Global plug-in vehicle sales in Q1 of 2017 were 191,700 units, 40 % higher than for the same period 2016. These include all global BEV and PHEV passenger cars sales, light trucks in USA/Canada and light commercial vehicle in Europe. 65 % were pure electric (BEV) and 35 % were plug-in hybrids (PHEV).
The preliminary April results show a 30 % increase over April 2016, with 67 800 units sold, 68 % BEV and 32 % PHEV.
Monthly growth rated were strongly influence by regional particularities: A slow start in China for January, where subsidy approvals were late and sales prices were uncertain. The appearance of the Toyota Prius Prime PHEV, which became an instant best-seller in Japan for February-March and turned that market around. April had stagnant sales in some larger Europe markets, which held back the global increase in that month.
The US market stayed consistently strong, with 49 % increase for Q1, 24 % for April and 45 % (preliminary) for May. High gains by the new Toyota Prius Prime PHEV and the new GM Bolt are important contributors.
The pace continues
Plug-in volumes have more than tripled since 2013 and continuing on last years growth rate of 42 % would mean 8 out of 10 cars sold being Plug-ins in 2030. Inconceivable today, not impossible for the future. The global picture shows just 0,84 % market share today, but in some markets it is already a multitude of that: Norway had 29 % plug-in share in Q1, Sweden 3,8 %. Hong Kong saw a record plug-in share of 35 %, before the generous EV incentives expired.
Amid smallish numbers, the whole sector develops at a rapid pace. The number of public charging locations has doubled within 2 years. The number of available plug-in models has increased from 70 to 130 since 2013. Battery cost have come down by 50 % in the last 3 years. Leading OEM have announced EV portfolios good for 25 % in their sales mix, for the next decade, among them VW and Daimler. And then, there is Tesla …
Growth in all regions
Delayed subsidy approvals in China led to a severe dent in the registrations: January was 54 % lower than in the year before. February and March compensated by 77 % and 103 % increases, Q1 in total ended with a 41 % gain. Preliminary April numbers show a 49 % increase over April of last year.
Following two quarters of decline, Japan returned to growth with the start of the Prius Prime, the successor of the Prius Plug-in, which sold in infinitesimal number by the end of its life-cycle.
Europe increased 28 % in Q1, but a mere 2,5 % in April, all y-o-y. May results in some markets indicate, though, that this halt was temporary. Notably, Germany speeds up EV adoption, with 88 % growth Jan-Apr, compared to last year.
North America turned out to be the fastest growing region in Q1, with +49 % for USA and +50 % including Canada.
Chinese brands stumbled over new subsidy schemes
The picture looks grim for BYD, last year’s world leader of plug-in sales. BYD was seriously affected by the confusion around the new 2017 subsidy schemes in China. Sales are now picking up, but shares are not back to normal, yet. Zotye, Geely, Kandi and JAC had similar issues.
Tesla was the clear #1, following their highest single quarter sales volume ever, BEVs only, all at lofty prices. This again shows the potential of the sector, once e-range and prices eventually match the needs of the mass-market.
The picture shows the composition of plug-in sales by BEVs and PHEVs. Many OEMs are still heavily reliant on PHEV sales, which stood for 35 % in the global mix, down from 37 % in 2016. Counting only BEVs, Tesla is the undisputed #1, followed by Nissan (Leaf), Chinese BAIC (aka BJEV), Renault (Zoe) and BMW (i3).
The “+/- vs CY2016” column has the gains and losses in percent points, compared to the full year of 2016. Apart from the aforementioned events in China, losses mainly stem from ageing portfolios and an over-reliance on PHEVs, which have seen their incentives being reduced in some markets, notably in the Netherlands.
Forecast for sales and stock
The coming months will confirm how the China market reacts to the reduced purchase subsidies. Other variables are the supply of new, affordable, long-range EVs, notably the 2nd generation Nissan Leaf and the already oversubscribed Tesla Model 3.
We stay in line with the previous outlook and predict 1,13 million worldwide plug-in sales for 2017, thereof 250 k in the US, 280k in Europe, 520k in China and 80k outside the aforementioned. This means +46 % in terms of volume and a 43 % increase in terms of light vehicle industry share, to 1,2 %. We increase our expectation of BEVs in the mix to 70 % (was 65 %).
By the end of 2017, the plug-in vehicle population will reach over 3 million worldwide. Still, the impact on the vehicle population will be hardly noticeable in most countries. 3 million plug-ins on a global motor vehicle population of around 1,5 billion, is just 0,2 %, one in 500. Growth is exponential, though, and the overall picture will change much faster than historic sales suggest.