July 25, 2019 – As I listened to a fairly subdued Q2 earnings call last night, I felt almost a sense of helplessness on the part of a very tired and subdued sounding CEO Elon Musk. Surely Elon is tired from his non-stop 10+ year journey to build Tesla from an idea into an automaker pumping out 5,000 Model 3’s a week (with a target of 15,000 vehicles). Q2 results were simply poor. Delivering 95,356 electric vehicles (77,634 were Model 3’s, +52% vs Q1) and posting a $408 million operating loss continues to raise the question: will Tesla ever be profitable? Elon sounded a note of sadness announcing that founding Chief Technology Officer, JB Straubel was stepping away from his Executive role (moving to an advisor) – the man who hired Elon into Tesla over a decade ago; the man working side by side with Elon to launch every model from the Roadster to the Model 3 and largely shaping the forthcoming Model Y. Very big shoes to fill indeed.
Does Tesla Have A Demand Problem?
The photos in this blog-post were taken yesterday (July 24, 2019) at my local Tesla Service and Delivery Center in Roswell GA. Just one month ago, this lot was EMPTY with all Model 3s and a few Model S and X had been delivered to new customers. ALL of these Model 3s have been sold and are waiting for delivery to their new owners. Most are the higher priced dual motor and performance versions of the Model 3 ($50,000+). With the Federal Tax Credit moving down to $1,875 for this last quarter (Q3 2019) before phase out, Tesla reduced the price of the Model 3, now starting at $38,990 very competitively priced! Tesla does not suffer from a demand problem for Model 3. Model S and X sales have matured (14,000 units produced on a single shift operation at Fremont CA). A refresh in the works? Elon says no. But he’s been known to deliver trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye) before.
Why is Tesla Currently Unprofitable?
The simple reason: it has yet to reach economies of scale. In 2019, Tesla has produced a total of 164,186 vehicles, all but 28,000 of which are Model 3s. The auto industry is driven by scale to amortize vehicle development and massive fix costs of production and assembly along with safety and compliance costs. Tesla continues to build toward that future with the launch of the mid-sized Model Y SUV (Fall 2020) and forthcoming Pick Up truck (the largest light duty segment in the US market) while ramping up Model 3 sales in the largest electric vehicle market in the world: China. It’s going to take 500,000+ vehicles produced per year, to drive Tesla to profitability. This is one age-old lesson from the auto industry that Tesla still needs to learn.
Hey all! Sorry for the extended absence from my blog posts. The last 2 years working at ChargePoint have flown by and helped keep me at the forefront of the electric vehicle industry and especially EV charging. In past blog-posts, I’ve covered topics related to EV’s – mostly Tesla – and events in the State of Georgia. Today I want to share my reflections on the state of the electric vehicle industry and where I see it headed over the next 2-5 years. So here goes. Opinions are my own.
What’s Happening with car based EV’s?
EV’s are Still “Fixin’ to Get Ready” to be a Major Force in Light Duty Transportation. While EV’s are breaking the 2% of vehicle sales barrier, they have a very long way to go to become the dominant form of light duty transportation. Why? Because the mass market automotive OEMs (GM, Ford, Fiat, Nissan/Renault) continue to offer niche EV’s in declining car segments in North America and Europe. While the high end lux vehicles are going ‘all in on electric’ (Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Volvo) they are still too small to effect a mass scale shift to electrified vehicles. And that leaves Tesla with it’s expensive and relatively narrow line of all electric vehicles to lead the industry and there are not enough cars coming out of Fremont (or Reno in the future) to make that happen.
What About Light Duty Trucks?
What will change all of this in North America? Light Duty Trucks! America is still the land of pick up and light duty trucks. After conducting training meetings in states like Texas and Florida, I got the attention of my audience when I showed a slide of the planned electric pick ups from Ford and GM and new entries from Michigan based Rivian. You start talking to a man about his truck and you are going to get his attention. Light duty trucks are perfect for electrification: remove the engine, drive train, gas tank and install one super large battery (think 150-250 kWh battery pack) and powerful electric motors at each of the four wheels, maintain towing capacity and luxo truck comfort and pricing ($70,000+) and you have the makings of a successful electric light duty truck offering. Fortunately, these vehicles are in the 12-24 month launch time horizon. Light duty trucks: game changer for electrified transportation.
What Role will Commercial Duty EV’s Play? A tremendous one!
A segment of the transportation industry that gets little notice but has a huge impact is commercial fleets. Think over the road tractor trailer trucks and municipal buses. Right now Tesla is in development testing of its Class 8 over the road semi truck with 400 all electric range at 100,000 pounds of payload, UPS is developing its own fleet of electrified delivery trucks. Add to that all electric buses offered by BYD and New Flyer that municipalities nationwide are purchasing for delivery in 6-24 months. Once the public starts seeing medium and heavy duty electric vehicles on the road they might start to be convinced that their much lighter vehicle could be an electric after all. And the charging infrastructure being developed for these vehicles will be massive and have a halo effect on light duty charging station installation growth.
What About Autonomous Driving?
Much digital ink is being spilled over the topic of autonomous driving. From where I sit (behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S Gen 1 MobilEye AutoPilot system in use since October 2015), US roads have a very long way to go to handle Fully Autonomous Driving (Level 5). While Alphabet and Tesla are at the forefront of Autonomous Driving vehicle technology, it is my considered opinion that it is not vehicle technology that limits Autonomous Driving. It is our ever deteriorating road beds, unpredictable weather and roadway lighting conditions, road construction and pedestrians that impede the progress of full self driving. It’s almost as if we’d be better served to create autonomous driving lanes than to try to create technology that can handle trillions of road conditions real time. I fully believe in driver assisted autonomous driving and absolutely love even my basic AP1 features but I am behind the wheel and can take over at a split seconds’ notice.
Will There Ever Be Enough Charging Stations to avoid Range Anxiety?
The answer depends on where and how far you drive. If you have a home charger installed in your garage and you have access to chargers at work or at retail locations where you drive, you will have plenty of charging stations to support your driving needs. With either the ChargePoint or PlugShare Apps you will find thousands of level 2 charging stations in the US and a rapidly growing number in Canada. With home charging, you can always leave your house in the morning on a full charge!
If you are driving between cities and states, then charging becomes more of a challenge and your trip planning skills will be fully used! If you own a Tesla part of the reason you bought it was to access their nationwide network of ‘superchargers’ (120-250kW output stations) or their ‘urban chargers‘ (72kW output) and other than California, you can usually get on a Tesla supercharger. Tesla has also installed ‘destination’ chargers at hundreds of hotels providing level 2 (full charge overnight).
If you own another make/model of EV, you will need to access to DC-Fast Charge networks across the US including: ChargePoint, EVGO, Electrify America, and Greenlots (Shell). You will need an account and network access card for each of these networks and need to know which DC Plug comes with your EV: Asian cars are CHAdeMO and NA/EU cars are CCS (combines a set of DC pins below the AC adapter). Charging session costs vary depending on DC fast charge station local and whether the station owner can charge for electricity (e.g. California) or only by time (e.g. Georgia). Your trip planning skills will be honed finely as you plan your route through DC fast chargers.
That wraps up my reflections on the state of the electric vehicle industry. Have a question or comment, use our comment form at the bottom of this post.
On my last trip to the Bay area, I was lucky enough to score a rental of a brand new Tesla Model 3 through Turo, the “Air BNB” of personal owner car sharing. Over a four day, 312 mile rental, I had the opportunity to put the Model 3 through its paces traversing the highways and byways of Silicon Valley. This review continues my first blogpost of the Model 3: Tesla Model 3 – First Look Inside & Out Continue reading →
This past August 2017 marked the 5th Anniversary of my transition from “gas to electric” driving, logging about 70,000 miles in either all electric (Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S) or Plug-In Hybrid Electric (Chevrolet VOLT) vehicles. In thinking about my life experience as an EV driver, I wanted to share my perspective as the US EV market cracks the 1%mark and the 99% Reality of why I believe that EVs can be the ‘go to’ vehicle for the vast majority of driving circumstances. [photo: 2013 VOLT on delivery day 8-16-2012]. Continue reading →
Georgia Legislature Retains Status Quo in 2017 General Assembly Session
As the 2017 Georgia General Assembly 40-day legislative session wraps up, electric vehicle drivers continue to be saddled with the highest road use fees in the US ($204.50 in 2017) and future drivers will see no incentives to adopt electric vehicles as measures to advance both a reduction in the fees and add an incentive failed to gain support within the Georgia Legislature.
Futher the bill to simply clarify that commercial and retail businesses could qualify for up to $2,500 state tax credit for charging station installation also failed to advance for the third session in a row . . . a tax credit that is still on the books and can only be claimed by Southern Company’s Georgia Power, which to their credit, was likely used to help finance the 36 community charging islands installed by Georgia Power over the past two years.
So what does this mean for Georgia and EV Drivers?
The State of Georgia has rapidly solidified its reputation for being the most-EV unfriendly state in the US, which is having a significant impact on Electric vehicle purchases which have stalled at 2015 levels. A state fleet of 25,000 plug-ins represents a mix of low priced used Nissan LEAFs and growth from Tesla models off-setting the precipitious decline in new plug-in electric vehicle sales from Chevrolet, BMW, Ford, KIA, and Nissan.
It has been rumored that Volkswagen of America’s Electrify America business unit, which is charged with dispensing up to $4.7 Billion in ‘diesel-gate’ remediation funds, rejected the City of Atlanta’s funding petition due to the State of Georgia demonstrating its ‘anti EV’ stance through repealing the ZEV/LEV income tax credit and imposing the $200.00 annual road use fee. Likely the City of Atlanta lost out on several million dollars worth of EV charging infrastructure due to the decisions of the Georgia General Assembly.
If there is a silver lining, the small but growing number of EV owners in the Georgia General Assembly are ‘feeling the pain’ and have stated their commitment to address the Road Use fee again in the 2018 General Assembly. We support them and wish them “God Speed”.
Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia
Reprinted here is the entire story written by AJC staff writer Chris Joyner published on line on January 13th and in newsprint on January 16, 2017. Copyrighted material – Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Here’s a fact maybe not generally appreciated by commuters gazing at Atlanta’s smudgy, smoggy skyline: Georgia has the second most electric vehicles in the nation.
Here’s another fact: Not for long.
Georgia has about 25,000 electric cars on the road, mostly in metro Atlanta and largely funded by what was one of the most generous state tax incentives in the nation — a $5,000 state income tax credit. But state lawmakers, many of them conservatives who are predisposed against consumer tax credits anyway, canceled the credit in 2015 and installed a $200 registration fee instead.
That whipsaw effect pushed new electric vehicle purchases off a cliff. In July 2015, the state registered 1,426 electric vehicles purchased as the tax credit expired. The next month, just 242 were registered — that’s an 83 percent drop and sales have not rebounded.
The impact also can be seen in the decline of specialty license plate sales for alternative fuel vehicles, which are tied to the registration fee. Every all-electric vehicle — as well as some other alternative fuel vehicles — is subject to a $200 fee. Owner of such cars can opt to get the specialty license plate in return, giving them access to Atlanta’s HOV lanes.
However, since the change in state policy, monthly license plate sales are down nearly 60 percent.
For champions of the clean-fuel cars, the statistics are sobering.
“We should be around 40,000 vehicles now,” said Jeff Cohen, founder of the Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition. “We’re not growing.”
Backers of alternative fuel vehicles like Cohen have complained that lawmakers turned one of the friendliest states to the electric car into one of the least hospitable.
“According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, sales and leases have dropped over 90 percent,” said Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, a proponent of the tax credit and owner of two electric cars. “The tax credit was key to our growing this market.”
No one disagrees with that, but it made some conservative lawmakers uncomfortable. Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, served on a special joint study committee created last year to look into alternative fuel vehicles and said the dramatic decline shows the tax credit only propped up an industry that didn’t have wide consumer support.
“Our previous electric car tax credit was too generous, too rich. We have to strike a balance on what is good for the economy, what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the consumer,” said Miller. “It should be market driven, and a free-market approach answers a lot of questions.”
Credit not likely to be revived
Attempts last year to reinstate a version of the tax credit failed, and the joint study committee met three times last year and issued no recommendations. And Miller made it clear the committee was taking a wait-and-see approach to any new measures.
“At this point it’s really fluid because we are still working on trying to develop the right kind of policy that will move us forward,” Miller said. “With energy prices at their current state, it’s difficult for people to justify the investment in alternative energy and that has slowed the pace of our exploration.”
Advocates hoping the state would consider new incentives got little encouragement from the study committee.
“I’m going be as generous as I can,” said Don Francis, director of Clean Cities Georgia, a federally supported initiative. “I was disappointed at how they approached it and what the output was.”
Francis testified at the final meeting of the study committee that the elimination of the tax credit was costing both consumers and the state money as drivers spent more on gasoline and most of those dollars left the state.
Francis said it was pretty clear the committee wasn’t interested in revisiting the tax credit and instead focused on what the state could do to support business uses for alternative fuels while supporting refueling and recharging infrastructure.
There are no disinterested parties here. Miller, for example, is a car dealer and not for Tesla. Cohen is North American sales manager for General Electric’s vehicle charging stations. Car companies like Chevrolet and Nissan, which produce the most popular all-electric cars, are weighing in as well.
Sales of specialty license plates for alternative fuel vehicles plunged when the General Assembly removed a $5,000 tax credit for electric cars in 2015, as figures from the Georgia Department of Revenue show.
Registration fee highest in nation
But there are legitimate policy questions too.
Should the state put a thumb on the scale to entice consumers to buy one type of car over another? Are consumer tax credits bad policy generally? Doesn’t the state have an obligation to address air quality and climate change by encouraging clean energy?
Francis, Cohen and others who want more state support for electric vehicles are retooling and focusing heavily on the annual registration fee. The fee, which this year will be slightly above $200, is meant to offset the gas tax which electric vehicle owners obviously do not pay but go to fund repairs on the roads everybody uses. However, the indexed fee, which this year will be slightly above $200, is the highest in the nation and there appears to be some support for lowering it.
“I think that’s a realistic priority,” Cohen said.
Cohen is bullish on electric cars (he owns three) and believes that sales will slowly rebound on their own, particularly if the lawmakers reduce the penalty to something less punitive.
“I’d rather see the registration fee addressed to maintain our population,” he said. “I’d rather not fight for a tax credit that market data may not prove we need.”
Francis said there may be a way to return a portion of the tax credit’s incentive by giving buyers a break on sales tax at the point of purchase.
“A lot of states are doing sales tax exemptions rather than credits,” he said.
Whatever the outcome, unless policy changes soon, Georgia’s unlikely position as No. 2 on the electric car rankings (way, way, way behind No. 1 California) likely is doomed.
As AJC Watchdog, I’ll be writing about public officials, good governance and the way your tax dollars are spent. Help me out. What needs exposing in your community? Contact me at email@example.com.
US Plug In Electric Vehicle sales are on a tear in 2016 up +31% vs. sluggish 2015 but also up +20% vs. the record setting 2014. So what’s going on? Two words: pricing and innovation.
Tesla delivered 34,455 Model S and Model X through September 30th following a very aggressive (for Tesla) sales push which included Model S and X ‘inventory vehicles’ – produced without a buyer and the ramp up of Model X production. Tesla reportedly converted a number of Model 3 buyers to Model S with its newly re-priced $66,000 base price. I visited Tesla stores in Atlanta and Cleveland where the store”cupboards” were bare and exhausted Product Specialists had delivered every vehicle they could get their hands on before September 30th. Tesla began to make deliveries of its 0-60 in 2.5 seconds P100D with its 315 mile driving range as well.
Chevrolet VOLT – sales for the second generation model and its 53 mile all EV range are up +76% to 16,326 units, beating full year 2015 (15,393) and on pace to best 2014 (18,805). Used car buyer are discovering a great value in the VOLT, which sell for less than 40% of the price of its price when new, attracting the next generation of buyers to the versatile 400 mile range VOLT.
BMW X5 xDrive 40E at almost 4,600 units helped push BMW “E” sales up by 24% off-setting lower sales for the i3 (2017 model gets a longer range battery pack at 110 EV miles) and i8 both off about 20%. BMW just started shipping the 330E with just 323 units delivered and the 740E arrives in the Fourth Quarter of this year.
Federal Incentives (up to $7,500) are still plentiful and many states also have additional incentives on top of Federal continuing to support EV sales. US gasoline prices are creeping up but still very low so not likely impacting the sales growth of EVs.
The next chapter: 2017 Chevrolet BOLT- officially rated by the US EPA at 238 miles of all electric driving range and a base price of $37,495.00 before Federal Incentives. The long-range, mass market EV may be finally here. That is until the Tesla Model 3 arrives in late 2017.
2016 is turning into a boom year for plug in electric vehicles! According to InsideEV’s monthly sales scorecard, electrified vehicle sales are up +19% (+10,455 units) vs. sales through mid-2015 reaching almost 65,000 in sales. The month of June recorded the highest sales of any month on record breaking 15,000 in sales. InsideEVs Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard
Behind the EV resurgence are four factors:
1). Tesla. Combined sales of Model S and Model X have topped 19,000 units commanding just under 30% of the EV market. Model X reached almost 7,000 units and Model S, refreshed in April, sold just over 12,000 new vehicles through June. The 373,000 Model III advance deposits provide a nice tailwind, as does the recent price reduction on the 2016 Model S (about $5,000 less than a comparably equipped 2015: see our earlier post (New Tesla Model S 60: A good value?).
2). VOLT. The all new 2017 Chevrolet VOLT is outselling it’s Gen 1 model by 73% with sales just under 10,000 vehicles through mid-year. Plug-In hybrid buyers know that the VOLT is their best option for daily electric commutes and the range to go the distance (400 miles). Chevrolet dealers might be getting better at selling the new VOLT; or at least not ‘unselling’it to well educated PHEV buyers.
3). Ford. Ford’s Energi models (C-Max and Fusion) along with the Gen 1 Ford Focus Electric managed to grow unit sales +26%. Ford, through CEO Mark Fields, has committed to invest $4.5 Billion to electrify its product line and offer at least 13 electric models in the near future. Watch the Blue Oval.
4). New EV offerings in total helped support Plug In growth. BMW X5 Drive40e, Audi A3 E-tron, Volvo XC90, VW eGolf and Hyundai Sonata plug in all have added just under 9,000 vehicles through mid-2016. Most of these models did not exist in early 2015.
Two EV have lost significant sales base in 2016: Nissan LEAF (under 6,000 units/-41%) and BMW i3 (under 3,000 units/-36%). Nissan needs to launch the GEN 2 LEAF as soon as possible and BMW may need to adjust the value equation for its i3. At $42-50,000 the 84-110 mile EV is crossing into Tesla territory.
What can we conclude from 2016 so far: new product with longer range is driving market growth and the impact of ‘cheap’ gasoline appears to be part of the history of 2015 Plug In EV sales. Growing charging infrastructure is building confidence in EVs and is slowly chipping away at ‘range anxiety disease’. Major public utilities commitments to building out EV charging infrastructure, especially in California and in the Pacific Northwest is a harbinger of what can be expected across the US: public/private enterprise to support EV charging station build out.
Tesla inventories are reportedly a tad high and the Detroit and Asian Automakers always run ‘end of model year’ clearance sales. Now might just be your time to get into an EV metro Atlantans!
New Again Tesla Model S 60! This past week, Tesla announced the re-introduction of the Model S 60 kWh battery with a range of 210 miles and a base price of $66,000 USD. Other features include the new front end styling and headlamps introduced across the Model S line just a month earlier and the optional 75kWh upgrade to add another 39 miles of range for $8,500.00 USD and the optional Dual Motor for another $5,000.00.
Our sister company, Georgia EVentures, LLC, took delivery of one of the last Model S 60 kWh vehicles produced in March 2015, so we thought we would provide a comparison to see just how good a value the new, now 5 year old Model S 60 is compared to it’s original 60 kWh version launched in 2012.
2016 or 2015 Model S 60 – Which is the Better Value? To make the fairest possible comparison, we used the same color and trim (Blue Metallic, Grey Leather, Obeche Gloss, fixed roof, white headliner), the same options (Autopilot, Tech Package/Premium, Air Suspension) and 19″ base wheels. Supercharging was a $2,000 option in 2015 and standard in 2016; our 2015 Model S has both front and rear Nex Gen seats so a -$1,000adjustment was made to account for the actual cost of the Nex Gen rear seat in the 2015.
Four factors make up the biggest components of value for the new Model S 60:
Base price reduction of $3,900 (-6%) for comparable range (210 vs. 209)
Inclusion of Supercharging which was a $2,000 option in early 2015.
Decoupling of Autopilot and Tech Package/Convenience features saves $1,750.
Future ability to unlock 15 kWh of battery/39 miles but not for $8,500-9,000 as offered today: Tesla is still struggling with how to price longer range battery packs.
Bottom line, before Federal and State Tax Credits (Georgia’s $5,000 ZEV tax credit vanished on July 1, 2015), the “New” Model S 60 is a better value at $4,000 less (-5%) than the 2015 Model S.
As they say, timing is everything. And this might just be a good time to finally purchase that Tesla Model S you’ve always wanted!
Fortunately for Georgia EVentures, the Georgia ZEV tax credit more than made up that difference, providing about $1,000 in lower cost versus the comp equipped 2016: yes timing is everything!
Tesla Nation has officially begun! Since it’s March 31st official launch, Tesla reports over 250,000 $1,000 pre-order deposits have been made for its $35,000 base price ($42,000 well equipped said Tesla CEO Elon Musk) Model III. While smaller, and half the price of the original Model S 60 kWh model, it delivers the same range (215 vs. 208), acceleration (0-60 in under 6 seconds) and overall driving characteristics of its larger brother! Impressive. The Model III will offer AutoPilot suite standard and Supercharger capable with Musk being a bit vague on ‘free’ vs. ‘pay as you go’. Atlanta EVDC is betting it will be free. Why? Because Musk committed to doubling the high speed Supercharger network and quadrupling ‘destination charging’ locations by the end of 2017 (7,000 of each).
Hundreds of Atlantans lined up at the Tesla Decatur, Lenox and Marietta stores to put down their $1,000 deposits and talk with current Model S and X owners.
Photo Credit: Michael Beinenson
Never in automotive history have that many deposits been made for a new automotive model. Automotive dealers may order say 30,000 vehicles for a new launch across thousands of ‘dealer points’ but never before have individuals been able to accomplish this feat.Musk is also doubling the ‘store’ count to about 440 by end of next year with commensurate service centers. So Tesla is making all the right moves to get ready for the Model III.
If you missed the launch event, here’s a link to the 22 minute video – worth the watch!
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