Electric Car Sales Miss President’s Mark

Published June 12, 2015

Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller reports President Obama failed to keep his promise to have 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. Even with the federal government purchasing 24,816 electric and hybrid vehicles during Obama’s presidency, the number of electric vehicles sold since Obama became president are less than one-third of his commitment.

Obama promised to get more green vehicles on the road during a time of rising gasoline prices in 2009. In the following years, gas prices remained relatively high. Even with the national average gas price having fallen to in mid-May $2.74 per gallon, down from about $3.65 per gallon a year ago, prices are still high by historical standards, yet according to the auto-research group Edmunds.com 22 percent of drivers who traded in their hybrid and electric vehicles in 2015 bought a new SUV. 

Edmunds.com also reports only “45 percent of this year’s hybrid and EV trade-ins have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel vehicle, down from just over 60 percent in 2012.”

Trucks Dominate Sales

Overall 100 percent electric and plug-in hybrid cars sales combined were up 29 percent in 2014, while gasoline hybrid sales fell by 9 percent. The only hybrid or electric car to crack the top 20 best selling car list in 2014 was Toyota’s Prius at number 20 on the list, having sold 207,372 units including its hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid versions.

Even in the midst of sustained high gas prices, pick-up trucks dominated new car sales, with the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado and the Dodge Ram coming in first, second and third in sales respectively. In 2014, the top selling electric car, the Nissan leaf, equaled just 4 percent of the number of Ford F-150 pick-up’s sold at 753,851 units sold. Despite a 1.3 percent sales decline in 2014, Autoblog reports, the Ford F-150 has topped vehicle sales for 38 years.

“The zealots, the hypesters, the enthusiasts created an environment that wasn’t ever going to be a reality,” Brett Smith, the sustainability director at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, told Bloomberg.

“This got going in the summer of 2008 when gasoline was $5 a gallons in California. The world expected gasoline prices to go up and up and up and technology to solve it. Two of those things didn’t happen,” Smith said. 

Dedicated government purchases of electric vehicles combined with generous government subsidies and tax credits for private buyers of electric vehicles, resulted in 311,630 electric vehicles sold in the United States since 2009. Yet this equals just 41 percent of the number of the Ford F-150 sold in 2014 alone. Combined, hybrid and electric vehicle sales make up less than five percent of overall automobile sales, a number that is declining in 2015. 

H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.