US Electric Vehicle Sales Reach Breakthrough Pace

It took a decade to sell the first million EVs but just a year to reach the third million.

(Bloomberg) — Electric cars are smashing all kinds of records in the US.

Their share of new cars exceeded 7% for the first half of the year, speeding past a critical tipping point for mass adoption. In the last few months, all-time sales topped 3 million.

But perhaps the most impressive of all is reaching a record-hot pace of almost 1 million new EVs per year. In the 12 months through June, Americans bought 977,445 cars that run solely on electricity, according to a Bloomberg Green analysis.

It took 10 years for the US to sell its first million fully electric vehicles, two years to reach the second million, and just over a year to reach the third. By the time the latest quarter’s figures are tallied up over the next month, the country should be well on its way to a fourth.

Another way to look at the yearly pace of EV purchases is to use 12-month rolling sales, which reveal surprising progress. For this approach, each new calendar quarter shows the year of EV purchases leading up to that point. It smooths out seasonal fluctuations that can disguise longer-term trends.  

The only time 12-month EV sales have declined was a brief stretch beginning the third quarter of 2019. That’s when Tesla temporarily exported a significant share of its American-made Model 3 inventory to kick off overseas sales. The period also coincided with the start of the pandemic.

The story of US electric vehicle adoption has so far been the tale of two dominant actors: the state of California and Tesla Inc. California was the first top-10 global auto market to reach the crucial EV tipping point of 5% of new car sales. Tesla recently dethroned Toyota as the top-selling vehicle brand, electric or otherwise, in the state. 

For EVs to become truly mainstream across the US, and for the Detroit auto industry to survive the transition, markets need to branch out. That’s starting to happen geographically, with California losing some of its US EV share to states like Texas, Florida, Washington and New Jersey. Tesla, however, is still very much in the driver’s seat, responsible for 61% of EVs ever sold in the US. 

Last week BloombergNEF analyst Corey Cantor looked at a similar 1 million EV milestone that included plug-in hybrids. If you include all cars that come with a plug, he found, Americans are already buying a million EVs every nine months — something we’ll surely hear more about once third-quarter figures are tabulated. 

For More on the Pace of EV Adoption:

  • California Shows an Electric-Car Uprising Headed for the US
  • Electric Cars Pass a Crucial Tipping Point in 23 Countries
  • Ford to Double Hybrid F-150 Production as EV Sales Slow
  • Tesla and China Leaving Volkswagen on Road to Nowhere
  • American Cars Are Developing a Serious Weight Problem

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