Electric Vehicles Are Just Trolling Cheap Gas

Tesla Model X
Model X hit its stride in a record March | Source: Tesla

One or two consecutive months of electric vehicle sales records would have been cool and/or noteworthy. You could argue they were reactions, countertrends to the fictional trend of cheap gas killings EVs. But five consecutive records, with March setting an all-time high for plug-ins? Now we have a narrative even the Koch Brothers can’t ignore. It’s like electric cars are trolling gas prices at this point, goading them to drop further as if they were in some limbo line at a Caribbean resort.

March’s sales scorecard (per InsideEVs) let us in on this running joke. As gas hovered near $2.00, the cheapest February at the pump since 2009, plug-in sales were never stronger. Deliveries of Tesla’s Model S (3,990) and Model X (1,860) fueled the surge with (estimated) unprecedented delivery numbers, but old stalwarts like Ford Fusion Energi and Nissan Leaf did some heavy lifting, too. Meanwhile, Chevy Volt nearly tripled its sales from a year ago.

If that weren’t bad enough for your preferred oil baron, Tesla added insult to injury by taking 325,000 orders in a single week on an electric car coming out next year. For a fossil fuel titan, that must be like knowing you’re going to get really sick in the coming years but have no way to curb the illness (other than a quixotic smear campaign in the media).

We understand the part about Tesla having production restraints blah blah blah, so we can expect those year-over-year numbers to rise every month until 2050, but we have a hard time explaining why other plug-ins — including ones that haven’t changed whatsoever in years — are spiking on sales charts.

2016 Ford Fusion Energi
Ford Fusion Energi jumped 48% in March | Source: Ford

Start with the Ford Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid from the Blue Oval that has been consistently itself for years. (A new model arrives mid-2016.) Its 1,238 sales in March represented a 48% bump over the prior year, 33% over February, and more than double its total from January. Volt’s extraordinary (192%) year-over-year surge can be attributed to the new model release, but we cite it anyway because the reverse was omitted while sales were low.

Compared to last year, EV sales were up 16%; plug-in hybrid sales were up 73%; and (gasp) Toyota hybrids like the new RAV4 showed strength without any plug at all. That’s when you know someone is trolling an oil importer. It was bad enough when Obama suggested a gas tax to rebuild highway infrastructure; now we have people voluntarily paying more money for cars that save gas?

We are running out of narratives here. For every Forbes or other stock-watch post that guarantees the end of electric cars, we have to wonder whether the authors have the right reading materials. Certainly, there was a rough patch while the old Volt phased out, the Prius plug-in disappeared, and the next Leaf was on tap.

Those days are over, and the electric vehicle segment has never been stronger. If Tesla could only figure out how to make those 300,000 cars next year…

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY