Although it might not be popular opinion yet, the auto industry is certainly moving in the direction of electrified vehicle adoption. Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book have found in an analysis of the auto industry in the US that growth in fully electric and hybrid electric models has grown 81% year over year. For the first quarter of 2021, electrified models accounted for 7.8% of the total US market.

For Q1 2020, electrified models accounted for just 4.8% of the total sales volume in the US. Broken down, last year’s first-quarter sales numbers included 68,247 fully-electric vehicles and 99,719 hybrids. This year, hybrid models more than doubled, nearing the 205,000 mark while the all-electric sales volume fell just short of 100,000.

Tesla’s sales are the majority of EVs

On home soil, there’s no question who the leader in electric vehicle is: Tesla. Under the guidance of Elon Musk, Tesla’s total sales volume for the first quarter was 69,300 units which represents more than seven in ten all-electric vehicles that hit the pavement from January through March.

The best-selling model in their lineup is also the best-selling EV in the US for Q1 in the newly released Model Y compact SUV. In a one-two punch scenario, second place is occupied by the Tesla Model 3, although American sales volume for the passenger car appears to have been cut into by its sibling.

In a distant third place is Chevrolet’s Bolt EV, falling short of 10,000 units for Q1 2021.

Hybrids are growing even faster

Toyota may be the late arrival to come aboard the EV train, but it’s the carmaker’s hybrid models that have been hot commodities. More than half of the hybrid electric model sales – 124,449 to be exact – have been from the Toyota lineup. The top-selling hybrid model is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, followed by Toyota’s all-new Sienna minivan that’s only available with a hybrid powertrain currently.

Cox Automotive reports that more than 60 hybrid models are now available on the market in the hybrid segment, and the second-place carmaker accounts is Honda with barely more than 22,000 units sold in Q1 2021. Ford and Volvo are the next two notable carmakers with hybrid models but barely a fraction of what’s been delivered to this point the year.

Despite the early skepticism around all-electric models, Toyota has been remarkable at selling hybrids.

Adoption depends on battery resources

Whether it’s for full EV or hybrid models, the linchpin to the electrified market has clearly been defined as battery development. Nickel and cobalt mining have become commodities to watch as electrification takes hold, both critical materials for the current battery designs. But EV battery tech is under pressure for more sustainable options, and carmakers like BMW are working toward solid state batteries while Tesla’s Technoking is heralding the possibility of lithium ferrophosphate batteries that are potentially safer, more sustainable, and lower cost.

Cox Automotive’s executive analyst Michell Krebs said, “Electrified vehicle growth in the U.S. and around the world is shining a spotlight on battery development and sourcing. As the industry builds more vehicles with battery packs, sourcing of these parts and lifetime management of the battery cells is a critical hurdle the industry must clear.”

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