Chart: US EV sales are having a record-setting year

Ignore the gloomy headlines. Despite some inevitable growing pains, EVs are still on track to transform the U.S. auto industry.
By Eric Wesoff, Dan McCarthy

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A man sits in the driver seat of a car connected to an EV charger in a drugstore parking lot. Graphic reads Chart of the Week

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Despite recent headlines declaring the industry stagnant or moribund, the U.S. electric-vehicle market is actually well past the tipping point for mass adoption — and its healthy sales growth underscores that.

Through the first nine months of the year, EV sales are up nearly 50 percent, already surpassing the full-year total for 2022. And if buyers continue to snap up EVs at the current clip, they’ll easily surpass 1 million annual sales for the first time ever.

By at least one metric, the shift to mass adoption is already well underway: Once EVs account for 5 percent of new car sales, everything changes,” according to an analysis by Bloomberg Green that reports the U.S. crossed that crucial threshold in late 2021. In the third quarter of 2023, EVs made up around 8 percent of U.S. new car sales.

And if you zoom in on leading states such as California, which has a law to end the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, the future becomes even clearer. Sales of internal combustion vehicles in California in Q3 2023 accounted for just 64.6% of new vehicle sales in the state, down from 71.6% in 2022, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.

Factoring in automaker price cuts and state and federal rebates, EVs have also never been closer in price to internal combustion cars. For example, a bare-bones Tesla Model 3 is $38,990 before rebates and fees, while the average price of a new car in the U.S. is about $45,000 today.

It’s true that the bumpy EV transition is causing some very real growing pains for U.S. automakers, and legacy companies like Ford and GM have reconsidered and even reneged on some pledged EV investments. Lower-than-expected demand has led Tesla to drop its prices to those aforementioned competitive levels.

But that doesn’t mean the EV transition has gone off the rails. This is just how transitions to new technologies play out: in fits and starts, with bankruptcy and failure as likely as success and exponential growth.

Eric Wesoff is editorial director at Canary Media.

Dan McCarthy is news editor at Canary Media.