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Center for Automotive Research releases study on estimated US distribution pattern of electric vehicles through 2015; focus on incentives

The CAR study uses the distribution of hybrid sales as the basis to estimate the distribution of plug-in electric vehicle sales. Source: CAR. Click to enlarge.

In a new study, the Center for Automotive Research, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based nonprofit research organization, is estimating the national distribution patterns of electric vehicles across the United States, and the incentive programs that will assist with the proliferation of these vehicles, over the next four years.

The study is not a forecast sales of electric vehicles; rather, it estimates electric vehicle deployment by state, using other forecasts of total electric vehicle sales in the US to generate a reasonable approximation of what electric vehicle sales might look like for the period 2012 to 2015. Within the study, CAR denotes the percentages it used to divide national electric vehicle sales among states. With the state percentages, one could select any forecast and generate state-by-state results based on that forecast.

The study uses hybrid vehicle sales in each of the 50 states as a proxy for electric vehicle sales, and a national estimate of electric vehicle market share annually. That estimate puts a total of 496,000 plug-in electric vehicles on US roads in 2015, with annual sales of 27,000 for 2011; 77,000 for 2012; 116,000 for 2013; 136,000 for 2014; and 140,000 for 2015.

Among the findings of the study are that, by 2015, California will be selling close to 35,000 electric vehicles each year with more than 110,000 electric vehicles registered in the state. Other states will be selling less than 8,000 electric vehicles per year, with fewer than 26,000 total registrations by 2015, even in the large markets of Texas, New York, and Florida.

The report notes that these estimates are highly subject to variation and could be altered by unexpected shocks such as a major oil price spike or by planned conditions such as aggressive incentive programs. It also notes that, while the specific numbers may not be exact, their magnitude should be correct along with relative sales among states.

It is unlikely, for instance, that a state projected to sell only a couple hundred vehicles annually by 2015 will be selling thousands. It is also unlikely that California will be selling only a few thousand electric vehicles annually by 2015. If anything, states that have been selected as early deployment states, or have already committed to being leaders in electric vehicle deployment and have been recognized as such, will see faster rates of electric vehicle adoption (higher levels of sales than the table above predicts), while other states may experience slower adoption rates (lower sales levels).

—CAR study

The authors note that actual deployment across the states will undoubtedly be different from the estimates; however, they add,this study and estimating tool give a reasonable starting point and can be revisited as more vehicles enter the marketplace.

We obviously find that many factors could affect deployment. Among these are fleet operations decisions, development and expansion of EV-friendly cities and regions, and enactment of government programs. Both local government and private sector fleets can serve as a major driving force for deployment of electric vehicles. As fleet managers gather data on the performance of electric vehicles, they can determine in which niches these vehicles might fit well. Companies can write off electric vehicle purchases as a business expense; due to high levels of utilization, these vehicles will have a relatively short payback period, favoring early deployment among fleets.

EV-friendly cities and regions can offer perks to owners of vehicles by creating plug-in-infrastructure and providing special parking and driving privileges, serving to assist in driving consumer demand. Additionally, governmental programs such as the Clean Cities initiative and other partnerships bring together multiple stakeholders to ensure that deployment is organized and that support for vehicles is available even before they arrive in cities.

—CAR study

Click to enlarge.




In the event of an oil price 'shock', if that is the right word for something completely unsurprising, then these state percentages are highly unlikely to be accurate in my view.
Whilst it is true that states in the few hundreds of sales according to this ranking will not leap to the top, other big States like New York would be likely to significantly close the gap on California whose incentives would be matched.


California is like a different country. Will Asia follow California's lead or Maine's or WY's?


Harvey D,

I predict they will copy none of them. Only in wealthy countries does a social surplus exist for the neurotics to worry about concerns that are not real for the next half Millenia or longer.

Demand for Oil will continue to decline and the rate of decline will accelerate. None of you doomsayers seems to note that the US demand peaked early in the 21st century, and has declined to early 1990s levels, already. The rest of the industrial world is following the US lead as always. The US has near accomplished the Kyoto targets without adopting it.

I think we ought to congratulate ourselves for the conservation and substitution. We have eliminated the electric generation oil market. We have reduced heavy industrial demand to below 1970s levels; and have capped and are slowly reducing Oil demand for HVAC. There is more to come. As substitution by such as the Volt is only just beginning, in the ground Transport market.

Long before we fully tap the Oil Shale reserves in the western USA which represent more oil than has ever been consumed, Mankind will have moved beyond Oil for most thermal energy uses. And certainly for merely burning it.

The Earth natural regeneration of Oil is not yet fully understood, but it is on an enormous scale and until recently we didn't even know that one third of the
Earth's biota was already doing what we are feebly trying to do in creating synthetic bio-Oil.


Ex Demo:
Stan, is that you? Perhaps there is more than one person banging on about the 'natural regeneration of oil!'


Actualy the domestic prodcution of oil is increasing again as they are now using new methods to extract oil that allows us to get at oil we couldnt touch before. This should insulate the us from an oil shock more then long enough to get off oil with the help of canadian oil sands and our own huge supply of biofuels combined with a move to thriftier cars and out of cars entirely.

The so called oil shock is no shock if you have already moved from an 18 mpg car to a 40 mpg car. The main cost is still the car not its fuel.

By 2015 a sliver of the car market will have jumped off oil into bev and fcev cars and a larger chunk will have greatly delayed oil shock via advanced hybrid cars high milage thirfty cars and just plain moving to places that dont need cars or dont need long commutes... telecomuting.

America can likely adapt to 150 even 200 buck a barrel oil due to local supplies we can afford to tap at those prices and due to various pother simple measures each of us would take... its highly doubtful oil can ever go beyond that point without some countries going caput and thus lowering demand and thus price.


"Right now, the recession is curbing U.S. gasoline consumption, as laid-off workers stop commuting and budget-conscious families forgo long road trips."

"Skeptics of the notion that gasoline demand has peaked point to a population that is likely to keep growing as Americans have children at roughly the same pace and the flow of immigrants increases. "Anyone who looks at population must think there is going to be some big bird flu if they think we've peaked," says Tom Kloza, chief analyst at Oil Price Information Service, a firm in Wall, N.J., that tracks prices and consumption.

Lower gasoline prices are back after a multiyear spike in prices. That could reignite consumers' desire for big, fuel-guzzling SUVs and tolerance of long commutes, especially when the economy strengthens. After the 1979 spike in crude-oil prices, U.S. gasoline consumption dropped for four years, but then rose again when fuel prices plummeted in the mid- to late-1980s.

This time, the forces suppressing gasoline usage are formidable. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act toughened requirements for both efficiency and biofuels use. By 2020, vehicles sold in the U.S. must average 35 miles a gallon, versus 27.5 for cars now and 23.5 for light trucks. The Obama administration is working on proposals to further increase the standard."
Also note the graph on that page: Overall fuel comsumption seems to have already returned to prerecession levels but the difference is being made up with biofuels, production of which is limited by land.



There's also the possibility the Saudis have damaged the subsurface oil strata by pulling oil out of the ground faster than it wanted to come to meet GWB's call for more oil during the war.


Regardless of the reserves level, crude oil is too valuable to burn in inefficient ICE vehicles, specially in 2+tonnes SUV to transport a single 180 lbs human. We will certainly learn to do better in the near future.

George Furey

So the study is saying that by 2015, roughly 0.19% of vehicles on US roads will be electric.

Calculation: Amount of electric vehicles/total vehicle fleet = 469,000/246,000,000 or 0.19%

So after 4 years, some of the best Automotive researchers are predicting electric vehicles will make up 0.19%?

That means that by 2014, 1 out of every 525 cars on the road will be electric, that is a very small amount!

My impressions on electric vehicles are that owners of EVs know that they themselves have changed there Oil usage to zero, but don't quite understand how small of an effect that is on the nationwide scale.

These figures demonstrate the importance of drop-in biofuels (biogasoline and biodiesel). They are not the best fuels from an environmental standpoint, but I see them as the only current solution that will have a noticeable effect on our usage of oil. Because almost all current vehicles could accept biogasoline and biodiesel, the conversion could happen much, much faster than if using new fuels that require new cars to be bought.

For reference the US replaces only 4.9% of vehicles each year. So it would take at least 20 years of vehicles being sold 100 electric or whatever other alternative fuel to replace to fleet, a situation which is highly unlikely.

Now, biofuels pose their own problems, ie. fuel vs. food debate, usage of petroleum based fertilizers, water usage, and many other problems. Drop in biofuels must be done in an organized fashion such that they do not rely on subsidies (corn based ethanol) and that they do not require large tracts of prime farm land.

However, I do see the potential light at the end of the tunnel with advanced biofuels such as Algae and others, which if done correctly can be grown in the middle of the desert, utilize a small amount of water (recycle loop) and require much less land than corn (7-30x per acre density).

George Furey

Oh and Davemart, even if every single state in the US was as large as California, and bought as many electric vehicles as California is projected to buy, electric vehicles would only represent 2.27% of vehicles on the road or 1 in 44 vehicles by 2015.

5,600,000/246,000,000 = 2.27% or 12 times what is actually predicted


@George Furey:
The study which is the subject of this article is about the distribution of EV and hybrid sales, which I was questioning.
They use total sales estimates from other sources.
As for those total sales figures, it is not sufficient to say that they came from 'some of the best researchers'
To actually understand the figures you need to know the assumptions on which they were based.
They clearly disagree, for instance, with the projections of Nissan, as they quote total sales of EV's and hybrids as being only 140,000 by 2015, when by 2013 Nissan alone will have the capacity to build 150,000 full electric vehicles, and the packs for 50,000 more.
Nissan's projections are based on a petrol price of $3/gallon I believe, and most projections are based on similar petrol price figures.
There is a growing disconnect between that assumption and most projections of petrol prices by 'some of the best oil analysts' which mostly see oil prices rising substantially as early as 2012.
The other major factor in calculating take up of hybrid and more particularly electric vehicles is the price of batteries.
Many US based analysts talked to much to US battery firms, who were telling them that it would be many years before battery prices dropped much below $1000kwh.
Well, that was wishful thinking on their part based on their own cost figures, and they have been destroyed by the Koreans and Japanese.
Nissan will not be specific on cost figures to maintain competitive advantage, but confirm they are paying well below $500kwh.

As for your last point about 'vehicles on the road' with a fleet of around 250 million light vehicles and an average life to scrap of 15 years there is obviously huge inertia built in.
Any change will only affect absolute numbers in the total fleet gradually, whether it is to electric or biogas or anything else.


@George Furey:
Another point to check carefully is where the funding comes from for those 'best researchers'. Many such as J D Power have been associated with the oil and gas industries from their inception.
Amazingly, they often predict that oil and gas will continue to dominate, and hard times for challengers.


I have just found this:
'the study, which was funded through a research grant from General Motors, forecasts the number of EVs sold by state for 2012-2015' !!!

George Furey

All your points are valid, but the overall point I was trying to make is that switching to a Biogasoline that is compatible with current vehicles allows any owner to simply make the choice to fill up with biogasoline when the price becomes competitive (continued research is required before we get to that point). That way the speed at which it is adopted is purely limited by how fast biorefineries can be set up or old refineries retrofitted, along with the conversion of non-arable land to algae farms or other technologies.

I agree this data may be off, but I was trying to demonstrate that even if it was off by a factor of magnitude its still predicting very small amounts.

EVs and PHEVs are an immediate solution, because the infrastructure is already developed, but adoption is very slow due to the fact that consumers arent replacing cars that fast even if every single vehicle sold is electric.

Overall what I'm saying is that drop-in biofuels have the potential to penetrate the current fleet much faster than EVs once competitive, and by effect can reduce oil consumption quicker.

Thus I feel that more research should be put into drop in fuels to help them scale up the processes faster.

EVs and Biofuels are both solutions to our current situation, and we need all of them.


Hi George:
I have reservations about biofuels both due to their effects on food prices, and much more fundamentally due to their consumption of near-irreplaceable phosphates, aside from water and land use issues.
Here is the phosphate situation:
'Phosphorus is a non-renewable resource. Estimates of global reserves of phosphate suggest that supplies may last from 50 – 130 years. However, problems with resource supply begin when production reaches its peak, and long before supplies actually run out. Physicist Patrick Déry estimates that U.S. “peak phosphorus” occurred in 1988 and for the world in 1989. Signs of volatility have recently appeared in phosphorus markets, and may already be contributing to higher food prices. We are approaching a threshold where world agricultural requirements may begin to outpace available supplies of phosphorus.'

If we are talking about a swift move to non-oil transport for a big enough number of vehicles to make a difference though natural
, non biological gas is around 1/4 the price per million BTUs of oil.
Problems altering infrastructure are greatly exaggerated in the US.
Although the US is the home of the road trip most vehicles most of the time stay fairly local, and natural gas pipes run through many urban areas, so to move,say to a provision equivalent to that available now in Europe means installing 2-3,000 pumps, at a cost equivalent to a few hours of oil imports.
Fiat has the most expertise of any company in the world in building NG dual fuel cars, and the cost they do it for is not excessively above conventional cars.
If, or perhaps when, oil prices rise substantially I could see the build of large numbers of NG capable vehicles, and the conversion of many more.
This would be a lot cheaper and quicker than moving to biogas, which even with the comparatively high natural gas prices in Europe carries a substantial price premium and would need a lot of expensive infrastructure investment.


Massive electrical vehicles production and sales will start moving during the post-2015 era. Trying to guess worldwide production and sales by 2015 may be useful to get essential data for charging stations, maintenance people training, parts manufacturing etc but it is really after 2015 that everybody will take notice that the transition has started.

Meanwhile, lets hope that food stocks and food productive lands will not be over used to produce liquid fuels for our inefficient gas guzzlers. The negative effects on worldwide food availability and prices could haunt us for decades if not centuries. Hunger may become a challenge that we are not equipped or have not the collective will to solve.


The US has near accomplished the Kyoto targets without adopting it.

The American federal government may have not adopted Kyoto but your states, cities and citizens have;

"While the U.S. government struggles with a political response to the need to reduce GHGs, a growing number of States are forming regional alliances that are establishing limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities, too, are leading the way in the effort to address global warming. Local efforts, often driven by citizen advocacy, are encouraging people, businesses (large and small), schools, religious instituions and local governments throughout the U.S. to look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Thanks to the efforts of ICLEI's Local Governments for Sustainability, more than 600 U.S. cities have measured their greenhouse gas emissions, are implementing policies to reduce them, and are realizing significant financial benefits to city coffers in the process.

With the support of KyotoUSA, Berkeley officially endorsed the Kyoto Protocol in January 2005. Subsequently, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels successfully petitioned the US Conference of Mayors to endorse his "Climate Protection Agreement" (CPA), a statement that embraces the emissions reductions targets outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. As of July 2010, nearly 1,100 U.S. mayors have signed the CPA. Americans - often at the grassroots - are taking action to achieve a carbon-reduced existence as we begin to appreciate the scope and seriousness of the problem we are facing. KyotoUSA urges all U.S. cities large and small, governmental and non-governmental institutions, businesses, and individuals to undertake concrete actions now to address global climate disruption."


Man, reading this "study" is like hearing Obama's "1 million by 2015" rhetoric.. all based on automotive company marketing, not on reality.

Look, if people wanted tiny cars that get 100 miles per charge, then EVs would sell like hotcakes. People don't want that, so EVs don't sell.

Pretty damn simple. Note that in the chart for this article, you can plainly see that the proliferation of vehicles is basically by state population. You could say that for any damn vehicle, not just EVs. Duhh.

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