According to EV Volumes, an EV sales database and consultancy now partnering with EV Obsession and CleanTechnica, EV sales in 2015 surpassed half a million vehicles. That includes electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The actual total was just under 540,000 vehicles. True, that is still a small percentage of total vehicle sales, but the the trend is upward and accelerating.
According to EV Volumes, “The accelerated growth is a good sign for EV adoption. Nearly 200,000 plug-ins were sold in Q4 alone! Admittedly, some special events inflated the quarter 4 results much beyond the trend of Q1-Q3. There was the run on plug-in hybrids in the Netherlands and Sweden (lower incentives for 2016), the boost in mini-EV sales in China (lower subsidies, depending on range) and the Tesla hype in Denmark (revised tax exemption schemes), to name the most significant.
“More natural demand was created by a spree of new plug-in hybrids during the 2nd half of 2015 — BYD Tang, Chevy Volt II, Passat GTE, BMW X5, and Volvo XC90. Accordingly, sales volume of plug-in hybrids increased faster (+80%) than for pure EVs (+64%). The global ratio of EV:PHEV is now 60:40; PHEV gained 2% in the mix during 2015.”
In Europe, EV sales rose to 1.24% of all cars sold, although the picture varies widely across the continent. In Norway, for example, nearly 20% of cars were electrics or plug-ins last year. Meanwhile, in China, EV sales jumped 223% in 2015. The Chinese government defines any car with an electric motor as a “new energy vehicle.” A large number of small, two seat cars are sold in China each year. More and more of those are electrics.
The message from all these statistics is that government policies and incentives still play a vital role in the number of EVs that are sold every year. In China, the national government is embarrassed to find that its stunning economic growth, which was powered mostly by electricity generated from burning coal, has turned the skies over many of its cities into a poisonous stew. That polluted air is having disastrous consequences for its people. (Unlike Republicans in America, Chinese policy makers still place a higher priority on people than on corporations.) It not only offers generous EV incentives, it gives EV drivers preferential treatment when it comes to accessing parking and obtaining vehicle registrations.
The electric car revolution will not become a groundswell until electric cars are cost competitive with conventional vehicles. Until that day, incentives will be required to get people to spend more money for an electric car. When incentives get cut, EV sales drop. That was the case in Georgia last year. When it ended its generous $5,000 EV rebate and replaced it with an annual EV fee, sales of electric cars plunged 90%.