According to American Auto Manufacturers statistics, New Hampshire registered 1123 new plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) in 2018, up from 788 in 2017. That’s a 42.5% increase in PEV sales for the year. You might say that’s great growth, but, in fact, it’s a poor showing. Overall, U.S. PEV sales growth was 81.4% vs 2017.
NH has typically been high in the list of new-tech vehicle sales. NH was in the top twenty states in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) adoption and about the same for PEV adoption until 2018. Why this poor showing? Is it poor supply or poor demand?
Drive Electric NH staged three times as many public electric vehicle (EV) events around the state in 2018 as in 2017, reaching nearly three times as many people (over 1500 people by my counting). How does this help? By themselves, these EV events stimulate five to 10% of visitors to purchase EVs over the next year (MA statistics). More EV events equates to more EV demand on top of the general demand level.
More and more people are familiar with EVs, and the EVs now available (150-300 miles range) are a good fit for many NH residents’ needs. Most EV dealers also tell of not being able to keep EVs in stock.
However, EV dealerships also speak of not enough EV prospects coming through the doors. Maybe true, but, if there’s no stock of EVs on the lot and waiting for swaps with out-of-state dealers means delay or failure, and the sales and service staff know less about EVs than the prospect, why go to the dealer?
To sum up, NH EV demand is not yet through the roof, but it certainly exceeds supply.
Now let’s look at EV supply. Conversations with many EV owners, prospects, enthusiasts, and dealership staff continually point out the lack of EV supply as a sales issue. Why do surrounding states have EV supply and not NH? The answer is easy, they joined the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM )/California Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate Alliance that adopted California’s rising EV sales quota system. These states get EV stock from the OEMs, so the OEMs can meet the mandate quotas. The needs of non-mandate states are more readily ignored. NH has not yet joined the NESCAUM alliance (though it still can).
It is not just EV supply that is lacking, it is lack of EV support, too. How much advertising for EVs do you see on TV or in print? Practically none. Not so for trucks and SUVs.
NH has very few charging stations compared to our neighboring states, especially fast charge stations. Look at a map of Northeast fast charge stations (www.plugshare.com) and see the donut hole over NH, and you’ll understand the dilemma. “Why buy if I can’t refuel?” Fortunately, this issue is largely a red herring. Over 80% of EV charging happens at home. No shortage of home charging boxes. New EVs have 150-300-miles range, and with NH’s small size, the likelihood of a NH EV owner needing a fast charge in NH is small. There are plenty of fast chargers (and slow ones) just over the border. Actually, the lack of fast chargers in NH affects EV tourism more than resident EV owners.
The lack of EV incentives also needs mention. Why are incentives important? Two reasons: 1. They work, and 2. The electric car is still not-profitable compared to combustion vehicles, so it needs additional funds to the manufacturer to ease the transition. The states that buy the most EVs have state level incentives, too.
Utilities could also help. NH Electric Coop offers its customers EV rebates, and this program has been very successful. Other NH Utilities could follow suit. After all, the utilities are prime beneficiaries of EV adoption.
Why switch to EVs? 1. Combustion cars damage the environment, climate, and our health. 2. EVs are much less expensive to operate than conventional vehicles. EV owners can save $750-1000 per year on average on fuel and maintenance costs. 3. Those operating costs represent money that stay in NH and does not fly out of state to oil companies and OEM parts. Even better, when the fuel source is local solar. NH could realize two to three billion dollars per year in economic benefit if all its vehicles were EVs, more if the dominant electric source were local solar. In short, EVs are good for the EV owner and good for the NH economy. 4. EVs will shortly be lower cost cars than combustion equivalents. Incentives make up that difference until cost parity is achieved (2020 to 2025). 4. Oh yeah, did I mention EVs are fun to drive?
Is NH EV friendly? A resounding YES for the public. But, the OEMs/dealerships, utilities and government have not understood the ramifications of their foot-dragging.
Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars for eight-plus years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008 and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator.