May plug-in sales: LEAF, Prius and Fusion Energi surge, BMW i3 makes strong debut


Cars were burning rubber off dealers’ lots all over the US in May, as five sunny weekends gave the typically strong month an extra boost. Overall auto sales were up 11% compared to May 2013, a nine-year high.

Plug-ins rode the trend, setting an all-time monthly record – 12,053 Americans charged up new cars in May, shattering figures from April (8,605) and last May (7,454).

The Nissan LEAF widened its lead with an enormous increase to 3,117 units, compared to 2,138 in May 2013. In fact, this represents 15 consecutive monthly records, and the best monthly sales figure for any pure electric in history. Nissan is (naturally) predicting even better things to come. LEAF Marketing Director Toby Perry told InsideEVs, “LEAF is poised to take advantage of a market ripe for higher EV sales thanks to a great value proposition, an engaged base of owner-advocates, rapid increases in charging infrastructure in major markets across the country and new tax credits in Texas and other states.”

The Toyota Prius Plug-In’s performance was similarly impressive – it turned in record monthly sales of 2,692. Numbers have been steadily increasing sales for the past few months, so this is looking less like a rush for the last of California’s coveted “green stickers,” and more like a sustainable trend.

The Chevy Volt hung onto third place – May sales of 1,684 represent a slight gain over April (1,548) and a slight gain over May 2013 (1,607). Steady but slow progress seems to be the deal for now. Perhaps something spectacular will happen when the next-generation 2016 Volt goes on sale in the second half of 2015.

Ford’s Fusion Energi grabbed fourth place with a spectacular 1,342, by far its best month ever. The C-MAX Energi sold 782, a large gain over April, but short of its all-time high. The Focus Electric also saw an increase, with 177 sales.

InsideEVs estimates that Tesla sold 1,000 Model S in May. The company’s first-quarter results, released on May 7, show that Tesla delivered 6,457 Model S during the quarter, roughly equal to its projection but slightly down from the record 6,892 sold in the previous quarter. The company built 7,535 units, building up inventory as it began sending cars to China and continued shipping to Europe. Tesla expects to produce 8,500 to 9,000 Model S in the second quarter, and to deliver 35,000 cars this year, said CEO Elon Musk, adding that sales continue to be limited not by demand but by production capacity.

The eagerly awaited BMW i3 hit dealerships this month, and made 336 sales, an all-time record for an EV debut. Watch this space like a hawk.

The tiny smart ED is selling very well in Europe, and it continues to move a small but respectable number here in the land of the large. At 206 units, sales were basically unchanged from April.

Also down in the B league, the Chevy Spark EV posted an unexpected gain, selling a record 182 in May, after hovering around the 100 mark since its year-ago debut.

GM developing next-generation power inverter


GM is developing a next-generation power inverter capable of 55 kW peak/30 kW continuous power. According to GM’s Sean Gleason, who gave a presentation on the project at the DOE’sAnnual Merit Review, GM is almost two-thirds of the way through the $16.6-million project ($6 million of the funding support came from the DOE), which began in October 2011 and is scheduled to be finished in January 2016.

As specified by the DOE’s 2020 goals, the new inverter will bring the cost of the power electronics to $3.30/kW (produced in quantities of 100,000 units), power density to 13.4 kW/l, and specific power to 14.1 kW/kg, with an efficiency of greater than 94%. The inverter is intended to be modular and scalable to meet all vehicle applications.

For the project, GM is working with Tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers (Hitachi, Delphi, Infineon, HRL, Panasonic, AVX, Kemet, and VePoint) along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Gleason noted that GM has not made prototype power electronics in an internal facility since 1999, and that the company is now considering bringing power electronics production back in-house.

University Delaware to offer BMW Mini-E EVs for lease in V2G project


The University of Delaware is making a small number of BMW Mini-E EVs available for lease as part of an ongoing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) demonstration project. “Individual drivers are now needed to expand the demonstration over a wider range of driving patterns,” said project leader Willett Kempton.

The Grid on Wheels program will lease the vehicles for $3,600 per year, for two years, which includes any major maintenance needed. Lessees must be Delmarva Power electric customers, and must buy an EV charger. If the car is kept plugged in most of the time when not driving, owners can earn payments of roughly $100 per month, or $1,200 per year. 

V2G technology was developed at the University of Delaware by Professor Kempton and EV pioneer Tom Gage. Gage’s company, EV Grid, is a partner in the Grid on Wheels program (read more details in our recent feature article on Gage). In response to signals from the grid operator, a vehicle can discharge its battery in order to help keep the grid stable. This grid regulation is a revenue-generating service that electric utilities pay for – traditionally, it’s done by generators, but batteries are more effective because they can respond faster to grid demands.

BMW built a few hundred units of the Mini-E, which uses a powertrain from AC Propulsion, in 2009-2010. The company moved on to the ActiveE and its new production EV, the i3, but the Mini-E is handy for V2G applications, because it was built with a bidirectional charger.


Source: University DelawareEV Grid