US EV Sales Pass 1% Share In March, As Tesla Model S Takes 2017 Lead

2 weeks ago by Mark Kane 35

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – March 2017

March plug-in vehicle sales in the U.S. brought some unexpectedly strong results, netting some ~18,107 deliveries for the month.  The achievement was the second best monthly result to date, and also provided a year-over-year growth rate of 30.7%.

Thanks to some difficult comparables from 2016 in March, the year-to-date numbers for the first quarter in America are even better:  40,729 sales, good for a growth rate of 46.3%.

Also of note:  US market share for plug-ins cross the 1% for the first time in March, at around 1.16%.

In total, there has now been more than 600,000 plug-in cars sold in the U.S. since December 2010. And before 2017 is done, if the gains continue, we should pass the 750,000 mark.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – March 2017

The model-by model rankings (see chart below) have also brought some surprises so far this year.

After a March surge, the Tesla Model S is now the most popular model, followed by strong Chevrolet Volt.

Third best is now Toyota Prius Prime, which is showing more and more strength each successive month it is on the market, and may ultimately win the 2017 sales race once inventory arrives in depth.

A second Tesla, the Model X, has sold well enough to be fourth on the list, despite the highest price tag in the top ten.

Oldest in the rank, the Nissan LEAF has managed to still catch on inside the Top 5, besting the newcomer, Chevrolet Bolt EV, the last two months.  However, that will change soon, as we guarantee the Bolt EV has a bigger April and likely will top the sales charts, as GM’s Orion plant has turned its focus back on producing and delivering US inventory to domestic dealers.

A full March sales recap, as well as individual model sales tally, can be found here.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – March 2017

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – March 2017

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35 responses to "US EV Sales Pass 1% Share In March, As Tesla Model S Takes 2017 Lead"

  1. jhm614 says:

    Woo Hoo! Great to see the 1% barrier cracked! Now onto 5%!

  2. needa says:

    I’ll be happy when these figures stop including gasoline vehicles. Kind of skews the results/impressions.

    1. Anon says:

      Agree. But given that plug-ins with 20-40 miles of range let the average driver use little or almost no gas I think they are a good gateway drug to full EVs.

      Think about what is likely to annoy the plug-in hybrid owner: buying gas, still needing maintenance. All issues with the gas engine. No issues from the EV side.

      1. needa says:

        I completely agree on the gateway drug concept, though around here (Nashville) you have to want EV to even consider them. Not many people are going to buy a Volt to try out the battery. Nashville, and especially the surrounding area, is also one of those cities where residential houses are on big lots. Thus the daily commute distance is quite a bit further. We are/were ranked the 4th highest commute in the country. With hot and humid summers and decently cold winters. So gas, on average, is going to be used daily. Which is the main reason I don’t like seeing them in these stats.

        1. Bonaire says:

          I hope you understand that someone going from a 20-ish MPG ICE vehicle to a 100+ Lifetime mpg Volt experience is actually a very good thing. By not viewing the EREV type of solution as good, it really is a myopic view or “binary” either-or approach. EREV solutions are very transitional, can actually be more useful than BEV (no network of chargers needed) for no range-anxiety and combine forces in some ways to offer extended benefits.

          For example – let’s say Lithium-Sulfer batteries become viable. They are smaller, denser and cheaper than today’s Li-Ion blends (about twice density but half the charge cycles). Well, if they were a small, cheap and non-volatile battery pack, they could be used in EVs with a useful lifecycle and replaced at year 5 for “cheap”. In a Volt, imagine instead of a 18 kWh pack at 400 lbs, you install a 20kWh pack at 250 pounds in a half-sized brick package. Then you get your 80 miles of range and say 1500 cycles. In 4 years, replace it with another pack for $1000. Savings there is instead of a very expensive pack, you have a smaller, denser and cheaper pack.

          Lots of things to come in the EV space and most of the cars sold in this space are transitional, not just the EREV/PiHV variants.

          1. vicxh says:

            I agree. Let good not be the enemy of great. EREV will lead to EV mindset.

            1. Bonaire says:

              I’ll buy a BEV roughly on the 10th anniversary of when the Volt came out. Will drive my 2011 Volt (almost always electrically) from when I bought in July 2012 through maybe late 2020 when the Bolts come off Lease and are made available on the cheap. By then, maybe we will have a viable infrastructure.

              Until then – “Loving those #GasSuperChargers”

            2. needa says:

              This is only because we don’t have OEMs producing BEVs. You think in ten years we will be saying the Volt is a transitional car? We are in a transitional time.

          2. needa says:

            I never said it wasn’t a good thing to own a Volt. All I said was gasoline vehicles mixed into an EV stat gives the wrong impression.

      2. Terawatt says:

        Maybe so. Then again maybe not. The data from Norway shows plug-in hybrids are much closer to fossils than to BEVs.

        In any case, BEVs and PHEVs are completely different beasts, and there’s simply no good reason to conflate the two – whether or not one regards them as “good” overall.

        And to me it’s a small mystery how it’s only the American sites who do it. In Europe the separate figures are always given. And so it is in Asia. Chinese or Japanese or Korean, stats are never given as a sum of apples and oranges. Why should they be in the US?

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Just for clarity’s sake, and I know we have mentioned this before. It isn’t an “American” site thing, its a “reaching the people as a media outlet thing”.

          While I personally (and for yourself, and a lot of other hardcore followers) would like all articles and stats to break down and reference all data by BEV and PHEV (and maybe some other sub-classes), it is not easily digestible for public consumption at this point (and by that I mean 99% of the world’s population).

          So if you look at the largest ~10 media outlets for covering global EV news and offerings (of which, IEV is the largest…and also not US-founded/based as a point of interest)…they all steer clear of using sub-classes and keep things generalized for the common good, and to be inclusive of/include new readers.

          For the hardcore, like yourself (and myself), while we find it mildly annoying, also have the capacity to quite well understand the breakdowns and their meaning. Your annoyance is really that we (and other large media) are not pushing your current agenda to relegate PHEVs.

          I get that, but it is what it is…and that lack of agenda/desire to be inclusive and readable by the general population (but also offer more obscure content to the hardcore at the same time) is why IEV is the go-to/media conglomerate it is today.

          Give it another 5-7 years or so, the more detailed splits will become more prominent…but it has to be when most people understand the difference between electrified terms like “BEV” and “PHEV” as they do between “truck” and “SUV”

    2. David Murray says:

      I’ll be happy when trolls like you go away.

      1. Terawatt says:

        And I’ll be happy when people like you do!!

        Sorry to be so harsh, but you asked for it. What an asenine comment to an extremely reasonable gasp of exasperation!

        Maybe you can do me a favor and explain why it would be bad to express the stats with PHEVs and BEVs in separate categories?

        A huge study in Norway looked at PHEVs recently. It concluded that only about 20% of distance covered was in electric mode. Inevitably some idiots protested that THEY drive 90% on electricity, as if this somehow nullifies the actual average.

        The main reason in Norway is incentives for PHEVs making them cheaper than regular cars. So people who have nowhere to charge but them, and companies lease them. The company cars drive more than the private ones, but because companies cover fuel for the cars, but not your home electricity bill, these cars are almost never charged.

        Considering that we need to cut 90% or more of emissions from transportation the PHEV/BEV difference really matters. Maybe even more so in Norway where the grid is already powered by renewable hydro power, but also in relatively coal-heavy US, since the grid is cleaner than burning gas in an engine, and getting cleaner every year. By the time the cars sold today reach their last few years the difference between a PHEV and a BEV will be significantly greater than it is today.

        1. SJC says:

          I agree on separating EV from PHEV numbers. When the discussions become insults we have lost.

    3. trackdaze says:

      A university recently surveyed electric vehicle habits etc. And one of the interesting things to come out of it was:

      Volt electric miles were only 6% less than leaf electric miles.

  3. Bonaire says:

    It’s a good place to be – but this is “one penny of a dollar”. People get excited when they see 10% off coupons will save them 10% but in the end, it’s still not that much.

    1% is compelling to show that it has some interest and is growing slowly. I have always said, slow and steady growth will occur.
    Looking at the numbers really are not “huge” but growing as expected, slowly.

    Just the “car” segment, not light trucks which is huge on its own.

    Compact 195,568
    Subcompact 38,709
    City Car 7019
    Warm Hatch 8209
    Tall Hatch 45,599
    Midsize Cars 168,598
    Large Cars 41,539
    Small Lux 45,571
    Mid Lux 23,989
    Large Lux 4720
    American Muscle 22,397
    Euro Sports 1639
    Misc Sports 16,191
    Prem Sports 1524

    Hybrids and Electrics 17,331*
    Tesla MS 3,450
    Tesla MX 2,750

    * they don’t bring in Tesla due to non-official number reporting per-month.

    Am I a Debbie Downer? Sure. It’s like everyone thinks that EVs are “what everyone will buy in the next 5-10 years. If the last seven years is repeated and we double the current sales number by 2019, this is still only 2% of the market. It is hardly going to make a dent in oil usage and take up miles of print space and forum chatter along the way. Until you see 10-20 plug-ins in your church parking lot every Sunday, your local township supervisors and his staff are driving plugins, your school bus drivers driving Propane or plug-in buses, we are really going nowhere other than creating a small subculture of fans and hobbyists.

    Good to see this happening as it is a life-raft in terms of what to do when the great sinking ship of oil-production drops further and further. Oil cannot last forever and if we want to maintain this “first world lifestyle” – then we must do something far beyond 1%, 2% or even 10%. 10% of “good” versus 90% of what we deem “bad” is a huge uphill battle to just hit 10%.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      “1% is compelling to show that it has some interest and is growing slowly…. If the last seven years is repeated and we double the current sales number by 2019, this is still only 2% of the market.”

      Well, I think that is the thing, it isn’t the 1.13% market share really, it is the growth behind the number…and it’s not slow, It’s 46.3% atm in the US. You just have to keep reminding yourself that there was zero cars, zero 6+ years ago.

      So 1 in 86 new vehicles sold are plug-ins this month, next March its 1 in 60, in 2019 it is 1 in 40, 1 in 28 in 2020. It’s a disruptive rate to traditional auto.

      Would we all like the numbers to be higher? Sure. But the sales are significant now, and we have passed the point of no return globally. Again, one has to remember we are only ~73 months in from the very first sale of a mass produced plug-in (this generation), and we’ve passed ~2 million sold cumulatively.

      If you extrapolate the current ~3.5% monthly growth over the next 73 months, you are talking about 1 in 7 vehicles coming with a plug in the Summer of 2023…and that’s not that far off (basically about the wait for the Outlander PHEV in the US).

      1. Bonaire says:

        In 2014, I did a presentation where I was using 30% annual forward growth and it stalled. this latest burst is good now. But does it last? Is it a short-trend or long one? Does Tesla “steal” market share from the rest or share it amicably?

        March is one month, A/M will be slow again and end of quarter rushes will continue. 2017 is shaping up to be the year that actually is the growth that you (Jay) here at InsideEVs predicted for H2 of 2016. However, how many are fresh new faces entering the EV landscape and how many are just buyers trading in for their 2nd or 3rd vehicle? I hope that the trade-ins end up being taken up by the used market and enjoyed by the 2nd tier of those who couldn’t afford new.

        I’m cautiously encouraged by the sales trend but also wonder is it like the Prius’ history where it has a level market sometime soon in the next year or two or does it really blossom?

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Just to speak to this, although we focus a lot of the US (as it makes up ~half our readers), it is only one region…worldwide results have never faltered.

          2016: 777k
          2015: 550k
          2014: 320k
          2013: 219k
          2012: 129k

          2015 was an off year for the US, but that was due to extraordinary market forces on 3 of the top 4 selling brands of 2014 (of which those 3 accounted for 50% of the 2014 sales). The US market is deep now, and mostly immune to such a recurrence…much like the worldwide numbers were to the US in 2015.

          As you noted, when we were in 2015 and reporting the monthly sales, we continually mentioned those forces (and that it was not a reflection of demand), and that thing would turn around higher in 2016, and would be up indefinitely thereafter. We still hold to that. And now here we are in the 18th consecutive growth month in the US.

          I think it would be hard to find even the most ardent skeptic from 2015 (and there was a lot of them giving us ‘the business’ for our optimism at the time), who would say they expect sales to be off in any month this year (or even not up 25%), or would go on record now saying that 2017, 2018, 2019 are not all going to set impressive records.

          The price and tech is moving in the right direction at an incredible pace, and the offerings are just getting stronger and deeper. If that were not so, one could make a case for stagnation…but it isn’t, so logically, I don’t think you can.

        2. Bonaire says:

          One last thing – the largest car market in the USA is not new cars. It is used car transactions. 1% of new cars is only replacement rate. Looking at a 10-year average age of the fleet, 1% of new car sales is about .1% of average fleet replacement. If we had 100% plug-ins sold this year, still takes 10 years to replace all ICE vehicles.

          Anyway – we need more trucks to make a viable dent in the driving marketplace. “Trucks”, like “Plastics” (in The Graduate) are key to the reality that EV transportation will take solid hold.

          1. Snowdall says:

            Sadly this is true. For better or for worse, trucks are used throughout the US vehicle market. I’m an avid EV enthusiast and drive an EV most days. But my wife and I also own horses, and when we trailer them anywhere it requires us to break out our big gas guzzling truck (even though it is dual fuel CNG). I would LOVE to find an electric alternative to those times when a truck is the only way to get something done.

            1. pjwood1 says:

              Cheaper passenger cars are a softer target, for Tesla, but companies like Workhorse and DeutshcePost seem to be where the “truck” ball could gain momentum. Lutz’s Via doesn’t seem hungry enough, and as with Tesla, Truck electrification may require an independent approach. Until truck market share can be more profitably gained, than its EREV components cause losses, I don’t think we see anything. Unless I missunderstand CAFE rules, they’ll try to satisfy in the non-truck “light truck” segment. You can’t pull a horse with those.

          2. Why Not? says:

            I agree that the pace of EV adoption seems painfully slow, at least when looking at the percentage of EVs ICE vehicles sold. However, 40% increase this year is phenomenal growth and it will only go higher as the Model 3 & new Leaf come on the market later this year. If Tesla can really produce 250,000-300,000 next year that by itself will pretty much guarantee a 50% or higher growth rate in 2018. From 2019 on you have the German manufacturers coming out with their first full EV offerings, not to mention Model Y is somewhere in that timeframe too. I think the future is bright for EVs and soon they will start making a serous impact on sales. Remember, Rome was not built in one day, and neither is an EV revolution.

    2. ffbj says:

      It’s not a math problem.

    3. Malevolence says:

      It’s not the point you’re trying to make, but you unintentionally bring up a good point – car segments matter. About half (12k) of these top ten fall in the compact car (or perhaps tall or warm hatch – whatever that means) segments. That means EVs are now representing 5% of that quarter million car segment, today. I’m pretty sure that’s better than diesels have ever done in the US after decades of trying. And it’s probably not news to much of anyone reading here, but the Model S represents almost half of the large luxury segment – and that’s just a single model.

      I think part of the limits on EV sales is the lack of options in different segments. If you break that down into individual segments, the story looks very different than 1% of the overall market. If the lineup of EV’s and PHEV’s (with notable sales numbers) remains primary confined to 4 segments (compact cars, mid size cars (PHEV only), full size luxury cars (EV only) and luxury SUV’s), then the share of overall sales will hit a ceiling very quickly, especially when those aren’t necessarily the largest or fastest growing segments in the overall market.

      I’m sure there are some mid-size SUV buyers who will settle for a compact car just to have it be an EV, and some mid size car buyers who end up with a Model S, but I’m guessing that’s only a small percentage of new car buyers.

      1. Why Not? says:

        I think you raise a good paint. Right now the availability of EVs is very poor and limited to only a few segments. EVs are much better positioned in Europe where trucks are not nearly as popular as here.

        I think at least one of the reasons for the slim pickings is that auto manufacturers are still not fully convinced that there is a viable market for EVs and that they can be sold profitably. (Ford keeps claiming that there is no market for Electric Vehicles.) Once those issues have been resolved it will only be a matter of time before EVs will be available in every segment.

  4. Lou Grinzo says:

    We are just arriving at the tipping point/knee in the curve/pick your own image for EVs in the US. The Bolt, the Leaf 2, and the Tesla 3, plus new models from various companies will dramatically shift the perception of EVs, their real world usefulness, and their availability.

    I’ve been telling my wife since we got our Leaf just over 4 years ago that I can’t wait for the day when my neighbors, who in 2013 didn’t know EVs existed, are boring me to tears with stories about how wonderful their new EVs are, how they use NO GAS AT ALL!, never need a new muffler — BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAVE ONE! — etc.

    1. Bonaire says:

      One problem.

      Dealerships. They are “the problem” to get around in order to make volumetric traction of sales in the USA. Ask any Chevy or Ford dealer (out of California) “hey, when are you getting a big shipment of those EVs in – I want to check them out!” and see how eager they are to supply you a positive statement. Other than a few scant few like Buzz Smith in Texas who really relish the EV space, most of the Chevy shops I’ve been at have been more like “hey, EVs are only a stop-gap until the Hydrogen stuff comes out…” Can’t fix that.

      1. needa says:

        Dealerships are not the problem. There are thousands of Bolts already sitting on a lot ready to be shipped, and dozens of states that aren’t able to get a Bolt to a dealership. You blame the dealerships for ‘outside of Cali’, yet don’t bother to mention or take into account that Cali has specific laws.

      2. needa says:

        And you mention volumetric sales as if we have the batteries to produce massive amounts of EVs. I mean seriously.

  5. Brian says:

    A few interesting things will come together soon:
    1) Charging infrastructure will grow essentially everywhere
    2) The range issue will be almost eliminated (reduced to just a choice at time of purchase?)
    3) Subsidies will cease as market share grows (it’s not feasible to subsidize a large number of purchases)
    4) cost of batteries / drive units will come down as volume grows

    Having the general public jump on the bandwagon will depend on when 4) >= 3) and timing of 1).

    Or more acutely, when manufacturers (other than Tesla) believe the above

    1. Bonaire says:

      We don’t know the real impact of losing the Fed $7500 + some state rebates. But time will tell if they extend it or just let the market take over. Georgia is an example of loss of sales numbers – when Leaf lessees who got a 2-year lease also got a $5000 state rebate. With that gone, sales fell fast. Well “Sales” is more like it – leasing for 2 years is putting the bank at most risk of bad residuals.

      1. Terawatt says:

        It doesn’t matter with respect to whether or not EVs are happening. They are. Policy affects the time frame, but short of outlawing EVs, they will take over.

        Haven’t you read the news..? EVs will relatively soon best ICE on the cost of making the car. They will continue to also best them on running costs, noise, torque, cabin space, and maintenance needs. Young people are less prone to climate denial. And while the US regresses under Trump, with respect to fuel/emissions standards anyway, the world presses on. Norway and Holland has announced the goal of only selling zero emissions vehicles from 2025. The EU isn’t far behind. India says it wants an all-electric fleet by 2030 (even if that seems impossible). Chinas acute local pollution problems ensures it too will press on.

        Even so, is the fundamentals that guarantee EVs are taking over. If fusion suddenly becomes available perhaps it would take the form of FCVs, since efficiency would no longer matter, though I doubt it. 🙂 And note that this development requires only the incremental evolution of components and increased scale. Any breakthroughs in batteries, and some will almost certainly come, will completely obliterate ICE. Just imagine what just a 3x density increase and two thirds price drop of batteries would mean. Ten times may well happen, with Li-air or something completely different.

        If you think progress is slow, look at the percentage increase over five years at a time rather than one, and extrapolate on that basis. Of course timing is uncertain, but typically these things move more slowly in the early early adopter phase and then go through the roof as it goes mainstream. I’m positive that by 2020 your worries will have been laid to rest, and by 2025, if you read this again, you’d wonder why you doubted!

    2. Dave86 says:

      I think EV will really take off when the following is available…
      * suv/cuv body style
      * 300 plus mile range
      * $30k or less (no subsidies)
      * supercharger network enables cross country travel
      * awd is a plus

      … we’re not that far off.

      Trucks… a real pick-up truck to do real work (like tow a trailer with horses) requires a very large battery pack. Maybe 150 or more kWh. The battery pack would be very heavy & expensive – not practical with today’s technology.

  6. Francis L says:

    Toyota has such a weird position : second biggest manufacturer and probably the most against battery-only-powered EV. At the same time, they are the one that opened the door of this market by making the hybrids popular and still only Toyota name make an hybrid sells much better.

    So they hate EVs, but might be top seller of EV in 2017!

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