Electric vehicle enthusiasm has never been higher. Between the the record sales, the new charging stations popping up around the country, and the debut of the Tesla Model 3, there is good reason for that. Optimistic as we are, this news has kept us busy for the better part of April. Now for the bad news: There are several EVs that have been stumbling on sales charts in 2016, and there is no sign of them turning around the trend.
We begin with the BMW i3, the car that had a low of 406 sales (April) and high of 1,422 sales (December) in 2015. The attractive Bimmer with the very green interior has seemingly hit a wall this year with just 762 sales through March 2016, representing a 72% drop compared to the same period last year. InsideEVs, which tracks plug-in sales on a monthly basis, suggested the i3’s low inventory has played a role in the drop.
However, the i3 may be battling against its own future model. Now rated at 81 miles on a full charge, the next edition will have at least 120 miles for the 2017 model year, according to reports. It would be natural for buyers to wait it out until the next model.
The Kia Soul EV, a fun ride we tested last year in Los Angeles, is another all-electric model unable to gain much traction in 2016. This car never showed much volume (it peaked at 109 units in 2015), but we had high hopes for it following an announced expansion to Northeast markets. Through March 2016, the Soul EV has only sold 220 units, which makes it an afterthought.
Kia’s plans involved getting more inventory to the U.S. as dealerships on the East Coast were to offer the Soul EV for the first time late last year and in 2016. So far this year, no change has taken place. While the electric Soul’s 93 miles of range are among the highest on the market, this model is in a prolonged slump.
Finally, we turn to the Volkswagen e-Golf, an EV that surged in the fourth quarter of 2015 yet has slowed down dramatically in 2016. In March, its 86 sales represented a 56% drop, year over year, and this was its worst month since it appeared on the U.S. market. As with other cars in the segment, the next e-Golf is set to get 200 miles of range later this decade. For now, the model featuring 83 miles, one of the most affordable EVs available, has run out of juice.
With five straight months of record sales in America, the plug-in market is finally coming alive across the country, and the record reservations made for the Tesla Model 3 suggest a bigger audience is ready. But we still need the products from committed automakers and the charging stations to make them viable. As the slumping EVs here show, the industry needs to catch up on several levels.