Published on August 19th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Breaking Into The Top 20 US Car Sales (Poll Results)

August 19th, 2014 by  

Answers are still trickling in, but I think it’s a good time to report on where things stand now. 11 days ago, I published a story on how Nissan LEAF sales compare with the sales of the top 20 cars in the US. I ended with a poll, asking you intelligent readers when you think an electric car (100% electric or plug-in hybrid/extended-range electric) will first break into the top 20 of US car sales.

This is actually very similar to a poll I conducted in July/August 2013, so I was curious to see how they compared. In the 2013 poll, the question was actually when an electric car would break into the top 10 of global auto sales.

The results match up pretty well. Last year, 2018 won the poll, but with a decent spread two years on either side (2015 = 7% | 2016 = 9% | 2017 = 15% | 2018 = 25% | 2019 = 13% | 2020 = 15% | Beyond 2020 = 17%).

1st year electric cars break into top 10 global auto sales

This year, with a slightly easier challenge, the winning option was 2017, but with a lot of people choosing 2016 and a lot choosing 2018. I’m pretty sure I also selected 2017, but I may have gone with 2018

electric cars top 10

71% of you thought that the first plug-in car to break into the top 20 of US car sales would be a 100% electric car. Whether you were thinking that because of the Nissan LEAF or the Tesla Model III, I agree with you.

electric car top 10

I know we have a ton more readers than answered the poll, so if you haven’t chimed in and want to do so, go ahead! If things change considerably, I’ll write an update.

If you have any more thoughts on these polls, of course, chime in below! Half the fun on this site is the comment section, imho.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

  • CMCNestT .

    No matter how many hard core BEV fans find i3 and PIP roomy for persons over 6′ the fact is the average American does not.

    An average American male at 5’10” 200 lbs with a 40″ waist wants at least a mid-size car but prefers a full size car.

    I also think real world 150 mile range is sufficient for ~ 20% of the buying population. This would greatly expand the BEV market.

    200 mile real world range includes another 20% for a total of 40%.

    And 300 mile real world range would really break out and cover the minimum wants of 95% of the population. Some will always insist they need a gasoline car with a huge tank or diesel with 400-800 mile range. Some for legitimate reasons like regional traveling salesmen in the Western States others with psychological disorders like extreme range anxiety.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Current 80 mile range works for about 50% of all US drivers. 150 miles would probably work for another 30%. 200 miles would make EVs work for at least 95% of all US drivers.

      I think you’re probably very much overestimating how far people drive per day.

      • Bob_Wallace

        ” Some for legitimate reasons like regional traveling salesmen in the Western States others with psychological disorders like extreme range anxiety.”

        Traveling sales people don’t stop for lunch after driving 200 miles?

        We’ll never see rapid/superchagers in the Western States?

        I suspect we’re very short years from seeing a supercharger within 200 miles of every spot in the contiguous 48.

      • Mint

        “Current 80 mile range works for about 50% of all US drivers.”

        Define “works” 🙂 The thing is that even among people who rarely do over 70 miles a day, most still want that ability. Being able to conveniently drive far away is part of the fundamental allure of a car.

        Data is great for rational businesses. It’s a lot less important for irrational consumers.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Consider the number of households with more than one vehicle and on no day are all the vehicles driving more than 80 miles. (Or once in a blue moon when a rental could be used.)

          Consider the number of people who simply do not drive long distances. Or if they do it is very rare and they could use a rental.

          I said “works”, you’re pushing “desire”.

          • Mint

            You don’t have to convince me. You have to convince new car buyers.

            Take a step back and look at the car market. Look at the abundance of luxuries, the cost premium for saving a couple seconds 0-60, etc. You need a combination of desire and disposable income to be crazy enough to buy a new car and eat the majority of the depreciation costs.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    The third gen Tesla will be Model 三. Or alternatively Model 3. But it is not going to be Tesla Model III. So Tesla will use horizontal bars, not vertical bars. This makes sense as in China and Japan, the character for three is 三. I think that this underlines the international imago of Tesla. Of course it is also the Tesla’s stylized E also.

    • Kyle Field

      Very neat, thanks for sharing. I love the double meaning…it’s going to confuse the heck out of most Americans…but Tesla is so cool, they’ll want to learn about it and be “in the know”.

  • Kyle Field

    The winner will be the first pure EV with 150-200mi range for anywhere near $30-$40k, imho. Doesnt matter to me if it’s the Tesla III, Leaf, Volt gen II or something not yet announced…

    • Offgridman

      I agree on the pure EV aspect but not sure if 150 mile range will cut it. Think it will have to be 200 or 200+ and able to do a big share of that at highway speeds with a reasonably fast charge (30-45 minutes)
      This will make the long trips with family or kids feasible without adding to the trip times excessively.
      We have seen what has happened and who wants the city cars that can do a one to two hour trip. In order to break into mass market sales it will have to at least compare with ICE range.
      I also think that size is another big factor, another subcompact just isn’t going to cut it. There are to many people like myself that are six foot and more, and the others with their fast food bellies that need the elbow room. Also doing those longer trips without the kids squabbling right behind your ear is the reason that sales of the bigger vehicles have been so successful in the US. I think it was very smart of Musk to make their next model a modified SUV

      • Kyle Field

        LoL about “fast food bellies”
        I’m 6’2″ and found the BMW i3 to be fantastically roomy…bigger than our Prius in terms of passenger room. It’s storage capacity is tiny and could use improvement but as far as the passenger space, it’s more than sufficient, imho. I agree that more range will only help and that 200mi is likely the tipping point for the masses.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suspect there are a series of tipping points. The first is a rock solid 100 mile range. 100 miles in the worst of driving conditions with the heater or AC turned on high. There’s something much larger about an extra digit.

          150 miles with 20 minute, 90% charging is another good point. This puts 250 mile destinations in convenient range. One charging stop. That’s a weekend trip.

          200 miles makes 500+ driving days possible/reasonable.

          Each increase in range will bring a new group of adopters.

          • Offgridman

            The reason that I am thinking the 200 (or +) range will be one of the stepping points is as you say the 500+ trips. Either for across the state or going state to state, my own is 612 miles three times a year to be with family for the holidays. Currently it takes 8 3/4 – 10 hours depending on the traffic because 575 of it can be done at interstate speeds. It would be no problem stretching that to 11-12 hours to accommodate for the charging times, but when it gets to taking longer than that the kids and I want to stop for the night someplace. Which adds to expenses and messes up the schedule with four days of travel instead of just two lost from the school holiday time.
            So while the 200+ range is more for my own needs, it seems that those conditions must apply for others also at least a few times a year.

          • Bob_Wallace

            With a 200 mile range you’re probably looking at getting to destination in something more like 9 to 10 1/2 hours. A couple of 20-30 minute charge stops. +60, worst.

            Driving a fuel machine a 10 minute fuel stop and a 20 – 30 minute food stop is sort of typical. When thinking about charging time some people tend to forget about the stops they make now while driving.

            I need a solid 150 miles. That gets me to the grocery store and back. Let’s me one-charge hop to San Francisco.

            Different strokes….

          • Offgridman

            I am accounting for the stops we already do, it is 3 or 4 depending if they fall asleep for the last part of the journey. Two of those are longer, getting meals and walking the dog, so perfect for charging time. Actually the car I have now does the whole trip with no gas stops if filled up in the first 25-50 miles so am kind of spoiled in that aspect. Would definitely be worth the extra couple of hours if filled for free from the panels before we leave and at the superchargers on the way, although it will add 70-75 miles to catch them. Am so ready for the X to go into production, even though I won’t get mine until the second year due to signing up later on.

        • Offgridman

          Actually at 6′ 5″ I found an earlier model Prius (’10 or ’11) comfortable and could move the seat up a couple of notches, when an adult had to sit behind me as the driver. And the trunk space seemed reasonable unless people had a lot of luggage. (was driving it as an airport shuttle out to the hills where I live, 2 1/2 hour trip).
          If the I3 is even roomier all the better,haven’t had opportunity to try one, but it just doesn’t have the electric range that is needed for us ‘folk’ that live out in the country.

          • Kyle Field

            I drive a prius and I think you’ll have plenty of room in an i3…perhaps Gen2 when the get the mileage scaled up a bit 🙂

          • Offgridman

            Either would do for some of our needs, but needing 4 wheel drive a few times a year, something with enough space to haul stuff back from the feed store once a month, and counting on the 200 mile range for the long trips a few times a year, for right now will be waiting on my Model X reservation to come through. With it I can sell the car and leave the truck parked except for once or twice a year, of course if something else shows up sooner with similar capabilities and quality at a lower price would be willing to reconsider. But with having to drive 100-150 miles a day at least once a week doing errands and taking kids to extracurricular activities, and no charging infrastructure out here except my panels, there isn’t anything that will quite meet our needs yet.

          • Mint

            The i3 REx is a great solution for you now. But I’m guessing you’re waiting for the Model 3…

          • Offgridman

            The I3 even with the extender would meet some needs but not all. I can’t see using it to bring five 50 bags of animal food back from the feedstore every month. It doesn’t have the four wheel drive to get up my almost quarter mile driveway when we get snowed in a couple times a year. We go out of state 3x a year over five hundred miles, with the closest charging infrastructure about 130 away. So the number of times needed to stop and charge will add a lot of time to that trip and still need some gas. And though it is roomy it still might not accommodate myself, two sons and two medium big dogs with luggage so well. The boys aren’t quite as big as me yet, but are headed that way, so need to be planned for in the future.
            No I’m not waiting on the Tesla 3, the reservation on the Model X, which can do all of these requirements was made back in February. But even at that time there are enough pre orders in front of me that it will be about a year into first production before I get mine.
            It is expensive but it can meet all my needs other than going after a couple tons of firewood a couple times a year, so I will keep the old diesel truck for that, and plan on the X to be the last car I ever have to buy, even if it means replacing the battery pack at some point.

          • Mint

            Cool. The X looks like it’ll be a hit, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

            Sorry, I didn’t see your most recent post with more details. I replied to the 6’5″ post, where your primary concern was range for longer trips.

            Just want to point out one thing: You lament having to refuel the i3 frequently on a trip you make just 3x a year. That’s exactly the kind of thinking that keeps people from buying EVs. It just takes a few trips per year or even per decade to give people pause. That’s why Tesla’s Model 3 is going to be the inflection point for EVs, despite most people driving far less per day on average.

          • Offgridman

            Excuse my extended reply then, disqus was making it look like your reply was to the original explanation.
            Since putting the panels up 8 years ago have been very interested in having an EV, to the point of doing a lot of research on converting an old VW Golf picked up for the purpose.
            It is great that the capabilities and warranty aspects are becoming available commercially.

      • djr417

        One big factor for the subcompact EV market will be at home charging, when home is an apartment/townhouse. The 20 something crowd is less averse to the limits of an EV, but without at home charging in urban areas its a moot point.

        • Bob_Wallace

          About 15% of all US drivers now have a place to plug in while at work. We can expand those opportunities at work and school.

          Having a portion of EVs plugged during the day will be a benefit for utilities. It will give them a nice dispatchable load to help smooth out supply/demand problems.

          And we’ll see more outlets in apartments and condos. We’ll likely see curbside charging grow as well.

        • Offgridman

          Not sure how it is going in other parts of the country but in the Atlanta, Georgia area this is beginning to be covered. Atlanta like some cities in California has been encouraging the use of EV’s for some time now and I saw in a news article last year that either 10 or 20% of apartment complexes have charging stations. Also in the local listings for rentals there will be separate sections for those that provide it, whether on a fee basis or if it is included in the rent.
          It would seem that similar practices are going on in other cities, but I can only speak for Atlanta due to living a few hours drive away, and can remember how pleased it made me to see the charge points showing up at gas stations about fifteen years ago when I still commuted down there

        • Mint

          The 20-something crowd is a rather small segment in the new car market. In fact, 18-34 year olds comprise only 13% of the market nowadays:

          Most buyers are older and higher income than average.

          EVs need to target their needs first and foremost.

Back to Top ↑