With Gas Prices Down, Hybrid Sales Drop, While Electric Car Sales Rise


Gas Price Chart Via GasBuddy.com

Gas Price Chart Via GasBuddy.com

Despite Falling Gas Prices, Nissan LEAF Sales Continues To Set Records

Despite Falling Gas Prices, Nissan LEAF Sales Continues To Set Records

“Cheap gas will kill sales of hybrids and electrical vehicles conventional wisdom holds, but a closer look at the numbers through November shows a more complex picture.”

States the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit-based news outlet adds:

“Somewhat surprisingly, hybrids that still use gas, but don’t need recharging, took the biggest hit. Through 2014’s first 11 months, gas-electric hybrid sales fell 9% to 418,850, according to hybridcars.com, slipping to 2.8% of the total U.S. light-vehicle market from 3.2% a year earlier.”

“Plug-in hybrids and pure battery-driven models actually had a strong year. Sales of plug-in hybrids jumped 17% to 51,490 and sales of battery electrics rose 31% to 55,906, of which the Nissan Leaf accounted for nearly half (27,098). Leaf sales were not only up 35% for the first 11 months, they were up 34% in November when gas prices were well into their decline.”

How can it be that sales of plug-in electric cars are still rising despite falling gas prices?  The answer, quite simply, is that saving money on fuel is not the leading factor that drives plug-in electric car sales.  Most plug-in electric car buyers are hoping to break free from gas…forever.  In this case, the cost of gas has no impact then.

The Detroit Free Press states:

“While Volt sales have tumbled 16% from 2013, Ford more than doubled sales of its Fusion Energi plug-in to 10,761. Toyota sold 14% more of its Prius plug-in (12,772 through November).”

Among the top sellers, aside from the Volt and the Model S, plug-in electric car sales in the U.S. were up almost across the board in 2014.  The vehicles that seem to suffer most from declining gas prices are low electric range plug-in hybrids like the Prius Plug-In Hybrid and Ford Energi models, which indicates to us that when gas prices fall, the plug-in models that offer the smallest of benefits over conventional vehicles become economically difficult to justify.

Pure electric cars sales are not impacted by short-term gas price drops.  At least that’s what our sales figures show.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Categories: General, Sales

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77 Comments on "With Gas Prices Down, Hybrid Sales Drop, While Electric Car Sales Rise"

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i think the volt 2.0 will probably outsell all plug in hybrid combined, with lighter weight, more power, longer range, and lower price.

I think Volt 1.0 already does. The PiP has very low sales; the CMax is barely a blip.

CMax is more than a blip — it sold almost half as many as Volt did most months in 2014. And you forgot the Fusion Energi, which outsells the CMax. Fusion Energi plus Cmax Energi is about the same as Volt sales.

Volt 2.0 looks like a nice improvement from 1.0, but it is still just too cramped in the back seats.

The tax credit might have had something to do with strong demand for EVs in November and December relative to the demand for hybrids during the same period.

Exactly! And then the big sales events and P85D launch from Tesla distorted the Nov-Dec data points. This are outliers. Let’s see what happens in Jan/Feb. I think, there will be a huge drop.

@ see trough, Tesla dual drive sales will count as 2015 sales non of them got delivered 2014. So i suppose big highs (at least for Tesla) Jan-March

Almost all US P85D orders go delivered by Dec. The S85D will be in 2015.

Yes, not accurate RS – I’m agreeing with ST on this one.

Tesla delivered a lot of the P85Ds in December…they didn’t clear out their entire original month sale date order book but it was close.

Sales reporting is Tuesday. We have a pretty good feel on January NA numbers (more transparent than most months) as well as data points on International/domestic production (when, what, for whom, etc), and maybe a little February/March forecasting for the US and a S85D update.

Uh, sales were up for 2014. Gas got cheap in the last half of the last month of last year. This is silly. EV sales are going to tank for 2015.

True. People may have a short memory, but they still remember nearly $4 gas. If we get well into 2015 with gas in the $2-$2.50 range, we’ll likely see a big hit in sales.

Moreover, the growth rate definitely slowed for plugins in 2014. It could be that positive word / experience is growing the market, and that it would have grown MORE if it weren’t for cheap gas.

2012 -> 2013 saw an 85% increase (45k units more)
2013 -> 2014 was only 23% (22k units more)

Slow down in YOY (year-iver-year) growth rates is only natural as the larger the number the bigger at raw increase in volume needs to be to keep the same percentage.

eg: Take a small step, now take another that is 25% larger, then repeat. At some point the ability to increase reaches a capacity, or resource constraint.

Except that the raw numbers decreased as well, as Brian’s numbers show, from 45k unit increase to 23k unit increase.

I vote for a new “WOW” number, where once the gut punch is fully inflicted, we can optimistically start to cover rising EV sales – Week Over Week 😉

2014? Never mind.

Not very likely, gas is already starting to climb back up. Some people are stupid and cannot remember 4 months ago but I have not talked to anyone that thinks that gas will stay this low.

Some of us just want off the damn ride, actually.

The Prius is old and it gets no buzz anymore. It will be interesting to see what happens when it is replaced.

i hope the volt 2.0 outsells it, the prius tech is old now.

Lol! What about 25 years old? The placement of the batteries in the upcoming Volt is the same “T” shape as it was in 1990 when GM used industry standard form factor Lead Acid batteries for the Impact, then the EV1, then the Volt!

For someone who knows nothing about EV, seeing the Volt with only 50 miles EV range and batteries stacked up all over the cabin is a good way not to sell them.

GM is the only company that gobbles so much interior space with his batteries.

Yeah, and the placement of those tires is so yesterday. The original model T had those tires in the same four positions too.

Talk about outdated technology.

+1. Very funny. Perfect response to a ridiculous comment. I was thinking of the steering wheel but tires are equally good.

OK so tell me what is the purpose of piling up the batteries IN the cabin instead of under the seats, floor or else?

I guess when you say in the cabin, you’re referring to the less than 1 cubic foot in the fifth seat position?

Their design was done this way to be very crash tolerant, though I do hope that future versions find a different approach.

As a counter example, they did very well with the Spark EV, and the Bolt concept also looks promising.

No i’m taking about the base of the “T”. From the console to the rear.

I guess you’ve lost me. The only spot of the “T” that takes up any space in the cabin is the small bit between the top of the T and the bottom. It is where the feet of a fifth passenger would be placed if the first gen Volt had seating for 5.

No other spot of the “T” takes up any passenger cabin space.

But I do hope they eventually eliminate this compromise as well. However, they have done one of the better jobs packaging batteries. As noted, Ford’s approach is awful, and significantly affects the utility of their vehicles.

The Spark EV is very well done, as are others.

Have a look.
The battery pack runs from the front console to the rear. You’re sitting low just beside it. All the space between the front seat is wasted.

Sigh, you’re not even listening.

I never said people weren’t sitting beside it, I said it’s not in their way, the only part in the way would be for the fifth seat, if the Gen 1 Volt has a fifth seat.

“GM is the only company that gobbles so much interior space with his batteries.”

LOL, you are quite the comedian.

Guess you’ve never looked in back of a Ford Focus Electric, Ford Fusion Energi, or Ford C-Max Energi, huh?

I was going to say, “Obviously when you only have 4.4kwH of battery (PiP), you don’t need a lot of room.”

But I already know the “But Tesla” response, in which I would have to reply about the Volt’s range extender. Unfortunately it would fall on deaf ears. (or since this is the internet is that “blind eyes”.)


I’m talking about passengers room.

‘I’m talking about passengers room.”

Okay, so when you say inside, you really mean something else.

Well, the Gen 1 Volt is a 4 passenger car, and the battery doesn’t intrude on any of those passengers.

I guess your retort would be to argue that it should’ve been a five passenger car, yet I never hear you faulting BMW for their 4 passenger i3.

Is there really any point to have a dialogue with you if you’ve made your mind up before hearing any of the rationale?

Rationales? Who attacks the messenger here?
I didn’t even know the i3 was a four seater.
All I say is that GM would have done a better selling standard 5 seater if they only had placed their batteries elsewhere.
For 5 years it was a persistent complaint not to have 5 seats.

Tell me about rationales from an engineer point of view, noyt to lower the center of gravity? Or the security concerns in a lateral crash, stuck between the batteries and the crushed side of the car?

“Tell me about rationales from an engineer point of view, noyt to lower the center of gravity? Or the security concerns in a lateral crash, stuck between the batteries and the crushed side of the car?”

In a lateral crash, the battery remains most protected in the low center of the vehicle, as it is positioned.

Would you prefer it be underneath like the Tesla? You do realize the fires they had from battery punctures, right?

People who wanted 5 seats complained that the Volt wasn’t 5 seats… Everyone else loved the Volt’s 4 seats. It’s a compact after all.

The one cubic foot of space that could otherwise fit the feet of a fifth person will eventually be a moot point as battery tech improves.

In a lateral crash, you will be crushed between a wall of heavy batteries with an insane acceleration and the vehicle hitting you… or a tree…

Plenty of lateral crashes so far, and no deaths, and no fires. Please back up your assertion with technical data.

GM took a 5 seater platform and transformed it in a 4 seater with no real constraint to do that.

BMW has build a brand new platform from the ground up designed it all around to be a 4 seater compact.

Often I’m reffered to as a bev purist, but I can say that many posters here are just like Tesla Fanboys and cannot tolerate any contradiction around the holy Volt! 😉

If you look at my comments, I’m not a Volt fanboy that praises everything about it. In fact, I state above that I hope future variants allow for more space for a fifth passenger as battery tech improves. Conversely, all of your statements look for data to try and bash the Volt. Example 1: You state the Volt started with a 5 seat platform, so because they made an EREV that is only 4 seats, they suck. BMW designed the i3 to be 4 seats from the beginning, so that’s ok. What??? Example 2: You state GM is the worst at hogging space in the interior with their batteries. When referencing Ford vehicles, you change your stance to be interior passenger space. When expanding on this, you then say the space wasted is between the front seats, which is not passenger space at all, but storage space, completely contradicting your point above. Example 3: You are suggesting the Volt is unsafe in its battery design, yet nobody has ever died in a Volt crash, despite some very awful and tragic collisions. The Lithium Ion battery has never caught fire in any crash either, despite one case where an ICE vehicle… Read more »

Clearly he’s never ridden in a Honda Insight, or he wouldn’t complain about the relatively small amount of space taken up by the battery in the Volt.

“GM is the only company that gobbles so much interior space with his batteries.”

Um, take a look at the Ford CMax or Fusion. Park the Hybrid (non-plugin) next to the Energi (plug-in) and compare the trunk space. Or the gasoline Focus and the eletric one. Do the same for the Accord. I’d say GM did a pretty decent job of packing their battery. The only companies doing a better job in a PHEV/EREV (IMO) are VW and BMW.

Spark EV doesn’t have much intrusion an that’s 21kWh.

in a small car.

Noted. I wasn’t even thinking about BEVs – the focus was more of an afterthought (although it shows that Ford puts about zero effort into tucking away their batteries). As you said above, the counter can always be “but they don’t have a gas engine”.

Last but not least, I have never seen a Spark EV in person, although I have seen all of those I listed. I cannot properly judge intrusion in that car.

Google is your friend…

Nah, google is a nemesis of mine.

That picture does not tell me how much space (if any) was lost in the car compared to the gas Spark. I could look up the numbers, but it really doesn’t matter. When you say “GM is the only company that gobbles so much interior space with his batteries”, all I need to prove your comment wrong is to find ONE counter example.

I am liking very much my Spark EV that I’ve had for a year now. I do not mind that it has batteries inside because an 82 mile extension cord would be too big.

SMART, 500e, B-200, Spark, KIA, Leaf, RAV4… name it!

EREV or BEV is irrelevant since none places batteries in the front, where is the ICE.
They all put them mainly under the floor or seats, with a few with cargo space taken on the rear axe.

Only GM is stubburn enough to restrain passengers seating.
As I said, it is a good way to sell only a few.

I disagree that it’s irrelevant. Sure, no BEV has batteries under the hood. But most BEVs have the motor and electronics there. The difference is the lack of exhaust system running underneath the car. Not to mention the fuel system.

See my reply to KDawg – I was referring to PHEVs/EREVs. The i3 REx and Audi eTron (and its sister, the VW GTE in Europe) are the only PHEVs/EREVs I know of with a better battery placement. All the cars you listed are BEVs. Apples and Oranges.

And trunk space is a key part of interior volume. Putting batteries in the trunk is not a solution.

Prius phev

Haha! There you go with that comedy routine again. Perhaps you can reference them once they get 50 miles EV range like the Volt. The last time I checked, they were rated at 6 miles.

You make a good point though… When the battery is essentially non-existent, it does not intrude. An astute grasp of the obvious.

Why are you wasting time with Lustccc guy or whatever he is called.

He is just a Volt hater who trolls around the internet. He drives a Prius (obvious Volt hater)…

He is too stupid to know all the details..

“An astute grasp of the obvious”. That IS funny!

“SMART, 500e, B-200, Spark, KIA, Leaf, RAV4… name it!”


Some of the packs here don’t have liquid cooling like the Volt so they can reconfig them into a stack.

T-shape is less likely to have road debris hitting it from the underneath as it has less exposed area for puncture. Volt battery is about as big as some of the cars here.

And Volt has lower Cd than all the models you listed here…

A wise man once said, “Why are you wasting time with Lustccc guy or whatever he is called.” 😉 😉

Agreed. That some of the reasons why volt 2.0 will still sell poorly.

Dr. Miguelito Loveless

I will be looking seriously at the Volt 2.0 when I replace my ICE in a few years. I have a Leaf and am interested in seeing what happens when/if they do double the range this year and whether they will offer any kind of upgrade path for the older models.

If you already have a leaf, i would anything with an ICE and just wait for the 2nd gen pure electric cars

Dr. Miguelito Loveless

Well, the 2nd gen Leaf is looking at less than 200 miles and the Bolt 200 (claimed). I need something with 300+ miles that is not dependent on FC that may, or may not, show up. Also, I need something that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I keep hearing similar stories. I wonder how many people are going to go from a Leaf to a Volt (or some other PHEV)? I’m actually thinking of going the other way, Volt to a BEV…. but yes, it needs to have 200 miles of range.

Volt to Bolt. Doncha see, it all makes sense now.

I would wager a guess that the true “Innovators” crowd that bought into the very first Leafs will largely not go to the Volt. They will likely continue to make whatever sacrifices they can to drive 100% electric.

The next group, the “Early Adopters”, will be more willing to go to a Volt. Many will be disillusioned by things like the slow growth in infrastructure and the severe hit to winter range. The Volt offers a very good AER with the backup of a generator you take with you.

The wildcard is the arrival date and price of the second generation BEVs. We know the targets. If they are hit, many of those early adopters will be coming off lease right around the time that 150 to 200 mile BEVs are becoming affordable. That could be enough to keep them in BEVs.

Just my opinion.

I think how well the Volt 2.0 sells will greatly depend on the range. Anybody who buys a plug-in EV wants to get as much mileage as possible burning no gas.

According to one survey, Volt owners use public chargers to extend their range more often than Leaf owners. Why? Because the Leaf has significantly greater all-electric range. If the Volt 2.0 has only 50 miles of range, then it will continue to sell in only moderate numbers, just like the Volt 1.0.


I don’t think that going from a BEV with ~75 miles of range to a PHEV with only ~50 miles of electric range is going to appeal to many drivers. Now, give them a PHEV with ~100 miles of electric range -plus- a gas-powered range extender… and then then you’ll likely have a winner.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re gonna see anything like that on the market in the next year or two.

No one seems to be acknowledging the fact that, in PHEV/EREV, there is a sweet spot in the ratio of AER and ICE range. I drove a Volt for two years (24K miles) and only 15% of the miles (~3600) were in CS mode (and when I turned it in, the oil life meter was at 82%).

Two points I want to make about this:
1) I felt like the EREV was a bit wasted/underutilized in my use case. 95% of the CS mode was for about 6 road trips where the travel time had to be as minimal as possible and/or the journey went through territory not yet served by PCS (public charging stations).

2. I was so successful avoiding gas that I went to a 2013 Leaf. I had conquered my range anxiety and opted instead for gas anxiety. Now all I have is “battery health anxiety” and that is now gone thanks to workplace charging enabling use of long-life mode (80% charge).

Doesn’t seem like a mystery. Completely different driving experiences. A hybrid drives like a lousy version of an ICE. A electric car drives like a super luxury version of an ICE. Plus not having to go to a gas station — aka worst retail experience in the world — doesn’t hurt either.

Exactly. A hybrid is a compromise one makes in order to save money at the pump. A plug-in is an upgrade in driving experience and convenience (home fueling).

” aka worst retail experience in the world ”
I dunno, Walmart really sux on Black Friday.. actually most days of the year.

The reason for the Fusion Energi plug-in doubling its sales was Ford running a very low lease program on the vehicle.

My guess is that beside environmental reasons, the BEV sales are mostly driven by incentives which is almost “free” in some cases.

The biggest question is how well LEAF sales will sustain itself once the GA state incentives gets modified or reduced or eliminated..

Gas prices are a roller-coaster. I’m not waiting for the next gas price spike to get off this crazy oil ride.

Not surprising at all that EV sales go up while hybrids go down with gas prices:
1) electricity costs about $1/gal equivalent, so EV buyers don’t care if gas moves between $2 and $5
2) many EV buyers like me have solar, so we drive on the sun, even if gas was $1/gal we would drive EV!
3) EV buyers buy EVs like Porsche buyers by Porsehes, not because of spreadsheets and ROI, but because they make us feel good!

— Vinod

It’s just a case of not liking to be rip off and blame for it.
Just got tired of listenins to lies of specialist explaining why their projection didn’t pan out and happylly keeping the circular motion running.
When you drive an EV, at least you know what to expect pricewise.
Drivin an ICE, not so much.

This article is trying a bit hard in my opinion, it assumes that all the cars are in the same market bought by similar people who think in the same way and who have a choice. The reason the leaf sells so well is because it is available every where and there is stock around. Are pip sale really anything to do with the cost of gas? I think not, if Toyota sold them across the whole country and stocked them the pip could be the top selling phev in the us. Let’s also not forget the volt incubatory issues around Christmas this year and last. IMO GM have pretty much sold everything they have made they have just made less every year since 2012. Tesla and nissan are selling the most because they are trying the hardest. Gas prices will have an effect but this analysis is way over simplified.

You make a good argument, but it’s only partially true. GM would like to sell more Volts, but they’re already making them faster than they sell, so GM has to idle the production lines for weeks every summer. (It’s true that recently GM stopped promoting the Volt, but the problem with sales lagging behind production has been the case for 2-3 years now.)

At least part of the reason that PEV sales are limited is because of their limitations, and not only because of limited production.
The reason Tesla cars are selling so well by comparison, despite a much higher price than nearly all other PEVs, is because they are considerably less limited than other PEVs.

” At least part of the reason that PEV sales are limited is because of their limitations, and not only because of limited production. ”
If PHEV’s used a faster AC Charger (6.6 kW or higher), even as an optional add on/swap; AND had DCQC access, they would deal with some of their shorter call Electric Range issues better.

“The reason Tesla cars are selling so well by comparison, despite a much higher price than nearly all other PEVs, is because they are considerably less limited than other PEVs.” Partly addressed above, also if EREV’s had a range of 80 – 90 miles, Plus the onboard Generator, they could have an offer that technically is more competitive, so long as price, style, and space were OK.

Gas prices didn’t start falling until the second half of the year. During the first half sales of all plug-ins was up over 30%. While Prius sales have been falling since September of 2013. I believe that gas prices will start rising again in about 3 months. (Refinery change overs and the European economic recovery are the resons why)

Due to these reasons sales of plug-ins should really take off this summer, while standard hybrid sales should continue to fall.

Maybe EV drivers are smarter than average and know that oil prices won’t stay low forever. There’s some indication that they are starting to rise again already. Also even at this price electricity is much cheaper.