Toyota Prius Plug-in sales increase 190 percent in April in US

electric car sales April
CC BY-SA 3.0 Zachary Shahan

The Toyota Prius Plug-in has made it to #2 in US plug-in car sales for the first time ever. Some other top players have seen their sales drop, but the Prius Plug-in has also seen a 190% increase in sales compared to April 2013.

Its 1,741 April sales weren't its best ever, however. More Toyota Prius Plug-ins were sold last August (1,791) and October (2,095). But those are much bigger electric car sales months in general.

The top-selling electric car in April was the Nissan LEAF, which has held onto that top spot for at least the past 4 months. According to my Tesla Model S estimate for January, the Model S was 15 cars above the LEAF that month. Of course, the Model S is supply-limited and we don't actually know how many cars Tesla is delivering each month, let alone how many are being delivered to the US. I base my estimates off of quarterly production estimates from Tesla and general statements about how deliveries are being split up between the US & Europe.

Aside from Tesla's production limitations, the Nissan LEAF has been topping the charts due to a combination of all-around decent specs (114 MPGe, 81 miles per charge, 5 seats) and a relatively low price compared to other 100%-electric cars. It sells for just $28,800 before any incentives, $21,300 after the federal tax credit, and $18,800 after the federal tax credit and the California EV rebate. That's well below the average for new cars sold in the US, which is now above $30,000.

But it's a bit more mysterious why Toyota Prius Plug-in sales have risen so high. It's hardly the most attractive car on the market for those who are in love with electric motors. It only gets 11 miles of range on its battery, then the gasoline engine kicks in. That's 10 less than the Ford Fusion Energi's and the Ford C-Max Energi's 21 miles, and it's 27 miles less than the Chevy Volt's 38 miles of electric-only range. However, after a relatively recent price cut, the Toyota Prius Plug-in comes in at a lower price than any of those (before incentives, $29,900 vs $38,700 vs $32,950 vs $34,185). Also the Prius Plug-in probably benefits from the overall Prius brand, which is very popular these days, and drivers looking for a very efficient car are probably more inclined to purchase a Toyota than a Ford or Chevrolet. But we can't really be sure what is driving sales of the Prius Plug-in so much, so this is all just conjecture.

For more details on April 2014 versus April 2013 plug-in car sales, or year-to-date plug-in car sales, here are 4 charts:

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