EIA Predicts Plug-In Purchases to Pop to 2% by 2040

DEC 29 2013 BY MARC LEE 45

The US Energy Information Agency has projected that plug-in vehicles sales will reach 2% of overall Light Duty Vehicle (LDV) sales by 2040. If overall LDV sales were to hold constant, this would amount to about 290,000 annual plug-in sales by 2040 (at today’s annualized rate). I’m not sure how one even makes a prediction of such a thing 26 years out, and keeps a straight face, but there it is.

Around 300,000 plug-in sales per year doesn't seem like a lot of growth...especially considering the myriad of new players, like the Outlander PHEV (above), who are still yet to go on sale in the US.

Around 300,000 plug-in sales per year doesn’t seem like a lot of growth…especially considering the myriad of new players, like the Outlander PHEV (above), that are still yet to go on sale in the US.

For those like myself who have so little to do that annual sales of plug-ins are dancing around in our heads like sugar plum fairies, this prediction strikes as being a touch low.

Taking the growth from 2012-2013 of plug-in sales and projecting it out, one can see in the chart below that plug-ins will reach 290,000 annual sales some time between 2017-2018. Of course, it is highly unlikely that sales will grow by exactly 44,000 each year. I feel quite certain in saying that the number will be either higher or lower than that.

Also note, that 2017-2018 is when the cumulative sales of plug-ins will reach 1 million cars. Obama will have missed his 2015 target by 2 or 3 years. We’ll leave it to Fox and CNN to hash out whether this is abject failure or success or just maybe something in between.

Current Plug-In Growth Rate Extrapolated (linear growth model)

YearSalesCumulative Sales
2011          17,000             17,000
2012          52,000             69,000
2013          96,000           165,000
2014        140,000           305,000
2015        184,000           489,000
2016        228,000           717,000
2017        272,000           989,000
2018        316,000        1,305,000
2019        360,000        1,665,000
2020        404,000        2,069,000
2021        448,000        2,517,000

Source: EIA

Categories: General


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45 Comments on "EIA Predicts Plug-In Purchases to Pop to 2% by 2040"

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Sorry, I don’t buy this either. I’m always a bit pessimistic when I see these overly optimistic predictions of EVs overtaking ICE in like 10 years. But this prediction is just as ludicrous in the other direction.

I expect plug-in vehicles, especially the weaker PHEV vehicles like the PiP to become mainstream within the next 2-3 years. Its only a matter of time before battery and component prices are cheap enough that there is no substantial price difference between a Prius and a PiP. In which case, why would anyone want the non-plug-in version. Right now people complain about cars like the PiP because they say “what is the point of 11 miles” but if you get that feature while paying little to no extra on the price of the car, then why not?

Yes the thought that sales will only grow from 100k to 300k in 26 years is of course absurd. At this point even an oil company is predicting that “by 2070, the passenger road market could be nearly oil-free”


And agreed that ” weaker PHEV vehicles like the PiP to become mainstream”…first. Given the automaker support of Obama’s stricter fuel efficieny targets it seems they have embraced the notion of hybrid and PHEV tech.

The EIA seem to be a bunch of fossil-affiliated douchebags.

A couple months ago I approached them with a factual question about the way coal plants behave overnight (to figure out the impact of EV off-peak charging in coal regions).

They sent me from dept. to dept. and in the end deflected the question. All was in a very evasive and non-friendly manner, as if I was asking some ridiculous and irrelevant question that they have no idea why anyone would be interested in.

Who knows, the EIA might still be a holdout of Bush era thinking.

Maybe they reacted in a non friendly manner because they do not like to be called “fossil affiliated douchebags”.

Oh….. what a genius that you are.

I contacted them in a perfectly polite manner.

They were rather polite, too, but were also rather perfectly useless, in a way that suggests “intelligent design” if you know what I mean.

It’s pessimistic, or it’s the oil industry trying to discourage consumers to buy an electric car?

I have no doubt about the answer.

This prediction is stupid.

Plug-in sales are exponential because of price drops and more options to chose from, since every automaker will have at least one model available. This prediction doesn’t even consider the impact the Tesla Model E will have in EV sales around 2017. Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Tesla are going to be the big 3 automakers in electric cars field. Nissan will fail if they don’t solve the battery pack problem, that have planned obsolescence in it’s design.

EV adoption will be much similar to smartphone adoption, that began slowly with overpriced iphones and a few years later Android toke over and brought it to the masses.

Not just the Model E. It doesn’t account for the Model X or just about any advancement in the tech or improvement in cost or relative increase in the cost of gas. They just pulled 44K out of an orifice and did some annual addition.

Renault/Nissan spent billions developing their EV products. After them Ford, BMW, VW etc are also making huge investments in developing electric vehicles. It is clear to me all these auto makers see a big EV market, much bigger than 2% by 2040.

its only paid news and paid statistics.just keep this to your self 😀 ……..
who cares a damn about these stupid “predictions”

Article suggestion!

What is the EIA’s bias? Who is on their panels, and committees? Where has their director/assistant directors worked previously? and Where do they collect their money? (I assume income tax payers, or is it like only a tax on energy that keeps them going???)

They may be looking at fuels futures prices and determining that EV prices may not come down as fast as some predict. If the magic 500Wh/kg comes to fruition T a price of $125/kWh then things will change dramatically. Maybe the EIA has people from Missouri on staff?

For the IEA to be right there have to be no significant battery breakthroughs in the next 26 years and a company with serious BEV ambitions like Tesla will have to fail to become more than a marginal player or more likely go out of business all together.

The worrying thing is that when the powers that be predict things a certain way they also have the power to make things happen like they predict. They are basically just telling us how it’s going to be.

This is demonstrated by the fact that 0% of significant battery breakthrough announcements in the past decade has ever resulted in a product and all sort of nasty things including multiple lawsuits and a few somewhat eyebrow raising fires are making Tesla’s life increasingly difficult Tesla right now. I think we can safely predict that Tesla’s troubles have only just begun and that we can safely assume that no battery breakthrough announcement will ever result in a product until there is no money to be made with fossil fuels any more .

I do agree that things have been made much harder than they needed to be, but I now think there’s too much money involved with plug-in vehicles for it to be stopped.

Governments want them and large car manufacturers are slowly but surely getting on board. I think every major car manufacturer will have a plug-in car in their range within the next 5 years, and probably most will have both a BEV and PHEV.

I hope you’re right but I wonder how these predictions come about. 2% is an absurdly low number and it really sends a worrying message that we should prepare for decades more of oil addiction. I wonder why IEA would put out a message like that.

I think some worry is not unjustified, best to not be complacent just yet. On the other hand the IEA has an absolutely atrocious record on predictions. Oil production and price has been my favorite over the last 10 year or so!

I don’t buy this for a second. I think it’ll be more like 5 years before we have 2%

Next year should be roughly .8% (16 Million sold, 130K plug-ins).

To accelerate the progress of EV technology, we should ban ICE car sales that are more expensive than $50 000. This would create good demand for long range electric vehicles, because the rich do not like the idea to stop charging every 150 km.

Sorry, I really don’t like it when the government bans ANYTHING. When they start banning things, it is only a matter of time before something YOU like gets banned.

sorry, i used wrong word. Expensive ICE cars should be taxed.

Subsidizing cheap electric cars just does not make sense and it is mostly wasting of money, because people are not interested to buy those very unpractical cars.

Prices are dropping but so will the federal tax credit and state based rebate programs. Today’s $34k Volt with 7500 credit and 1500 rebate in CA along with HOV tag access will not be here by 2018. Would people pay $34k over $20k for a 40mpg car in 2018 once 200k units are sold? The EIA is looking at things in a more realistic manner. People buy primarily based on the monthly payment price. The slowly rising interest rates indicate 5-6% car loans will be back by then. The economy is preparing to be squeezed and this is because we all have to participate in paying down our national debts – US and Europe now handing economic growths to other parts of the world.

2% penetration in 46 years is ludicrous. They might as well have said “EVs go away”.

It’s very hard to predict tipping points but that’s what we need to have. This will occur when the majority of manufacturers have 200 mile EVs with a lifetime cost on par with similar sized ICEs. The book “Crossing the Chasm” describes exactly the phenomena. We are in the innovators phase now. That comprises 2.5% of the market. Vehicles like the Tesla Model S do a lot to move us to the next phase – early adopters. The tipping point comes when we cross the “chasm” to the

Too bad we can’t link URLs but cut and paste in your browser to see the diagram. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/45/DiffusionOfInnovation.png

Trying to predict out that far is completely pointless.

That number does seem incredibly low though and an extremely unlikely outcome.

I agree with the prior comments — this prediction is so much low-grade balloon juice.

I would also point out that the EIA has a long track record of making laughably conservative estimates regarding things like energy use and CO2 emissions. So this particular instance shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

For the record, I think we’ll hit 2% in 4 to 5 years. About the only way that won’t happen is if advances in battery technology suddenly come to a complete stop. And even the Koch brothers don’t have the power to do that.

I agree, Lou and so does Futurist Lars Thomsen.

Mr. Thomsen is featured in a story on Green Car Reports, written by the sites’ Editor, John Voelcker.

“[…]And futurist Lars Thomsen thinks that electric cars are such a disruptive technology that they will make gasoline cars obsolete–starting in 2016, or much earlier than most other analysts suggest.[…]”

“[…]”As early as 2016,” the futurist predicts, demand for vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines “will decline massively”–with even demand for hybrid cars collapsing by 2018.[…]”


– Never wrong to offer one extreme future to compete with another. lol

On a more studied note, Navigant Research, a well respected organization, has predicted 22,000,000 Plug-In Electric Cars will be on the roads worldwide by 2020!

That is a fleet!



Thomas J. Thias


Lets bring one more player to thd table to counter hard this discreded IEA Report. This new entry comes from one of the biggest energy players in the world, ABB!

“Why The E-Mobility Industry Has Reached The Tipping Point”


…Authors of the IEA Study have just wet themselves!

Best- Thomas J. Thias

Oops, I mean EIA, not IEA! lol!

And gas is supposed to be $2 per gallon in 2040 too…


Here’s a thought experiment that illustrates how I would extrapolate sales figures. The amount the sales grew by between 2011 and 2012 was 35,000 and the following year they grew by 44,000 which is roughly 25% more than 35,000. adding 25% to 44,000 would imply an increase in units sold of 55,000 in 2014 to 151,000 annual plug in sales in 2014 instead of Marc’s 140,000.

I did a quick spreadsheet extrapolating sales out to 2040 based on that logic and it hits the one million cumulative sales a year earlier than Marc’s table. My spreadsheet suggests annual sales of over 305 thousand units by 2016 over a million by 2021 and over ten million by 2031.

Of course no one can use three data points to establish a growth pattern with any accuracy and there is always the possibility of developments that could cause sales growth to speed up or slow down. Who knows?

Excellent analysis!!!

Using very conservative assumptions you have shown that the forecast for 2040 doesn’t make any sense and shows that EIA figures are simply wrong (when I first read the report I though it was a mistake and I still believe they will publish an errata).

The market share of plug-in electric passenger cars in the U.S. increased from 0.14% in 2011 to 0.37% in 2012. The PEV market share of new car sales during 2013 is expected to achieve about 0.60% (about 95,000 PEVs out of 15 million new cars sold in 2013). Therefore, just 2% for 2040 is just ridiculous!

It’s pessimistic, or it’s the oil industry trying to discourage consumers to buy an electric car?
I have no doubt about the answer.

EIA is good for compiling past data. For predicting future data? Not so much.

Whoever pulled 44K per annum growth from wherever until 2021 should be seeking a new occupation. 44K for 2014 seems low but reasonable enough, however after that forget it. That figure is way low and getting lower as time goes by just based on known vehicle plans and their most conservative estimates.

Not if we give to fracks what happens to our children, i.e. diversifying our energy supply to include 50+ percent renewables. LDV is a huge chunk of the energy budget and if King Petrol remains that long I’m personally going to go on a berserker rampage. (BTW, if King Petrol is dethroned by anything, electricity is going to play a bigger role than 2%.)

2 fracks, not to fracks :-}

Just put a bunch of EV’ers together and let nature take its course, numbers will multiply exponentially–and there’s nothing they (naysayers, oil interests) can do about it, except try to control it’s growth by grudgingly allowing the electrical component of PHEV’s to increase slowly. But increase it will and the need for oil will eventually decrease, despite profits of doom that EV’s and their plug-in cousins will be our damnation!

Have a look at page 52 of this Energy Outlook Report from 2003:


Peak conventional oil production at that time was only a year or two away but their prediction of a ‘high’ oil price in 2013 was about $35 a barrel, albeit in 2001 dollars. They were so off target that they have no credibility at all in my opinion.

You’ll have to copy the address, for some reason it’s stripped the .pdf from the actual link.

EIA is just slow. I don’t think there is as much industry shilling as many seem to think around here. Their data keeps the fossil industry honest, day in and day out. So much so, that I believe the oil industry was pleased as punch they had to shut some lights out during the government shut-down.

Their ‘Historic” data is exhaustive, and can be used 6 ways from Sunday to prove just how much oil is a fool’s substitute for American transportation. Their predictions? Not so great.

I think our OP’s prediction is better:

“I feel quite certain in saying that the number will be either higher or lower than that.”

Remember when the Volt sales predictions were pretty optimistic? 65k cars in the second year did not happen. However 44k cars with Tesla predicting half of that being theirs is pretty low imho.

I don’t see a linear growth rate at all. It will be more of an escalated rate like cumulative interest. We just can’t predict what that rate is going to be: 2% or 20% or 200%?

As each of us preaches EVs to our own 6 sigma, it will be an explosive thing. It’s still about the initial cost though. Cost has to come down (without incentives) to where an EV with energy savings is the same as an ICE with expenses.

I think the tipping point is 200AER (120nominal) before people will feel comfortable in EVs as their primary car. AND the TCO is the same over 5 years as an ICE in the same class. We’re almost there.

This is logical and there is physical evidence to prove that this is wrong and that EV and plug in sales might be passing 2% even this year or in the next few months. The evidence is that out of every seven days I see a plug in car every two to three out of them and these are not the same car sitting in the parking lot for the whole these are people different several different plug ins. The Ford C Max plug in is really taking off in sales in my area and they are soon becoming as common as the regular Prius. As for the regular Prius I would have to say that they are already at 10% to 15% in that every parking lot in my area always has five to eight of them parked in them all the time out of 70 to a 100 cars. And the Ford C Max plug ins are taking off and soon establishing themselves into the main car heard in Virginia which is a very fossil fuel hard core state with no plug in in sensitives. At the same this is going on Mitsubishi cut the price of their… Read more »