Report: 71% jump in electric vehicle purchases projected for 2021

EVs are more in demand but the pandemic has taken a toll on the spread of charging stations, says analytics company Blastpoint.

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Analytics company Blastpoint has released a study on electric vehicles, finding that there was a more than 30% increase in sales in 2020 as well as a projected 71% increase in 2021 despite significant reductions in general car usage and movement during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The 2021 EV Outlook Report also showed that there was a 25% increase in the number of public charging stations last year and minor increases in the use of electric vehicles for business fleets. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for slower EV commercial expansion, but 2020 still saw explosive sales across Europe and China, and an uptick in US sales," Alison Alvarez, CEO of Blastpoint, said in a statement to TechRepublic. 

"In 2021 as charging infrastructure grows, businesses recover and restart their fleet electrification plans, and state and federal tax incentives return, the American EV industry is poised to flourish anew, fulfilling, and perhaps even exceeding, expectations for growth."

SEE: Big data's role in COVID-19 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The report said the COVID-19 pandemic was part of the reason the expansion of electric vehicles slowed down. With fewer people traveling to work and traveling in general, there were only small upticks in sales in the US. But the industry still saw huge booms in Europe and China. 

The boom is part of what propelled Tesla CEO Elon Musk into becoming the world's richest man earlier this month with a net worth of about $182 billion. Tesla now has a market value of $700 billion, more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM, and Ford combined according to the BBC.

The study found that overall, more than 345,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2020 despite the economic downturn, far surpassing the 245,000 sold in 2019. There are now 1.5 million electric vehicles on US roads, up from 1.12 million in March 2019.

The best-selling new models, according to the report, are all Tesla models. The Tesla Model 3 sold 38,000 in 2020, while the Tesla Model Y and Model X sold 18,000 and 9,000 vehicles, respectively. 

On the used market, the Nissan Leaf led the way with about 28% of all used electric vehicle sales, followed by the Tesla Model S at 18% and Fiat 500e at 9% of all used electric vehicle sales. 

Multiple companies began using electric vehicles in their fleet of trucks handling deliveries, with major corporations like Amazon, DHL, Ikea, and AT&T leading the way, the report found. 

Most of the companies were using commercial fleet brands like Green Power, Lion, and Phoenix.

"Most of these vehicles can travel 150 - 250 miles before needing a charge, indicating that robust charging infrastructure along interstate transit routes is necessary for more freight companies to adopt," the report said. "Heavy duty EV models by Volvo, BYD, and Freightliner are expected to be released soon."

In terms of charging stations, the study found that 6,000 new stations were built in 2020 and 7,000 more were opened to the public compared to 2019. 

As of 2020, there were a variety of kinds of charging stations available to consumers. So far, there are 28,000 J1772 charging stations across the country, 5,500 Tesla charging stations, 2,970 J1772 combo stations, 2,700 CHAdeMO stations, and 645 NEMA 5-20 stations. 

"Most charging stations listed in the Alternative Fuels Data Center database have J1772 outlets available. These are the 'universal' North American EV plug. The J1772 Combo outlet, an upgraded version, is less readily available. CHAdeMO outlets, used for fast charging, are also less prevalent, and there's a lot of opportunity for increasing their availability," the report found.

"Tesla's proprietary outlets are more widely available at charging stations across the US than combo plugs and CHAdeMO plugs; however, only Tesla EVs can utilize them. Finally, less than 1K NEMA 5-20 outlets are available at charging stations; these are essentially standard electrical plugs and are not ideal for charging on the go, as they are fairly slow."

The report's researchers added that most chargers can be found at stores, gas stations, hotels, offices, and some apartment buildings. 

The study also looked into the benefits some states offer to those who buy or lease electric vehicles, finding that Vermont, California, Hawaii, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., all provided some form of credit or benefit for buying one. 

In Vermont, the state offers an income-based rebate of up to $5,000 for any electric vehicle purchase and an emissions reduction grant. It also has the highest number of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) of any state with 105.3 EVSE per 100,000 people. 

California provides a variety of state and municipal rebates or loan programs for those buying electric vehicles and has 64 EVSE per 100,000 people. Washington, D.C., offers an excise tax exemption, reduced registration fees, and up to a $1,000 tax exemption for home charging installations. The city also has 63 EVSE per 100,000 people. 

Hawaii has reduced rates for electric vehicle charging and provides carpool lane access to electric vehicles. There are 47.7 EVSE per 100,000 people in the state. Colorado similarly offers some tax credits for electric vehicle purchases or leases and has 40.9 EVSE per 100,000.

"State government incentives have been key to boosting EV adoption. More state incentives in 2021 could propel adoption forward," the report said, adding that there need to be more federal tax credits in order to push more people to buy electric vehicles. 

"At the close of 2020, federal tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 were available to consumers buying new, qualified electric vehicles. However, per federal guidelines, tax credits no longer apply to any manufacturer that has sold more than 200K electric cars. This means buyers of Tesla or General Motors electric models cannot receive tax credits, as both brands have exceeded 200K EV sales."

The report notes that there are no federal tax incentives for purchasing used electric vehicles but some states, cities, and utilities do offer rebates and credits for pre-owned electric vehicles.

For 2021, the study predicted a 70% increase in electric vehicle sales in the US and said that as charging infrastructure grows, businesses recover and restart their fleet electrification plans, and state and federal tax incentives return, the US electric vehicle industry may see even bigger growth.

The Blastpoint report said companies are expecting explosive growth in 2021 as more focus is shown toward climate issues and as businesses recover from the devastation of 2020. 

It also predicted that President Joe Biden would have an effect on electric vehicle sales as well, considering one of his first actions as president on Wednesday was making sure the United States rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement.

"Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, as Joseph R. Biden takes over the White House, look out for newer, broader policies that move the U.S. closer to a zero-carbon future. Expect emissions standards to lower, fuel efficiency minimums to raise, investments in U.S. EV manufacturing, and consumer credits for trading in combustion engine vehicles," the report said. 

"While the coronavirus somewhat dimmed EV growth, it didn't stop sales altogether. Consumers were stuck at home, traveling less and making shorter commutes, finding 2020 a great time to buy electric. The Chevrolet Bolt, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Tesla Model 3, and Audi e-Tron all saw a spike in U.S. sales in 2020. In 2021 as charging infrastructure grows, businesses recover and restart their fleet electrification plans, and state and federal tax incentives return, the American EV industry is poised to flourish anew, fulfilling, and perhaps even exceeding, expectations for growth."

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