This fall has been dominated by downbeat news about flagging U.S. demand for electric cars. Ford and General Motors, two of the automakers once most bullish about an all-electric future, cited weak consumer appetite when they announced big cuts to their EV spending. The resulting swirl of media coverage questioned whether Americans even want electric cars in the first place—or whether this was all just a gross miscalculation.
As we’ve pointed out before, this gloomy outlook doesn’t totally reflect what’s actually going on in the EV market. There have been some recent bumps in the road for sure, but overall, people are buying more electric cars than ever.
In fact, the US just hit a major milestone for EV sales, according to the sustainability research group BloombergNEF. For the first time ever, Americans have bought 1 million electric cars in a calendar year. And 2023 isn’t even over yet.
When you step back and take a look at the bigger picture illustrated by the chart above, it’s clear that EV sales are a major success story. As recently as 2020, only around 250,000 EVs were registered in the U.S. And sales have climbed rapidly since then.
Globally, things are looking positive on the electric front too. In a study published on Tuesday, BNEF estimates that around 14.2 million all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be sold around the world in 2023, a 35% jump over last year.
Meanwhile, sales of combustion-engine vehicles peaked in 2017 and are now declining steadily, the organization said.
None of this means there haven’t been challenges, or that those challenges won’t continue. Indeed, while EV sales are growing in the US, according to some data the rate of that growth has been less explosive than before and slower than automakers predicted. Recent events have highlighted that the EV revolution won’t be clean or consistent.
And why should it be? Developing compelling and affordable vehicles based on a new technology is hard. Reinventing decades-old supply chains is hard. Convincing people to buy the darn things and give up the comfort of combustion is hard too. So it seems only natural that there will be some speed bumps along the way.
However, it’s important not to lose sight of the broader context or ignore that, in many ways, the electric future looks plenty bright.