Consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is at an all-time high – in fact, EV sales saw a 50 percent increase in the first half of this year, compared to 10 percent growth for combustion engine vehicles. Analysts estimate the U.S. will reach one million EV sales this year, and roughly one-third of U.S. drivers say they are considering an EV for their next car purchase. The Tesla Model Y is the best-selling car in the country.
These are the facts, yet I keep hearing claims about sagging EV demand. But to claim this is just flimsy cover for automakers who want to argue that a rapid transition away from polluting gas-powered cars and trucks is too ambitious.
Cox Automotive recently reported that EVs sit longer on dealership lots than do combustion engine vehicles. Based on that report, many media outlets concluded that EV demand is weak. Unfortunately, most analyses of Cox’s report ignore critical data and context.
For starters, Tesla, the best-selling EV manufacturer on the planet, does not use dealerships – so there is no data on the company factored into Cox’s report. Given that Tesla accounts for roughly 60 percent of all EVs sold in the U.S., to conclude that EV demand is low because EVs are sitting on dealer lots is judging demand based on only 40 percent of the market – and the weaker 40 percent at that.
For the EVs that are sold through dealers, Cox’s report looks at wait times for all EVs instead of differentiating by type – compact SUVs, hatchbacks, luxury electric trucks, etc. Internal combustion engine data is analyzed at a detailed level, instead of lumped together, so why do the opposite for EVs?
It’s 2023, and electric vehicles come in all sizes, shapes, and at wide-ranging price points. A closer look reveals that the EVs flagged for slower sales are largely big, expensive luxury SUVs or foreign-made luxury EVs. This isn’t just true for EVs: the slowest-selling gas-powered models right now are luxury cars and SUVs priced similarly to the slowest-selling EVs.
Vehicles ineligible for federal tax credits are seeing higher lot wait times than others. If consumer demand for EVs was the problem, all EVs would be sitting on lots, not just the expensive ones.
Smaller, more affordable EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Models 3 and Y have set records and drove EV sales to all-time highs in the second quarter of 2023. That’s not a surprise, because the gas-powered cars with the tightest inventories in the U.S. are also smaller cars and compact SUVs.
The issue is not demand, it’s affordability, and it's affecting gas and electric cars alike. If the market for EVs appears weak overall, it’s only because automakers are making too many larger, pricier models and not enough smaller, less expensive ones.
Analysis of the car market cannot ignore the broader economy. High interest rates and a turbulent economy are changing consumer spending habits for all kinds of products, including cars. Earlier this year, analysts found new gas-powered cars are out of reach for many consumers as interest rates rise and the average price hit almost $50,000 (a 30 percent increase from three years ago). Manufacturers have reduced the number of affordable models, leading many people to put off buying a car or opt for a used vehicle.
Clearly there is enormous demand for affordable EVs. Luckily,automakers have more resources than ever from the federal government to make the transition to electric vehicles and to make more affordable EVs available now. With the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law, new tax credits for EVs make some models even more affordable than comparable combustion engine cars.
EVs are more popular than ever, and Americans want to buy them. We are moving from the early-adopter phase to the mass market, and car companies should adjust their production accordingly. Instead of producing bigger, more expensive electric trucks and SUVs, automakers must make more affordable EVs to meet booming demand.
East Peterson-Trujillo is a clean vehicles campaigner at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest, https://www.citizen.org/
Ever since the smog-choked days of the 1960s, the Golden State has led the way toward cleaner cars. The array of zippy zero-emission electric cars that drivers can choose from today owes a great deal to the standards set by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). During this Summer, a season which experts say will threaten millions of Americans with drought, extreme heat. and wildfires, CARB will decide on the next step for green cars.
While Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that all new cars sold in the state from 2035 on emit no pollution from their tailpipes, the actual rules will be written by CARB in its Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard. The The The ZEV standard currently covers model years through 2025, so the next one will cover 2026 and beyond. Because 16 other states have chosen to follow California’s car standards, what happens in Sacramento will not stay in Sacramento.
CARB staff have proposed a package that would meet the Governor’s goal of 100% sales of ZEVs in 2035, along with further ratcheting down on tailpipe pollution from the internal combustion engines that will be sold before then. The proposed rule would add some important consumer protections to assure that buyers of ZEVs get the performance and durability that they are paying for.
But the Board Members should strengthen the measure in two major ways: timing and equity. Given the urgency of the twin crises of air pollution and climate chaos that are damaging our communities today, California should require that ZEV sales reach 75% – rather than the 68% in the proposal – by 2030, on the way to the 100% by 2035 finish line. Setting that pace will reduce emissions sooner, bringing needed relief to our lungs and health, while also putting more clean vehicles into the supply that buyers can choose from. The current proposal, if not strengthened, would saddle Californians with hundreds of thousands of more polluting cars on the road that cost them more money at the pump and will continue to spew climate altering and lung damaging pollution.
Furthermore, we need to make sure that the clean transportation revolution benefits everyone, especially those who have benefitted the least from new technologies while suffering the worst impacts of air pollution and global warming. Coalition for Clean Air works with our partners in the Charge Ahead California campaign to democratize the electric car, and CARB should assure that residents of disadvantaged and low-income communities have access to clean mobility, whether through car ownership or other affordable options like car-sharing.
California has led the nation – and often the world – in improving motor vehicles through smart regulation and enforcement. It was CARB that required catalytic converters to reduce smog in the 1970s, set the first standards for vehicle greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s, and spurred the development of what is now a robust electrical vehicle (EV) market through the ZEV standard over the last 10 years. California’s leadership has also benefited its economy, as EVs are now the state’s #1 export.
But other countries have caught and passed us when it comes to EV deployment. China and many European countries now have higher percentages of EV sales than the U.S. does. With global demand burgeoning, automakers have introduced more than twice as many EV models in Europe and more than five times as many models in China as they have in the U.S. In order to avoid being at the back of the line for the best clean vehicles, California needs to raise the bar and require manufacturers to sell their best – and most affordable – EVs here.
As soaring gas prices, choking smog, and extreme heat make clean electric transportation more urgent than ever, CARB should lead the way toward a zero-emission future.
Bill Magavern is Policy Director for the Coalition for Clean Air, a California non-profit working to protect public health, improve air quality and prevent climate change.
Safety has long been a hot topic in debates over increasing fuel efficiency, but this is less so today. In 2002, Senator Trent Lott warned of ‘purple people-eaters’ (read: silly-looking golf carts) taking over the market if CAFE standards were raised; Mr. Lott now drives a Mini Cooper. Effective occupant protections are proliferating, and U.S. vehicle fatalities continue to decline.
Manufacturers are improving fuel efficiency through a host of strategies that include reducing vehicle weight by removing unnecessary material and substituting lighter materials, which in turn permits downsizing of the engine and other components. Ford, for example, has indicated its intention to reduce the weight of its vehicles by 12 percent on average by 2020. As a rule of thumb, each 10 percent reduction in body weight can lower fuel consumption by 6 percent when component downsizing is taken into account. None of this means changing vehicle dimensions – there’s no need to sacrifice protective crush space to get a more fuel-efficient ride, especially when today’s CAFE standards require smaller vehicles to meet tighter fuel efficiency targets.
At this point, weight reduction is one of the least expensive approaches to saving fuel. Composites such as carbon fiber-reinforced polymers remain expensive for the time being, but lightweight steel, aluminum and other plastics are pressed into service in vehicle configurations that frequently yield net cost reductions. The need to retool and to master challenges such as joining dissimilar materials mean the transition to lighter vehicles is gradual. But there appear to be few obstacles to a long-term trend toward substantially lighter vehicles. The trend will be especially helpful to the adoption of electric vehicles, for which downweighting is critical due to its implications for sizing costly batteries.
There may be a limit to prudent downweighting, but as the fleet turns over and collisions between vehicles of widely disparate weights occur less frequently, any such limit would shift as well. Moreover, as drivers accept increasing automation of vehicle controls, in particular collision prevention, driving around surrounded by a couple tons of metal will begin to feel very 20th century.
Location-efficient affordable housing is key to sustainability. Kalos, the Greek word for ‘beautiful,’ may be the name of an 83 unit affordable housing project in San Diego, California, but it also describes the ‘green’ car capacity the developer, Community HousingWorks, plans for the project as part of its pursuit of LEED platinum certification. We have partnered with Community HousingWorks for nearly nine years now and helped the organization green the Kalos project starting a few years ago. This partnership builds on Global Green’s leadership to advance the greening of affordable housing in the U.S. over the last 18 years.
What’s remarkable about the Kalos development is not just that it is LEED Platinum. It is the inclusion of sustainable transit options. Car-sharing innovator Car2Go will park two electric-powered SmartCars at electric car charging stations. For a $35 one-time fee, Kalos residents will then have the opportunity to access an on-site alternative to first, or second, car ownership. Given that California car ownership runs over $9,000 per year, transportation costs are the second highest monthly expense for low-income families after rent. Car2go’s SmartCars will dramatically expand transportation access for Kalos residents.
The two publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations are incorporated into the alley entrance of the project. ECOtality, a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies, will provide the stations – and federal incentives will further reduce costs.
The leadership of Community HousingWorks, and other organizations who look at sustainability beyond the building envelope, is important to helping improve the environment and lives of low income families. The benefits are many: providing a public amenity in the rapidly gentrifying North Park neighborhood; integrating green, sustainable means of transportation in a low-income housing complex; providing more options for residents who need them; and, serving as an example of green, affordable housing development. Kalos it truly is.
It’s the beginning of awards season in Hollywood as I write this and we are in the thick of making plans for our annual Pre-Oscar party.
It’s been almost 10 years since we launched the Global Green USA ‘Red Carpet, Green Cars’ campaign to help make hybrid and fuel-efficient cars fun and sexy. Once again, we will be highlighting the virtues of green cars at our Pre-Oscar event in Hollywood. And each year the audience is even more receptive and excited for change.
Ten years ago, many of us were the only ones on our blocks driving green cars. We received a lot of press attention back then for shuttling Hollywood influencers to the Academy Awards – in the first-generation Prius, among other green cars – and to the Emmy Awards in hybrid-electric buses.
Now, of course, we don’t really need to introduce the public to vehicles that are better for the environment. The Prius was named the best-selling car in California in 2012 and the third-best selling car in the world. And there’s not enough room in this column to list the actors, athletes, and other influencers who drive hybrid or electric cars.
The downturn in the economy certainly played a role in increasing the profile of green cars, as record-setting high gas prices convinced people to choose vehicles that are more fuel-efficient and wallet-friendly. Consumers have also naturally started making more environmentally friendly lifestyle choices in other areas of their lives – just take a look at the rise in organic food choices at mainstream grocery stores as an example.
Personal choices we make to curb greenhouse gas emissions are to be applauded, but they are not enough. Now, we need more action from elected leaders to make clean our roads.
Again, Hollywood – all of California, really – is leading the way with stricter emission standards for vehicles. California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program will impose very high emissions standards on cars powered by gasoline. We need other states to take California’s lead and make changes to make green cars the norm.
Matt Petersen is President and CEO of Global Green USA, the American arm of Green Cross International
Clean cars and dirty fuels don’t mix. EPA and DOT will issue final standards to strengthen fuel efficiency and slash carbon pollution spewing from 2017-2025 vehicles. These standards pick up where the standards for 2012-2016 vehicles leave off, promising 13 years of continuous improvement in new vehicles. Automakers are churning out vehicles with better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. These steps forward are a win, saving us billions at the pump and cutting heat-trapping climate pollution and demand for oil.
Cleaner cars should not fill up with dirty fuels. Furnace-like temperatures, scorching drought, and extreme weather should be enough to warrant immediate action to curb emissions of the pollution causing global warming. Slashing greenhouse gas emissions is the driver behind EPA’s standards that demand the fleet of vehicles sold in 2025 will emit 163 grams per mile of climate pollution, half of what the 2011 fleet of new vehicles emitted, keeping more than 600 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere in 2030 alone. Just as automakers are racing to bring the best of today’s technologies to market and innovate for the future, Big Oil is racing to bring ever dirtier fuels to the market.
Oil companies are ripping up lush Boreal Forest in Alberta to dig out tar sands that are then refined into gasoline. Accounting for upstream emissions, producing a barrel of tar sands oil emits 20 percent more carbon pollution than conventional oil, on top of the toxic tailing ponds and other damage extracting this fuel causes. Fracking, the dirty and polluting process for extracting natural gas, is being applied to extract oil in multiple states including North Dakota. Fracking for oil releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere either by venting or flaring, increasing the upstream emissions profile of this oil (along with other problems).
As we demand more of the auto industry to cut dangerous climate pollution, it is time to demand that Big Oil keep dirty fuels out of the mix.
Ann Mesnikoff is Green Transportation Campaign Director of the Sierra Club
The Gasoline Regulations Act (H.R. 4471) should be known as the ‘Gutting Air Standard Protections Act’ – or ‘GASP Act’ – because it denies the public the right to breathe clean and healthy air. There is no question that this bill by Representatives Whitfield (KY) and Barrow (GA) and approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee will gut the Clean Air Act and harm children’s health. It will not impact fuel prices, but it will cause more smog, more childhood asthma attacks, and other health implications for people with lung disease.
HR 4471 would repeal the health basis of the Clean Air Act, block clean air safeguards, and hand the scientific process of setting healthy air standards over to economists, accountants, and financial analysts. This has been on the wish list of Big Oil for more than a decade.
The American Lung Association supports the Clean Air Act that sets air pollution standards based on health science. This bill creates new bureaucracies to delay and block health protections.
Those in Congress doing the bidding of Big Oil are woefully out of step with the views of the public on this issue. In a recent survey, conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican firm Perception Insight for the American Lung Association, nearly three-quarters of likely voters (73 percent) nationwide support the view that it is possible to protect public health through stronger air quality standards while achieving a healthy economy, over the notion that we must choose between public health or a strong economy. This overwhelming support includes 78 percent of independents, 60 percent of Republicans, and 62 percent of conservatives. In addition, when asked if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be setting additional standards for cleaner gasoline and vehicles, 60 percent of likely voters want stronger standards.
The Clean Air Act has a proven track record of success, preventing an estimated 160,000 premature deaths in the United States in 2010 and reducing avoidable medical visits that drive up health care costs for those who are already struggling to get by in a weak economy. To throw it all away now at the behest of Big Oil is outrageous.
We urge all members of Congress to vote no on the ‘GASP Act’ and stand up for the health of our children. Those who do not are standing with Big Oil. The Lung Association urges a no vote on this dangerous bill.
Al Rizzo, MD, is Chair of the American Lung Association Board of Directors
The huge gulf between environmentalists and the auto industry is shrinking. The relationship between these two interests has evolved to where we are finding a way to agree, and not just reflexively oppose everything the other side has to say.
Last summer, automakers and environmentalist joined together to support the historic new clean car agreement between the Obama administration, California, and major carmakers, crafting a grand bargain that will double the average fuel economy for cars on the road today by 2025, equivalent to 54.5 mpg.
The additional technology to meet this target will result in $300 billion in additional revenue for the U.S. auto industry and ensure it will be a global leader in advanced vehicle innovation. Stopping $350 billion from being sent overseas for oil will strengthen our economy, make us less vulnerable to oil price shocks, and create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. And curbing emissions of carbon pollution will help protect our economy against the costly impacts of global climate change. Last January many automakers also joined with environmentalists to support California’s strengthening of its Zero Emission Vehicle standard, which will result in about 1.5 million electric-drive vehicles on the road by 2025.
Unfortunately, ideologues in the media and in Washington have joined forces with auto dealers to try to preserve the status quo and scuttle the historic auto accord. More recently, they have turned their attention to the Chevy Volt and government support for clean energy manufacturing.
Automakers and environmentalists need to work together.
That’s why the head of NRDC, Frances Beinecke, and the former VP of GM, Bob Lutz, joined together in a joint op-ed that called for the end of the ‘petty politics’ that threatens to kill the electric cars and the American innovative spirit.
Moving forward with clean cars offers our country a choice: gridlock or progress. This is a time when automakers, regulators, and environmentalist need to come together, in partnership, to build markets for clean cars, cut our dangerous dependence on oil, and re-invest in American manufacturing leadership.
Roland Hwang is Transportation Program Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council
Revenge has come. In April, 200 Sierra Club members across the country hosted screenings of Revenge of the Electric Car. Thousands gathered to watch a great film and welcome electric vehicles that seemed impossible only a few years ago. As EVs are hitting the market, Big Oil, their cronies on Fox News, and even presidential candidates are eager to see them fail. But EVs are mainstream, and participants were able to meet EV owners, try electric vehicles, and get the facts.
Earlier this year Exxon Mobil was confident that EVs were nothing for Big Oil to worry about. Since then, gas prices have steadily climbed, causing pain at the pump and the now-annual gas price panic.
EVs will charge ahead. Sierra Club launched its Go Electric campaign, quickly gathering more than 50,000 signatures in support of EVs that were delivered to the White House in a Nissan LEAF. We guzzle more than 121 billion gallons of gasoline each year. EVs are not the only solution to ending our addiction to oil, but along with fuel efficient vehicles across the board and investing in transportation choices from safe walking to transit, EVs are part of that solution. And contrary to nay-sayers’ claims, EVs will cut dangerous climate pollution. We can switch from oil to electricity and not only save money, but pollute less and less as we switch to cleaner sources of electricity. A gasoline car will always need oil.
From Richmond and Marietta to Illinois, Oregon and California, EV chargers are appearing and consumers’ choices of electric vehicles are growing. While chargers and the increasing number of EVs in the marketplace -- Ford’s EV Focus, Nissan’s LEAF, Chevy’s Volt, Toyota’s plug-in Prius, and the increasing number of EV trucks from companies like Via Motors and EVI – are not the result of this spring’s rising gas prices, they will offer consumers and businesses the choice to detach from the pump and the pain of rising prices.
Adorning Washington DC's RFK Stadium is a LEAF ad bearing the message ‘Kick Gas.’ Well, now we can.
Ann Mesnikoff is Green Transportation Campaign Director of the Sierra Club
President Obama has announced proposals for continued support of advanced car and truck technologies, including EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles as well as infrastructure needed to support these vehicles. These proposals, and others like it, are essential for advancing technology that can help alleviate pain at the pump and dependence on oil.
The proposal includes a new $1 billion federal program to support 10-15 communities becoming models of advanced vehicle deployment. It also calls for increasing the advanced vehicle tax credit from $7,500 to $10,000, and greater support for advanced heavy-duty trucks while eliminating $4 billion in annual oil industry subsidies.
Because sales volumes of this emerging market have fallen shy of some automaker and analyst projections, some critics have been eager to trumpet the demise of EVs. Despite the critics’ naysaying, electric vehicles sales in 2011 look pretty encouraging compared to early hybrid vehicle sales in 2000. When you consider that an electric vehicle requires a fundamental change in driver behavior – namely plugging the vehicle in – the pace of growth is even more encouraging.
But let’s be realistic. Declaring victory or defeat after one year of electric vehicle sales doesn’t do anyone any good. Transitioning to new technologies in a big way takes time, but the benefits – in terms of national security, energy security, jobs, and the environment – is worth the investment.
If we really want to be spared the pain at the pump, we need alternatives to oil, not more drilling. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a plan to cut projected U.S. oil consumption in half in 20 year by implementing a comprehensive set of solutions. Expanding the deployment of electric vehicles over the next two decades is one of the key elements of this plan. Incentives to support the rollout of advanced technology vehicles in communities around the country can help get more electric vehicles on the road and move us in a direction we need to go – away from oil.
Don Anair is senior engineer for the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists