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Global Plug-in Sales for the 1st Half of 2018

by Roland Irle, EV-volumes.com

2018 is going to be another great year for plug-ins: 783 000 units were delivered during H1 2018, a gain of 66 % over the same period last year. Preliminary results for July show an increase of 53 % over July 2017. China stands for 51 % of the global volume, so far, and reached a peak share of 4,8 % plug-ins in worlds largest car market.  Battery electric vehicles (BEV) stand for 64 % of the global volume, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) for 36 %. This marks the global average, depending on the individual incentive schemes, the mix of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids varies significantly between countries. BEVs can represent as much as 88 % of plug-in sales, like in the Netherlands, or just 12 % like in Finland. The Europe average was 51 % BEV for 2018 H1; in China BEVs stand for 73 %. In USA this number was 53 % until June, now shifting fast towards higher BEV share with more Tesla Model-3 deliveries.

It is safe to predict that global sales of plug-in vehicles will surpass the 2 million mark this year. We are expecting 2,1 million deliveries,  a 64 % increase over the 2017 result. This is considering the regional growth trends and the seasonality of sales, with 60-65 % of deliveries occurring in the second half of the year. The above numbers are for battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and comprise the light vehicles categories cars, SUVs, MPVs and light commercial vehicles. Medium and heavy commercial vehicles will add another 280 000 sales in 2018, nearly all of them in China. The global plug-in vehicle population will reach approximately 5,4 million light vehicles by the end of 2018, 64 % more than at the end of 2017. Medium and heavy commercial vehicles add 800 000 units to the global stock of plug-ins.

The by far largest growth contributor is China, where we expect sales to increase by over 500 000 units to 1,1 million in 2018. The long awaited Tesla Model-3 will contribute with over 130 000 additional units this year. With deliveries still restricted to USA and Canada in 2018, the Model-3 already was the worlds best selling EV of all categories in June, July, much likely in August and in many months to come. It will completely dominate the North American plug-in vehicle market from now on.

Among the fastest growing markets for the first 6 months were China (+105 %), Canada (+168 %), The Netherlands (+126 %), South Korea (+169 %), Spain (+99 %,) Finland (+148 %), Denmark (+691 %), Portugal (+119 %) and Australia (+98 %). Many Central Europe countries have increased sales 3 to 4-fold, albeit from small bases. The share leader is Norway, as usual, where 37 % of new car sales were Plug-ins this year. Iceland comes 2nd with 14 % and Sweden 3rd with 5 % for 2018 H1 combined. Our Europe story on H1 has more details on this. Among the larger economies, China leads with a plug-in share of 3 %. All other car markets with over 1 million total sales show 2 % or less for H1 combined.

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Over 2 million deliveries and over 5 million on the road

Growth in the 2nd quarter has beaten our expectations, with a staggering 70 % more plug-ins sold than in 2017 Q2. In May, the share in the global light vehicle marked reach over 2 %, for the month of December it can go as high as 3,5 %. Inventories for popular model are tight in a number of markets as in Norway, Sweden  and Germany. Delivery times of 6 month and more are now common in Europe, where most cars are built to order. OEM have announced production increases for the coming model-year.

We increase our forecast to 2,1 million worldwide plug-in sales for 2018, thereof 350-360k in the US, 420-430k in Europe, 1150k in China and 160k outside the aforementioned. The 2,1 million units include passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles. It means +64 % in terms of volume increase and a light vehicle industry  share of 2,2 %. Two thirds of the 2018 volume are expected to be BEVs.

By the end of 2018, the plug-in vehicle population will reach around 5,4 million worldwide, an increase of 64 % over 2017 year end. Still, the impact on the total vehicle stock will be hardly noticeable in most countries. 5,4 million plug-ins on a global light vehicle population of around 1,3 billion, is just 0,4 %, one in 250. Growth is exponential, though, and the overall picture will change much faster than historic sales suggest. Adoption of successful technology is along S-curves, not straight lines.

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China leads growth and volume

China usually starts the year with NEV sales and shares below trend. 2018 had a strong start with +115 % increase in Q1 and +100 % in Q2, including light commercial vehicles. From mid June, new requirements regarding e-range (>150 km) and specific battery capacity (>105 Wh/kg) became effective for subsidy approval. This put a lid on sales of some very popular small and mini-EVs. We expect growth in China to slow down in Q3 and Q4 until OEMs have solved the compliance issues of these models.

Japan is among the very few markets with a contracting plug-in sector this year. More comments about the reasons towards the end of this article.

Europe is a mixed bag, with sales held back by supply constraints in larger EV markets, triple digit %-increases in South and Central Europe, a strong recovery in the The Netherlands and incentive policy adjustments to promote more sales of pure EVs. The increases for total Europe were 40 % in Q1, 45 % in Q2 and 30 % in July.

The USA numbers for January thru June show only partly the Model-3 effect. July deliveries were over 14 000 and August estimates are nearly 18 000 units, pushing total sector growth to 90 % rsp. 120 % in these months.

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