Exploring EDTA Data On Plug-In Electric Car Sales In US

FEB 18 2015 BY MARK KANE 24

In analyzing the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s data on electric car sales in the US, some thoughts come to mind (all theses numbers come from EDTA).

First of all is growth of sales. It’s slowing down!  The average monthly growth of plug-in electric car sales in 2012 was 224%, 110% in 2013 and 25% in 2014. January brings us only 3% up, but we sure hope we’re not getting close to saturation or we might get stuck at current levels.

The market need price reductions to grow as many new models on the market are low volume.

The second finding is that all-electric car sales takes most of the market and in the most recent months, two all-electric models were the best selling among all plug-ins (Tesla Model S & Nissan LEAF). See InsideEVs’ result table.

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. - January 2015

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. – January 2015

Growth of all-electric car sales seems solid at double-digit numbers still, while falling sales of the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In are dragging the PHEV market down.

As Toyota’s strategy remain unclear, all eyes are now directed to Volt 2, which at the right price point could easily see sales at 3,000+ per month.

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. - January 2015

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. – January 2015

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. - January 2015

Plug-In Car Sales in U.S. – January 2015

Categories: Sales


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24 Comments on "Exploring EDTA Data On Plug-In Electric Car Sales In US"

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I don’t think this reflects an underlying trend. It is more likely a result of the particular players. The Leaf is getting long in the tooth for hugh growth. The Model S is expensive and the X is still missing. The Volt is in transition. Only the i3 is fresh and it’s not exactly cheap. The Prius plug-in offers little in a cheap gas environment.

The second half should see the X and Volt 2.0, both of which should drive growth. And I wonder about Kia’s Soul.


Well, at least growth is growth. At some point plug-ins will hit critical mass, and will have “jumped the chasm” into mainstream adoption.

I think we are a long way from crossing the chasm. I would argue that “regular” hybrids never crossed as a segment, only as a single model (Prius).

Crossing, in my mind, would be approaching 20% of new car sales.

20% would be legit. We (in the US) are probably 3 car generations away from that.. so say between 20 and 30 years. That’s my SWAG. All comes down to that critical mass to me. A lot of people don’t want to be the first (or 3rd) lemming off the cliff, but when enough people are jumping, then they’ll join. Probably not the best analogy, LOL.

Typical transition period for a new energy source is typically around 40 years. Horse to Car, Steam Train to Diesel Train, whale oil lighting to electric light bulbs, coal fired home heating to oil, propeller planes to jet planes, sailing ships to steam ships, etc

They all average out to be around 40 years +/- a decade for substantial transition. Barring some sort of intervening event that quickens the pace, I would expect the same for the electrification of the automobile.

I’m usually not popular when I post that, but it is how things have worked in the past.

Successful early transition to EV’s/PHEV’s will actually help extend the life of gas vehicles by bending down the demand curve for oil to more manageable levels where extraordinary expense isn’t required to meet a shrinking demand. Electric vehicles will in effect extend the lifespan of the ICE.

It is a good point about the length of time for the technology changes.

I would argue that this transition *should* happen quicker. Communications happen much faster today, so new ideas should be able to spread faster. Also, there is no major infrastructure required for people to try out a PHEV. Every home is already wired with electricity.

To be clear, I was talking about 20% of new sales, not 20% of the existing fleet.

Kia’s Soul is only sold in limited markets, in limited volumes by decision of the manufacturer.

Sales are limited to “California and Oregon in the West and several Eastern states including New York, New Jersey and Maryland”

Total number of Kia Soul EV’s will be a measure of the CARB regulation’s requirements, not of actual national demand.

However, this car was made by manufacturer who was intelligent enough not to label their car as compliance one.

So it all boils down to two things:
1) Will they earn cash on Soul EV sale?
2) Will they gain new customers (new to Kia) on Soul EV sale?

Even single ‘Yes’ should mean bigger/faster roll out of Soul EVs from Kia.

And they say ‘Yes’ to 2) publicly now 🙂

Not everything is lost for this car.
However obviously if they have some manufacturing troubles, time will be needed to overcome them (as compared to “lets start small”)

I was going to point out pretty much the same thing. This year we’ll see a huge change in the plug-in market. The Volt by itself will account for a lot of that.

I hope you’re right. As I see it now the majority of Volt customers will likely be those of us who already have a Gen1 Volt. Everyday I meet people who have no clue as to what the Volt offers, it’s capabilities, cost etc. If GM marketing does not make a herculean effort to get behind the Volt and MARKET IT!! I really don’t see GenII doing any better sales wise than Gen1

I don’t think they need to make a herculean effort. The new Volt has better specs and is easier on the eye. All they need is to make some reasonable effort.

For ordinary customer?

Who just ask on some car’s forum, which car is better X or Y, because he/she heard that those are good cars for his/hers needs?

Nope. That wont happen.

But at least BEVs are scoring network effect from friends. (So he or she ask his/hers friends about cars X and Y, and they advocate Leaf 🙂 )

Lots of space for good marketing actions. Lots of space for sale force education. (Like advising buying charging stations with EV for some regions, etc.)

GM has a bigger political problem with advertising the Volt that has to die off first before they can be effective at selling them. GM and the Volt was made into political theater for purely partisan politics.

Avoiding getting caught in the middle of that sh!t storm sadly still has to be GM’s top priority. I’m not sure a new model is going to be enough to avoid that pothole.

The decrease in Year–over-Year sales growth rate is a reflection sales into an ever increasing market. It reflects physical limitation to ability to scale. eg: adding 10k to existing 10k is 100% increase, but adding 10k to 100k is only 10% increase. If the market has a million units, adding 10% is going to need a huge production increase.

This is why growth rates tapper down to lower rates for mature markets. Look up Gompertz Distribution, or Gompertz Law to learn more about modeling growth.

It does not reflect demand. No decent choices until always later….

We need to be very circumspect when it comes to percentage growth. As the number of total vehicle sold in the prior year increase unless you have an exponential growth in actual vehicles sold, mantaining a percentage growth naturally declines. For example: If you sold 10 cars last year and sell 30 vehicles this year you get to claim a 300% growth but if sold 1000 cars last year and sol 2000 cars this year that is a large jump in volume but you can “only” report a 100% growth. I all comes to the juggling of statistics ot reflect the kind of story you want to tell; and, corporations and special interest groups do that sort of juggling all the time.


Yes, it’s true that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” That is, scoundrels can easily use figures (especially percentages) to manipulate the truth.

But that’s not what’s going on here. It’s not just the percentage of growth in sales that dropped from 2013 to 2014, it’s the actual increase in numbers of cars sold that dropped.

Look here:

2011 sales: 17,425
2012 sales: 52, 607
2013 sales: 97,507
2014 sales: 119,710

(All figures from InsideEVs’ “Sales Scorecard” articles)

Annual sales growth (units)

2012: 35,182
2013: 44,900
2014: 22,203

So sales growth in 2014 was a bit less than half what it was in 2013! Even worse, 2014 was a year of significant overall growth for auto sales, as the economy recovered.

InsideEVs has predicted about 25% sales growth this year. I think it will be closer to 10%, and will be surprised if it’s over 15%.

Yes. 2015 will be hard, and 2016 even harder.

Cause those 200mile range EVs to come early/late 2017…

On the other hand some nice gov. incentives and such things should help a bit.

Also power supply companies are starting to tackle large scale roll outs. This will boost BEVs presence in mainstream.

Some people wont wait. Cause even current BEVs are good enough to beat current ICEs

The rate at which plug-in EV sales is growing in North America has been slowing over the past three years. This has been well documented by InsideEVs’ own monthly “Sales Scorecard, and is hardly news.

Hopefully we’ll see growth of sales pick up again when those promised nominally “200 mile EVs” come on the market.

“First of all is growth of sales. It’s slowing down! The average monthly growth of plug-in electric car sales in 2012 was 224%, 110% in 2013 and 25% in 2014.” 1) Welcome to logarithmic math. Using percentage growth numbers exaggerates growth in a small population vs. a larger population. 2) Welcome to the impact of so many EV’s intentionally being sold in limited numbers in limited markets. We saw sales numbers grow as the Leaf and Volt went from limited sales in limited states to nationwide sales. That was a large growth in market. Since then, we haven’t seen the same national rollout across the board for all EV’s, so we aren’t getting the same growth in sales for all brands. It isn’t surprising to see sales fail to grow for brands that have intentionally failed to expand their markets nationwide, and/or have failed to advertise or stock them nationwide. 3) Welcome to the drag on sales that happens when 2nd generation EV’s/PHEV’s start getting closer to market. It WILL cut into current EV/PHEV sales. 4) The growth curve was always artificial because of the ZEV mandate kicked in at the same time for 1st tier manufacturers (AKA “Large Volume… Read more »

Excellent points. Sales are on pace with production. Production numbers are kept low because most automakers don’t want to sell any more EVs than they are required to.

The regs require an increase in sales in 2018 and we’ll start to see sales tick up in 2017.

What has been happening is that gas prices had reached a stable plateau in the last year before the fall in prices. People naturally get used to the gas price and EV purchases stagnate.

When the prices rebound, there will be a second surge in EV purchasing as people get use to expensive oil again. At that time, there should new compelling EV’s available for purchase.

The timing you speak of is important because my best estimate puts the next barrel-oil “whiplash” in mid 2017. There will be compelling new long range EV’s by then, the big question will be ‘can anyone afford them?’