America’s Plug-in Car Sales Were Their Best Ever in 2016

For the sixth full year since the U.S. introduction of major-manufacturer plug-in electrified vehicles, sales in 2016 hit new highs and a few records were set.

On the face of it, one might expect that as a matter of course for a still-budding market, but actually 2015 saw declines in the ever-changing electrified vehicle space, not least being from decreased gas prices.

Cheap gas has more adversely affected non-plug-in hybrids however, which have had a 3.19 percent market share in 2013 whittled to 1.99 percent last year – and meanwhile plug-ins are up.

Plug-In Progress

Top on the roster of 2016 achievements is a total 157,181 plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) sales. An all-time high, this was up 37.6 percent over 114,248 sales in 2015, and 27.4-percent more than 2014’s 123,347 sales.

The total for 2014 had been the previous high water mark, so 157,181 is a healthy number adding to a cumulative U.S. total of 570,187 PEVs since 2008.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and wife Janet with a new Chevy Bolt.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and wife Janet with a new Chevy Bolt which just went on sale in December with 579 delivered in Oregon and California, and national roll-out happening this year.

Overall December contributed quite a bit to the year’s strong final results.

In fact, December saw an all-time best 23,288 PEV sales – up from September 2016’s former record of 16,069.

This in turn helped PEV market share rise for the year to 0.90 percent – consisting of 0.48 percent battery electrics, and 0.42 percent plug-in hybrids.

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That’s a nice uptick over 2015, in which PEV market share was just 0.66 percent and in 2014 it was 0.75 percent.

As one might also guess, December PEV market share hit a new record last month – 1.39 percent comprised of 0.61 percent battery electrics and 0.78 percent plug-in hybrids. This topped the prior-record month of September 2016 which saw 1.12 percent PEV market share.

Best Sellers

The Tesla Model S (pictured top) was the leading PEV for the second year in a row with 29,156 units delivered – an estimated 5,300 coming just in December.

This in turn beat the revised Chevy Volt’s year-end push of a record 3,691 sales in December leading to 24,739 total sales.

Chev_Volt

Third down was the Tesla Model X, with 18,028 sales – 3,300 estimated in December, and again showing Tesla’s strength given the price of its vehicles is so much higher than the other models in the top five all priced below $40,000.

Speaking of which, fourth place was the Ford Fusion Energi, with 15,938 sales, and Nissan Leaf, with 14,006.

As for overall cumulative leaders, the Volt, introduced Dec. 2010, retains the lead with 113,489 units, holding an almost 10,000-unit lead over the Leaf, released the same month.

Tesla’s S model, introduced June 2012, is catching up with 92,317 and these three are the majors well above the Prius plug-in/Prime released for public sale in early 2012, and Ford Fusion Energi introduced Feb. 2013.

Looking Ahead

There are now 13 battery electric and 17 plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles for sale in the U.S. compared to 33 hybrid electric vehicles.

At this stage the alternative market may yet be a picture of mindshare shifting from hybrids now comprising 2 percent of the market to plug-in cars now at almost 1 percent, and enthusiasts are still looking for greater evidence of a tipping point.

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2016 was also a record year for conventional truck, crossover and SUV sales which, reality being what it is, are the bread and butter for carmakers while regulatory clouds and shifting consumer demand forecast a change in the global market environment.

Tesla-Model-3-Main-668x409

Actually, several major automakers including Daimler, BMW, VW Group, and Honda have made radical forward-looking statements in recent months that a coming sea change in their product assortment to plug-in over the coming decade is underway.

2017 ought therefore to be a lively year. An uncertain factor in the U.S. is the incoming president which has caused some alarm that programs in favor of pushing the plug-in market forward may be curtailed.

Otherwise, the first sub-$40,000, 200-plus-mile range EVs are on their way as faster and more public charging infrastructure and numerous other new vehicle models and developments fleshing out the market are expected.

To date nothing has gone exactly as people projected at the beginning of the decade, but progress has been measurable just the same, and more ought to happen this year barring unforeseen complications.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.