Electric Cars Still Struggling To Make Headway
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.