It’s a trope as old as the battle between gasoline and electric cars, and one which we see doing the rounds whenever there’s a drop in gas prices: people only buy electric cars when the price of gasoline is high — and they’ll dump the plug the moment the price per gallon drops.
Yet as Plug In America proved back in December, falling gas prices have very little to do with overall plug-in vehicle sales, regardless of what some pundits say.
Now there’s even more proof to show that falling oil prices aren’t killing electric car sales courtesy of a new study by online used car portal Carlypso, along with a prediction from Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn which suggests that electric car sales are only going one way: up.
Heading towards 1 percent
Examining more than 28 million car sales from January 2013 through December 2014, Carlypso says there’s a growing interest in plug-in vehicles. By the end of the first quarter this year, it predicts that electric car sales in the U.S. will total around one percent of all new car sales, up from 0.86 percent in December last year.
What’s more, the firm says there’s no let up in electric or plug-in hybrid car sales, despite gasoline dropping below $2 per gallon in some areas.
This is in stark contrast to sales of small and fuel-efficient non plug-in vehicles, which have shown a drop in recent months.
“The fact is no one is really changing behaviour when it comes time to buying a car despite the savings at the pump. Consumers still want what they want when it comes to features and choosing certain brands and models,” said Nicholas Hinrichsen, Co-Founder of Carlyspo. “We tell our customers to buy exactly what they want, and let the investors worry about the oil prices. Your vehicle’s value and demand is unlikely to change despite the oil market — even though your charges at the pump may change.”
More than just cheap motoring
The data also suggests that mainstream buyers, like the early adopters who went before, understand something that many automotive analysts don’t: plug-in cars have a whole lot more to offer than just a cheap way to drive to work every day.
Features like remote climate control, remote unlocking and never having to scrape ice off the windshield are a great bonus of plug-in cars, with pretty much every plug-in owner we’ve spoken to (new and old alike) citing them as their favourite features of owning a plug-in.
Then of course, there’s the torquey acceleration, simple refuelling requirements and quiet cabin, not to mention the simple, unstressed driving experience most plug-in cars give.
For the most part too, continuing incentives and some truly great lease deals are bound to be keeping many buyers in the plug-in space, while the continuing rise in fame of Tesla Motors means more people than ever before are familiar with how an electric car works. Just like the early days of the Toyota Prius, word of mouth and first-hand experience is turning new plug-in owners into owner-advocates who are more than willing to share their ownership experiences with colleagues, family and friends.
Ghosn: it’s not just oil prices
Speaking at the World Economic Forum last week at Davos in Switzerland, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that falling gas prices weren’t a concern when it came to electric vehicle sales.
“I don’t think that anything is going to be slowing down,” he said. “We have plenty of consumers buying EVs for other reasons,” adding that oil prices are unpredictable and as difficult to predict moving forwards as they were last year. Oil prices are just one motivation for building electric cars, he explained, second to the ever-increasing emissions requirements being put in place around the world to cut greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.
“Our EV strategy is here not only to face not too much dependence on foreign oil and the cost of all, but also to allow us to meet very stringent regulations on emissions that are happening and will be happening in the future,” he continued. “More and more manufacturers are coming and will be coming to EVs…without EVs and zero emissions, it’s going to be very difficult to meet the regulations on emissions, particularly in China and the U.S.”
Here to stay?
We think the evidence is pretty clear: despite some significant noise from certain news outlets predicting a bad time for plug-in vehicles, the sales of plug-in vehicles are continuing to grow, driven by the ease of use and features offered by electric cars and the growing pressure on automakers to build them.
And with battery technology advancing at a super-fast rate, we don’t think the sales will be slowing down any time soon. Do you?
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