credit: frontpagemag

credit: frontpagemag

My last contribution to the SMM electric vehicle archive was on Feb. 13, 1015: Electric Vehicles: The Thrill Is Gone… Who remembers that in the early days of his presidency, Barack Obama visited a Volt plant–those were the days when he was claiming to have saved Detroit and that vehicles like the Volt would save the environment–and promised that when his presidency was over, he would surely buy a Volt. If you believe that, I have a slightly used national health care plan, loaded with similar lies, for sale.  Call: 1-800-if you like it you can keep it.

Here, from that February article, is the sad tale of why the thrill is indeed gone:

With U.S. sales of plug-in electric cars now averaging more than 10,000 vehicles each month, September sales achieved that mark but fell short of the sizzling pace of the last two months.

Sales of the Nissan Leaf totaled 2,881 last month, bringing year-to-date deliveries to 21,882 [“Deliveries? Ooooh!  They mean vehicles delivered to dealers, not actual sales]

That’s almost a 50-percent increase over last September’s sales of 1,953, and it marks the Leaf’s 19th consecutive month of year-over-year increases.

The Leaf is by far the world’s best-selling plug-in car. Just under 64,000 Leafs have been sold in the U.S. since the battery-electric hatchback went on sale in December 2010.

The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, logged deliveries of just 1,394–its lowest volume since February–and lower than the previous September’s 1,766. The total sales through September are 14,540.

That brings the range-extended electric car’s total sales to 69,092 since it went on sale the same month as the Leaf. 

Chevy Spark

Chevy Spark (isn’t that vehicle sort of–little?)

By comparision, here were the sales figures, circa April, 2014, for conventionally powered vehicles in roughly the same class as EVs:

Toyota Camry: 38,009

Toyota Corolla/Matrix: 29,061

Honda Civic: 27,611

Chevy Cruze: 21,572

Ford Focus: 19,104

The point is that EVs are selling at ridiculously low levels, levels that would normally horrify any manufacturer, as reported.  From January through April of 2015. The Chevy Volt sold only 2718 (about 680 a month), the Nissan Leaf sold 5,638 (about 1410 a month), the Chevy Spark sold 1276 (319 per month) and the high dollar (even by EV standards) Tesla model S sold a whopping 6400, or 1600 per month.  Why would the Tesla do so, relatively speaking, well?  It’s mere price puts it in reach only of the wealthy, people who can afford a spare, green bragging rights vehicle.

Comparing those sales numbers to all of 2014, we find that in 2014, the Volt sold at a rate of 1567 per month, the Leaf sold at a rate of 2517 per month, the Spark sold at the blistering rate of about 95 per month and the Tesla S sold at the rate of 1441 per month. It seems that 2014 was something of a banner year for EVs, but it should be remembered that the Spark was available in only a few states, and that continues to be the case.

Sales numbers like these of conventional vehicles would cause any fiscally responsible manufacturer to discontinue those models in an instant, and in fact, the lore of the auto industry is full of stories of just that happening, as in the case of the Chevy Avalanche, discontinued though it was selling at numbers far surpassing any EV.

Chevy Spark

Chevy Spark (kind of resembles a Smart Car with an extra foot of length, doesn’t it?)

Now, from, we find the latest attempt by GM to cajole Americans to buy their EV products (this is, by the way, GM happy/PR talk): 

Chevrolet announced today Spark EV 1LT’s new manufacturer’s suggested retail price would start at $25,995. Depending on an individual’s tax situation, the Spark EV is eligible for federal tax credit up to $7,500.

‘Chevrolet is committed to making EV driving more accessible, affordable and fun’ said Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet Car and Crossover Marketing. ‘The Spark EV is already the most efficient – and one of the most affordable – EVs you can buy. 2015 Spark EV customers will benefit from an impressive blend of technology, capability and low cost of ownership, now at an even more impressive price.

That’s an impressive price indeed, unless of course, you happen to be a General Motors shareholder, in which case you may be considering suing the GM Board of Directors for breaching their fiduciary obligations. GM is not only not making a dime on the sales of these vehicles, it’s losing enormous amounts of money.

California and Maryland Spark EV owners may also qualify for a $2,500 California state rebate or $2,300 Maryland excise tax exemption. Additional Chevrolet bonus cash is also available: $1,000 in California, $1,200 in Maryland, and $3,500 in Oregon. After full federal and state tax credits and Chevrolet bonus cash, the Spark EV could be as low as $14,995. Individuals should consult a tax professional prior to claiming any credits to confirm eligibility for tax benefits.

Spark EV owners in California and Maryland are also eligible for High-Occupancy Vehicle, or carpool lane, access

A $139 per month* sign-and-drive lease for 39 months with $0 due at lease signing including security deposit but excluding tax, title, license and dealer fees, is also available, making the Chevrolet Spark EV one of the most affordable EVs on the market.

Of course, in places like California and Maryland, those state rebates aren’t free. Someone–could that be the taxpayers?–is paying for every dime so a select few may buzz about, smug in their assurance they’re oh-so-much-more-moral than their gasoline propelled neighbors. And that lease arrangement…have you, gentle readers, ever heard the term “we’re paying the public to take it off our hands?” What company that actually has to make a profit can afford those kinds of terms? As I previously mentioned, the nearly supernaturally wonderful Spark isn’t exactly a widely distributed item:

Currently available at select Chevrolet dealers throughout California and Oregon, select Chevrolet dealers in Maryland will have Spark EV’s available beginning in mid-2015.

More than 90 percent of Spark EV owners are trading in a non-GM nameplate or adding a new car to the household.

‘The Chevrolet Spark EV is helping us reach new buyers in critical markets like Los Angeles,’ said Majoros. ‘Spark EV owners recognize the car as an opportunity to drive an all-electric vehicle that fits their budget and lifestyle.’ The Spark EV features a combined city/highway EPA estimated range of 82 miles when fully charged and an EPA-estimated combined city/highway 119 MPGe fuel economy equivalent.

The Spark EV is compatible with the SAE combo charger for DC Fast Charging as an available option. The capability enables the Spark EV to recharge up to 80 percent of its capacity in approximately 20 minutes at select DC Fast Charging stations based on charging levels and outside temperature.

Unlike most competitors, the Spark EV’s battery system is capable of handling multiple compatible DC Fast Charges daily. Charging can also be completed in less than seven hours using a dedicated 240V charge. A 120V charge cord set comes standard. Charging can be managed and monitored remotely using the Spark EV’s smart phone application, provided by OnStar, which is standard for three years. The vehicle’s 19 kWh lithium-ion battery pack offers limited warranty protection of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Notice all the qualifiers: Fast charging is “an available option.” Fast charging at “select DC Fast Charging stations,” will allow a recharge “up to 80 percent of its capacity,” based on such trifles as “charging levels and outside temperature. Oh yes: “approximately 20 minutes” depending. Fast chargers for the home normally run about $2000.00, not including installation and potential upgrades to one’s home wiring.  Where, exactly, would these “select DC Fast Charging stations” be located, and in what numbers?  What’s that I hear?  Crickets chirping?  And as one might expect, here’s the fine print (this is the asterisk):

*Lease example based on survey. Each dealership sets its own price. Your payments may vary. Payments are for a 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV with an MSRP of $25,995. 39 monthly payments total $5,421. Option to purchase at lease end for an amount to be determined at lease signing. GM Financial must approve lease. Take delivery by April 30, 2015. Mileage charge of $.25/mile over 10,000 miles. Lessee pays for excess wear. Payments may be higher in some states. Not available with some other offers. Residency restrictions apply.

Hmm. That’s quite a few additional qualifiers, isn’t it? I particularly like the quarter per mile mileage charge over 10,000 miles. Isn’t it interesting that a vehicle that is supposed to travel huge numbers of miles at virtually no cost compared to a conventionally powered vehicle–is that not an EV’s primary selling point?–is limited to only 10,000 miles of such money-saving wonder? Thereafter each additional 100 miles costs $25 bucks.

As I’ve often written, if such a vehicle is useful, by all means, buy it–buy one for each day of the week and change them with your underwear– and good luck. However, it’s clear that EVs are not ready for prime time. The technology is insufficient to make them truly useful vehicles and viable replacements for conventionally powered vehicles. Absent amazing and unforeseeable advances in technology, that will always be the case. They’re the automotive version of windmills and solar power. Their advocates extol their wonders, but rational people understand they are not a viable replacement for daily necessities and never will be. They also provide wonderful opportunities for graft and depleting the public treasury.

For city dwellers, and perhaps even some suburbanites, who need drive no more than 25-40 miles per day, and who can plan, substantially in advance, any additional driving around the necessities of charging their vehicle, and who live in uniformly warm climates–cold plays hell with EVs–and who need drive only themselves and perhaps one other–additional weight also plays hell with EV range–an EV might just work. But for people whose daily, or even occasional, driving approaches or exceeds the range of available EVs, or who take the occasional short or longer trip, who live in colder climates, or who just need the flexibility that a conventionally powered vehicle alone–God forbid they might need a pickup truck!–an EV is just not a viable choice as a sole vehicle.

As with just about everything else Mr. Obama has touted as an “investment,” or as a transformational technology or great boon to humanity, the numbers just don’t add up. I’ve predicted this since the beginning of this EV series: when Barack Obama is out of the White House–and if he is not followed by an equally lunatic leftist politician–most EVs will, with a whimper, die.  The brief, weak spark will flicker and go out.