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Transmission: EV sales jump 45 percent in Q1; 100+ companies have now signed Climate Pledge

Anyone who’s been tracking electric vehicle sales for the past decade, like yours truly, knows that progress has been slow but steady. It looks like 2021 might be a year of more dramatic change, which is a great bit of news to hear as we honor the 52nd Earth Day today. First celebrated in 1970, April 22 is the day when over a billion people in more than 190 countries take some sort of action to help the environment, according to Earth Day organizers.

Electric vehicle sales rise 81% in first quarter of 2021.

You might think every day is Earth Day when you drive an EV, which might be a reason that the combined sales of EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids in the U.S. rose to over 300,000 in the first three months of 2021. According to figures from Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book, all of those electrified vehicle sales made up 7.8% of the total automotive market in the first quarter, a big move up from the 4.8% they totaled in Q1 of 2020. Overall, electrified vehicle sales grew 81% last quarter, way ahead of the average industry sales growth of 11.35%.

When we separate out the pure electric vehicle sales, the numbers remain notable. EV sales were up 44.8% year-over-year, with almost 100,000 sales last quarter. This is a record, Cox said, and it’s especially something to pay attention to when contemplating future trends, given that the overall automobile market increased by just 11.4% in the first quarter of 2021.

It’s not just Tesla that’s selling a lot of EVs. The California automaker did sell the majority of those 98,832 EV sales so far this year, with an estimated 69,300 sales in Q1. But that means Tesla made up 71% of all EV sales last quarter, a drop from the 83% share it had in the first quarter of 2020. Other EVs with decent sales last quarter include the Chevrolet Bolt (third place after two Tesla models) and the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which came in fourth.

Toyota, unsurprisingly, led the hybrid sales category, with the RAV4 Hybrid now claiming the title of bestselling hybrid in the U.S. and the new Toyota Sienna minivan, which is only available as a hybrid, taking second place.

Automotive industry well represented in new Climate Pledge signatories.

For Earth Day this year, Amazon announced new signatories to the Climate Pledge, a voluntary commitment that was co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism as a way to get companies to “meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early and achieve net-zero carbon by 2040.”

The total number of signatories roughly doubled with the announcement this week that 52 additional companies have signed the pledge, bringing the total number to 105. In the automotive and transportation space, the names that jump out include Karma Automotive, Alaska Airlines, Rail Delivery Group, Convoy and Optimus Ride. Large, non-transportation companies that are new to the pledge include Heineken, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo and Visa.

Convoy is a notable name in the shipping industry, helping to move freight for companies like Anheuser-Busch and Unilever. The company uses its “efficient digital freight network” to optimize the logistics of thousands of truckloads in its connected network of carriers in the U.S. each day.

“Convoy is proud to sign The Climate Pledge and support real carbon-reducing actions, and we will continue to work to achieve our mission to transport the world with endless capacity and zero waste,” said Dan Lewis, Convoy co-founder and CEO, in a statement.

Similarly positive things about the pledge came from Optimus Ride CEO Sean Harrington. Optimus Ride is notable on this list because it is the first independent autonomous vehicle company to join. Optimus Ride’s mission is to make electric mobility easier to find through on-demand solutions that “replace single-passenger rides in localized communities like campuses and residential developments,” the company said.

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Sebastian Blanco

Sebastian Blanco has been writing about electric vehicles, hybrids, and hydrogen cars since 2006. His articles and car reviews have appeared in Car and Driver, The New York Times, Automotive News, Reuters, SAE, Autoblog, InsideEVs, among others. His first green-car media event was the launch of the Tesla Roadster, and since then he has been tracking the shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles and discovering the new technology's importance not just for the auto industry, but for the world as a whole. He tracks the supply chain details of this shift through the Transmission show and its accompanying newsletter.