Published on August 8th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


How Top Electric Car Sales Compare To Top Car Sales In US (+ Poll)

August 8th, 2014 by  

As you well know, I spend a lot of time every month putting together electric car sales reports, the biggest of which is the US electric car sales report (since the US has the largest electric car market in the world). I have also looked at electric car sales relative to total car sales and relative to hybrid car sales in their first few years on the market. However, I have never compared the sales of top electric car models to top gasoline and hybrid models.

Someone was nice enough to share my latest plug-in car sales report over on the GM-Volt forum (thanks, trumpeting_angel!), and another member of the forum subsequently asked, “How many Prius’s a month are sold? Also, what is the best selling ICE car, and how many per month?”

A fellow Floridian, Henry_FL, used good ole Google and pulled up this table from June 2014:

car sales US

Eager to crunch a few numbers, I found (based on the numbers above and last month’s electric car sales) that:

  • ~13.5 times more units of the Toyota Camry were sold than the top-selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf.
  • ~3.7 times more units of the top-selling hybrid car, the Toyota Prius (minus the plug-in version), were sold than the Nissan Leaf.
  • If the Nissan Leaf quadrupled its sales (or if the Tesla Model III came along and sold 4 times as many cars per month as the Leaf), it would make it into the top 20 best-selling cars in the US.

Quadrupling sales doesn’t seem like that big of a feat giving how fast sales have been increasing, the fact that most Americans still aren’t aware of the Nissan Leaf, and the fact that disruptive technologies see exponential growth, not linear growth.

One more thing worth noting is that all of these gasoline models benefit from widespread awareness that most available cars are gasoline cars. As electric cars become more common, and as more models hit the market, I think sales will increase fast.

And a final observation: two of the 4 best-selling plug-in cars, the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Ford Fusion Energi, are essentially “swap and sell” plug-in hybrid versions of two of the 20 best-selling car models. This relatively cheap and easy manufacturing model seems to be doing fairly well for Toyota and Ford. They are not selling as well as the completely original Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, but they are doing much better than the limited-production, less-competitive plug-in car options also in their lineups and offered by Honda. With competitive plug-in versions of the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Nissan Altima, etc, and assuming these car manufacturers actually tried to sell the cars, imagine what a different plug-in car market we’d have! Or, for that matter, what if a few other companies actually built electric cars from the ground up, as Nissan and Tesla have, and tried to sell them.

There are several ways car companies could do much better in the plug-in car market, and could help to transition society in a positive way, but simply building compliance cars and offering them at high prices in a few markets is not one of those ways.

If you don’t mind, please go ahead and answer this 2-question poll, also embedded below. Based on the numbers above and the general trajectory of the plug-in car market, just give us your best guess. Be sure to scroll to the bottom and hit “Done!”

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • DGW

    All it will take is the next big manufactured crisis for gas prices to shoot past $5 a gallon. The technology is already there to build most new cars as plug-in hybrids and that would change everything.
    But Big Oil knows this so they continue to manipulate oil prices without going too far.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We’re reaching the point at which oil companies are going to have to avoid price shocks.

      There are now reasonable alternatives to doing business with them. I’d expect to see oil companies working to hold oil prices down in order to slow the movement to EVs.

      Of course something out of their control (a major blowup in the Middle East) could create a supply shortage, but I’d bet the other oil suppliers would be working to hold down the spike rather than taking advantage.

      • sault

        We’re already having major blowups in the Middle East (Gaza, Iraq, Syria, etc.) and oil prices have been remarkably stable compared to the huge spikes that issues like these would cause even just 10 years ago. We are probably at the point where demand destruction counters any large movement on prices while increasing fuel economy standards and slack demand have provided a (temporary) buffer to the nonsense we saw in the years leading up to 2008. The blood bath taken by the speculators that year and additional (weak) regulations have helped keep a lid on things too.

        EVs will ultimately prevail on convenience due to home charging and much lower maintenance since oil companies will surely try their hardest to slow them down going forward.

        • No way

          Oil companies are pushing FCEV’s now instead. 😉 So that they can stay in business for a looong time.

      • jeffhre

        Oil companies have always tried to control prices. They are not always successful in their attempts.

    • jeffhre

      Except that it takes 5 years to put out a new version of a car. And the learning curve could be very steep. Interesting thought concept though when combined with Zach’s idea that conversions like the Fusion, Focus and PI-Prius could ride alongside the ~260 cars offered in the market place.

      Imagine if plug-in options for Camrys, Civics Cruzes, Altimas, Sentras, Corollas, Optimas etc had plug in power train options during a time of dramatically steep, rising gas prices.

      • Bob_Wallace

        GM developed and produced the Volt in three years. Most car manufacturers already have some sort of electric car up and running, at least in prototype versions.

        My guess is that if we saw a rapid drop in battery price along with higher fuel prices we’d see most companies producing EVs and PHEVs within a year. Volumes might lag for a while as supply streams are firmed up. But it takes only a few weeks to retool a line for a new model.

  • Jan Veselý

    Another suggestion: There is hybrid Camry on sale and Toyota has experience with turning hybrid into plug-in with Prius …
    That is sooo easy, they just need to want it.

    • Unfortunately, they are more interested in hydrogen fuel cell, so it won’t happen.

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