The World Just Bought Its Two-Millionth Plug-in Car

After starting from not-far-above zero at the start of this decade, the global count of plug-in electrified vehicles has crossed the two-million unit milestone.

More specifically, the tally through the end of December 2016 was an estimated 2,032,000 highway-legal passenger vehicles including a smattering of European light-duty PEV vans.

SEE ALSO: One Million Global Plug-In Sales Milestone Reached

Not counted are heavy duty and other commercial PEVs or light-duty neighborhood electric vehicles, which would fluff up the numbers a bit, but progress has otherwise been measurable for the kinds of cars that consumers drive.

A Significant Drop in the Bucket

After more than a century of petroleum dominance, there are 1.4 billion motor vehicles on the world’s roads, so 2 million PEVs is only 0.15 percent.

But this is up from 0.10 percent in 2015, and so to mix metaphors, while PEVs are yet a drop in the bucket, advocates might still see a glass half full situation.

2013 Nissan Leaf.

2013 Nissan Leaf.

Basically, things are still only getting started, and 2016 was also the year major manufacturers of Europe committed to 15-25 percent of their sales coming from PEVs within the next eight years, and other automakers are also aiming for this market to spring up.

That’s part of where the glass half full scenario might be justified, as the PEV market for all intents and purposes wasn’t one until six years ago.

This decade is the decade in which mainstream manufacturers began against resistance to switch away from only conventional power to computer-controlled plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles using lithium-ion batteries and electric motors.

2011 Chevy Volt.

2011 Chevy Volt.

In 2009, there were but 1,720 highway legal plug-in passenger vehicle sales in the world. In 2010, this skipped upward to 6,560 – a bad sales week for a Ford F-150 – but in 2011, the needle started to move further on the dial.

The year 2011 was the first full model year for the extended-range electric Chevy Volt and all-electric Nissan Leaf, and sales jumped to 48,160 counting them and others around the world.

In 2012, 118,690 were sold, followed by 192,010 in 2013; 325,090 in 2014; 550,570 in 2015; and 775,000 in 2016.

Leading Markets

The top markets are, in order: China, Europe, and the U.S. The top two have about a 1 percent PEV market share, and the U.S. is close to 0.9 percent. Japan had been a top market, but has been falling off, and sales there slipped the past three years straight.

Although the U.S. was the leader for the first several years this decade, in 2015 Europe and China surpassed its sales rate and in 2016 the cumulative sales lead the U.S. held was also forfeited to Europe and China.

Tesla Model S in China.

Tesla Model S in China.

With its subsidized-to-the-hilt industry and growing overall market, last year China bought 320,000 plug-in passenger cars – well exceeding Europe’s 212,000 and the U.S. new record 157,181.

The Peoples’ Republic’s cumulative total 632,371 PEVs now edges out Europe’s up-by 48.8-percent 638,000, and tops the U.S.’ 570,187.

China’s count is for domestically produced PEVs (called new energy vehicles there), excluding imports such as from Tesla and BMW.

That’s 96 percent of China’s total, so an estimated adjustment to account for 4 percent imports is 645,708, and counting all new energy vehicles, including trucks, buses, China’s total is at 951,447.

This year also, China won in all sales achievements. In addition to most cumulative sales and annual sales, it also was home of the best-selling plug-in brand.

BYD Tang PHEV.

BYD Tang PHEV.

That would be Warren Buffett backed BYD, which for the second year in a row topped Tesla by selling 101,183 plug-in cars (domestically) compared to 76,243 globally from the California company.

But China is yet more a picture of quantity over quality as a fair percentage of “NEVs” are not as worthy of a U.S. or European buyer’s interest such as the BYDs are, and meanwhile markets are different all over.

Chart by Mario R. Duran.

Chart by Mario R. Duran.

In Europe, the count consists of course on member states in the European Union. Heavily subsidized Norway with 135,276 sales leads – amazingly – as the smallest country with just 5.1 million population, about one in four cars sold is now a plug-in there.

The Netherlands follows with 113,636 PEVs on the road, followed by France which since 2010 has registered 108,065 plug-in carts and vans and the UK with 91,000 plug-in cars and vans should cross 100,000 by the second quarter of 2017.

SEE ALSO: 6 Ways the 2016 Chevy Volt Has Been Improved

As for the U.S., we’re one nation and saw PEV market share spike above 1 percent in November and December, with December’s 1.39 percent its highest ever.

Tesla Model 3 with glass roof.

Tesla Model 3 with glass roof.

Of the U.S.’ 570,000, more than a quarter million of these are from California, which crossed that 250,000 unit milestone in November, and may have 270,000 through December.

California actually outsold China in 2014 and if it were its own country, it would rank second after China even still.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.


More Hybrid News...