A very rough estimate, based on incomplete data, is that some 10% of cars and light trucks sold on this planet last quarter were pure electric vehicles.
Tesla Model Y. Photo taken in California. Credit: Juan Carlos LTO
In 2019 Australian prime minister Scott Morrison famously proclaimed that his political opponent wants to “end the weekend”.
It was said shortly before elections, and in the context of the rival’s policy on electric vehicles.
Morrison emphasized how Australians love 4WD vehicles and SUVs, and said how his opponent wants to deprive Australians of the possibility of buying such vehicles, and make them buy electric cars instead, and an entry-level electric car is “not going to tow your trailer […] not going to tow your boat […] not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family”.
“Bill Shorten (then-leader of the opposing party) wants to end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles where you’ve got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives. He wants to say see you later to the SUV when it comes to the choices of Australians.”
By the way, Morrison’s party won those elections.
The situation right now
Well, now that it’s 2022, it’s much more difficult to treat SUVs and electric vehicles as two non-overlapping kingdoms. Especially when the Tesla Model Y (an SUV… at least nominally) is on track to become the best-selling EV of the year worldwide.
And when it comes to pickup trucks (the Australian term is utes), which usually have more off-road genes than SUVs – Rivian and Ford, and not only them, have already started shipping all-electric ones.
Also, it’s more and more difficult to treat electric vehicles as some novel idea that maybe will catch on.
If the global market share of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) among light vehicles was really anywhere around 10% last quarter (that’s excluding plug-in hybrids, which are usually included in statistics for EVs), then we’re already past the so-called “EV tipping point” that analysts once predicted to be at 5%.
That future in which electric vehicles are supposed to become popular? We are already living in it.
Not just for fans
The catchphrase about “ruining the weekend” (that seems to be the more popular version), used ironically, apparently became a favorite among EV fans in Australia.
Just to quote an article on thedriven.io about a Facebook group titled (of course) I ruined the weekend:
Photo: Sam Blight
Sam Blight took a casual drive and ruined a whole afternoon in his Kona Electric: “Afternoon ruin out to Yennyenning Lakes which are full this year after good rain.”
Ant Day, who started the group, took a 1,500km [930-mile] trip to Esperance, ruining a three-day weekend with a visit to Edge of the Bay festival and along the way was horrified by some lovely wildflowers, then visiting some very nice beaches.
And a lot has changed since 2019, when Australian buyers looking for an EV didn’t have that many options to choose from. The Model Y is quite popular now (isn’t it boring how that model appears in almost every EV ranking, no matter which country you pick?), taking on the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4.
What’s important is that electric vehicles are no longer just an option for people who specifically want an EV. They are an appealing option for car, or SUV, buyers in general. What was that expression the British Top Gear magazine used when reviewing the Megane E-Tech? Conventionally desirable. You don’t need to be an EV fan to buy an EV.
What is the market share? Well, in the third quarter of 2022, some 4.4% of all vehicles sold in Australia were all-electric. If you want to cherry-pick, September was an especially good month for all-electrics, with a 7.7% market share. The overwhelming majority of these sales are Teslas.
The lack of all-electric utes (all-electric pickup trucks) in the Australian market remains a problem, though. Another example of how Australia is at the back end of the queue when it comes to debuts of new EV models is the Volkswagen ID.4: not exactly a new model in Europe or the U.S., but not available in Australia yet.
There are so many countries where the BEV market is booming right now. China is driving the global figures up: from July through September, more than 21% of passenger vehicle sales in the country were all-electric.
But I’m going to write about the Korean market, and a certain Korean brand, instead.
In September, pure electric vehicles outsold hybrids in South Korea - for the first time. That moment came surprisingly late, given that South Korea is a powerhouse when it comes to manufacturing EVs and their batteries. But a lot of EVs made in South Korea are exported. And exports of the Kia EV6 and the Ioniq 5 – especially the Ioniq 5 – to Europe are still not keeping up with the demand.
Hyundai-Kia’s big selling point is a battery pack that charges from 10% to 80% in just 18 minutes; it’s already used in vehicles sold in Europe and in North America. But a certain SUV using that technology has been reserved for the Korean market so far.
Genesis Electrified GV70. Photo: Damian B Oh
Remember when Korean cars and SUVs were cheap? I do (and I remember how the German automotive press hated them for it). Today, offering affordable vehicles is considered a terrible mistake, one that more and more manufacturers are trying to avoid. The Genesis Electrified GV70 is not cheap. Marketed under Hyundai-Kia’s premium brand, that SUV has no twin model that would be sold under some cheaper brand.
So far it has only been sold in Korea – but that’s going to change soon. Deliveries in Europe are expected to start just about now. Additionally, a factory in Alabama is expected to start delivering vehicles for the American market.
The Electrified GV70 does not look that different from its combustion-engine counterpart. The same can be said about the Genesis Electrified G80, an ostentatious, presidential-looking sedan.
Unlike Teslas, these vehicles are clearly downplaying their all-electric nature. They are luxury vehicles that just happen to be electric.
Japan’s tiny EV
Things might be changing – slowly – even in Japan, a country known for a low market share of all-electrics (ordinary hybrids are super popular, though).
The Nissan Sakura, introduced this year, is an electric kei car equipped with a 20-kWh battery. Certainly not a long-range electric vehicle.
Photo: Hideyuki Nakano, response.jp
But Nissan’s car that is turning out to be kind of popular in Japan. Together with its Mitsubishi eK X EV twin, it sold in over 13,000 units last quarter, and held a 1.6% share of the market. That’s not the share of the BEV market; it’s the share of the entire passenger vehicle market.
Overall, all-electric vehicles are just 2-3% of the passenger vehicle market in Japan – so Nissan/Mitsubishi’s tiny EVs must account for the majority of those sales.
It’s quite affordable for an EV. And – of course – it’s not available in Europe. There is a risk it would be selling too well.
European Union, EFTA and UK: 355,000*
United States: 205,682
South Korea: 49,631**
* not including light commercial vehicles
** might include heavy commercial vehicles
The estimate for the global market of light vehicles (all kinds of powertrains) is 19,274,000 units.
All data is for Q3 2022.
Sources: China, European Union, EFTA and UK, United States, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, estimates for the global light vehicle market.