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Electric Cars Still Struggling To Make Headway

January 12, 2016

By Paul Homewood  




Plug in electric cars are still struggling to make any real headway in the UK. According to figures from the SMMT, although sales of pure electric cars last year increased from 6697 to 9934, this still only represents a tiny fraction of new car sales of 2.6 million.

Plug in hybrids fared slightly better, totalling 18254 over the year.

This is despite government grants of £5000 per car, introduced in 2011, since when 47690 cars have been eligible. It is a sign of the mad times that we live in that the government can afford to throw money away like this, not to mention exemption from vehicle duty, when it is still running a huge deficit.

Indeed, the subsidies are hiding a much deeper problem, with the Local Transport Today transport journal reporting that manufacturers are selling electric cars at a loss.

Low oil prices in the meantime will make it even harder for them to make any real headway.


Over in the US, sales of electric cars have actually declined, as Bloomberg reports:


Plug-in electric vehicles failed to win over U.S. consumers amid the auto industry’s record sales in 2015, as low gasoline costs and daunting sticker prices damped demand.

Americans bought just 102,600 such vehicles in 2015, a 17 percent decline from the previous year, according to researcher Autodata. Nissan Motor Co. sold 43 percent fewer of its all-electric Leaf and General Motors Co. reported an 18 percent drop for its Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in model that’s driven by an electric motor and has a gasoline engine to recharge its batteries.


Persuading car buyers to choose electric got more difficult as gasoline slid to $2 a gallon by the end of last year. The average U.S. retail gas price for the full year was $2.40 a gallon, down from $3.34 in 2014, according to AAA. Add to that starting prices such as $29,010 for the Leaf, a small car, and even with government incentives such as a $7,500 federal tax credit, winning over customers can be difficult.

“Why should I go electric and pay more when gas is so cheap?” Ludwig Willisch, chief executive officer of BMW of North America, said in an interview. “There needs to be a clear advantage to driving electric: HOV lanes, parking, charging.”

BMW sold 11,024 of its electric i3s in the U.S. in 2015, the model’s first full year of sales. Sales averaged 919 a month, a 21 percent increase from the previous year.

That’s an indication that luxury electric autos such as the i3 and Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model S sedan can expand sales.

Tesla, which sells only electric autos and in September began deliveries of the Model X sport utility vehicle, reported global deliveries of 50,580 vehicles for 2015, a 60 percent increase. The company doesn’t break out figures by country.

Autodata estimated that Tesla’s U.S. total rose 26 percent to 23,650. The researcher’s figures also include a very small number of fuel-cell models.


Meanwhile, according to Reuters, drivers are voting with their feet:

The ‘Detroit Three’ automakers racked up record sales and profits in the U.S. market last year not because of electric cars or plug-in hybrids, but because of soaring demand for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles fuelled by gasoline prices that hit multi-year lows.

At General Motors Co , the focal point of Detroit’s bailout, pickups and SUVs accounted for nearly 70 percent of last year’s sales. In 2016 one of the SUVs GM sells in America – – the Buick Envision – will be, for the first time, imported from China, to the chagrin of the United Auto Workers union, a key Obama constituency.

With oil prices expected to stay low for some time, all the major automakers are looking for a bigger slice of U.S. truck market profits.

  1. January 12, 2016 2:43 pm

    The BBC had a typically fawning interview with Muskie this morning, no, not the varmint from Deputy Dawg, but that “Green” varmint Elon Musk. Elon is amazed that his companies are still profitable, but no mention from the starstruck interviewer of the massive subsidies given to electric vehicles.

    In Europe, where there are electric vehicles the EU cannot be far away, and indeed it is the EU regulations on fleet-average “emissions” that is behind the presence of the few of them on the roads. In effect EU car buyers are subsidising the electrics, and there is only one direction of travel in Europe.

    I’ve only come across one of them in my home town, almost got hit by it due to the lack of noise they make. Like insects, a spell of very cold weather will kill most of them, as they have a bit of an issue with heating.

  2. dearieme permalink
    January 12, 2016 3:06 pm

    A plug-in petrol-engined hybrid doesn’t have a Diesel Particulate Filter to clog up, or (I assume) a dual-mass flywheel to disintegrate expensively. Nor should it toil to start in severe cold weather. Those are all advantages over a diesel engine, especially one used for lots of short journeys.

    Still: does anyone except people routinely driving into the London Congestion Zone really benefit from these vehicles?

  3. January 12, 2016 4:02 pm

    The minute gasoline prices drop, American consumers return to larger vehicles. Since 1965, I’ve owned 3 Mustangs, a Taurus and now a Ford Freestar minivan. I love my van as I can haul stuff and pack a lot of stuff into it easily. No, it does no get the best gas mileage, but I knew what it would get when I bought it in 2004. I even bought the large engine as I have no interest in crawling up the WV hills. I can pass these little motorized baby carriages easily on the hilly interstates.

    We need a bumper sticker: “Like your plug-in? Thank a coal miner”

  4. Joe Public permalink
    January 12, 2016 6:41 pm

    This is despite government grants of £5000 per car, introduced in 2011, since when 47690 cars have been eligible. It is a sign of the mad times that we live in that the government can afford to throw money away like this, not to mention exemption from vehicle duty, when it is still running a huge deficit.

    Not to mention the 75p duty & VAT forfeited on every 99p litre of petrol/diesel ‘leccy-car owners no longer buy.

  5. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 12, 2016 9:41 pm

    According to Autodata Corp, US sales hit 17.47 million units in 2015, breaking the previous record of 17.41 million in 2000.

    102,600 / 17,470,000 = zilch

    Take a look at the photo on James Delingpole’s post about electric cars.
    I expect a number of these things will die young. Disgusted owners will fill them with soil and bulldung and plant food or flowers.

  6. January 13, 2016 11:06 am

    What’s £240 million (and counting) on electric car subsidies added to the vast pile of wind and solar subsidies, when you’re ‘saving the world’?


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