This is turning into a big year for the EV market, as an array of new offerings, from the Porsche Panamera to Ford Mustang Mach-E, roll into showrooms. But only one new entry seems to have buyers plugging in at any significant volume: the Tesla Model Y.
A look at the sales numbers for the first of this year reveal that EVs, in general, didn’t fare particularly well during the pandemic – though that’s true for the rest of the auto industry which saw demand drop by roughly half in May and recover only modestly in June. The question is whether the overall rebound of the U.S. market, along with the arrival of so many new EV models during the second half of 2020, will start to charge up demand.
For now, Tesla remains the only battery-car provider to show any real momentum, something reflected both in its improving financial picture and the astronomical run-up of its stock – which is triggering a five-for-one split later this month. Tesla not only dominated the BEV sales charts for the first six months of this year, but also the Model 3 alone handily outsold all of its competitors combined.
While some manufacturers aren’t offering precise sales numbers, CleanTechnica estimates U.S. buyers purchased 38,214 Tesla Model 3 sedans during the first half of 2020, making it the overwhelming favorite all-electric vehicle on the market. The closest any non-Tesla BEV came was the Chevrolet Bolt BEV which registered a comparatively anemic total of just 8,370 sales.
The Tesla Model Y SUV, still in ramp-up stage, generated 18,861 sales during the first half, with the bigger Model X coming in at 9,500. Though the Chevy Bolt did manage to outsell the now-aging Tesla Model S, at 4,700, all four of the products Tesla offered were in the U.S. market’s top five BEVs.
Looking further down the chart is also quite revealing. The Nissan Leaf, which was the world’s first mainstream all-electric vehicle, has clearly lost all of its momentum despite getting a complete redesign and, with the Leaf Plus, roughly triple the range of the original BEV. That hasn’t helped, it seems, all versions of the Nissan battery-car racking up sales combined of just 3,006. Put another way, Leaf sales were down about 50% from the year before.
The Volkswagen Group has high hopes of becoming a dominant player in the nascent market for battery-electric vehicles. The first-half results might give the German maker pause, however. The Audi
e-tron, its first long-range EV effort, hasn’t exactly lit up the market, sales from January through June totaling a mere 2,872 here in the States.
Then there’s Porsche, which certainly grabbed plenty of headlines with its high-performance Taycan. But the battery sports car might have had more reviews than sales, first-half demand coming in at a mere 1,038, according to CleanTechnica.
Not one of the many other EV makers cracked the 1,000-unit total for the first half of 2020, BMW’s i3 barely reaching a quarter that level despite its own recent upgrades. For the second quarter alone, it was off 85%, for the first half, Americans bought just 252 of the electric city cars.
How things will fare going forward is anyone’s guess. EV proponents have to be worried based on what we’ve seen so far this year. Despite its overwhelming market dominance, even Tesla didn’t do as well as it might seem, once you take a closer look.
The automaker does not reveal a U.S. breakout but InsideEVs estimates Tesla nominally sold around 90,750 vehicles in the U.S. between January and June, which it estimates was somewhere between 3 and 10% below last year’s numbers.
That might seem relatively modest considering the overall crash of the U.S. automotive market but one also has to consider that Tesla only recently added the Model Y, the SUV that CEO Elon Musk had previously boasted it could see double the demand of its popular Model 3 sedan. No question the Y is in ramp up, but it couldn’t completely defy economic realities during a pandemic.
Now that U.S. sales are starting to rebound, the question is whether the EV market will also build some muscle.
On the downside (for EV sales anyway), gasoline remains almost absurdly cheap. While AAA reports regular self-serve is now back up to $2.178 a gallon nationally, up about 40 cents from April’s low point, it’s still about 40 cents below year-ago levels – and, AAA reports, is trending downward again. Low fuel prices have clearly been shown to negatively impact demand for EVs.
On the plus side, there’s a flood of new product coming, including all-new models like Ford’s Mach-E, Volkswagen’s ID.4, the Polestar Two, the GMC Hummer and others, as well as upgrades and new variants of existing products, including the Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan. The wave will grow even larger in 2021, and Tesla itself is moving towards the roll-out of another eagerly anticipated model, its Cybertruck pickup.
Will this product blitz pay off? Not everyone is convinced, but Pat Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, is nothing if not bullish. “Up til now, the market has been vehicle/make/model limited, meaning that while a lot of consumers had the desire to buy electric they couldn’t find a car in their price range that fit their lifestyle,” he tells TheDetroitBureau.com. “Now, you’re starting to see some significant battery-electric vehicles with good features targeting the mainstream and, as that happens, you’re going to see a massive uptake of those vehicles.”