Hyping Electric Vehicle Sales

The audacity of EV and PHEV proponents is staggering. In the face of sluggish sales for EVs and PHEVs, there is an attempt to distort sales figures by including Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

Proponents announced that 487,480 electric vehicles were sold in 2012, but this includes hybrids.

Hybrids are not EVs or PHEVs. Understanding the objective behind each type of vehicle can help distinguish hype from facts.

Hybrids use electric technology to improve vehicle efficiency, as measured by miles per gallon, while still relying on the internal combustion engine (ICE) as the primary, almost sole, source of power for the vehicle. The media adopted the term Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) for this type of vehicle, which has created considerable confusion. The objective of Hybrids is to improve efficiency, not eliminate or reduce the use of ICEs. Superchargers, and other improvements to the ICE, also improve efficiency.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) rely entirely on batteries for automotive power, and eliminate the ICE: The objective of EVs is to eliminate the internal combustion engine.

A Plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) relies on the battery to power the vehicle for a limited number of miles, and then uses the ICE as the sole source of power when the battery’s charge is depleted. Typically, a PHEV can travel 35 miles using the battery, without using the ICE. Theoretically, an owner of a PHEV, living within 35 miles of work, could travel to work without using the ICE, assuming there is a means for charging the battery at work. The objective of PHEVs is to reduce the use of the internal combustion engine.

EVs have a range of only around 100 miles before the battery is depleted. A PHEV has a range of over 300 miles, similar to vehicles powered solely by ICEs.1

There is also an attempt to ballyhoo the number of new EV and PHEV models being introduced in 2013 and 2014, on the assumption that more models will increase sales.

Table 1 shows sales of EVs and PHEVs by month in 2012.

Table 1




January 603 824
February 1,023 639
March 3,200 961
April 3,116 775
May 2,766 612
June 2,455 863
July 2,537 479
August 3,878 837
September 4,503 1,306
October 4,994 2,040
November 4,544 2,211
December 4,965 2,704
Total 2012 38,584 14,251
January 2013 2,354 2,022

It may or may not be important, but sales fell in January from the previous three months.

It’s interesting to note that BYD, the Chinese manufacturer in which Warren Buffett invested, has seen sluggish sales, 1,700 EVs in 2012, and is shifting its strategy to providing buses and taxis powered by batteries. China lacks an abundant supply of natural gas, which would otherwise be an alternative to batteries.

It’s also interesting that when a negative news article is written, such as the one in the New York Times about the Tesla, the manufacturer cries foul and tries to discredit the article.

The reality is that the high cost of batteries makes EVs and PHEVs unaffordable for the average person. Buyers are primarily environmental enthusiasts and elites who revel in having something unique.

It appears as though the attempt to impose EVs and PHEVs on Americans by using tax payer dollars to subsidize the purchase of EVs and PHEVs, while also subsidizing battery and car manufacturers, is failing.

 Watching the sales numbers is a better way to evaluate the success or failure of EVs and PHEVs than listening to the hype.


  1. The Volt has been called an extended range vehicle since the internal combustion engines primary task is to recharge the battery using a generator, but can take over, if necessary, to power the car. When depleted, the battery must be recharged at a charging station or any 120-volt outlet. Other PHEVs rely on the battery to power the car for around 35 miles, after which the internal combustion engine takes over. The battery must then be recharged at a charging station or at a 120-volt outlet.

EVs are also referred to as BEVs.

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