Plug-Ins Take Nearly 4% Of The Subcompact Sales In The U.S.

JUN 20 2016 BY MARK KANE 18

BMW i3 Protonic Blue

BMW i3 Protonic Blue

Plug-in electric car sales in U.S. were at 0.74% of the market in 2014.  In 2015, they took a step back to 0.66%, as the wait was on for new models.

Now in 2016, the US has again started to move ahead – so far this year, market share stands at 0.70%.

Disclaimer:  On paper, 2016 is lower than 2014 (.74% vs .70%), so how can we say the US is moving ahead? Answer: plug-in sales are depressed in Q1 of every year compared to petrol sales.  Currently, 2016 EV sales are ~14% higher than 2014 through May, which would translate to ad adjusted .80% share.

According to the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, in some vehicle categories, plug-in vehicle’s market share is already at 1-4%.  Mostly due to the plug-in offerings that are available at this time.

Subcompacts are closing in on a 4% share, while Compacts are reaching 1%. Large and midsize cars are at around 2.5% and 1.5% respectively.  (full charting below)

There was no real plug-in SUVs on the market, but with introduction of Tesla Model X, also this category should grow this year to decent levels.

The DOE, as always, tracks the price of gas alongside EV sales, but as we have maintained in the past, the price of gas has little bearing on the ups and down of plug-in sales at this point.  But rather it is the depth of the plug-in offerings, and the viability of those models to market demand, that moves the sales needle at this point.

“Monthly plug-in vehicle (PEV) sales are small in comparison to total vehicle sales, but PEV sales shares are growing within some size classes.

Looking at six-month moving totals, subcompact PEV sales were 4% of all subcompact sales from September 2014 to February 2015 and after an early-year decline rose to 3.7% by late 2015 despite falling gasoline prices. Large PEV sales were 1.4% of all large car sales in early 2014, but rose to 2.5% by the July to December 2015 period. The compact car and standard SUV categories posted overall gains during this timeframe. Midsize PEV sales, which include the Nissan Leaf, fell from a high of 2.6% of all midsize sales in mid-2014 to 1.5% by December 2015.”


PEV Models by Size Class

Vehicle Size ClassMake/Model
SubcompactMitsubishi iMiEV
BMW Active E
Chevrolet Spark
Cadillac ELR
BMW i3
BMW i8
CompactChevrolet Volt
Ford Focus
VW e-Golf
Audi A3 Plug In
MidsizeNissan Leaf
Prius PHEV
Ford C-Max Energi
Honda Accord
Ford Fusion Energi
Mercedes B-Class
Hyundai Sonata Plug In
LargeTesla Model S
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Mercedes S550 Plug
Standard SUVPorsche Cayenne S E-hybrid
Volvo-XC90 Plug In
Tesla Model X

Fact #930 Dataset

Supporting Information

Share of PEV Sales to All Sales in Size Class, and Gasoline Prices, June 2014 – December 2015

Month-YearShare of PEV Sales to All Sales in Size ClassRegular Gasoline Price
(Dollars per Gallon)
SubcompactCompactMidsizeLargeStandard SUV (4WD)
Jan ’14 – Jun ’140.77%0.67%2.29%1.41%0.00%$3.77
Feb ’14 – Jul ’140.95%0.72%2.43%1.34%0.00%$3.69
Mar ’14 – Aug ’141.38%0.78%2.53%1.23%0.00%$3.57
Apr ’14 – Sep ’141.92%0.80%2.61%1.27%0.00%$3.48
May ’14 – Oct ’142.61%0.80%2.64%1.30%0.00%$3.26
Jun ’14 – Nov ’143.08%0.82%2.57%1.36%0.01%$3.00
Jul ’14 – Dec ’143.56%0.81%2.46%1.46%0.01%$2.63
Aug ’14 – Jan ’153.83%0.73%2.26%1.52%0.02%$2.21
Sep ’14 – Feb ’154.03%0.63%2.08%1.68%0.04%$2.30
Oct ’14 – Mar ’153.71%0.56%1.92%1.81%0.04%$2.55
Nov ’14 – Apr ’153.44%0.53%1.79%1.90%0.05%$2.56
Dec ’14 – May ’153.24%0.55%1.70%2.01%0.06%$2.80
Jan ’15 – Jun ’152.95%0.54%1.61%2.25%0.06%$2.89
Feb ’15 – Jul ’152.97%0.59%1.61%2.22%0.06%$2.88
Mar ’15 – Aug ’152.77%0.64%1.62%2.15%0.06%$2.73
Apr ’15 – Sep ’153.07%0.70%1.61%2.21%0.06%$2.46
May ’15 – Oct ’153.06%0.81%1.59%2.26%0.06%$2.39
Jun ’15 – Nov ’153.16%0.88%1.54%2.46%0.10%$2.26
Jul ’15 – Dec ’153.74%0.97%1.48%2.49%0.19%$2.14
Sources: PEV data provided by Yan Zhou, Argonne National Laboratory, Light Duty Electric Drive Vehicles Monthly Sales Updates, May 2016.
Sales by size class data provided by Russ Campbell, SRA International, May 2016.


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18 Comments on "Plug-Ins Take Nearly 4% Of The Subcompact Sales In The U.S."

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I’m not sure I believe the statement about gas prices having little effect. Perhaps when talking about premium vehicles like the i3 and Tesla, I would agree. But I highly suspect the cheaper vehicles suffer in sales from low gas prices. And I could also make the opposite statement. If gas prices were to soar to $5 a gallon, you can bet EVs would be in high demand due to consumer shock and a desire to give gas companies the finger.

I agree, David. Gas prices aren’t the main driver of electric car sales, but they do have an impact.
But the thing that has really impacted the sales figures for electric cars this past year or two has been the perception of better cars just around the corner.
Now that the Gen II Volt is out, sales are going up. When the Bolt comes out, they will sell in better numbers than the Leaf is selling at now. When the new Leaf comes out its sales will rise as well. If Ford ever gives the Energis a range boost, they could up selling in large numbers.
But the big dog is the III. When it comes out, if it is even close to $35k, it will be huge. At that point there will be several choices under $40k where most of us live, and one of the choices will be a car that is “Tesla cool” and not a “Chevy small cars suck” sort of damaged goods.

There is another gas price factor that really doesn’t have much to do with the current gas prices. And that is people who simply are fed up with being slaves to the gas price roller-coaster, and just want off that roller-coaster for good, no matter what the gas price of the day happens to be today.

Good point about gas price.

People did choose different body style not different power train tech. As shown by Europeans car choices, where EVs in bigger body styles where present and bought.

Weird that the ELR is classified as a subcompact, while the Volt is a compact. Like, if the 3 series is a compact car, is the 3-series coupe considered a subcompact?

Not unusual at all, the Volt has 109 cu ft of space and the ELR has 94 cu ft. The EPA considers Compact to be 100-109 cu ft and Subcompact to be 85-99 cu ft. In fact, the Volt borders on Midsize.

That’s interesting. The fact that 1 extra cu. ft. would have put the Volt into the midsize category leads one to believe that GM wanted the Volt to remain in the compact class intentionally for some reason.

Another 2 or so cu. ft. Certainly wouldn’t have affected range or cost hardly at all.

It also shows how ridiculous the EPA size ratings can be. The Honda Fit is a subcompact and much roomier than the nearly midsized Volt.

EPA size is old metric that needs update.

EPA size includes both passenger volume and cargo.

So, a car such as hatchback (Tesla Model S) can get a larger classification than a similar car with less cargo volume.

Also, EPA is often cloudy in classifying a station wagon/hatchback.

Wagon requires far more total interior volume than hatchback to get a larger class.

So, it is better to compare interior passenger volume and cargo volume separately.

When are American consumers going to realize that the oil companies lower gas prices on purpose to get everyone addicted (i.e. buy a gas guzzler) and then raise the prices. It kind of reminds me of drug pushers!

How is this any different for the consumer than electricity prices. I have been told by my government that I will save, yet I keep paying more and more because they simply never disclosed how much the clean energy will cost us …. now we know. Wait when BEV’s will hit the market in high numbers, the electricity prices will just keep rising with it.

Not that we have a choice, just don’t use as an argument in the ICE vs BEV argument …

Some have a choice. Those who own a roof can take a huge bite out of that cost with a PV system.

Electricity prices are going up in Texas too, and it isn’t because wind power is more expensive. It’s because the industry charges what it can get away with.

Nice Data.
It would be interesting to see the percentages of plugs for each category, i.e., make the numerator count only the plug-ins of the category in the denominator. Some categories would be larger and some smaller. Seems like the info is there. These ratios/percentages are going to sky rocket in the next 5 yrs from all of the offerings out there.

The funding for CA rebates on electric cars have been exhausted. No more dinero unless the legislature extends funding.

I love how they omit cars like the smart fortwo ED, the Fiat 500e, and the Kia Soul EV, but they include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (which bately sells), the BMW ActivE (discontinued model), and the Audi A3 e-tron (which just hit the market after the end of the data collection period).

So the lesson is to take anything said in this story with a grain of salt because it is not accurate at all.

This points to the need for more different types of EV’s in more classes of cars.

Right now the small end of passenger cars is over-represented in plug-in car choices, in a nation where CUV’s/SUV’s are the largest growth sector.

It’s worse than that, there are around 250 car models sold in the USA. That’s probably around 200 models that you can walk into a dealer and test drive anywhere in the USA. How many EV’s and PHEV’s can you do that with? maybe 10? If you look at under $50k you are probably only talking about 5, most of which are restricted in some way. The model ranges are also much deeper with ICE cars, how many versions of the Focus, BMW 3 series or Camry are there? more than the 3 trim levels of the leaf I would think. Historically under $50k it has only been Leaf or Volt, things have changed a bit recently but really not by that much.

I’m holding out for a La Nina year, with all the high cost oil producers winding back a nice snowy cold Christmas for north America could really test the “price of oil has no affect on sales” mantra. Especially if we have the Prime, Outlander, i3+, volt 2.0, leaf 30kWh, lower cost Fusion Energi and Bolt knocking around in the US market.