100% Electric Cars Outselling Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars In US (2013)

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This article was first published on EV Obsession:

Green Car Reports recently stumbled across an interesting fact — 100% electric vehicles (led by the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S) have actually outsold plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the first half of 2013 in the US.

electric cars outselling plug in electric cars

PHEVs have generally been portrayed as a bridge technology between gasmobiles and 100% electric vehicles. But if 100% electric vehicles are already outselling PHEVs, one might wonder how long that bridge technology will be useful, and how intelligent it was for some companies to invest in and develop high-quality PHEVs like the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma.

Green Car Reports writes:

From January through June of this year, the combination of 9,839 Nissan Leafs, 882 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, and approximately 9,400 Tesla Model S cars (plus 1,700-odd compliance cars and others) exceeds the total of 18,335 plug-in hybrids and Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric cars.

Slightly different six-month sales totals from the Electric Drive Transportation Association tell the same story.

EDTA reports 22,712 battery-electric cars (we presume they use different estimates for the monthly sales that Tesla doesn’t report) against the same 18,335 plug-in hybrids and range-extended electrics that we tallied.

Tesla has been responsible for a good portion of those 100% EV sales. Surely, the great range of the Model S has been a part of that, as well as the car winning just about every car award imaginable and being regarded by Consumer Reports as the best car its team has ever tested.

However, I think the fact that over 12,000 fully electric vehicles (including almost 10,000 Nissan Leafs) were also sold shows that so-called “range anxiety” is not a concern for many people. I’ve written many times that range anxiety is overhyped. The average American doesn’t need anything beyond the range of a typical electric car over 97% of the time, literally. Combine that with the fact that EV owners don’t have to go to gas stations — can simply plug in when they get home — and it’s clear that owning an EV isn’t less convenient but actually more convenient than owning a gasmobile!

With the price of the Nissan Leaf now below $30,000 before tax credits and potentially below $20,000 after tax credits (thanks to production moving to the US earlier this year), it can save many drivers money almost from Day 1 (but that sort of depends on what you’d buy otherwise and how much you drive). With the added benefit that it is much greener — helping to protect our plant, ourselves, and our children from global warming and air and water pollution — and reduces our country’s addiction to oil from unfriendly foreign countries, it’s a wonder why most people looking for a car in this class aren’t buying Nissan Leafs. But it’s good to see that people are certainly beginning to catch on.

As for the higher class in which the Model S competes, the car is even outselling competing gasmobiles from Mercedes, BMW, and Audi… which isn’t really surprising at all, given that it is considered by many experts to be the best “mass-production” car in the world. It has so many benefits that we’d need to write another long article to expound on all those. 😀

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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22 thoughts on “100% Electric Cars Outselling Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars In US (2013)

  • Yes, this is Fisker’s problem. They tried to have it both way and jam gas and electric into one vehicle, making it a mess. They need to take a lesson from Tesla and this article – go pure electric and they might have a chance…

    • Until they have an SUV, that is higher up off the ground and able to be driven in ALL weather conditions (like the RAV 4 EV) that ALSO has a driving range of 400-500 miles (before it has to be charged again) UNTIL THAT TIME, I will NOT be buying!

  • This is still too early to tell. The reason why EV seemed to outsell the PHEV was due to price cuts such as those of Honda, Ford and also the early adopters of Tesla. Once those are filled, it would be flatlining. Since June, the Volt is outselling Nissan Leaf. Tesla’s new orders have been so-so as the eager beavers get their fill. On the other hand, GM’s Spark EV is getting a lot of great reviews and early sales, it should outcompete both the Nissan Leaf and Honda Fit EV. So it will be anybody’s guess. We would have a better bearing by the end of the year. I myself am waiting for GM Spark EV at our local Chevy dealer.

    • Volt outsold Leaf in June because of discount to clear off the inventory of 2012 and 2013 models. MY-2014 is supposed to have some nice features and will not have that discount. So again Leaf will outsell Volt.

    • Honda and Ford don’t really contribute to EV sales at all… hardly at all (208 and 177 EV sales in June). It’s all about the Leaf & Model S. And maybe soon the Spark EV. When it comes to PHEVs, a few models get ~400-500 sales a month — a bit better than the avg EV — But the Volt is the only one getting a significant # of sales, and it’s neck and neck with the Leaf (2698 vs 2225, after months of selling less than the Leaf).


    • Many have been repeating that for years “once the early adopters have their EV’s, sales will tumble”. But there are many people that buy a Tesla that never considered buying an EV before. They are not early adopters. And a lot of owners have reported that showing off their car has turned many a staunch petrol head into a convert.

      The concept of the Rogers adoption curve is not that once a new technology has satisfied the early adopters, it will sink away in oblivion. The idea is that the majority of people wait until the early adopters have cleared the way for them. And then they step in. In large numbers. EV’s will not be any different, unless a disruptive competing technology emerges (some breakthrough in biofuels or hydrogen), or the development of cheaper and better batteries completely stalls.

      I think we will see the early majority once the 2nd generation LEAF comes out in 2-3 years.

  • It makes sense, if you are going to need to plug the car in anyway, why would you also want to have to worry about gas? Though I am sure the hybrid functions do come in handy on several different occasions.

  • We’re back to packaging. Tesla’s powertrain is packaged close to perfectly, but now all the automakers can copy it, and potentially scale better / faster.

    I still believe there is room for ALOT of innovation in hybrid packaging. Imagine Tesla’s powertrain, but with about 80% of the battery section cut out, and an ICE engine + transmission + exaust are all in that space packaged super well. Obviously the complexity of this goes up an insane amount. The good part of an electric powertrain is it’s simplicity. Liquid fuel is still better than batteries though in terms of pure energy.

    The Chevy Volt powertrain is really complicated, REALLY complicated.

    • The beauty of Tesla and all other EVs is there is no ICE engine which requires major expenses for maintenance and repairs over the life of the vehicle.
      Electricity is 30% of the cost of gas which means you can go over 3 times as far with electric over gas. Once the price of batteries goes down, EV car prices will be about the same as a gas powered one, which would mean the savings on repairs and fuel would go into your pocket.

    • ” Liquid fuel is still better than batteries though in terms of pure energy.”

      Sure, but ICEs are incredibly inefficient at turning that energy into motion. About 80% of the energy is turned into waste heat.

      Here’s what might be interesting – a weight/size comparison for EV and ICEV “essential stuff” .

      For the EV, measure batteries, electric motor, battery-related electronics and anything else unique to EVs.

      For the ICEV measure engine, cooling system, exhaust system, fuel system including fuel tank and any other components not used in an EV.

      The Chevy Spark gas model runs 2269 to 2368, depending on transmission. Add in 9.2 gallons of fuel at 6.2 pounds/gallon, or 57 more pounds.

      The Spark EV weighs 2989 pounds, curb weight. 564 pounds more than a fueled up auto transmission ICE Spark at 2425 pounds.

      Bit of weight advantage for the fuel version. But future battery improvements will increase capacity per pound. Moving from the LEAF ~120 kW/kg to Envia’s ~400 kW/kg would mean a 270 mile range Spark with no weight gain.

      270 mile range is not as good as the ~350 mile range of the gas Spark, but it’s likely plenty for most drivers.

  • By the end of 2012, there was a big talk that EVs will fade away and market will settle with Plugins as they are the next step after Hybrid.

    But suddenly the Leaf at 6K less and Tesla ramping up production has changed every thing and now EVs are in charge. There is also comparison like EV Mobile and Gasmobile.

    Across the board many EV’s price has gone down and they are outselling Plugins easily. Its nice to read. Hope Spark-EV will open a new Front in the EV sales.

  • it appears to me that the U.S. has actually managed to leapfrog over hybrids, simply by ignoring them for most of the 10 years or so that they’ve been available. Now that EV range is good enough and prices have come down to more affordable levels, and a viable charging infrastructure is in place and growing, they can just migrate to them directly.

    Here in Japan, on the other hand, the transition seems to be following a more traditional route, at least from my personal observation. Hybrids have sold well here and models like the Prius are all over the place. But the country as a whole still seems to be dragging its feet in developing an electric infrastructure,so there are still very few plug-in vehicles, although this is certainly starting to change with the post-Fukushima push towards renewables.

    Indeed, I believe the biggest factor holding back the transition here is the lack of convenient charging points, because I don’t think there are any major psychological, economic, or political barriers . Parking in general is very limited so there are almost no places you can plug in when on the go. Even worse is that large numbers of car owners (at least in the cities) can’t plug in at home either; they either live in apartments or homes without garages, and instead use nearby external parking facilities.

    • I imagine a large problem in Japan would be the shaken (but not stirred) sfety inspection every couple of years which I have heard gets more expensive as the car gets older. This would work against two important advantages of electric cars which are their low maintenance cost and extremely long engine life. Or has Japan taken steps to give electric car owners a break?

      • I have no idea about that, truthfully. I don’t drive myself. AIUI though, while shaken is certainly a bit of a burden, most people just see it as a standard part of car ownership (*everything* about car ownership is much more complex and expensive here than the U.S.). But I believe the fee structures are based on category, and given the low maintenance and safety record of EV’s it wouldn’t surprise me if it was more relaxed for them, similar to the kei cars. I wouldn’t think it’s a big consideration.

        • Thanks for that.

    • Think you missed 1 key word. Electric cars are outselling *plug-in* hybrid electric cars. Conventional hybrids (Prius, Honda Insight, etc.) have been selling in large numbers for years in the US. They dwarf EV sales.

  • It is indeed very promising, given that an only-electric car driver will keep in mind limitations as to coverage before necessitating charge. It should technically bring down the cost of procurement, reduce on the bulk of the weight, hence provide lighter demands on the battery etc. This also means that the vehicle is affordable to more buyers, yielding multiple dividends!

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  • Paying 30K for any car is a joke.

    • I paid $2300 for my Ranger but it costs 30K to put gas in it over a 10 year period. There are other costs to consider when buying a vehicle.

  • Go Electric or Go Home. I love my EV and won’t touch a gas, fart-mobile ever again. Folks, quit being such whiny marks and Go.Electric.Now. !

  • All very nice regarding PHEVs vs EV, but as an owner of a Ford Fusion Energi living in Michigan, the sheer lack of charging stations where I need to be during the work week makes a “pure EV” impractical. Worse still, are the drivers of conventional gasmobiles who park in EV spaces at various lots around the area, making it impossible to get near a charging station. Last week, I couldn’t charge away from home at all because of that problem. Granted, the Fusion’s 23 mile EV range would be bested by a Tesla, Leaf and others, but due to the distances involved in driving from one side of the area to the other, I’d be in big trouble without a PHEV.

    • That makes a PHEV a better choice for you, at this time. Likewise, I couldn’t use an EV (except the S) right now. I need more range and there are no rapid charge stations where I drive.

      But things will change. EV ranges will increase, more charging stations will be installed, and gasmobiles parked in EV spots will get towed and fined.

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