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2017: The Vehicles

EV Landscape

This is the first of several posts that will discuss the EV landscape from the perspective of the directions in vehicle production, the Federal tax credit, the latest with respect to efforts on the part of the State of Connecticut, and some observations about the global outlook.

Various pundits followed by this page had forecasted plug-in sales crossing the 200,000-unit threshold in 2017. That didn’t happen, but it was oh, so close. According to Inside EVs, the final number for 2017 is 199,826, an increase of 26% over 2016. (This number excludes fuel-cell vehicles, which, though small, would have added another couple of thousand to the total). This follows a 37% increase in 2016 over 2015. December 2017 had the highest EV sales of any month on record with 26,107 units, up 5% over December 2016.

While this general sales trend is healthy and has withstood a prolonged period of moderate or low gasoline prices, overall sales volume remains in niche territory given the total car/light-duty truck sales of 17.2 million (of which 63% were of the truck/SUV persuasion).

There were 42 distinct plug-in models registering sales in 2017, quite a jump from 27 models just 2 years ago. The diversity of EVs continues to improve and includes vehicles with longer range and of larger size.

Of all of the new model introductions, the most notable are the first mid-price battery electric vehicles (BEV) with a single-charge range of over 200 miles: the compact crossover Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 sedan. The 200-mile threshold was thought to be a game-changer. So how are we doing?

The Bolt rollout was gradual and full national distribution did not occur until fall 2017. It quickly rose to become the largest selling plug-in for GM with 3,227 units sold in December, a respectable number by EV standards. The Bolt sales figure for December is the second highest for a GM plug-in, bested only by the 3,691 Volts sold in December 2016.

Tesla, after reportedly booking over 200,000 reservations in the USA alone with refundable deposits, has only produced 1772 Model 3s since the first one rolled off the line in July. There was some encouraging news in that the December number increased to 1060 following November at only 345. Nonetheless, prospective Model 3 buyers must remain patient. If Tesla can wrangle their manufacturing bottleneck, and if some reservation holders don’t bolt for a Bolt, the Model 3 at present appears to be the only plug-in that can approach a reasonable fraction of the monthly sales volume of a top-selling gasoline car (currently the Honda Civic at roughly 24,000 units per month. The top-selling vehicle is the Ford F series pickup at about 73,000 units per month.)

In the case of Chevrolet, the rise of the Bolt has correlated with a decline in Volt sales. Chevy sold 1937 Volts in December, a 48% decline from December 2016. This could be due to an easier to explain user proposition for a BEV relative to a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Both offer industry-leading electric range in their class (Bolt – 238 EV miles, Volt – 53 EV miles + 370 gas miles). Both have been well-received. But the PHEV world is complicated to explain. The category has tremendous variation across vehicles from the perspective of engineering, performance, and range. And many PHEV drivers make efforts to maximize their mileage using the battery.

PHEV/BEV

That said, the PHEV powertrain isn’t going away anytime soon. In 2017, the market was roughly split with PHEVs having a 53% market share (based on unit sales). The manufacturers are looking to introduce electric versions of their top selling SUVs and trucks. The only way to get there today is the PHEV format.

There were 2 introductions last year of mid-priced vehicles in these larger categories, both PHEVs. The Chrysler Pacifica (minivan – 33-miles electric) arrived along with the Mitsubishi Outlander (compact SUV – 22-miles electric). These join pricier options available from BMW, Volvo, and Mercedes. All of these have modest sales to this point (defined as under 1000 month).

Toyota, the company that pioneered the hybrid category with the conventional Prius parallel hybrid has finally produced a vehicle that is making a sales impact. This is the second generation plug-in Prius (PHEV), the Prius Prime. The electric range is 25 miles and the base MSRP is under $30,000 before incentives. Sales of this model reached 2420 in December, higher than the Volt.

Another major manufacturer that has heretofore been mostly on the sidelines, Honda, introduced both a BEV and PHEV version of its clean-energy nameplate Clarity.

Below are the market shares in the US for each manufacturer as reported by Inside EVs.

 

The most obvious reason for a major change to the landscape is a ramped up Tesla Model 3. All of the major manufacturers have made announcements about dramatically scaling up the number and variety of EV models they produce. Within the next five years, it seems likely that between 100 and 200 new models will be available. These are the vehicles that we have seen specifically announced for 2018:

  • Jaguar I-Pace – BEV, a first for Jaguar.
  • Nissan Leaf – Not new, exactly, but a major redo is promised.
  • Audi e-tron Quattro – First Audi plug-in SUV.
  • Faraday Future FF-91 – The first car from a new company, headquartered in Silicon Valley, backed by Chinese company LeEco Electronics.

This is a good reference of currently available vehicles from Plugincars.com

2018 is the year that some manufacturers will bump against the ceiling of the Federal tax credit. More on that in the next post.




National Electric Drive Week Event in Fairfield

National Drive Electric Week

The 2017 Drive Electric Week is coming up next month (September 9-17) and will be celebrated locally with an event in Fairfield on Saturday, September 9 from 10 AM to 2 PM. This is one of the larger EV showcases in the area with approximately 50 EVs exhibited from both dealers and private owners. New models of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are being introduced at an increasing rate and this is a great opportunity to see many of them.

The event location is the Auxiliary Commuter Parking Lot, 140 Mill Plain Road across from the Sportsplex@Fairfield.

Electric bikes welcome, too!

Drive Electric Week is presented by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association.

The event is free.




Interactive Dashboard, Part Deux: Westport Has Highest Incidence of EVs of all CT Cities

Interactive EV Dashboard

We have added a page to the CT EV interactive dashboard so that it now shows plug-in vehicles per capita by city and plug-ins as a percentage of all vehicles registered in each city.

Keep in mind that the denominator in per capita is the entire population and not just those old enough to drive.

Westport has the highest incidence in each case, though the low incidence, in general, illustrates the progress yet to be made.

This page has the same interactive features as the other pages and there is a slicer by fuel type in order to isolate the data view to either Electrics or PHEVs (plug-in hybrid).

Again, all data are based on vehicles registered as of February 2017. It is a static view and not to be confused with sales.

Here is the dash link.




The State of the State of EVs in Connecticut

EV Ownership Deep Dive in CT

Sales of EVs nationally have continued on an upward slope in 2017, up 44% year over year for the first 5 months relative to 2016. And the availability of models has come quite a ways since the 1898 Riker pictured in the photo above. 32 different plug-in models had sales, compared with 26 in May of 2016. New models that hit the market in late 2016 and early 2017 include the Chevrolet Bolt, a revamped Toyota Prius Prime, BMW 530e, and Mercedes C350e. Of these new introductions, the Bolt is a battery electric vehicle while the others are plug-in hybrids. And, of course, we await the Tesla Model 3, deliveries of which are expected to commence sometime in the third quarter of this year.

In this blog post, the WECC takes a deeper dive into the status of EV ownership in Connecticut.

Technical Information

The information in this post comes from the Department of Motor Vehicles and includes all plug-in vehicles registered in Connecticut as of February 2017. The data set contains no personally identifiable information, just make, model, model year, and city. There is a link to spawn the dashboard at the bottom of the post.

The list was procured by club member Bruce Becker via a Freedom of Information Act Filing. The dashboard was built by Barry Kresch.

Please note that this is a database of registrations which is not the same thing as sales. The year is the model year of the car, not when it was purchased or registered. This affected Chevrolet in particular because GM had a short run of the 2016 model year Volt and the 2017s were on sale in CT by the spring of 2016.

There are currently 4636 plug-in vehicles registered in CT. (There are approximately 2.3 million vehicles in total registered in the state, so, yes, you can still be an early adopter!) This number includes battery electric cars as well as plugin hybrids. Going forward in this post, these are simply referred to as “electric” and “PHEV” respectively. PHEV vehicles have smaller battery packs than electrics and can run on gasoline when the battery is depleted. They are sometimes referred to as “series hybrids.” PHEVs come in many different configurations in terms of how the engine works and the size of the battery pack. In other words, the saying “your mileage may vary” applies in a really big way, but you can at least bank it being high. There is one vehicle, the BMW i3 REX, which has a very small gasoline engine (about 3 gallons) which is an optional range extender intended for emergencies. For the purposes of this analysis, it is considered an electric since that is how it is intended to be used.

Highlights:

  • There are 30 models of electric/PHEV vehicles from 19 manufacturers registered in CT. Keep in mind that there are a number of EV models that have only been available on the West Coast as manufacturers play the zero-emission credit (ZEV) game to comply with the letter of the law for the California Air Resources Board requirements. Even some vehicles intended for a national market get rolled out gradually across the country (the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt both being examples).
  • The largest moniker in the state is Tesla, which accounts for 29% of registered plug-in vehicles (and 62% of electrics). Tesla is the leader even though the company is not permitted to have a sales showroom in CT. For the third-year running, a bill to enable Tesla to sell direct in CT did not make it through the legislature. (The legislative session ended on June 7.)
  • Chevrolet is second with a 21% share. This all comes from the Volt as the Bolt was not yet available in CT at the time the data was sourced. A third Chevrolet model, the SparkEV, is not sold in CT.
  • Toyota was the only other automaker above 10%. They came in at 17% with their Plug-in Prius and the newer version, Prius Prime.
  • The largest individual models were the Tesla Model S (24%) and Chevrolet Volt (21%).
  • The lion’s share of EVs is in Fairfield County with 46%. Hartford County and New Haven County follow at 18% and 17% respectively.
  • The cities leading in EV counts are Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, Fairfield, and Norwalk.
  • PHEVs represent 54% of the total.

The dashboard is interactive. There are 3 pages. Pagination is at the bottom. If you click into one of the checkboxes it will filter the data on that page to that box (or boxes). If you want to check multiple checkboxes, then depress the control key while clicking. (It is a little tricky to click multiple boxes on the web dash. It sometimes needs a double click.)  If you click into an element in a chart, it will cross-filter the other charts. If you hover over a pie slice or a bar, counts and/or percent share will display. See the dashboard here.

The dashboard is best viewed on a desktop/laptop computer. An example of one of the charts is in the screenshot below.

We hope you find it interesting!

CT Electric Vehicle Registrations by Make




2017 EV Road Rally

2017 EV Rally

Our 2017 EV Road Rally was enjoyed by all participants this past Sunday, May 7. The rally covered roughly 30 miles, beginning and ending at the Westport/Saugatuck Metro-North Train Depot with a mid-point stop at the Wilton Go Green Fair.

These were the EV models spotted in the rally:

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model X

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Volt

VW eGolf

Mercedes S550e

BMW i3

Ford C-Max Energi

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Joining us as a sponsor was Pedego Electric Bikes.Pedego Electric Bikes, part of 2017 EV Road Rally

Videos from older rallies.

The EV Club began doing EV Road Rallies in 2013, which, at the time, was the first EV rally to have been held in Connecticut. Below are links to videos from the 2014 rally:

Rally overview

Time-lapse video of rally route




Tesla Direct Sales in CT

“Tesla Bill”

The “Tesla Bill” is again before the state legislature. The official moniker is HB 7097. This bill would create a carve-out from the existing dealer laws that would permit Tesla (or other similarly situated EV makers should they come along) to sell directly to customers from factory-owned stores. CT is currently one of a handful of states that have denied this option for Tesla. The WECC blogged in some detail about last year’s bill in April of 2016.

The legislation to create such a carve-out has been re-introduced (for the third year running) and at the time of this writing is still pending. The 2017 legislative session adjourns on June 7th.

Tesla is hosting a forum to discuss the bill and its meaning for clean transportation. The Westport Electric Car Club is an invitee. It will take place at the showroom of Dragone Classic Motors, 176 Post Road West, Westport CT. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM. Panelists will be:

Will Nicholas – Tesla Government Relations Manager

Avi Kaner – Selectman, Town of Westport

Jonathan Steinberg – CT State Representative and Transportation Committee Member

A representative from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment

This meeting is open to the public and we look forward to meeting all of those interested in this topic.




2017 EV Road Rally – and Bikes!

5th Annual EV Road Rally

The 5th annual Westport Electric Car Club EV Road Rally will include electric bikes courtesy of an arrangement with Pedego Electric Bikes of Norwalk.

In past years a number of newly introduced EVs have participated in the rally such as last year with a Tesla Model X and the second generation Chevrolet Volt. This year’s rally will include the Chevrolet Bolt, one of the first to be seen in Connecticut. The 5th annual Westport Electric Car Club EV Road Rally will include electric bikes courtesy of an arrangement with Pedego Electric Bikes of Norwalk. In past years a number of newly introduced EVs have participated in the rally such as last year with a Tesla Model X and the second generation Chevrolet Volt. This year’s rally will include the Chevrolet Bolt, one of the first to be seen in Connecticut.

Rally Details:

Entry Fee: $50 (car or bike)

Bike Rental Fee: $25

Location: Start and finish at Westport/Saugatuck Metro-North Station (New Haven-bound side)

Time:

Registration and driver check-in is at 10:00 AM

The rally starts at 11:00 AM

Finish approximately 1:00 PM

Coffee served at the start of the rally.

There will be an en-route stop in Wilton at the Wilton Go Green Festival.

As in past years, our rally master will devise a 35-40 mile course winding through the back roads of Fairfield County. There will be a separate, shorter course for the bikes. IT IS REQUIRED THAT ALL DRIVERS HAVE A NAVIGATOR. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ONE, CONTACT THE CLUB AND WE WILL FIND ONE FOR YOU. Bike riders will follow a lead bicycle.

EV Test Drives available at the conclusion of the rally.

Food available.

Families welcome!




Tesla Speaks to Westport Electric Car Club About Selling Direct in CT

Tesla Direct Sales

A crowd of 50+ electric vehicle (EV) enthusiast attendees filled the showroom at Dragone Classic Motors in Westport for a meeting of the Westport Electric Car Club (WECC) to hear remarks from Will Nicholas, Government Relations Manager of Tesla Motors, about proposed legislation in Hartford (Senate Bill 3) that would enable Tesla to open company stores in Connecticut.

This is the second year that legislation that would enable Tesla to open stores in CT has been proposed in Hartford and there is vocal opposition from the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association (CARA) as well as legacy manufacturers.

Connecticut is one of 5 states, along with Texas, Arizona, West Virginia, and Michigan, that have laws restricting the sale of cars to independently owned dealerships. Currently, CT residents wishing to purchase a Tesla must either do so online or visit a Tesla store in a neighboring state. The closest Tesla stores to Fairfield County are in White Plains and Mount Kisco, NY. There are currently about 1100 Teslas registered in CT.

There is some irony here in that one of the largest, if not the largest, impediment to legacy car manufacturers selling EVs is their own dealer networks. The NY Times ran an article in late 2015 entitled, “A Car Dealers Won’t Sell: It’s Electric.”

This is consistent with our experience at the WECC. We are an organization that tries to get people to drive electric. We educate the public and help facilitate a person’s journey to the plug-in vehicle that is right for them.  There are some dealers who are eager to work with us, and have sold EVs to our members as a result; there are numerous others who give us a cold shoulder. We offer many opportunities for dealers to speak at our club meetings and exhibit their vehicles to an interested audience at our EV road rally and other club events. These events include green fairs (we get invited to way more than we can handle!) and the Lime Rock Historic Fest.

Uncertain Legislative Environment

SB 3 does not do away with the franchise law but creates an exception that would apply to Tesla and other prospective independent EV manufacturers (and there are a couple of nascent ventures in this area). The way this exception is worded in the bill applies to a manufacturer that does not currently have affiliated dealerships, manufactures only electric vehicles, sells only their own brand of vehicle at retail, does not hold a controlling interest in another manufacturer, and is not controlled by another manufacturer. This is a link to the text of the bill.

The bill won the approval of the transportation committee on March 14 by a vote of 29-4 and is now before the full Senate. Westport State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who is on the House Transportation Committee, attended the meeting and pronounced the fate of the bill as uncertain. The legislative session adjourns on May 4, not leaving much more time to move it forward.

Strong Model 3 Reception

Tesla has already been a major force in the EV world even though their 3 vehicles to date have been expensive, niche vehicles. Their recent announcement of a mid-market priced vehicle, the Model 3, has been met with an astounding response with over 300,000 prospective customers placing a $1000 deposit to reserve one absent an actual car to see or test drive (and with no advertising support). To put this number in context, since the modern generation of plug-in vehicles (including battery EVs and plug-in hybrids) became available in 2010, there have been roughly 430,000 sold in total(in the USA) through March of 2016 (Source: InsideEVs.com).

Discussing Tesla’s business approach, Mr. Nicholas describes the Tesla brand as standing for a set of environmental values and a customer experience that is carefully curated by the company. Mr. Nicholas likened Tesla stores to Apple stores, particularly with their unpressured sales environment. The traditional manufacturer/dealer model, he explains, does not work for this type of selling, nor is it economically viable for Tesla, at least not presently.

Tesla was reported (by The Hartford Courant) to be interested in opening 3 stores in CT. During his remarks, Mr. Nicholas said that number is more likely 5. In addition, Tesla would expand its servicing locations. Service centers are regulated differently than stores and there is currently one Tesla service center, located in Milford. Mr. Nicholas said that more will be needed to keep up with anticipated demand.

Tesla has represented that each location requires direct investment in the millions to set them up, would employ up to 25 individuals per location, and that their ability to sell directly would generate an additional $1.6 million in sales taxes for the state.

For consumers interested in learning more, Tesla has set up a website, Teslact.com, to provide information.




Tesla to Speak at April 14 Westport Electric Car Club Meeting

Tesla push for direct sales in CT

Will Nicholas, Government Relations Manager for Tesla Motors will be speaking at the WECC meeting on April 14.

DATE: APRIL 14, 2016

TIME: 5:30 PM

LOCATION: DRAGONE CLASSIC CARS SHOWROOM, 176 POST ROAD WEST, WESTPORT, CT 06880

Mr. Nicholas will be discussing the status of Tesla’s efforts to get legislation passed that would permit Tesla (or any other EV manufacturer) to open stores in Connecticut, something that is not currently legal. Only dealers which are not owned by the automobile manufacturer are permitted to sell vehicles. Tesla has built a business model around selling directly to the consumer.

Currently, Tesla has a servicing location in Milford but no stores. As reported by the Hartford Courant in February of this year, Tesla would like to open 3 stores in the state and hire from 12 – 24 employees at each location. The Courant also reported that Tesla estimates generating $1.68 million per year in sales tax revenue.

The closest Tesla stores to Fairfield County are currently located in White Plains, NY and Mount Kisco, NY.

Mr. Nicholas will also speak to some of Tesla’s other recent initiatives such as the Model 3, which has generated over a quarter million pre-orders, and its Gigafactory lithium-ion battery production facility.

This meeting is open to the public.




Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union Welcomes Members From Westport Electric Car Club

Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union

Members of the Westport Electric Car Club are now eligible to join the Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union and receive the full array of banking and insurance services offered at rates generally below standard bank rates.

The National Credit Union Association has modified its regulations to allow community organizations to become members. The partnership between the TTTFCU and WECC is a particularly good fit in light of the credit union’s Go Green Initiatives, which include the installation of solar panels on the roof of their historic 1882 carriage house location at 61 Jessup Road in downtown Westport. In addition to generating clean electricity for the building, they also power two Level 2 EV charging stations which are open to the public for no charge, and which were installed courtesy of a contribution from Karl Chevrolet.

The TTTFCU also offers discounted auto loans to purchasers of plug-in vehicles.

To quote from the credit union:

“We hope to find other like-minded organizations whose members are interested in maintaining the rich historic heritage of our area and that support green initiatives to preserve the beauty and environmental health of our planet.”