US Plug-In Car Sales Ride Past 150,000 Mark

As the year winds to a close, the U.S. alternative energy car market saw a number of mileposts passed last month, including a not-insignificant 150,000 plug-in cars sold since their inception.

This cumulative multi-year total is comprised of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs) including contribution from sales of the discontinued Tesla Roadster, now-sidelined Fisker Karma, and lease-only Mini E.

Saving these latter three for last – and based on HybridCars.com Dashboards – here’s how things break out for the ongoing market:

2010: 345
2011: 17,813
2012: 53,172
2013: (YTD): 77,874

Tesla Model S numbers since July 2012 are estimated by analyst Alan Baum, and he’s been known to estimate on the safe side. For example, in October Autodata pinned Model S sales at 1,950 units, but Baum conservatively went with 1,300 due to known exporting now underway.

However, you may notice the tally adds to 149,204 – 796 shy of the mark – so the Roadster and Karmas are definitely needed even if their manufacturers politely declined as much scrutiny for their monthly sales.

Estimated numbers for the Roadster are somewhere around 1600-1800 units delivered in the U.S, and the Karma we’re figuring at 1,600. The Mini E was a run of 500. On the low side this adds another 3,700 to the 149,204, so allowing for more wiggle room, we believe we’re safe with the headline chronicling just one of several green car benchmarks set.

Other notable U.S. market sales achievements last month include the three-millionth hybrid sold, 50,000 Chevy Volts sold, more records for the Nissan Leaf, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid had its best month, topping all.

But while all this sounds pretty good, coming back to the plug-in sales, 150,000 does fall well short of President Obama’s 2008 goal of 1 million EVs and PHEVs on American roads by 2015.

To put it starkly, manufactures have one year and two months to sell close to 850,000 plug-in cars if the goal is to be met by January 2015 – or even allowing for all of 2015, is anyone laying odds on hitting the target by December 2015?

Even in August 2008 when the news broke, we dispassionately said, “As is usually the case with visions of a more fuel efficient future, there’s plenty of room for both optimism and skepticism.”

And the skepticism and optimism continues – with the former justifiable for Obama’s vision, but the latter justifiable for the longer-term picture.

That the 1 million car goal has a slim chance has been said more recently by us and others, but the upside to facts as they stand include a nice round number has been reached and, more importantly, these semi-exotic cars are still with us and the plug-in electrified category is growing.

Moderately speaking, it’s another case of better late than never for cars that critics have said should not exist, can not succeed, are doomed to fail, etc.

To the contrary, October’s 10,100 estimated plug-in sales was only the second month ever that five-figure sales have been reached. The other month was August 2013, which was the all-time best plug-in sales month with 11,363 units sold.

So not only did the U.S. market transcend 150,000 cumulative units sold last month, it did it in a thoroughgoing fashion as things are accelerating, and the theory that these cars are due for an early die-off does not seem to be playing out at all.

-HC-

Thanks to HybridCars.com reader Emc2 for info used to document this article.