Gas Car Sales Are Down in China, EU, US. Electric Cars to Blame.

Tesla Model 3

Now, if only we could get US drivers out of their trucks.

Last year, we reported on promising news that Norwegian oil demand might finally be peaking, thanks to a decade or so of ambitious government support and incentives for electrification. (And maybe bikes too.)

The rest of the world is pretty far behind Norway on this front, but Dr. Maximilian Holland over at Cleantechnica reports on a promising step on the right direction. According to publicly available data, sales of fossil fuel-powered cars were down in China, Europe AND the United States last year, while sales of electric cars were significantly up.

Here's the view from China alone:

In the world’s largest auto market, China, total light duty vehicle (LDV) sales declined in 2018 relative to 2017. This was the first year-on-year drop since 1992. Yet, in this shrinking overall auto market, EV sales (including BEVs and PHEVs) almost doubled in volume to 1.1 million, from 600,000 in 2017.

The numbers aren't quite as dramatic in the US and Europe, but they are both still moving in the right direction. In the US, for example, LDV sales were 17.274 million, up from 17.230 million the year before—but EV sales were up 160,000 to 360,000 during the same timeframe. In other words, increased market share and a decline in absolute terms of fossil fuel-powered cars. Meanwhile European LDV sales ticked up an even smaller 0.07 million to 17.75 million overall, but with 408,000 electric vehicle sales (up from 307,000 the year before), the entirety of that increase—and then some—was due to electrification.

Of course, sales numbers can fluctuate—especially as new models come on the market and/or electric vehicle incentives get introduced or retired. And it's also worth noting that Dr Maximilion is talking about light duty vehicles (LDVs), not the increasingly ubiquitous oversized truck. There's a good chance we could see continued electrification of LDVs while oil demand simultaneously goes up, thanks to the apparent appeal of going big, and automakers' willingness to market this dream.

That said, this is still a very promising development. And as is so often the case, change has a habit of begetting further change. We've just heard from BusinessGreen, for example, that Honda is closing a UK manufacturing plant, due in large part to restructuring as it prepares for global electrification.

And let's not forget that Tesla has been planning an electrified pickup truck for some time now too. If they can disrupt that particular segment in the same way that they have upended LDVs, it might just buy us some time while Lloyd works hard to remind people that an oversized electric truck would still be an oversized, dangerous truck.