Plug-in sales (which is the broad term used to mean both fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids) haven't quite yet set the world on fire, but as I wrote almost exactly one year ago, they are doing "much better" than hybrids did at the equivalent stage in their development. I wrote:
Four years after being launched in North-America in 2000, the Toyota Prius hybrid had cumulative sales of around 52,000 (the Prius passed 3 million units sold last summer), according to IHS Automotive. Four years after launch, the Nissan LEAF electric car had cumulative sales of over 100,000 units. Four years in, the Chevrolet Volt and its European twin the Ampera have over 70,000 units sold. The Tesla Model S hasn't been around for four years, but its cumulative sales should be over 30,000 now, and accelerating fast. And then there are all kinds of other plug-ins selling in fewer numbers but making progress, with new models waiting in the wings.
Compared to 2014, plug-in sales have been a little soft this year. Some months are better, some months aren't... But no new technology adoption happens in a straight line, and there are some fairly obvious reasons why things might be a bit slower this year. For example: The price of oil has halved since last year (I wrote about some of the positive and negative implications in "Don't drill, baby, don't drill"), making people who wanted to switch mostly to save on fuel possibly reconsider.There are also many new models of plug-ins on the horizon, as some current ones get a bit long in the tooth. We already know what the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt that is coming in a few months looks like, the popular Nissan LEAF can't be too far from an update too (speculation abounds about a more mainstream look and a bigger battery), and for those who are really patient, the more affordable Tesla Model 3 is getting closer too.
So on to the numbers, then, as compiled by the great folks at InsideEVs:
As you can see if you have a napkin to do math on, the month-over-month growth is 27%, which is very good, but the year-on-year comparison is -7%.
One surprise is the Chevrolet Volt, which saw a spike despite the approaching refreshed model. Usually sales tend to decline at that time, but maybe GM did more promotion and offered more incentives to clear its inventory.
Ford also did well if you add up all its different plug-in models, with combined sales of 1,900. GM is ahead of Ford for any single vehicle, but ahead when you look at them as a group.
Saddest line in the chart goes to the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid. It seemed like a good PHEV on paper, but Honda doesn't seem to be pushing it or making it available. Too bad...
The biggest surprise for me is probably the BMW i3. I'll admit that I didn't expect it to do this well, this fast. I thought it didn't look enough like a traditional BMW for BMW enthusiasts to buy, and was too expensive for a lot of other people who would like a plug-in. Maybe I was wrong? We'll see how sales trend over time.