There are 26 electric or plug-in hybrids cars for sale in the US today. But 5 of them account for 73% of all sales and two of those are made by Tesla. But first a word of caution. Tesla refuses to reveal sales data by country, so any statistics about US sales for the company are based on estimates. — carefully calculated estimates but estimates nonetheless. For more monthly sales charts and reports, check out our sister site, EVObsession.
Leading the sales chart in September is the Tesla Model S with estimated sales of 2,200 cars. Following close behind is Chevrolet’s plug-in Volt with sales of 2,031. Just a few units behind the Volt is Tesla’s other electric car, the Model X SUV at 2,000. Next on the list is the Ford Fusion Energi PHEV at 1,652. In fifth place is the venerable Nissan LEAF. In dire need of a refresh — Nissan has been selling essentially the same car since late 2011 — it garnered 1,316 sales despite having limited range and styling that was funky when new but now just looks dated.
Those were the only models to sell more than 1,000 units in September. Sadly for those of us who are EV fans, the total of all 26 models is still less than 1% of the market. We have said recently that the EV market will need to grow to about 15% of the total new car market before electric cars truly start going mainstream. Research suggests that once the 15% threshold is met, explosive growth will follow with 60% market penetration following swiftly. At less than 1% today, the EV has a long, long way to go before it becomes the vehicle of choice for most Americans.
The rest of the field only sold a few hundred units in September. Some at the bottom of the list barely managed a few dozen sales. A few were in the single digits, like the Cadillac ELR.
There are a few bright spots for EV enthusiasts in the September sales report. Plug-in hybrid electric car sales were up 23% versus the same month last year and up 50% so far this year. Much of that gain is due to favorable sales figures for the second generation Volt that only became widely avialable this spring.
Most of the cars at the bottom of the list are either compliance cars offered only in California and a few other states or they are discontinued models like the older Toyota Prius PHEV. Fortunately, there are new offerings arriving soon such as the Chevy Bolt electric car and a BMW i3 with longer range. By this time next year, the field should be a lot more competitive with many of the lowest selling examples withdrawn from the marketplace.