Data Shows the US Quietly Transitioning to an Electrified Future

February 2, 2019 by Michael Cheng
Shoppers stroll past the Tesla store at Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles on August 27, 2018. (Jerome Adamstein/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

In the US, the automotive sector is gearing up for a disruptive, electrified future. The future of gas-powered cars is at risk, due to the proliferation of sustainable, battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs). Data published by Inside EVs indicate a sharp increase in EV adoption, based on new EV sales amounting to 361,307 units – an 81 percent increase in 2018.

“I did not expect the growth rate to be over 30 percent for 2018. I expected it to be in the 20 percent range, which is where it’s been,” said Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute’s mobility practice.

“I did expect we’d have a sharp increase in the rate adoption sometime soon. But I didn’t think it would be in 2018.”

A closer look at the data shows Tesla taking a lion’s share of EV sales last year, at 139,782 units sold for the Model 3. Toyota’s Prius Prime sits comfortably in second place, which sold roughly 27,595 vehicles over the same period. Tesla also captured the 3rd and 4th spot with the Model X and Model S, respectively.

The surge in EV sales can be linked to a wide range of factors. Supporting infrastructure, in the form of EV charging stations, is becoming more accessible in the country thanks to Volkswagen’s court-mandated subsidiary Electrify America and wide implementation of Tesla’s Supercharger network. To date, over 99 percent of US residents is conveniently located within 150 miles of a Supercharger station.

Such efforts are designed to curb “range anxiety” experienced by EV owners concerned with getting stuck on the side of the road due to a failing battery. At the moment, EV charging hubs in the country are available at a rate of 1 charging station per 17 electrified cars. As competition for EV charging services continue to increase, owners of EVs may benefit from lower charging rates.

“All of the automakers are looking at versions of electric vehicles,” said Mike Moran, a spokesman for Electrify America.

“If you build the electric vehicles, (consumers will) buy them. But where are they going to charge them? We’re just part of that solution.”

Next, electrified cars sold in the US currently qualify for federal tax credits (Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit). Although the incentives are slowly being phased out as EV sales continue to rise, many individuals may still find this period ideal for purchasing an EV. Federal tax credits for EVs are expected to end by 2021, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

From a global perspective, the entire industry is experiencing rapid growth. European countries with aggressive sustainable-energy objectives, such as Norway, Germany and Switzerland, are actively promoting EVs. Moreover, a myriad of countries, including Denmark, Italy and Ireland, have pledged to ban gas or diesel-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.

To ensure compliance with such restrictions, many individuals and businesses are already transitioning to electrified alternatives.

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