the 10 ZEV States was 4-5 times higher than in the US-States without ZEV targets. With an nation-wide PEV adoption like in the ZEV States, the Plug-in sales would be 2 times or more of what they are today.
Volt tops the quarter, Model S is #1 for the year
Like in 2015, the Model S became the best-selling plug-in for 2016. Sales went up by another 5000 units thanks to continuous improvements to the car and the charging equipment. The Q4 top-spot went to the Chevy Volt which sold more in October-November. Tesla was held back while converting to the new autonomous driving hardware. They made it up by delivering over 5000 Model S and 4000 Model X in December.
Y-o-y, there are big winners and quite some losers in the chart. Common for winners is that they are either fresh, offer long EV-range, are PHEVs or a combination of the before mentioned. The losers are dated, offer inferior EV-range-to-price relation and are soon to be either replaced or updated to better specifications.
Despite a surprising 31 % sales lift for the Leaf in Q4, it lost 19 % during the complete 2016. Sales were down to 14 000, compared to 30 200 units in 2014. The successor is announced for 2017, and is likely to offer 200 miles of EV-range for similar prices as today.
Tesla (Models S+X combined) had a commendable share of 30 % among all plug-in vehicles sold in the US. Among pure electric vehicles, 55 % of all EVs sold in 2016 were from Tesla. The race for convenience and affordability will continue, with Tesla and GM likely to play a even more dominant role in the plug-in sector.
Great finish for 2016
Plug-in vehicle shares tend to develop in accordance with peaks in Tesla deliveries, high at the end of the quarters and with troughs after that. The overall trend-line remained positive and in December, the plug-in share was the highest ever recoded, with 1.43 %. In September it had cracked the 1 % mark for the first time.
Great news, so far, but as many other markets, the US is still distant from the tipping point to mass adoption of electric vehicles. Norway is the only country where this is the case, with EV shares consistently above 20 % this year. In most other countries awareness and promotion is still very muted. Among those who know, range, charging and prices are still the most important issues to improve.
250 000 feasible for 2017
An outlook on 2017 plug-in sales is a daring task, considering the vague announcements about the timing of the Tesla Model 3 and the next Nissan Leaf. GMs intentions for the Chevy Bolt (Car of the Year 2017) and the President Elect’s (Person of the Year 2016) intentions on ZEV grants are likewise uncertain.
We like to stay optimistic and assume that at least 50 000 units Model 3 are delivered to US customers this year. Our best estimate is 250 000 units (1.5 % share) which would place the US among the fastest growing markets for 2017.