For such a car-centric nation, it’s a little depressing that the US lags behind the European Union and China when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. Without a large investment to redesign our towns and cities to make them walkable and accessible via public transport, switching en masse to electric cars is the main remaining avenue left to decarbonize our transport, after all. So it is rather encouraging to see signs that more US car buyers are opting to go electric, as sales have climbed 50 percent, year on year, as uptake reaches almost 8 percent.
According to Kelly Blue Book, US car buyers bought 313,086 battery EVs between the months of July and September 2023, compared to just 209,030 BEVs for the same three months of last year. Add in the 882 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell EVs and 68 Hyundai Nexo FCEVs that found homes in Q3 2023 and that’s a 50.1 percent increase, year on year.
The cumulative totals for all of 2023 so far are also looking healthy. KBB estimates that 873,082 BEVs have been bought this year, versus 586,965 for the first nine months of 2022. Add in about 2,800 FCEVs compared to around 1,000 last year, and clean vehicle sales grew 49 percent, year on year.
“At last check, we had 15 new EV models for sale that were not available a year earlier. Better choices and more options are helping push prices lower and drive higher sales,” said Stephanie Valdez-Streaty, director of industry insights at Cox Automotive, which owns KBB.
It’s no surprise that Tesla had the largest market share of EV sales. The automaker only builds BEVs, and it has been doing it long enough that annual production is well into seven figures. But KBB’s data does not paint an entirely rosy picture for the Texas-based OEM.
A big loser
Tesla sold 156,621 cars in Q3 and 493,513 cars in 2023 to date, both of which are more than for the same periods in 2022. However its market share has fallen from 62 percent to 50 percent as other brands begin to find their feet in terms of production. More importantly for the automaker, growing 26.3 percent year on year can only be seen as a big miss when the company repeatedly says it must grow at 50 percent year on year, something it also failed to do in 2022.
Tesla has engaged in multiple rounds of price cuts in the US and abroad this year, and its Model Y crossover remains a strong seller, but there are declines of between 3 and 66 percent for its other three offerings.
Tesla’s price cuts have affected the entire sector. In September, the average price of a new EV was $50,683 versus $52,212 in August, according to Cox. And there are evidently deals out there—Cox says that incentives for EV sales were almost 10 percent of the average selling price, or $4,991 per car. (That ignores the IRS 30D clean vehicle tax credit, which now only applies to some EVs.)
Cox says that it’s seeing plenty of supply of new EVs, too, with 97 days of inventory compared to less than 60 days’ supply for internal combustion engine cars at the start of September. For context, supply of both EV and gas-burners was around 52 days at the start of the year.
Lots of little winners
That increase in supply is reflected in the numbers, with 11 different brands showing triple-digit sales increases when comparing Q3 2023 with Q3 2022, with six additional brands—Brightdrop, Fisker, Lexus, Subaru, Toyota, and Vinfast—each having introduced new BEVs this year.
In percentage terms, Volvo showed the biggest gain comparing Q3 23 to Q3 22, up 654.1 percent, increasing sales from 542 to 4,087. Nissan posted a big percentage, too; with the addition of the Ariya crossover to its range, it sold 6,074 EVs in Q3 2023 versus 1,276 for the same three months last year, a 376 percent increase.
Modern new EVs from BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes appear in demand; those brands grew sales by 199 to 283 percent, but, perhaps more meaningfully, all three pushed their EV sales into five figures for Q3 2023. (Jaguar’s impressive-looking 290 percent increase only reflects increasing sales by about 60 cars compared to Q3 2022, however.)
Comparing year-to-date sales from 2023 and 2022 paints a slightly different picture. Nine brands showed year-on-year increases when comparing sales for the first nine months of each year, with an additional six brands joining the market. Rivian has grown by 191 percent, selling 36,636 EVs in 2023. Chevrolet sold 49,531 EVs for the first nine months of 2023, an increase of 125 percent compared to the same time period in 2022. BMW broke 31,043 EV sales, and Mercedes moved 29,686 EVs, year-on-year increases of 265.6 and 338.7 percent, respectively.
Ford saw a more meager increase of just 13.2 percent, year on year, but with 46,671 EV sales, it is third in overall EV market share (5.3 percent) after Tesla (56.6 percent for the first nine months of 2023) and Chevrolet (5.7 percent).
But there are some sales declines, too. Kia’s EV sales fell by 6.4 percent, year on year. Porsche EV sales dropped by 9.7 percent for the same period. British EVs may be suffering from the traditional stigma of automotive electronics from that island—Mini and Jaguar were down by 24 percent compared to 2022. But the biggest annual decline was seen at Mazda. It sold 324 MX-30s for the first three months of 2022; by contrast, it sold just 100 MX-30s during the first nine months of 2023.