Published 10:33 pm, Friday, December 29, 2017
Photo: Chevrolet, HO
Electric car sales in the U.S. rose nearly 30 percent in 2017.
“This was a notably good year,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association.
But the raw number of pure-electric and plug-in hybrid cars sold won’t top 200,000, which represents barely more than 1 percent of the total 17 million cars and light trucks sold.
“There’s been a lot of publicity, but on the demand front, nothing has moved the needle much,” said Haig Stoddard, industry analyst at WardsAuto.
In fact, a mix of hype and publicity about future products is what marked 2017 on the electric car front.
The one notable market success was the Chevy Bolt EV, the $37,000 base-price hatchback that technically was introduced in December 2016. It has drawn great reviews and is selling at a respectable, though not eye-popping, rate of 2,000 to 3,000 cars a month.
Also notable for 2017: the slow-motion introduction of the Tesla Model 3, starting in July. Tesla was supposed to be filling thousands of orders a week for the electric sedan by now but has been delayed by manufacturing problems at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant and at its Nevada battery factory. So far, only a few hundred have been sold.
Nissan also unveiled a new version of its all-electric Leaf in 2017, improving its looks and expanding miles between charges to 150 from the previous model’s 107.
Otherwise, future plans dominated electric car news, as manufacturers touted their aggressive moves.
But most automakers couched their electric-car promises with the nebulous phrase “electrified,” which is more a marketing slogan than anything else.
It encompasses not just plug-in cars but traditional hybrids that run mostly on internal combustion engines.
It can also include “mild hybrid” cars that improve on decades-old 12-volt car batteries with 48-volt versions that match with a small motor to give a gasoline or diesel engine an occasional boost and save a bit of fuel. No one in the industry would call that an electric car.
In 2018, only a few all-electric models are expected to hit the market.
They include the Jaguar I-Pace luxury SUV and the Porsche Mission E sports car. They’ll be closely watched and important to those manufacturers but won’t move the needle much on electric car volume.
The only car that could do that is the Tesla Model 3, if it fulfills its promise to make and ship hundreds of thousands of cars a year. The company says that more than 400,000 customers have placed refundable deposits for a Model 3.