The month of September was another big one for U.S. electrical vehicle sales. And, once again, despite a growing barrage from its increasingly irrational detractors, Tesla just keeps crushing it as a U.S. and global clean energy leader.
Tesla Leads Record September EV Sales
In total, 21,325 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. during September. This sales rate represented a 24 percent growth over September of 2016 and amounted to the second highest number of electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. during any month on record. Total annual sales are now 142,514 and appear ready to approach or exceed the 200,000 mark by year-end.
(Strong electrical vehicle sales growth in the U.S. continued during September — with Tesla remaining ahead of the pack. Image source: Inside EVs.)
Tesla again showed itself as a strong market leader with combined Model S and X sales of 7,980. These models, respectively, held the top two sales spots for the month — followed closely by the long-range Chevy Bolt EV at 2,632 sales after nearly a year on the market. The Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids rounded out the top five spots at 1,899 and 1,453 sales, respectively.
The main story of these best-sellers appears to be range — with all of these vehicles boasting long range electric or plug-in-hybrid capability. But Tesla’s high quality luxury offerings still hold an edge due to better technology, better charging infrastructure support, and superior overall capabilities. What’s even more ironic is that Tesla’s vehicles — that often sell for upwards of 100,000 dollars each — are still moving at greater volumes than the 35,000 dollar Chevy Bolt.
Chevy Bolt and Model 3 — Place-Holder vs Industry-Mover
The Bolt has a 238 mile range, which is a bit shorter than the higher-end Teslas which now can travel for between around 250 and 315 miles on a single charge. The Bolt’s quality is also considerably lower than the higher-priced Teslas — with slower acceleration, economy body styling, inferior handling and less features. As noted above, the Bolt also does not enjoy the support of Tesla’s large and expanding charging infrastructure. All that said, the Bolt remains an excellent EV for the price. It’s just that one wonders if GM’s heart is really in it to go all-in to sell the vehicle. Or is GM just placing a necessary high-quality competitor in a strategic attempt to stymie enthusiasm for the upcoming, trend-setting, Tesla Model 3?
(Obama-era CAFE standards are a major driver for auto industry transformation away from polluting fossil fuels and toward zero-emissions electric vehicles. Industry leaders like GM have long fought a policy that incentives electrical vehicle production and ultimately produces the combined benefits of moving the country toward energy independence, renewable energy, healthier air, and a less hostile climate. This year, the Trump Administration has sided with fossil-fuel based automakers and moved to roll back Obama’s helpful CAFE standards. Image source: Alternative Energy Stocks.)
A big hint comes in the form of continued opposition by major automakers like GM to increasing CAFE standards. From Electrek earlier this week:
In a time where a surprising number of major automakers are announcing that they believe electric cars are the future of the auto industry, we are still seeing them complaining about, and in some cases lobbying against, the fuel emission standards.
Now trade groups representing virtually the entire auto industry are again putting pressure on U.S. regulators to weaken rules that would force them to produce more electric cars.
So the rational question arises — would an automaker who really believes that the future is electric, who is really dedicated to the success of vehicles like the Bolt and the Volt also be fighting to remove fuel economy standards? If this appears like hypocrisy to some, then it probably is. A duck, after all, does quack from time to time.
Moving Economic Eggs into the All-Electric Basket = No Harmful Fossil Fuel Conflict of Interest
Tesla, on the other hand, only produces electrical vehicles. So, unlike GM, it doesn’t have a gigantic fossil fuel burning vehicle production infrastructure hanging around its neck and dragging it back down into the vast ocean of structural industry contributors to worsening climate change impacts.
And while critics decry production delays for the Model 3, GM’s own ambitions for the Bolt were comparatively modest — aiming for around 50,000 sales per year vs Tesla’s ultimate goal of 400,000 to 500,000 for the Model 3. One of these cars, therefore, looks like a shot at an industry defender while the other appears to be aimed directly at transformation. And who wins out in this David and Goliath struggle will have far-reaching energy, climate, and vehicle industry repercussions.
(Total U.S. EV sales for the year of 2017. Image source: Inside EVs.)
Sales of the key vehicle in question, the Model 3, remained slow at 115 units in September. This following 30 and 75 sales respectively during July and August. Tesla admitted facing production bottlenecks in its planned massive ramp up for the Model 3 aimed at meeting the demand of an amazing 500,000 pre-orders. Tesla critics have had a field day as the all-electric automaker struggles in its attempts to get its famed ‘alien dreadnought’ production of all-electric vehicles up and running.
The slower ramp in Model 3 production, so far, is admittedly a bit of a bump in the road for Tesla. But critics’ claims of Tesla’s ‘imminent demise’ have become a common and hackneyed cry over recent years. So we can take the present brouhaha with a couple of grains of salt and view any major downward moves in Tesla stock as a panic-induced opportunity for more steady, savvy, and environmentally conscious investors.
Investing in Clean Energy Future Makes Moral and Economic Sense
To this point, Tesla uses its stock market capitalization to help fund its energy transformation efforts. So Tesla investors are helping to fund a global move away from fossil fuels. And for putting their money on the line in this way, we should express to them our thanks and gratitude.
In the larger context, electrical vehicles, and more broadly, a related ramping battery storage production chain forms one of three key pillars to the global energy transition away from fossil fuels. The other two pillars are composed of wind and solar. All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions in use. And due to their ability to hit economies of scale in production that result in reduced costs, higher efficiency, and higher energy densities over time, they have a demonstrated capability to increasingly out-compete dirty fossil fuels and rapidly reduce carbon emissions.
So when new clean industry leaders like Tesla are forcing laggards like GM to produce electrical vehicles and market them, even as market-defenders, then those of us who support clean energy and are worried about the threat of climate change should all be cheering.
RELATED INFORMATION AND STATEMENTS:
If true, then why continue to fight CAFE standards? —
I presently hold Tesla stock as part of a larger renewable energy and sustainable industry investment portfolio. For me, this is part of a morally driven choice to divest from fossil fuel based energy companies and invest in clean energy companies. Though these choices incur considerable financial risk, I believe that wholesale investment by society in fossil fuels results in severe ultimate harm — which I will not be a party to. I urge others to seriously consider joining the campaign to divest/invest.