Will Plug-In Vehicle Sales Drop Off As Gas Prices Fall This Winter?


Current Avg. Gas Prices in US

Current Avg. Gas Prices in US

“Winter blend” gas is upon us and with it comes lower gasoline prices.

Mapping Out Gas Prices in US

Mapping Out Gas Prices in US

Typically, the “winter blend” gas is roughly 15 cents cheaper per gallon than “summer” blends.

What does this drop in gas prices mean for sales of plug-in vehicles?

Not a darn thing.

While some studies suggest that declining gas prices lead to lower sales of fuel-efficient vehicles, there’s simply not enough research out there to make that statement specific to plug-ins.  Yes, conventional hybrid sales typically drop off when gas prices dip, but plug-in buyers are often buying for a different reason.  Most are making that purchase not based on fuel economy, but on the fact that the vehicle has a plug.  Lower gas prices have no direct tie to the plug, so we see it differently than the studies specific to just fuel-efficient vehicles.

Plug-in vehicle sales may indeed decline slightly as winter sets in, but that’s more or less due to the cold climate areas of this nation, where potential plug-in buyers opt to wait until the weather warms to make a purchase.

This is often done for the simple reason that first-time plug-in vehicle buyers would rather not immediately experience the range-sapping impact of cold weather.  It’s a logical decision to hold off on buying until Spring.  By doing so, plug-in buyers get some time to figure out how weather impacts their new ride before the harsh reality of winter is upon them.

So, if we see a drop in plug-in vehicle sales this winter, let’s not tie it to the cheaper “winter blend.”  Though it may be easier to say that’s why sales have dropped, we just don’t believe it to be true.

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13 Comments on "Will Plug-In Vehicle Sales Drop Off As Gas Prices Fall This Winter?"

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Absolutely low prices will lower plug in sales….but no matter what the gasoline price is you still can’t beat the torque and performance of an EV not to mention the quiet and less PITA maintenance.

Anyone who looks past the digits on the pump for a second would see that 15c drop is meaningless. That’s what, 5% at most? An ICE car is going to use 15-20% more gas in wintertime.. Seems like a bad trade to me.

A plug in car won’t be affected as severely, in theory.
Especially if you can plug in to precondition before you leave.

Makes it a win-win year round.

Well, I guess I should add that my experience is from Canada. So northern states the same (15-20%).
Southern states probably don’t see as drastic a change, assuming they all even use winter gas.

To be fair, Plugin cars lose at least that much efficiency as well in the winter due to heat usage…

The winter/summer blend change is pretty small potatoes.

What is going to matter is the Iranian negotiations. We do a deal with Iran (and we really should) then their oil hitting the market could really push the price of oil down a bit.

That would slow the growth of EVs but as long as the incentives are around and the CARB mandate is there, EVs will still sell.

If Iran got back into the global oil selling game they could easily sell two to five million barrels of new oil a day on the global market which would shift oil prices a great deal. But OPEC and Saudi Arabia don’t want that to happen for one thing in that it would undermine their massive oil prices and control on global prices.

I don’t think these lowering gas prices effect the sales of Tesla’s electric cars that much in that considering it’s a $72,000 dollar car and someone who has $72,000 to spend on a car has the finical resources to pay $3.00 or $4.00 a gallon for gas. Also right now Tesla is being limited by there not being enough batteries in the world for it to raise production. As for several of the other types of EV’s on the road I think what is more of a factor in limiting their numbers is the fact that tens of millions of people really don’t understand them personally. And as more EV’s get out on the roads and into daily life it will raise sales on it’s own. Another factor is that main stream EV range for EV’s under $30,000 is 80 miles but if say the range went up to 150 miles that alone would raise more EV sales then gas say dropping $0.50 a gallon. As for dropping gas prices I don’t think we are going to drop down below $2.00 gallon unless some major oil production event happens in that I have looked news paper stories that OPEC needs… Read more »

I was curious about this myself, and plotted the data over the last three years. What I noticed was when gas shot up, car sales would overtake truck sales. And when gas shot down, Truck sales would then lead. Prius sales also loosely followed gas prices (not counting the effects of the lastTsunami). Also, when gas prices were high.. overall sales would dip a bit.

That is excellent analysis kdawg. It really puts some weight behind a plug-in truck or SUV. I am assuming SUVs were categorized as trucks. An OEM could insulate their trucks sales by having a plug-in version that might keep them from losing a sale to a car.

Ev manufacturers are going to need to learn to sell the car for other reasons. Honestly, even if I saved NO money by driving an EV, I’d still want one for the following reasons
-Filling up my car at home and not having to make trips to the gas station.
-Not having to deal with oil-changes, filters, belts, etc.
-Having a car that looks and sounds like it is from the 21st century and not the 19th.

I don’t want a car that sounds likes an electric blower….


“Yes, conventional hybrid sales typically drop off when gas prices dip…”

That’s not actually true. Toyota started that misconception as an excuse for a drop in Prius sales, but it was at the same time the new C-Max hybrid/Energi launched with 3182 sales in Oct, 4848 in Nov and 4310 sales in December, and pulled sales from the Pius line. Along with Fusion Hybrid sales going up 265% in December (from 888 to 3,244), Jan up 398% and Feb up 2425. While Prius sales were down -4.5%(Dec), up 13%(Jan), and down -30%(Feb) for the same time period.

Consumers don’t require a plug to make an effort to use less gasoline. Still for most consumers, going hybrid is the most cost efficient way to switch to battery power, before the leap to a plug. And no matter how much gasoline costs, using less or no gas at all, is always a better option.

Let’s not forget as year-end approaches many tax savvy new car buyers may look to purchase the plug-in that offers the maximum Federal credit of $7,500. To qualify for the credit in their 2013 Federal Tax return they must make the purchase before 2013 comes to a close. My point is, there are many variables that could drive December sales up or down the price of gas is not the only one.