The OTHER Range Problem for Electric Vehicles
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
No, I'm not talking about driving range...I'm talking about the range of EV adoption estimates. The estimates are pretty wild.
Former governor, former presidential candidate, current Utah senate candidate, Mitt Romney was recently quoted as saying "...in about 10 years, I’ll bet 90 percent of the cars we buy are electric.” That's more bullish than what the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says.
The EIA is a United States government agency, charged with tracking energy industry trends. Among other forecasts, EIA publishes annual projections on plug-in vehicle sales.
The problem is, EIA has been horrifically wrong when it comes to things like wind energy and solar power. In 2014, EIA estimated that plug-in vehicles (including EV's and PHEV's) would reach a million in-stock by late 2022. In its most recent estimate, EIA suggests the plug-in market may hit a million vehicles by the end of this year - four years ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, EIA's most recent projections for plug-in vehicles actually declined from last year's estimates. For example, EIA's 2017 projections estimated 2.3 million plug-in vehicles by 2020, but their 2018 estimates show just 1.7 million by 2020.
How can we tell who's right and who's wrong?
InsideEV's, an incredible online trade publication, publishes actual monthly EV sales in the US, and has for the past several years. The tally is even precise down to the vehicle model. In 2016, there were 158,614 plug-in vehicles sold and a year later, 199,826 plug-ins were sold.
We can already see a divergence from EIA's numbers - EIA estimated there were just 67,851 plug-ins added in-stock in 2016 (50% below actual), and 148,722 added in-stock in 2017 (25% below actual). EIA projects that 184,013 plug-ins will be added in 2018 - fewer plug-ins than were already sold in 2017. But there are no signs that the industry will hit a speed bump this year.
For 2018, the industry is expecting a marked uptick in deliveries for Tesla's Model 3, as well as the 2018 Nissan Leaf. The Model 3 delivery issues have been widely reported, and appear to be rapidly resolved, with an estimated 1,000+ per week being manufactured. Even if that figures stays the same (which, it won't), that'll be over 50,000 Model 3's delivered for 2018. This growth alone would blow through EIA's 2018 year-over-year, incremental growth estimate.
For Nissan, there was already evidence towards the end of 2017 that buyers were waiting for the new LEAF - sales dropped from about 1,000 per month to just 100 by December 2017. But there are already 13,000 pre-sale orders for the new LEAF - more in pre-sales than all LEAFs sold in 2017. And more vehicle models are ramping up production, like Hyundai's Ioniq, Kia's Niro, and the Volvo XC40, among others.
If I had to choose between Romney's EV range estimate, and the EIA's...I'd err towards Mitt.