It’s not a simple thing to speak of 2020—and just talk about EVs. It is the year that everyone hates and prays for it to end. It is the year that most people will always cite as the worst one in their lives. It’s the year that one in a thousand Americans died from a pandemic, tens of millions were pushed into poverty, and millions protested the racism lurking in the heart of America. And this is not to mention the ridiculous presidential campaign in which norms of democracy and civility went out the window.
And yet somehow, this was also the year in which a broad consensus finally has taken root in our country that climate change is an existential threat and we need to take decisive action now. I have been working on climate change for most of my career and for all of that time, if you asked Americans for a list of their top concerns, climate change seemed to come in around #17, just below litter. This year, with a swell of angst from a younger generation now coming of age, it ranks near the top of people’s concerns, reflected in the frequency it came up in the campaign and in the debates. Remarkably, even electric cars came up in the debates, with Biden’s repeated commitment to build 500,000 charging stations.
Despite this, U.S. EV sales were modest this year, but a lot of pieces fell into place that portend an exciting 2021.
First of all, we now have a president-elect who is a strong EV supporter and seems committed to rolling out some excellent EV policies. It’s hard to overstate how helpful this is. If you look at every country where EVs are doing well, they are all places with a strong and supportive EV policy environment. It’s not that EVs aren’t intrinsically better than gas cars, it’s simply that good policies help to accelerate the transition. (And in case you are wondering, Plug In America is not done campaigning for the federal EV tax credit. We expect to have another bite at that apple early in 2021.)
Second, we have some great new long-range high-volume BEVs scheduled to hit dealers in all 50 states in the coming months: Nissan Ariya, Volkswagen ID.4, and Ford Mustang Mach-E, plus others. (You can learn about these vehicles on this webinar from National Drive Electric Week).
Third, Tesla has really arrived. With the launch of the Model Y, it managed to expand its sales during the pandemic, just as all other automakers were stumbling. It has finally become consistently profitable and has joined the S&P 500 just this past week. With two new factories under construction (Austin, TX and Berlin, Germany) and shares up an astonishing 750% this year, concerns about its going belly up seem to be behind us.
Fourth, the Electrify America DCFC network is finally coming together. For the first time, non-Tesla drivers can comfortably drive cross-country.
Finally, this is the year that EV sales have completely take off in Europe. Combined BEV and PHEV sales are closing in on 10% of total car sales for the year, compared with an anemic 2% in the United States—but we will soon catch up.
So cheer up, 2020 is almost over and 2021 promises lots of good things. Stay safe, wear your mask, and enjoy your winter holidays—at home.