Energy | Transportation | Ecotrope

How Many Electric Vehicles Are In The Northwest?

Ecotrope | April 11, 2012 11:52 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:32 p.m.

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John Duncan of Wilsonville became the first Nissan LEAF owner in Oregon last December. He's now one of 750 drivers of new electric cars in the state. How many more will join them over the next 18 years?

John Duncan of Wilsonville became the first Nissan LEAF owner in Oregon last December. He's now one of 750 drivers of new electric cars in the state. How many more will join them over the next 18 years?

I had been wondering if higher gas prices were pushing more people to buy electric cars. New sales figures – and a new report from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council – suggest that might be the case.

Today power planners announced they expect electric vehicles will demand more power by 2030 than they previously thought. They bumped up their expectations by quite a bit on the low end of the forecast: From 100 megawatts a year in 2030 to 130 megawatts – a 30 percent boost.

It still won’t be enough to require new power plants for the region, though, even on the high end of the forecast (580 megawatts).

More interesting than the power demand forecast, I thought, were the numbers the Council tallied on the current population of electric vehicles in the region. Back in 2009, power planners assumed the Northwest would be home to 2,000 to 8,000 new plug-in electric vehicles in 2011. Were they right?

Just barely. The actual number last year was about 2,000.

By January of this year, there were 314 Chevrolet Volts and 1,572 Nissan Leafs registered in the Northwest. That’s about 17 percent of the Leafs and 3 percent of the Volts in the country, the Council reports.

But that’s lower than regional planners had expected. A lack of new car sales, increases in fuel efficiency for other cars, and a decline in vehicle emissions all could have had an impact on the popularity of EVs, the latest assessment concludes.

The Council expects plug-in vehicles will represent 10 to 40 percent of new vehicle sales in the Northwest by 2030.

But even with a major jump in plug-in sales from 2010, with 345 sold, to 2011, with 17,813 sold, EVs made up .03 percent of all new passenger vehicle sales nationwide last year.

However, sales have been quickly increasing over the past few months – likely in response to $4-a-gallon gas.

In the first three months of 2012, Volt sales were up 224 percent and Leaf sales 283 percent nationwide compared to 2011.

Bloomberg News reports sales of all hybrid and electric cars were up 49 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with last year – from 78,527 vehicles to 117,182.

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