Guest post by David Middleton
It seems like a week is incomplete without at least one Real Clear Energy article proclaiming huge gains in EV sales and the impending doom of internal combustion engines and the oil industry . This week was no exception.
Surge In EV Sales Bucks Cheap Gasoline, Broader Auto Industry Trends
by Leslie Hayward | September 14, 2016
In the 2011 State of the Union, President Obama set an ambitious goal to put 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015—a milestone seen as unlikely but technically achievable at the time. As of now, we’re only half-way there. But this year’s sales figures give reason for fresh optimism about the future of EVs in the United States. In 2016, EV sales are surging, even as gasoline prices languish and overall auto sales are down year-over-year. Coinciding with the sales surge, major news outlets that have been skeptical of EVs have been shifting their tone in recent weeks, potentially signaling a greater cultural acceptance of the technology.
[T]he Financial Times has demonstrated less overt vitriol toward EVs over the years, but recently posited that the technology could account for 25 percent of passenger cars by 2040, likely depressing oil prices and creating concern among OPEC members and other large petroleum exporters. “I think they are scared to death,” analyst Vikas Dwivedi told the FT. “Electric vehicles are a massive enemy and I think they are worried to the point that this has been one of the motivations, among others, for the Aramco IPO.” Seeing EVs as a catalyst, much like shale oil production, for the crippling of OPEC and Saudi Arabia is a narrative that has been largely absent from major outlets until recently.
Articles like these appear to be tapping into a greater awareness of and interest in electric vehicles nationwide. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published research finding that there’s significant unmet demand for EVs. In California, 67 percent of drivers are interested in electric vehicles, with 65 percent wanting more automakers to offer more electric options. And in the Northeast, 55 percent of drivers expressed interest in EVs while 60 percent want automakers to offer more electric options. So, even as 2016 EV sales surge, it’s possible that only a fraction of the true consumer demand is actually being met by the models and vehicles currently available.
Putting EV Sales Into Context
From January through August, EV sales in the U.S. totaled 99,634 vehicles. Over the same time period, sales of Ford F-Series pickup trucks totaled 527,847 vehicles. Each of the 20 top-selling models outsold the sum-total of EV models. Year-to-date EV sales are comparable to about 45 days of Ford F-Series sales.
EV’s have accounted for 0.6% of auto sales this year:
These “futurists” really seem to believe that EV’s “could account for 25 percent of passenger cars by 2040, likely depressing oil prices” because EV sales have increased from zero-point-zero to slightly above zero-point-zero since 2011.
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis keeps track of U.S. vehicle sales. If I plot the EV sales from the article along with total vehicle sales and extrapolate the data out to 2040, I don’t get anything close to 25%.
Even if I limited it to passenger cars, which account for about 30% of U.S. auto sales I only get to 5%. The only way this trend could lead to EV’s accounting “for 25 percent of passenger cars by 2040,” would be to assume that EV’s lasted longer than conventional passenger cars and the cumulative sales would eventually bring them up to 25% of passenger cars… AKA imaginary math.
So, “green” math yields a five-fold exaggeration in future EV auto sales… Very consistent with “green” estimates of global warming and climate sensitivity: About five times larger than reality.