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Debunking a Myth: Electric Vehicles are Off to a Great Start

The numbers speak for themselves; sales of EVs show healthy growth rate.

By Richard Lowenthal

Expectations of electric vehicle sales have varied widely. First the thought that sales would take off like a rocket, and then that they were a dismal failure.   Although reality is closer to the “rocket” scenario, neither one is accurate.

Initial targets by General Motors and Nissan have been missed to be sure but let’s set aside the aspirations of optimistic car companies and see what’s actually happening.

In the last year over $2 billion of plug-in cars have been sold in the United States. In 2011, 17,000 of these vehicles were sold, and over 53,000 were sold in 2012—a staggering growth rate of 244%. Wouldn’t we all like to see our businesses grow like that?

(Please see graphs attached to this article.)

Another way of looking at the market is how it compares to other growth stories in the automotive world. Everywhere you look in Cupertino you see the Toyota Prius, which is to be expected since it is the No. 1 selling car in California. If we compare the first three years of the Prius with the first three years of the plug-in vehicle, it makes the plug-in car look like a raging success.

And then there’s the Chevy Volt. It’s taken a lot of criticism in the press by people labeling it as a failure, but what’s the reality?  Well I don’t think anyone thinks of the Porsche 911, the Mazda Miata, the Corvette, or the Mercedes S Class as fairlures, but the Chevy Volt outsold all of them in 2012.

You can draw a couple of conclusions from this story. First that you can’t always believe what you read and second, the electric vehicle seems to be off to a good start. Who knows, soon you might own one.

Richard Lowenthal lives in Cupertino and founded electric vehicle charging company ChargePoint right here on Bubb Road. He’s also a former Cupertino Mayor and guest contributor to Cupertino Patch.

Rafa March 01, 2013 at 06:18 AM
Our gas prices are being inflated by this administration so they can all profit from their investments of 10yrs ago (Tesla).
Dale Pollek March 01, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Sadly the USA has failed to keep gas taxes proportional to pump price, so we've subsidized the oil industry in too many ways. Had we kept it proportional, we'd not only have ample funds to maintain (even enhance) our roads, bridges & mass transit we also would have accelerated alternative fuel transportation long ago AND MAYBE even made a dent in global warming impacts. Glad to see Calif is not affraid to adjust gas taxes recently & help "real" market factors help get people to at least buy more efficient cars if not be leaders in alternative solutions. Thanks for a great article Richard.
Mark Burns March 02, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I'd like to see the studies and data presented that outline the added load to our existing infrastructure if 1-in-3 or 1-in-2 households installed and used a 240V or 480V charging station in their home to charge a typical Leaf, Volt, or Tesla overnight for daily use. What neighborhoods more than 40 years old (most of Cupertino) can support 33% to 50% usage of electric vehicles on a daily basis? Keeping in mind that for now I'm not asking the next question; what if every household had two such vehicles?
John Kimes March 02, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Off peak charging...at night...is actually a good thing for efficient use of the fuel being burned at power plants.
Frank Geefay March 02, 2013 at 10:33 PM
The real cost of oil is buried deep in our militarily budget where we fight wars to protect foreign oil. Then these foreign OPEC countries we defend charge us outrageous prices for oil that now cost little to simply pump out of the ground. If you then add all the other government subsidies and the cost of lives and blood shed by our troops in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East I assure you that the true of gas is far greater than $4.50 a gallon at the pump, more likely in the double digits. If we knew the real cost of gas at the pump we would all probably be looking for alternatives to our current gas guzzling vehicles.
Mark Burns March 03, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Fuel use (interesting that we all know it takes the burning of fuel at night - mostly - to create electricity) is not the issue. Street level transformers and existing infrastructure is what we should be considering. It certainly will take many years for the saturation rate of electric vehicles to reach 1 in 3 or 1 in 2 households. What is it going to take to support that? Probably more than you can imagine. Chargers for electric vehicles cost more than $3K (before government tax credits that we all pay for). That way you can charge faster than 1 mile per 20 minutes at 120V. There was a power outage in Cupertino yesterday that affected my home. I don't think there are any electric vehicles on my street but what will really happen when there are 10 to 20 of them on every block? The popular argument that the load is the same as a dryer doesn't take into account the fact you don't run that appliance continually for 3 to 5 hours every night. And what if you did run your dryer and a/c at the same time as the car charger?
Patrick Donegan March 06, 2013 at 07:09 AM
Mark, that is called "growth" and since we know that the change you are talking about will not be "overnite" there will be other forces in effect that will make sure all of these issues are resolved. Your concerns are what the nay-sayers have been injecting into the issue for 20 to 30 years, and are "on the table" for most growth scenarios. Thanks for your concern.
Susan March 06, 2013 at 08:11 PM
"…you can’t always believe what you read…" Separating fact from fiction is challenging these days, to say the very least. I'm looking forward to the climate change denier documentary that doesn't mince words about the fossil fuel industry's propaganda machine. "Greedy Lying Bastards" opens nationally March 8th. Here's the trailer: http://greedylyingbastards.com

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