Last year plug-in vehicles sales jumped to an all-time high of more than three-quarters of a million units worldwide and individual countries likewise crested new peaks.

The year 2016’s increase was substantially over 2015’s somewhat-over half a million, and helped accelerate the cumulative global tally of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles above 2 million by year’s end.

SEE ALSO: Top 6 Plug-in Car Adopting Countries – 2013

These are benchmarks of progress for a market that was almost nil at the beginning of the decade, but if things go to plan, they may be only sparks igniting far bigger results due in the next few years.

SEE ALSO: Top 6 Plug-in Car Adopting Countries – 2014

In 2016 several major automakers projected that their total sales could grow to as high as 15-25-percent plug-ins by 2025 – up from presently next to nothing to a bit over 1 percent. Further, large spending from various sources for plug-in charging infrastructure has been committed to in top markets.

Top countries with Europe as a whole included for reference. Chart by Mario R. Duran.

Top countries with Europe as a whole included for reference. Chart by Mario R. Duran.

Assuming these and other market-shifting developments happen to drive down costs, and create synergies, a virtual sea change is in the making for the kinds of cars people see on the roads over the next decade.

SEE ALSO: Top 6 Plug-in Car Adopting Countries – 2014

Meanwhile, here’s a quick list of the top 10 countries and respective sales. Over the previous three years we’ve posted just the top six, but are this year noting 10 as together they account for about 95 percent of the world’s cumulative plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) sales.

10. Canada – 10,067


Canada’s market is about one-tenth the size of that of the U.S., and a partial count of most sales – with data so far available – is 10,067 PEVs.

Thanks to incentives and growing awareness, this is up 48.4 percent over 2015, and in total, 27,392 PEVs have been cumulatively purchased since the beginning.

Canada’s PEV market share is also up to 0.53 percent – an increase from 2015’s 0.37 percent.

The country’s global share is a modest 1.3 percent of the total of all PEVs in the world, and the best-selling vehicle last year was the Chevrolet Volt, with 3,469 delivered.

9. Sweden – 13,454


The nation of Sweden is small, but on a roll. Its 13,454 PEV sales last year – including cars and light vans – was up 49.8 percent over 2015.

Sweden’s 3.5-percent PEV market share is third only to off-the-charts Norway and second-place Netherlands.

Since its market began, Sweden has purchased 30,513 PEVs, and its share of the world’s cumulative total is 1.5 percent.

Last year’s sales amounted to 1.7-percnt of the world’s 2016 total, and the best selling model is the VW Passat GTE with 3,804 units sold.

8. Japan – est. 21,000

Does anyone even need more than 200 miles range? No! Get over it! Even 107 miles can be enough, some advocates have said. However, mainstream consumers speaking with their pocketbooks however has said no sale. They want fast recharging, cost parity and no perceived downside with conventional cars. This is actually the goal in places like Norway, and they hope by mid next decade EVs will stand alone without subsidies to prop them up.

Japan bought about 21,000 PEVs last year, albeit with latest monthly data not in yet. Its cumulative total through late last year is 147,500 cars and light vans since the market began there, or about 7.3 percent of the global total.

Year-over-year growth however was almost flat, however, with PEV market share down to about 0.42 percent, but can you meanwhile guess the top-selling model?

Did you say the Nissan Leaf? That is correct. Although a complete count is not available, through November the nation bought 13,563 units in 2016. Cumulative volume since 2010 is 71,262.

7. The Netherlands – 24,645


As proof of how much the market is driven by incentives, the Netherlands was down 44 percent in 2016 with 24,645 cars and vans sold.

This was the aftermath of a rush on sales in late 2015 as consumers sought to lock in generous incentives ending in 2016. Market share in 2016 was down from 9.7 percent in 2015 but still the world’s second-highest, at 6.4 percent.

Strong sales at the end of 2015 had also been enough that the Netherlands was Europe’s top market in 2015. In 2016 however both Norway and France’s cumulative sales volumes overtook it.

Since the beginning of its market, 113,636 cars and light vans have been purchased. A peak of 10,344 plug-in hybrids sold in December 2016 were however enough to bring the Dutch PEV stock to second place after Norway. Its share of the global cumulative total is 5.6 percent.

6. Germany – 25,154


A total of 25,154 PEVs were registered in German during 2016, which amounted to 3.2 percent of global sales last year.

This is up 7.2 percent for Germany, which despite updated incentives, did not see sales take off as vigorously as planners had hoped. PEVs made up 0.75 percent of the country’s market share, which is the lowest among the top PEV-selling European nations.

Top seller: BMW i3 – 2,863 units – which just edged out the Renault Zoe’s 2,805.

To date, Germany has bought 74,754 PEVs, or about 3.7 percent of the global stock.

5. France – 33,704


Vive la 100,000 club – that is, last year France joined four other nations in the 100,000 PEV sales club and for the year, bought 33,704 cars and light vans for 4.4 percent of the global sales total.

Growth year over year was a decent 21.7 percent and PEVs have a comparatively healthy 1.4 percent market share.

The Renault Zoe was the best seller, with 11,404 units in 2016, and the cumulative total of all sales to date is 108,065 cars and light vans, or 5.3 percent of the world’s total.

4. United Kingdom – 36,907


The UK absorbed 36,907 plug-in passenger cars for a 30.9 percent increase over 2015, and market share in 2016 was 1.37 percent.

These sales comprise 4.8 percent of the world’s total for 2016, and the best seller was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with an estimated 10,000 prior to full sales data being made available.

To date, the cumulative total is 91,627, or 5.3 percent of the world’s total, and the UK ought to join the 100,000 club by the second quarter of this year.

3. Norway – 45,492


The little electric train that could, Norway, keeps telling itself “I think I can, I think I can” go 100-percent zero emission, and 45,492 sales were a 32-percent increase over 2015, and constituted an unprecedented 29.1 percent market share.

This market share is up from 2015’s 22.4 percent PEV market share and means almost one in three cars sold are of the plug-in variety.

Norway, pop. 5.27 million, also registered more than 5,000 used imported PEVs, whith the Kia Soul EV being the best seller among these, at 2,494 and the Nissan Leaf accounted for 2,112 used units registered.

In April the nation joined the 100,000 club, and today an astonishing 5 percent – one in 20 – cars on the road have plug ports.

Best sellers among the new cars were the Mitsu Outlander PHEV, 5,136 units, and the first time a PHEV outsold a battery electric vehicle in Norway.

This also followed the trend of increased plug-in hybrids overall, as market share was 13.4 percent of new car registrations, versus 15.7 percent for battery electrics – down from 17.1 percent in 2015.

If this is not enough, Norway is Europe’s leader in cumulative PEVs, with 135,276 cars and vans, or about 6.6 percent of the global total.

2. United States – 157,181


U.S. sales of 157,181 were up a healthy 37.6 percent after they’d declined in 2015.

This is 20.3 percent of the world’s total sales, so America spoke for one-in-five PEVs last year though in the 17.5 million car market, share is just 0.9 percent – up from 0.66 percent in 2015.

The best seller was Tesla’s Model S, with 29,156 units including a crunch estimated at more than 5,000 just in December.

As for the U.S.’ cumulative total since 2008, this is 570,187 – of which about 270,000 came from the United State of California.

That’s a healthy number, but the U.S. places third behind China and Europe when the EU is counted as a whole. Its share of the global cumulative total in 2014 when the U.S. was still the all-around sales leader was 40 percent, but it has declined to 28.1 percent

As noted, things are just beginning, so time will tell how the U.S. competes going forward.

1. China – 320,081


China says by 2030 it will be the supreme dominator, and while anything is possible it got a good foothold in 2016 as it bought almost double the number of the next-closest rival with 320,081 sales for a market share of 1.31 percent.

Actually, that’s from domestic-only sales, or about 96 percent of the country’s total. An estimated 4 percent imports spliced in would bring a theoretical total to 333,418 units – and this would include models like Teslas, BMWs, etc.

Further, China’s “new energy vehicles” – as it calls plug-ins – including a large number of plug-in buses and commercial trucks and sales of all NEVs amounted to 507,000.

Excluding those, China still accounted last year for 43 percent of the world’s PEV sales, but at this stage, a large percentage are simple, small models that likely would never pass U.S. federal safety standards let alone mainstream consumers’ tastes.


That’s changing however, as evidenced by startups and domestic joint-venture partnerships between major Japanese, European, and U.S. companies lured to the growth and building nicer products that may also be exported.

For 2016, the top seller was a pure domestic however, and that would be BYD’s Tang – 31,405 units.

China also last year became the leader in cumulative total sales, with 632,371 domestically produced units, or an estimated 645,708 or 31.8 percent of the global total.

If one factors in the commercial buses and trucks, China actually has an estimated 951,447 plug-in vehicles in all, and should cross the one-million mark in the first quarter of this year.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.