Op-Ed: 2018 U.S. Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Predictions

Red Tesla Model 3 front


It is time again to peer into the crystal ball of US Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales and see what 2018 has in store for us.

2017 was a banner year, posting gains over 2016 in every single month driven largely by the return of a Prius with a plug and Chevy Bolt reaching nationwide availability.

Related – Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard

I sheepishly avoided doing last year’s post when Tesla failed to provide any guidance on 2017 Model 3 sales. This year things are a little more clear on Tesla’s plans with the Model 3 and we can speculate on how that will influence other plug-in sales.

Here are links to other past posts, and, as always, feel free to post your own predictions in the comments below.

Op-Ed: 2016 Plug In Sales Predictions for US

Op-Ed: 2015 Plug In Sales Predictions for US

Op-Ed: 2013 Plug In Sales Predictions for US

2018 Plug-In Sales Predictions for the US

Summary of Plug-In Predictions

Total Sales (325,000: +60%)

I am changing things up this year and going to hit on the total volume first, before breaking into the individual vehicles.

Last year, sales reached 199,826, or 200k in round numbers, which was a 26% increase over 2016. This year, I expect an even larger increase in the overall market. The primary driving force is Tesla reaching steady production of Model 3, and even more importantly, the attention Model 3 will draw to the market.

I have always seen the plug-in vehicle market like a brand within the regular auto market. Tesla offers the halo products, while other offerings fill the gaps in price, form, and function. Tesla receives outsized media coverage (positive and negative) for the young automaker’s relative size in the industry, which will only grow this year.

There is a combination of factors this year that will drive the entire segment to grow: US Federal Tax Credit will begin to fade for some OEMs, new offerings on the market, increase in the CARB compliance requirements, and Tesla’s delay in delivering base Model 3.

Overall, I see the plug-in market growing to 325,000 vehicles in 2018, which is an increase of over 60% from 2017 numbers.

Tesla (Model 3, S and X)

Even with the production woes associated with the Model 3 launch, it is a lock to top the sales chart for 2018. The most recent guidance is for Tesla to reach production of 5,000 per week around the mid-point of the year, so sales will be heavily backloaded this year. In the past, production rate has not equaled total deliveries divided by the number of weeks, so I see Tesla getting 25,000 out by mid-year and another 75,000 out the rest of the year. So, 100,000 in total for 2018. There will be disruptions in production as tweaks to manufacturing continue. Put about a +/- 25k error band on that number with the remaining uncertainty in the production ramp.

Model S and X are a bit more clear, Tesla has seemed to top out production of each which results in about 25,000 per model of domestic sales or 50,000 combined for the U.S. in 2018 (100k worldwide). Model 3 attention and delays will keep the order book full for these models.

Electric cars

Chevy (Bolt, Volt)

Chevy Bolt burst onto the sales scene in its first full year on the market, taking the #2 sales position only behind the Model S. The combination of the tax credit clock starting to tick for GM and the delay in Model 3 base models will clear all the inventory of the Bolt for 2018. Sales will be production limited, which our best guess is at around 30,000 units for the Bolt. It should have a lock on the #2 sales position this year.

Volt has gotten pushed aside a bit due to the Bolt attention, but look for some great deals tied to the tax credit and some built up inventory at points this year. GM will still figure out a way to move 20,000 Volts. Let’s hope 2019 is the year Voltec makes its way into the CUV market.

Nissan (LEAF)

As delayed as Model 3 has been, it would be easy to argue the 2nd generation of the Nissan LEAF is far more overdue. The 2018 version could arguably be called the 1.5 since the full 60 kWh pack won’t be on the market until 2019. Nonetheless, Nissan knows how to sell on price. Once production gets ramped up for the 40 kWh 2018 model, Nissan will be going after impatient Model 3 reservation holders fiercely. Nissan will also have the full tax credit for a couple more quarters than Chevy and Tesla. I see Nissan reaching close to 30,000 sales, but coming in a hair shy of Bolt sales due to the lag in getting vehicles out early in 2018.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Is this real? Is the Outlander actually in the SUV center of the world after years of delay? It seems so. Unfortunately, Mitsubishi as a brand doesn’t carry the same weight in the US anymore and its dealership network doesn’t match others (like alliance brother Nissan). I only see 10,000 making their way into driveways this year, but it might put a scare into the domestic SUV makers to start offering plugs.

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota restarted the sales of Prius with a plug-in late 2016, now known as the Prius Prime. In my opinion, the newest Prius is among the ugliest cars on the road today, but the Prime is the least offensive trim. Despite its looks, the Prius has a massive brand following and outstanding Toyota reliability backing it. With CARB requirements jumping up this year, Toyota will make sure to keep the plug-in variant stocked. I see 25,000 being sold this year.

2018 BMW i3 Sport


While BMW’s i3 and i8 was their big splash on the EV scene, BMW has taken Ford’s playbook and beat them at it. Adding a plug to all the normal offerings as a premium trim is starting to see some real success. These PHEV sales now outpace the i3 and i8 sales, and 2018 looks to continue this trend. The variety of offerings from BMW should make up for any specific models falling off this year, I see 25,000 headed off the lot.


Ford’s plug-in lineup is stale and shrinking at this point. C-max Energi is now out of production, just selling out the remaining inventory. Fusion Energi is hanging on for another year and Focus Electric remains a mostly compliance / build-to-order offering. 2019 may be the year Ford puts some fresh models on the market, but we know how the timing of new plug-in releases tends to go. For 2018, I will generously put Ford at 10,000 sales, since they have gotten aggressive on pricing when inventory starts to pile up.

Honda Clarity

After years of having their head firmly in the sand, Honda has come up for air with the multiple drivetrain Clarity offering. Early returns show that Honda might be serious about selling in volume, especially in increasing CARB requirement states. If they can get the loyal fans to convert to the plugs, Honda looks to push about 20,000 into driveways for 2018.


Despite standing alone with a great plug-in minivan called the Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler has been plagued with production problems getting this offering on the market. This offering should be doing better. Hopefully, this is the year things turn around and 10,000 go off the lot. They also have the 500e doing its compliance thing, notching another 5,000 in sales this year. That is about 15,000 in total for 2018.

Categories: BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Sales, Tesla, Toyota

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

87 Comments on "Op-Ed: 2018 U.S. Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Predictions"

newest oldest most voted
(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Tesla Model 3 sales will be 3187.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

For march…..lol

Another Euro point of view

For full year 2018 :-):

Model 3: 90k
Model S: 24k
Model X: 22k

Full 2018 year loss: $2.5B +/- $0.4B

New equity raise: by beginning Q3 2018

Sales figures in Europe: less than for 2017

40k model 3 , 2018 (production rate 2500/week end of q2 2018, sustained rate 1000/week end of q2 2018, production rate 5000/week end of q4 2018, sustained rate 2500/week end of q4 2018)
120k model 3, 2019
(production rate 10000/week end of q4 2019, sustained rate 5000/week end of q4 2019)
240k model 3, 2020

240k model 3, 2021
(sustained rate 10000/week end of q4 2021)
480k model 3, 2022

Better have lower numbers and get us surprised, then have to high numbers.

Lol, I will say 78k-80k TM3, 20k TMS, 15k-18k TMX. Bolt will be 33k-38k since you will see chevy poaching TM3 buyers. Volt is now a 12k-14k. Clarity,Prime, and Ioniq is stealing from them. Next year will see GM full lineup of phev in thier cars, volt crossover. Leaf will get 36k-39k. Carity will get 25k-27k since its bigger then prime and volt. Prime 22k-25k. Euro carz will get slam with trump trade tariffs

Reality explote in your face 5000 per week in end of q2. only m3 and 2k of S and X

SI there a follow-up to the 2016 predicitions? It’s always fun to see how right/wrong predictions were.


Jean-François Morissette

That looks about right.

All the others are your margin of error?

Daimler, Volvo, Hyundai-Kia, etc?

Jean-François Morissette

And the whole Volkswagen group (Audi, VW, porsche)?

Sticking my neck out there.
400,000 for 2018 US plugin vehicles sold. That is unless there is a trade war, real war, or other crazy events.

I was hoping it would break 400k :/

The total this year is so utterly dependent on Tesla Model 3 sales that any estimate is going to be, more or less, an estimate of how well or how poorly Tesla does the ramp up on TM3 production. As everyone knows, so far it’s doing remarkably badly.

Last year I guessed that Tesla would deliver at least 20,000 Model 3’s… and look what happened! Perhaps it’s pusillanimous of me, but I’m going to decline to make any guess. I don’t see much point in making an estimate when things are this much up in the air.

Here’s hoping Tesla surprises us all — in a good way — and delivers well over 100,000 Model 3’s this year! 🙂

It depends on Tesla in more than one way. For example, Tesla may chose to on purpose slow down deliveries in the US and divert to Canada or maybe germany(for tax break in germany that will expire soon). Then use this time to bring up production to 7k-8k per week and then go over the 200k. In this way they can pretty much insure every US preorder gets the full tax break.

It all comes down to how fast the elephant in the room (model 3) can ramp up production. Nobody knows nothing (including in my opinion Tesla themselves) when it comes to that. I think 2019 will really be the year the EV sales flywheel starts accelerating.

Tesla has been very consistent dramatically missing Model 3 production goals. I don’t see it being produced in real quantity until 2019 or later.

“I don’t see it being produced in real quantity until 2019 or later.”

The Model 3 is the best selling EV in the United States. Do you consider the best selling EV in the US not to be “real quantity”?

3 sales in the US have been going up approximately 300%, 70%, 8% & 30% over the past 4 months. If they can manage to eke out 30% gains the next 4 months, they will be in the 5500-6000 range for May and 7300-8000 for June. Those aren’t incredibly rapid gains, but they will end up with 3 sales over that of even the best single month that the S has ever had, for US sales at least. And it will mean that the 200,000’th Tesla won’t sell until July, thereby ensuring that Tesla gets the full credit for all US sales for an extra 3 months.
Whatever happens, the next year is going to be interesting.

It will also be the year that tax credits start phasing out for T and GM which will be the real test of the market for EVs.

Politics may enter here too as many non US suppliers start bringing a significant volume of EVs to the US market. Will the credits stay with current rules or maybe be extended for all or cancelled for all as US companies (T and GM) max out.

Best IMHO would be an extension for all to a date (rather than # sold) with a slow phase out so as to not penalize the early movers (T, GM and Nissan)

Total combined orders from US customers for the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Model X in 2018 will be more than 50,000.

I mostly agree with this assessment. I’ve made similar predictions in the past and turned out to be wrong on the Volt and Prius Prime. I’m really surprised these two vehicles aren’t selling better than they are. I can blame the Volt’s performance on GM and its dealers not really being interested in selling it. None of the dealers around me even have any Volts in stock, and I only found 1 Bolt EV. The Prime, on the other hand, really surprises me. I figured Toyota and its dealers would be pushing this hard. Yet, most of the Toyota dealers in my area aren’t even stocking the Prime either. So both of these vehicles could probably sell double or triple what they are if the manufacturers wanted to. One thing that might change is once Tesla is pumping out 5,000 Model 3s per week, the other manufacturers might start to look like they have pie in their face. So they might start pushing their vehicles a little more. I’m sure as Model 3s start to show up more on the street and people start thinking maybe they could actually get one, only to find out they still have to wait… Read more »

Are you guys going to be able to get the BMW/Mercedes/Volvo/Kia/Hyundai PHEV sales this year, or will all of those end up being estimated?

350+ sounds good estimate. I agree pretty much with your estimates for all individual OEMs. I think the 3 should b be able to go 150k. The others might not grow as much.

Took a test drive in the Pacifica this weekend. With Fed and CO tax credits (if you can claim), makes this a great deal, only issue we could find was the uncertain towing capacity, we were told 2,000lb, but can find no definitive mention on the website. By far the best value for moving many people and stuff.

Chrysler has stated that the Pacific can NOT be used for towing.

I agree that it is not clear on the website and they hide that statement. It says it clearly in the users manual.

I would already have bought one if it could tow.

VW and Mercedes? How about some of the others?

I’m betting we hit 400k this year….I think we will see between 150-200k of the Model 3’s being made — 80+% in the US

I know that the Volt is getting a little long in the tooth but you didn’t have to go there with that photo for the Bolt & Volt. 🙂

LOL I didn’t even notice that photo caption. Hilarious.

Volt is still awesome tho. B)

😆 😆 😆

Thanks! I hadn’t noticed the caption either.

Who is the editor who’s getting snarky? Steven Loveday, or someone else? Come on, we do want to pay attention to that man behind the curtain! 😉

I wish:
– The Pacifica could tow. We would have bought it already if it could
– The Outlander could tow a decent load, 3500lbs like in Europe.
– A $35k Model 3 actually existed
– A 200+ mile LEAF with TMS was available.

I think the Clarity would be the dark horse. It seems like a really good car, ideal PHEV for about the same price as an Accord. If people catch wind of it and can handle the looks and don’t just want to avoid an EV, Honda may be production constrained.

My dissenting opinions:

– Nissan Leaf won’t sell as well due to Bolt competition and expectations for the standard Model 3.
– BMW will just keep around last year figures, again due to Leaf and Model 3 competition.
– Outlander will sell around 5000 units, deducing from other ICE-transformed-to-PHEV sales figures.
– Honda Clarity will sell 10000 units, at best. The PHEV version will compete against Volt and Ioniq PHEV (both slow sellers) and the BEV has a too short range to be competitive those days (look at the Mercedes-Benz B250e). There is little indication that either sales or availability will improve.
– Bolt should sell a little better, at 40k units.
– It is a bit difficult to predict Tesla Model 3 deliveries, but I think that getting to 200k in the end of this year is not impossible.

Lmao TM3 is not going sell 200k if they can’t sell 10k in 2 quarters

Therez 10 clarity models here in NE ohio. Honda is a reliable brand, its the dealers that need to step it up and sell it but honda engineers f up with that ugly back design. Everything fine until you see the back

Gabriel – Remember, these numbers don’t include Canada, where both Bolt and Model 3 will sell this year. Your numbers are almost impossible based on production capabilities.

OP Josh Bryant said: “Tesla receives outsized media coverage (positive and negative) for the young automaker’s relative size in the industry, which will only grow this year.”

Or Tesla is receiving balanced-sized media coverage considering:

1) Tesla is predicated by OP to represent up to ~50% of the 2018 EV market share equaling the combined next 8 highest volume EV car makers!

2) The automotive industry consensus is that ICE is on a clear path of phase-out to be displaced by EV. Tesla is currently EV King. So currently its literally a battle of Tesla vs. all the other car makers in terms of who wins the future of automotive. That is media worthy.

3) Just about every car maker is making a slew of EV centric media announcements and often those announcements include (by the car maker itself) indirect or direct reference to Tesla… thus Tesla is also dragged into competitor’s media mentions. Example:

“Jaguar I-Pace Versus Tesla Model X – Race Video”: https://insideevs.com/jaguar-pace-versus-tesla-model-x-race-video/

I agree with OP’s 2018 predictions except Tesla Model 3 I’d allow margin of +75k / -25K.

2022 (2023 if things go badly) for 1,000,000 in sales
Hope it comes sooner, but things take time.

Your numbers add to 335k, seems like the VW/Mercedes/etc. would put it over 350k total….

Tesla Model 3 deliveries in 2018:

More than 100,000

325,000 is a lofty #. The good news for the estimated number is; within the Electric car #’s are the hybrids Prius Prime 25 miles on battery then it runs on gas. The EV Fords run 20 miles on batteries then they runs on gas. Shouldn’t we really consider these type cars hybrids.
We are funding those with tax rebates – crazy. The US sold 105,000 Electric only, the kind of car when the battery ran out it would need to be plugged into a charger. Those are “Electric” vehicles. If electric only vehicles were on the list we will not hit the 325,000. Tesla is very good at what they do – marketing. If the 400,000 us customers want an electric car go get one now. $7,500 Federal tax break many states have their own breaks on top of that in many cases you can receive $10,000+ buy now it won’t get any better.
The problem is consumer demand is not there. Tesla holds back orders, gets in the news each month – BRILLIANT!

Always fun to speculate.

The one vehicle that I have a fairly strong opinion that you are wrong on is the Prius Prime. As the lowest priced ‘full’ sized Prius after tax credit, I think Toyota can sell a heck of a lot more of these than they have been, if they want to. And, comments of Toyota execs back when the Prime was introduced indicated that they saw the Plug-in Prius as the next big thing … comparing it to the second generation Prius liftback which was the first hybrid to achieve true mass volume.

Now that they have a year’s production under their belt to iron out any potential problems they will ramp up volume and we’ll see wider availability and some dealer and/or manufacturer incentives.

I expect 40,000+ Primes to sell in the US this year.

I should go for a test drive in one of these. See how it compares to a PiP

I once stumbled into a mode on this where you could add pictures but now I can’t figure out how to do it.

I like to separate out BEV’s and PHEV’s, 190k and 130k.

Might need to revise that Model 3 estimate… if they really pull off 22K in September, they’re going to be beyond the minimum that was predicted, and be moving at a rate suggesting they’d easily exceed the maximum that was predicted.

So, it seems October will bring us 33,000 PEVs roughly. For November ’18 I expect about 40,000 while for December ’18 it wouldn’t be a surprise if a new record of 50,000 units gets achieved. Total PEVs for 2018 between 350,000 and 360,000. YoY 75-80& growth. Not bad. If Tesla keeps the momentum in 2019 the total sales number should be about 550,000 PEVs.