Gas Cars Are Declining Significantly & Full Electrics Rising In USA

We may have experienced peak fossil car sales in the USA, and the peak year wasn’t even very recently. It appears that the year that will go down in history as the peak year for fossil-powered light-duty vehicle sales was 2016. Ironically, that’s also the year the Tesla Model 3 was unveiled.

Fully-electric vehicle sales aren’t anywhere close to peaking, of course. A record number of nearly 250,000 full-electric vehicles were sold in the States in 2020, and 2021 is likely to do better.

US gas car sales peak

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 39, April 2021, Table 6.2. Graph courtesy of US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

In 2016, the US saw a record 17,500,719 new auto sales. That was still a year with a rather small percentage of sales coming from full-electric car sales, which didn’t start really hopping until 2018. After 4 years of auto sales declines, in 2020, 14,697,837 new passenger autos were sold across the nation. Naturally, sales were hit by the pandemic (and the chip shortage), which made 2020 an especially low year for auto sales, but EV sales just kept growing nonetheless (see the yellow bars in the chart above). It’s unlikely that gas-car sales will ever rebound and get to their 2016 record height.

Pure EV sales in the country went up from 1.4% of the light-duty vehicles market in 2019 to 1.7% in 2020. This is still dramatically lower than what we’re seeing in Europe and China (more than 7% market share each in 2021 — 7.6% in Europe and 9.4% in China).

Interestingly, plugin hybrids saw their sales decline from a possible peak in 2018 (0.7% share of the market). Removing plugin hybrid vehicles and even conventional hybrids, the sales total was just 12.7 million in 2020, almost 3 million sales lower than the 15.3 million of 2019.

As I reported recently, one of our writers, Maarten Vinkhuyzen, laid out a couple of years ago how a big tech transition isn’t just a smooth and orderly line, that the Osborne effect comes into play. It’s not a perfect representation, but look at the similarities in the graph above and the graph below. Conventional auto sales are collapsing faster than electric sales are growing.

It’s long past time for both corporations and individuals to set 100% electric vehicle goals. We are far from that target, but you have to start somewhere. It was not that long ago that Europe and China were down at 1.7% full electric vehicle market share. It doesn’t have to be long until the US EV market reaches 10% market share.


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