Electric Cars' Turning Point May Be Happening as U.S. Sales Numbers Start Climb

·5 min read
Photo credit: Bill Clark - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bill Clark - Getty Images


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below."

  • Mass-market EVs have been available in the U.S. for over a decade, but there have only been small, incremental changes in electric car sales for most of that time.

  • However, in the first three months of 2022, EV registrations shot up a huge 60 percent even as the overall market was down 18 percent, according to a report by Automotive News.

  • With great U.S. EV sales comes great charging station responsibility, and figuring out how to offer public charging options to all of these early adopters is an ongoing concern.

American car shoppers appear to have discovered electric vehicles. After a decade of slow but steady sales growth, electric vehicle registrations in the U.S. shot up 60 percent in the first quarter of 2022, even as overall new car registrations dropped 18 percent, per a report by Automotive News that used data collected by financial data firm Experian. It’s the latest indication that domestic EV acceptance may have turned some important but invisible corner recently.

What Percentage of New Car Sales are Electric?

The sharp increase in electric-vehicle registrations at the start of 2022 meant that the EV share of the overall market in the U.S. hit a historic 4.6 percent. While places like Norway—where over 86 percent of all new vehicle sales were electric in March—may laugh at that number, EV advocates know that change happens slowly, then all at once, or something like that.

Currently, it's estimated that around 1 percent of the 250 million cars, SUVs, and light-duty trucks on American roads are electric. However, while it's difficult to estimate future sales, an analysis by IHS Markit projects that 25–30 percent of new car sales could be electric by 2030 and then 40–45 percent by 2035. Using the rates for those projections, Reuters estimates that by 2050 more than half of the vehicles on U.S. roads could be EVs.

What Company Has the Most Electric Car Sales?

One big reason we’re seeing more EVs in people’s driveways is the explosion in exciting new models, from the Ford F-150 Lightning to the Kia EV6 to the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Experian calculated that there were 158,689 new EV registrations in the first three months of 2022.

The big winners were EVs from Tesla (up 59 percent to 113,882 new registrations), Kia (up more than eight-fold to 8,450), Ford (up 91 percent to 7,407), and Hyundai (up more than 300 percent, to 6,964), according to Automotive News. These plus other electric car sales (the Nissan Leaf and the Volkswagen ID.4 were both in the top 10) helped the segment grow to that 4.6-percent record.

Automotive News notes that it and Experian used registration data to get a clearer picture of EV sales in the U.S., since, for example, Tesla does not release sales figures. Other industry analysts have slightly different figures for EV sales at the start of 2022, but they all show major increases compared to last year. Cox Automotive’s estimate of the EV market share for the first quarter of 2022, for example, was 5.2 percent compared to 2.5 percent in 2021. Whatever the exact numbers, something’s certainly happening out there.

What State Has the Most Electric Car Sales?

California has the most EV sales out of all 50 states, accounting for 1,135,387 total units as of April 2022, according to an EV market report by Veloz. That's almost 43 percent of all new electric car sales in America between 2011 and 2022. The U.S. Department of Energy also released data on electric-vehicle registrations in 2021. After California, which had 563,070, the states with the most EV registrations are Florida (96,640), Texas (80,900), Washington (66,810), and New York (51,870), respectively. Meanwhile, states such as North Dakota (380), Wyoming (510), South Dakota (680), West Virginia (1010), and Alaska (1290) made up the bottom five.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Public Charging an Ongoing Concern

More EVs on the road might seem like good news, but some people see danger ahead, particularly when it comes to public charging. Despite the fact that most EV charging happens at home, this isn’t a solution for everyone, which means public charging needs to be readily available for some to keep raising the number of EVs sold.

The age-old chicken vs. egg story remains alive and well in the EV charging infrastructure world, with a story in the Los Angeles Times in April saying that DC fast-charging station operators need eight to 10 charge sessions a day to turn a "decent return," but if you also need to have enough fast-chargers available so that drivers don’t face too many waiting times. Finding the balance, especially with EV sales surging, could prove difficult.

Will Automakers Prioritize EV Sales?

Supply-chain problems plaguing the auto industry may have an impact on which cars are being sold, given that some automakers have to make production decisions about which models to build or not build based on the supply of semiconductor chips or other components in short supply.

If you’ll allow a bit of speculation, the fact that EVs command more attention from the public and the higher starting prices for many EVs could be two potential reasons for automakers to prioritize EVs over internal combustion engine vehicles.

Photo credit: Car and Driver
Photo credit: Car and Driver

You Might Also Like