Is America falling behind on electric vehicles?


Is America falling behind on electric vehicles?

America is the birthplace of the electric car. EV, PHEV, and hybrid technology were all born here. The EV1 was designed and built here. Tesla, the world’s flagship EV company, is based here—but is increasingly looking to manufacture abroad—closer to its markets. Sadly, in 2019, U.S. EV sales declined to an estimated 329,266 vehicles, about 2% of total auto sales. This now lags behind the global average which grew to 2.5% market share in 2019. 

To a large degree, this is a lack of production, not a lack of demand. We hear many stories about willing buyers scrambling to find thin stocks of vehicles. In some parts of the country, dealers have complained to us that manufacturers do not send them enough EVs. Some automakers talk a good game, but we want to see the cars.

Compare this to the explosion of EVs taking place in Europe. In January 2020, sales of BEVs increased 91% from the previous year. By market share, most countries in Europe have surpassed the United States, with 3% in Germany, Europe’s largest car market and 3.4% in the U.K. –with a forecast by Bloomberg to reach 5.5% in 2020. A few other figures include: Netherlands 11%; Iceland 25%; Norway: 56%; and France 3.4%. It’s not surprising that Tesla is looking overseas, with its second assembly plant in China and a new one now in development in Germany. It needs to go where the markets are, particularly in this time of tariffs and trade wars.

According to Atlas EV Hub, automakers have now publicly committed to $374 billion in investments in electric vehicles (including heavy duty), but less than 15% of that total will be spent in the United States. This suggests a real loss of our leadership on transportation technology that will be felt for many years. Without a robust EV market, that leadership will take place in Europe and Asia.

We at Plug In America want our country to be the absolute leader on EVs. But we are deeply concerned about where the United States is headed at this moment. It does not bode well for the future of the U.S. auto industry. No one in the auto industry disputes that electric drive is the future. But for a multitude of reasons, we need that time to come faster and we want that future to happen here. Climate change does not wait. Our worsening air quality does not wait. The U.S. auto industry cannot wait either. If we want to be manufacturing American cars in 20 years, our leaders and our government need to double down on our commitment to electric drive today.

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