After outselling manual transmission cars, EVs have set their sights on a new target.
In 2019, electric vehicles achieved a major milestone, outselling manual transmission-equipped gas cars in the US for the first time. Of course, there's still plenty of room for growth; manual transmissions have been on a steady decline for decades, as automatic transmissions have grown increasingly competent and fuel-efficient, while access to fast EV charging stations has only grown. The trend lines were bound to cross sooner or later.
Now, EVs are within firing distance of a new target: diesel light vehicles. Based on IHS Markit data, Automotive News reports that electric vehicle sales could overtake diesel light vehicle sales within the next two years.
That's largely thanks to manufacturers' steps to move into more mass-market-friendly passenger vehicle segments. Historically, electric vehicles have either stuck to luxury segments, their price tags inflated by the relatively high cost of lithium-ion battery cells, or compact hatchbacks like the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt. But with the advent of attainable, mass-market electric crossovers ushered in by the likes of the Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y, and the impending explosion of pure-electric pickup trucks, manufacturers are now growing into the sorts of vehicle segments that are already popular.
That said, diesel isn't going away anytime soon; diesel vehicles are expected to continue to make up around 4 percent of US sales for the next decade, IHS Markit's data show, demonstrating staying power especially in the medium- and heavy-duty truck segments.
Detroit's Big Three remain committed to diesel in light-duty applications, too. For 2018, Ford launched a new turbocharged 3.0-liter Powerstroke diesel V6 for the F-150, to compete with GM's own 3.0-liter Duramax diesel – an engine that just made its way to the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban for the first time in 2021. Diesel engines tend to produce significantly more torque than comparable gasoline engines, with superior fuel economy, which is especially useful for towing and hauling – two key areas of weakness for current EV powertrains.
But with automakers and their suppliers consistently finding new ways to maximize the energy density and decrease the costs of their EV batteries, like GM with its forthcoming “Ultium” lithium-ion cells, the case for EVs gets a bit stronger every year.