Final 2015 Plug-In Electric Sales Report For U.S. – More Than 400,000 EVs All-Time

JAN 23 2016 BY MARK KANE 30

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Tesla Model X barely catch for 2015

Tesla Model X

The year 2015 is now behind us.

Excluding December 2010 (the first month of Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt availability), we have had five bold years and over 400,000 people in U.S. now driving electric cars.

Here we have the ultimate sales report for end of the world year using IEV’s data (see Scorecard – full data chart also at bottom of article), which in some cases are estimations due to lack of official data from manufacturers (such as Tesla/Fiat), but updated as more data becomes available.

Let’s go!

Year 2015 brought a sales slowdown in U.S. and despite an all-time record in December (13,699), the sales result for the whole year was 5.3% down, compared to 2014.

The reasons considered as most important are the very late arrival of the 2016 Nissan LEAF and the limited 2016 Chevrolet Volt launch in late Fall, as well as Toyota Prius PHV withdrawal (awaiting an all-new plug-in version in late 2016 or 2017). Those three models were the best-selling plug-ins  in previous years. An additional reason sales were under pressure of course is lower gasoline prices.

Between December 1, 2010 and December 31, 2015 we noted 407,530 sales of mainstream plug-in electric cars in U.S.

Our expectation for 2016 is to see a more aggressive sales growth curve close to what the global segment experienced in 2015, as the 8 updated/new plug-ins from the last half of 2015 will be in play for all of 2016, and some ~dozen new offerings will also arrive.

Editor’s note:  Another ~2,550 plug-in sales were noted from fringe EVs, defunct brands, fleet-only and older stock sell-offs over the same time – which we do not include due to their public availability (lack therof) and the specific unknown chronologies of their monthly/yearly sales

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Average market share in 2015 stood for 0.67% compared to the record high of 0.74% in 2014, but higher than 0.63% in 2013. It’s important to note that overall car sales were growing every year since 2010.

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Another look – monthly sales compared to year-average:

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Here is a comparison of all-elctric and plug-in hybrid sales in the U.S. We used data from EDTA (Electric Drive Transportation Association) website just as an easy way to see those two categories.

Battery electric cars have an edge over PHEVs:

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

We found guilty for 2015 sales – plug-in hybrids failed the most as all-electric cars were mostly up:

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Quick look at this year winners – Tesla Model S of course. Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt second and third, respectively:

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Broader picture of Top 10 models (cumulative sales) shows us not only which model is most popular (as of the end of 2015 – LEAF over Volt), but also the pace of growth.

U.S. Plug-In Cars - December 2015

U.S. Plug-In Cars – December 2015

Full model-by-model breakdown of plug-ins sales in the US for 2015 (chart has been updated since this story was first released to finalize previously estimated data – less than 1% changes  to net)

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers - *Tesla Full Year Totals On Model S/X Verified Q4 2015, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Tesla Full Year Totals On Model S/X Verified Q4 2015, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

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30 Comments on "Final 2015 Plug-In Electric Sales Report For U.S. – More Than 400,000 EVs All-Time"

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Did I miscalculate, or is the Chevy Volt not actually ahead of the LEAF on the cumulative total 88,424 to 83,794? Also curios to see which one breaks 100,000 US sales first in 2016?

My bad, I did miscalculate dropping a digit from 2010. LEAF ahead at 92,503

I think the Leaf US sales are ahead, 89,572 to the Volts 88,424. But that 1148 car lead is dropping fast as the Volt’s slow sales are outpacing the Leaf’s very slow sales, of late. Great gas prices and the Osborne Effect are killing Nissan and GM plug in sales.
I think the S is around 64,000 US sales and gaining fast, so it may pass the early two late this year.

SparkEV made top 10? I don’t know if Chevy is happy or devastated for doing so well, seeing how they were so reluctant to make them. Unfortunately, other cars that I wish were on top 10 are no longer made, namely Rav4EV.

I’d like to know how many of those 400,000 are in driveways, and how many are back on dealer’s lots. Any idea what percentage of people leased an EV, and are back on the sidelines now?

Out of 88,000 Volts sold in the past 5 years, 1750 are now on the used car market. Cadillac sold a little over twice as many CTS (194k) over the same timeframe and there are almost exactly 3 times as many used CTS (5168) for sale.
So less used Volts as percentage of previous sales.
Used Volts tend to sell quickly because you can get a great, efficient car for a low price due to the effect of the tax credit on the new cars. Since you can easily get a brand new base Volt for $30k less $7.5k ($22.5k net), it is hard to sell a used Volt for much over $18k.

Warren said:

“I’d like to know how many of those 400,000 are in driveways, and how many are back on dealer’s lots. Any idea what percentage of people leased an EV, and are back on the sidelines now?”


Graphs of cumulative sales over years are always misleading, because they never take into account units which are no longer being used, for one reason or another.

Therefore, I’m glad this article includes several graphs which do not show cumulative sales.

Warren — lists approx 3,200 total electric vehicles for sale in the used market. That is about 0.8%

In comparison, lists approx 1.8 million gas cars for sale out of the roughly 250 million gas cars in the US. That is about 0.72%.

Based upon that math, there are roughly about the same percent of electric cars being resold as gas cars. Both are less than 1% at this given moment.

I would be interested in buying a new Leaf but I can’t take advantage of the $7500 federal rebate unless I lease. Why was the rebate program set up this way?

You mean you don’t have enough taxable income to qualify for full $7500? Yeah, I gripe on that, too. Not having it roll over makes EV tax credit not for the poor who really would benefit from EV; they’re more likely to drive old polluting gas guzzlers.

But I’m sure there was a reason that they set it up this way. I just don’t know their reasoning.

Mathias — It is set up that way because the median household income of a brand new car buyer is about 65-70K/yr. Households with substantially less income than that typically buy used, not new. People who make substantially less than 70K are typically in a credit category for high-risk buyers who have a higher than median rate of defaults and repossessions. Nobody wants EV’s to become known as high repossession rate vehicles. The last thing we need are a bunch of people on the news talking about how they thought an EV would save them lots of money, but now they’ve lost their life savings because they couldn’t keep up with payments and it got repo’d. The Tax Incentive goes down based upon income, so there is less and less of an incentive for people who don’t fit the profile of a typical new gas car buyer. The incentive is designed to successfully roll out EV’s, and part of that not creating an illogical incentive that incentivizes people who have no business buying any brand new car, electric or gas. People who couldn’t afford to buy a brand new gas car, won’t magically be able to afford to buy a… Read more »

Yeah, that is the boat I am in. Retired and all. I would not say I am poor just low income so the tax break means nothing to me.

You could always structure lease to pay off in 1-2 payments. There may be a couple hundred dollars in costs/fees doing it this way; but you’d stall come out ahead with $7,500 lease credit! 🙂

SparkEV — Poor people don’t buy brand new cars, whether they are gas or electric.

Thinking that poor people need new cars, is like the MASH episode where Charles gave expensive high dollar chocolate bars to the orphan children. Only to humbly learn that the expensive chocolate bars were sold and bought a month worth of food…

Poor people can’t afford the taxes, or the registration, or the insurance, etc on any kind of brand new car, gas or electric. They will have to buy used.

Mathias, if I didn’t have the disposable income to get the full credit, I would consider biting the bullet and buying 2 year old Volt. The tax credit is baked in on the used cars. I have a feeling Volts are going to last a LONG time, so not owning a Volt for its first couple years won’t be too big a sacrifice.

Or we lease and have residual reduced by close to tax credit amount then buy the car after lease expire. It’s not as good as one would pay the finance charges in a lease.

Time for a reality check; 400k U.S plugin cars produced over 5 years compared to an estimated 75 million total cars over the same time period is 1/2 of a percent… .5%

Looks pretty anemic to me and defines plugins as still a niche segment; progress is very slow getting EVs into the mainstream. I think you can expect sales to accelerate when someone challenges the more popular segments, i.e., family sedans. Perhaps Tesla’s Model 3 will be a family sedan…that might do it!

That is a fair bit of oil not being burnt! There’s still a lot more to do though.

Oops that wasn’t meant as a reply to Lad but I guess it works anyway.

+1 I was wondering about the same thing, would be cool to track that aspect in his report as well.

To me it’s sad to see new cars that are still fully ICE being sold in 2016. Having driven the eGolf for more than a year now I think the usability and owner experience of low range (24 kW battery) cars is underestimated – I will never buy a gas car again.

The electric revolution will become more dramatic with Bolt and Model 3. Question is how the banks survive their long term investment bets in the oil and energy sector being obsoleted suddenly as is foreseeable now, and how that impacts the economy… Interesting times

One in 500 vehicles with a plug after 5 years, it could be one in 100 in another 5 years.

So that is almost as much as the cumulative European numbers of ~410k-415k.

It will be interesting to see when China beats both those markets. They are at about 280k (EV-sales blogs numbers) or ~315k (“official” numbers from China).

They should be able to beat the US cumulative next year. If they have the incredible growth percentage of this year then the European cumulative numbers should be beaten too, but that might be too much to ask from the Chinese market.

I have my doubts about China. How much of that is NEV or borderline NEV? In same regard, US could also count numerous golf carts as EV?

I think there should be separate category for >70 miles + highway capable.

I think the number Mikael is using is the number of highway capable PHEV/BEV’s. I also have a few issues with the way people constantly down play the Chinese effort in this area the Qin and the Tang both look like very compelling cars for the Chinese market and I think if these cars were available in the same market would compete very well with the volt and the Outlander PHEV. Depending on the finish of the cars they could potentially even compete at similar price points, perhaps not in America but that is purely related to the perception of Chinease products rather than reality. The other issue that I have with comments around the Chinese EV market is the derogetory comments around golf carts. If it replaces a ICE vehicle on the road (I am assuming that US NEV’s are not) it is a good thing. It is impossible to track the various potential car replacement options from Bicycles to public transport but if America moves from Ford pickup trucks to Tesla’s and China moves from where it is now (I assume ICE scooters, public transport and a range of small ICE cars) to golf carts for around town… Read more »

By the same token, if a Chinese NEV replaces a Chinese bicycle or cycle rickshaw, then it is a net environmental loss.

Absolutely, and lets face it, the biggest selling ev in the world is the e-bike which is a negative move for the environment but if it means that the person doesn’t switch to a nasty 2 stroke scooter then it is a plus, sort of. My driver (and heavy bias)is to get to a point where we have nothing but zero emission vehicles on the road. There is a big part of me that cares about efficiency and environmental impact but really making sure that the air we breath is clean is my biggest driver. I am really excited by what is happening in the EU, USA, Japan, Korea and China wrt to low or zero emission vehicles. I hope in 10 years time BYD, GM, Nissan, Tesla, Kia, Mitsubishi, BMW, VW and all the rest are fighting it out to win the biggest slice of the EV pie but I think that to get to zero we must be willing to accept more that just Tesla’s, GM’s or Toyota’s vision. Same goes for the model that works best for 1 nation might not be right for another. I am really happy China has turned up to the party, the… Read more »

In the early 60s you could see the air you breath in L.A. it hurt to inhale deeply with so much ozone. Now with many more people, unleaded gas and catalytic converters it has improved, but electric would make it better.

Bicycles as a primary mode of transportation are going to go away regardless of whether they are being replaced by an ICE or an EV. That is just a fact of the Chinese economy.

All that is at stake is whether that bike gets replaced by an electric scooter or a gas scooter. Or whether that bike gets replaced by a gas car or an electric car.

How are i3s being counted, as BEV, PHEV, both? Is there hard data on the U.S. sales of i3 vs. i3REx?