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US EV sales tumble in 2020, but EV load increases with more charging stations

Highlights

US EV sales total 296,000 in 2020

EV load increases to 4.68 TWh

General Motors to switch to all EVs by 2035

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US sales of plug-in light duty electric vehicles in 2020 totaled 296,000 units, which was down significantly from the 331,000 in sales in 2019 due largely to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Platts Analytics Future Energy Outlooks' report released Jan. 26.

The amount of electricity used to power the country's EV fleet came to 4.68 TWh in 2020, an increase over 2019 of 21.3% due to an increase in the number of charging stations. The report also says that the amount of motor gasoline that EVs displaced in 2020 grew 19% to 36 thousand b/d of finished and blended product displaced. Displacement also is expected to continue growing steadily.

Electric vehicles are seen as a major tool in reducing CO2 emissions, so the sales of these vehicles are closely watched. The amount of electricity they use also is of significant consequence to electric utilities that will have to decide whether they have enough generation to supply the growing number of EVs. Gasoline producers will be impacted by the amount of gasoline that could be replaced by electric charging.

However, the trend line of EV sales in the US since 2016 has not been steady, the data shows.

RELATED: GM says to end gas, diesel light-weight vehicle sales by 2035

In 2016, sales hit 160,000 units, then grew to 200,000 in 2017, before jumping to an all-time high of 361,000 in 2018 when production and sales of Tesla's much anticipated Model 3 took off in the last half of the year.

Sales in 2019, however, declined 8.3% year over year to 331,000, due in part to the phase-out of the federal EV tax credit. A number of analysts have argued, though, that it was a general lack of customer appetite and lack of EV supply that caused the 2019 sales decline.

The Platts Analytics outlook data suggest that it may take until 2022 and 2023 to break out of the coronavirus sales slump, and the report projects sales by 2025 will finally break the one million mark. It is projecting sales to top 3 million units in 2030, and 6.6 million in 2035.

EV POWER LOAD

The number of EV charging stations available to the public is a key factor in projected sales growth. By the end of 2018, with approximately 1.04 million EVs on the road, there were just over 64,000 public charging stations installed around the country, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center and EV industry consulting firm InsideEVs.

According to the Platts Analytics Energy Outlook, EV's used 2.94 TWh of electricity in 2018. EV load increased to 3.87 TWh in 2019 and then increased to 4.68 TWh in 2020, according to the data, while the estimated number of public charging stations increased to 75,000 in 2019 and then to an estimated 90,000 in 2020.

Platts analysts now estimate that in 2025, EV load could top 15 TWh, reach 44 TWh in 2030 and 107 TWh in 2035.

Numerous utilities have been moving to increase investments in EV charging capacity in their respective territories. On Jan. 27, PSE&G got approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to invest $166 million over the next six years to help build out the state's EV charging infrastructure.

In November 2020, Duke Energy announced it will install and own 160 level 2 EV charging stations and 40 publicly accessible direct-current fast-charging stations throughout the state of North Carolina.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as of November 2020 Vermont had the highest number of public chargers per capita with 114 per 100,000 people, followed by the District of Columbia with 81 and California with 72.

"California continues to lead the country in terms of the total public EV supply equipment available," the report said.

DISPLACING MOTOR GASOLINE

The Platts Analytics Energy Outlook also provided data on how much motor gasoline light-duty plug-in EVs have and are expected to displace.

It said that in 2020, 36 thousand b/d of finished and blended product was displaced, up from 30.2 thousand b/d in 2019 and 23.2 thousand b/d in 2018.

The data suggest that over the next four years the total amount of product EVs will displace annually will mount and could reach 112.7 thousand b/d by 2025.

The outlook says that by 2030 the displacement could reach 304.4 thousand b/d, and by 2035 could total 689.4 thousand b/d.

On Jan. 28, General Motors announced that it plans to stop production of gasoline-powered light-duty vehicles by 2035 and transition completely to EVs.