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Published on January 10th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


US Electric Car Sales Projections For 2016

January 10th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

2016 looks like it will be an interesting year for electric car sales. We have some significantly upgraded versions of the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, as well as several new entrants to the market — such as the Tesla Model X, the Chevy Bolt later this year, the Volvo XC90 T8, the Volvo S90 T8, the Hyundai IONIQ, and heck, maybe even the BMW i5 and electric Aston Martin Rapide (I know, I’m dreaming there).

BMW i8 eDrive Tech Now In The BMW X5 With eDrive

Image: Screenshot of BMW video

At the end of 2015, we saw the BMW X5 xDrive 40e come in with some fairly strong numbers, LEAF sales still down a great deal from their highs earlier in the year, Chevy Volt sales ramping up but still not stellar, BMW i3 sales looking quite solid, and Tesla Model S sales crushing it. Which of those trends will transfer into the new year, and hold throughout the year?

I’m very curious to see the discussions and projections that get dropped in the comments under this article, and I’ll stick my neck out there to kick things off with projections regarding US sales.

BMW i3 Sarasota 1 copy

Photo by Cynthia Shahan

Starting with BMW, I’ll take a guess that…

  • BMW i3 sales will average ~900 a month in 2016
  • BMW i8 sales ~500
  • BMW X5 xDrive 40e sales ~700.
vw e-golf

Photo by Volkswagen

Heading over to Audi & Volkswagen, I’ll project…

  • ~700 a month for the A3 e-tron
  • ~400 for the VW e-Golf.
Nissan LEAFs 3 copy

Photo by Cynthia Shahan

I think Nissan will still suffer to regain strong sales of the LEAF, due to the Chevy Bolt being around the corner…

  • the LEAF will = ~1,000 a month is my wild guess.
Ford Fusion Energi 6

Photo by Cynthia Shahan

I think Ford will continue to see solid but not spectacular sales of its plug-in hybrid models…

  • Ford Fusion Energi ~900
  • Ford C-MAX Energi ~700.
2016 Chevy volt

Photographer unknown

I think GM will have a great year with…

  • ~3300 Chevy Volts sold a month, on average
  • ~2000 Chevy Bolts a month once the car is on the market for a full month (assuming that happens in 2016), with some supply limitations initially, but not too much so.
Tesla Model Ss Florida

Photo by Zachary Shahan

Regarding the big dog, I’ll project Tesla hit…

  • ~1700 Model S sedans per month (just in the US, remember)
  • ~1700 Model X SUVs per month.

I think Tesla will remain a bit supply limited.

I don’t feel comfortable projecting Volvo or Hyundai sales until I have a better sense of how widely these companies look to sell their vehicles (or if they will be very limited compliance cars). I also have little interest in projecting sales for various other compliance cars, like the Kia Soul EV and Fiat 500e. I realize I included Volkswagen and Audi’s seemingly compliance cars, but I’m hoping these will be spread a little more widely in 2016… admittedly, more hoping than expecting.

But that’s it for my intro — what do you think US electric car sales will look like in 2016?!

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the 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 and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. 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. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Erich Schindl

    Don’t forget: The very high starting torque of an electric motor needs to be distributed to all four wheels. Only that is technically correct. Hence, a good electric car has to have a four-wheel-drive with two or four motors. A two-wheel drivetrain is a wrong solution for electric cars and it seems that only Tesla knows this technical fact.

  • Turbofroggy

    It is not clear in the article if those numbers are monthly or yearly. 500 i8s a month? I don’t think so. 400 eGolfs in a year? Month? I would hope a month but VW is being pretty stupid about availability nationwide.

  • ROBwithaB

    I suspect your numbers on the X are overly optimistic.
    The demand is there, sure. But they’re just that much more complicated to assemble than the S.
    I’m expecting some significant technical hitches, as well as just a
    frustratingly slow production process.
    Those doors…. just option them!

    But I hope I’m wrong because I just bought a bunch more stock. Time will tell….

    • neroden

      Actually, looking at the Model X carefully, I’m pretty sure they’re simpler to assemble than Model S. A number of mechanical moving parts have been replaced with electric buttons. And I think they’ve streamlined the wiring harnesses.

      • ROBwithaB

        Okay, you have my interest.
        What bits do you see as having been replaced?

        • neroden

          The damn pop-out door handles! Replaced with electric buttons.

          In internals, I know that the vaccum assist on the braking system was replaced with an electric assist (this applies to new Model S as well). There are probably more motors than before, but they seem to have been going out of their way to eliminate both hoses and mechanical linkages: the design philosophy seems to be that any moving parts have motors right next to them, and as much as possible is solid-state electric. The front and rear axles which drive the wheels are a curious exception.

  • Brent Jatko

    I have seen only one Ford C-Max Energi here in Houston but a ton of Leafs and Teslas.

    • Interesting. I’d expect the Energi models to sell relatively well there.

  • Michael Jameson

    I think the Volt could be the star of 2016. I think it is priced good, it is better and many people are ready for an electric car now. I think the tech stuff that Chevy is doing with Apple will attrack a lot of young people. I think everyone at Chevy is being careful not to be too excited about it becuase they missed all thier numbers the first time around, but I think it takes off this year.

  • Adding in my head, the total is just over 15,000 per month, or 180,000 per year. I wonder how that compares to 2015 sales, and prior projections.

  • Graham Luke

    A message for GM Europe. Start importing Volts and make a right hand drive for me in the UK.(I have a Vauxhall Ampera/Volt now) When the Bolt hits the roof in sales then take the hint and adapt for the UK please. The future is electric so get with it and include the UK in your plans. Thanks.

  • Ramon A. Cardona

    Well, states and cities need to step up the support and installation of charging stations. Two proper examples are Kansas City and Indianapolis. Several states have seen rhe future aa well but 7or 8 out of 50, while a decent start, is dismall.

    • Richard Poore

      Chicago area is dismal for charging stations, not even a blip on anyones radar there (

  • Peter Egan

    In the first 3 months of 2015 there were 104 Teslas first registered in NSW and Victoria – the two states of Australia with a sales office. On that basis, 500 Teslas were likely registered in Australia in 2015. Tesla does not belong to the local chamber of car dealers – the main collector of vehicle sales figures in Australia – even for the government statistical agency.

    The only publicly available figures for Teslas in Australia are from each state’s vehicle registration figures. These figures seem to be the total number of a brand or model registered at the end of March, June, October and December each year. As we don’t know how many are wrecked or sold overseas each year, we can only guess at sales.

    Under Australian law, our statistician can make a regulation and force a business to reveal sales numbers to it – if well out of date by the time of publication. Eventually, the resale valve of Teslas will be hit as the public will not know the size of the local fleet as we do with all other brands.

    • neroden

      Why would the resale value have *anything* to do with the size of the local fleet? that makes no sense.

  • Peter Egan

    3,400 Teslas a month – likely 75,000 year worldwide with just over half of all vehicles staying in the US. It will be interesting to see their guidance to the stock market..

    • yes. i’m hoping they keep conservative guidance so as not to have everyone freak out if it isn’t hit.

      • Saras Satyam

        Hi Zach,

        I was browsing through your website and found it quite informative. Thanks for this consistent and outstanding work.
        I am a MBA student at Indian School of Business. We (The Team) plan to develop a Retrofit EV kit for 4 wheeler used car market. We have a good tech team in place and I would like to take your insights regarding this idea.

        Hope to see your reply soon.


  • mortisier

    Zachary, what numbers will you put on the outlander PHEV? That is if they ever release it.

    • i didn’t guess since the release just keeps getting extended, and i also have no idea what Mitsubishi will do to push the thing. can see anywhere from 200 to 2000. Just hard to know what Mitsubishi will do.

  • doctoxics

    Tesla likely made at least 15,000 Model Ss in Q4 and half of production is typically sold in the US market. That’s at least 2,500 per month. They will do at least that in 2016. They currently have the production capacity to do at least 2,500/month, why would they do any less in the coming year? My estimate is 2,500-3,000 per month in 2016.

    • my estimate is ~3000/mo, with a little more than half going to US, and same estimate for the X. that’s ~72,0000 a year globally.

      or… up to ~3400/mo each, with ~half going to the US. that’s 82,000 globally. am afraid X production is ramping up too slowly for the latter, though.

      • Bob_Wallace

        How many more assembly lines will Tesla open in 2016?

        We don’t know that answer. They might get more S/X lines running, get caught up and even ahead on S/X demand and then use those lines and experienced staff to rocket out the gate with the 3.

        With Tesla now talking about Gigafactory 2 I suspect it best to not do “EIA lay a ruler on the line of history” predictions with Tesla.

        • neroden

          Tesla has to pace themselves. Opening additional car production lines for S/X is their last priority. If Model 3 is still planned to be steel, the production line for Model 3 has to be substantially different because there’s more steel stamping, less aluminum stamping.

          Higher priorities include opening several hundred additional service centers to support Model 3, supplying the billion-dollar backlog in Powerwall/Powerpack orders, and of course getting Model 3 debugged and ready to mass produce.

          Because the Powerwall/Powerpack orders are immediate profit, and *much* less complicated to ramp up than the car production lines, I expect Tesla will really be pushing to ramp up Powerwall/Powerpack production as fast as possible.

  • Dragon

    One thing I haven’t seen any EV article author mention as a theory to why LEAF sales are declining is that there are now a number of other EVs with roughly similar price and specs competing with LEAF. Since LEAF sales were never limited by production, it seems to me that they are declining due to competition as well as due to low price 200 miles cars being around the corner.

    If Nissan wants to resume leadership in EV sales they have to lower the price and/or market their product at the dealership level and at the national advertising level.

    • Good point. I tend to think more about nationwide availability, and there aren’t real competitors nationwide. But most sales are likely in California or CA & a few other places, where the competitors are for sale.

      • Kyle Field

        ~40% of global EV sales are in california. California also has higher than average incomes in the big EV markets of LA area and San Fran area meaning Teslas are more approachable. I just don’t find the Leaf to be a strong competitor. People don’t like the abnormal look of the car, the rather spartan interior (compared to the BMW, Mercedes, VW) and the limited range that’s no longer competitive. They need to step up their game or risk losing the small brand identity advantage that they had (have?). It’s a minor prius moment for Nissan. I don’t know if Ghosn is still aggressive enough about EVs to push through this bump in the range… 200 mile range or bust baby…

        • Dragon

          This brings to mind another point. With used Teslas coming down in price and the base model waiting time not being so long as it used to be, that also steals a bit more market share from LEAF. Plus used LEAFs steal market share from new LEAFs as people who only need 50-60 miles of range can happily pay under $10k for a used LEAF. Paying around twice that to double that range is difficult to justify unless your daily trips happen to fall between 50 to 100 miles of range required… but if you need more than that narrow slice of range you’re into Tesla territory again and a much higher price. Or you’re into Volt territory and Volt sales have remained pretty strong.

          • Great points.

          • Kyle Field

            Volts are safe cars for people who don’t know what EVs are. They are comfortable with hybrids…so we just talk them as a hybrid that you plug in and they are happy.

            Teslas sell themselves and are a great fit for those who need longer range (and you and I know) and can afford the pricing bump and/or can see far enough ahead to build the savings into the cost of the car.

        • ROBwithaB

          How current is your info for “40% of global EV sales are in California”? Cumulative to date, maybe. But I can’t believe that current sales skew so heavily.
          And GLOBAL?
          Recent numbers out of China are making that look very tenuous.

          • Kyle Field

            That was shared in september by a utility exec who owned the plug in program. It may be cumulative but I agree – we will soon see a large shift to china and even europe as diesels are phased out.

          • ROBwithaB

            The US relative share of the EV market is also likely to decline further due to cheap oil. Most other countries have stubbornly high gas prices even when oil prices are low.
            The US also has a very strong historical “truck culture”. Europe and Asia are more receptive to smaller, fuel efficient “city” cars, which are easier to electrify whilst batteries are still expensive.

          • Dragon

            I’d say the US has stubbornly _low_ gas prices while we all pay the difference in externalities.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Just what happens with the Leaf will depend on how the subsidy situation for electric vehicles is looking in Japan. If subsidies increase then Nissan can rely on its hometown advantage to sell many units domestically and might not see a need to drop prices to compete in the North American market, at least not until demand slacks off in Japan.

      Now I think the current subsidy for electric vehicles is around $1,100 in Japan, or a more than twice that if a 13 year old car is scrapped at the same time. (And that’s not a bad deal as a 13 year old car is worth a negative amount of money in Japan. That’s why in the Japanese countryside you see people using old cars a garden sheds as a garden shed is technically not a car.) But hydrogen cars are apparently going to get tens of thousands of US dollars in subsidy each. So if some of that sweet subsidy money gets thrown towards EVs, sales could really pick up in Japan. Japan is one of the lead contenders to pull a Norway with regard to electric cars, and has the ability to produce a great many of them itself.

      • ROBwithaB

        Japan might not be such a prize car market anymore, though.
        A population that is getting smaller, older and poorer every year.

        They also lack the abundant renewable energy potential of Norway.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Japan has 127 million people and chews through cars at twice the rate of many other countries with the average age of vehicles there being about 6 years. And this is while driving them only about half as many kilometers per year as vehicles in the United States. So it’s still a pretty big market. And they’re not getting poorer, they’re just performing badly compared to every other developed country. Or at least they were. Now every developed country is performing like Japan. Except Australia. Some might dispute that Australia is a developed nation, but we are developed, we’re just not very refined.

          Anyway, in PPP GDP per capita Japan is about on par with the UK, so with it’s large population it is still a major economic thing. With regard to renewable energy resources Japan is probably on par with Norway since they are almost identical in size with lots of mountains that allow for hydroelectricity, but Japan has 25 times the population, so it doesn’t go nearly as far. But either they power their cars with renewable energy, which given the small size of their cars and the limited distance they drive them would require about 1.5 square meters of solar panels per vehicle, or they keep importing oil to power them. It’s not much of a contest, particularly from the point of view of Japan which is a bit sensitive about being so reliant on imports.

          • ROBwithaB

            Yeah, old people don’t drive that much. And the islands are small, and (still) crowded, so it makes sense the miles traveled are low.
            I’ve haven’t been there (yet). I know they turn their cars over fast, because we get a lot of second-hand recon engines coming into South Africa. Really cheap. Also some “grey market” imports of used cars into neighbouring states. Also cheap.

            The third world has its advantages sometimes.

            Japan provides an interesting experiment; an insight into what the world might look like once the philosophy of “endless growth” becomes unsustainable.
            The average Japanese person doesn’t seem too concerned about the declining population. (Although maybe that’s just what they say to nosy foreigners. I do note that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people, so maybe they’re not so cheerful after all. Or they’ve really had enough of Hello Kitty culture.)

          • Ronald Brakels

            Valdivostok drove on the opposite side of the road to the rest of Russia because of all the second hand Japanese cars they had acquired. (Don’t know if that is still the case.)

            Japan does have about 3 times Australia’s total suicide rate, but if Austalian youths drove as little as Japanese youths, suicide would be the leading cause of death amoung young people here too, so we’re not too disimilar. But Japan is a very low crime country. And there does seem to be a correlation between high suicide rates and low crime.

            I think Japan can be a difficult place for young people, with pressure to succeed in education from the age of about six onwards, and a culture that holds senority as all important in a country that is top heavy with old people. And Japan is behind some other countries in some areas and attitudes simply because it industrialized later than most developed coutries. The job really wasn’t complete until the 70s. But there are still definite advantage to growing up in Japan. There are Americans who want their kids to grow up in Japan for the safety and focus on education. While there are Japanese people who want to raise their kids in America so their lives will be less structured and stressed.

          • neroden

            What does Japan do with so many 6-year-old cars? They have to be in good condition still. Do they export the used cars?

          • Ronald Brakels

            Japanese citizens buy maybe 5.3 million vehicles a year and exports perhaps 1.4 million second hand vehicles. So that means about 4 million cars a year are scrapped or used as garden sheds by Japanese red necks. Second hand cars are sold to variety of countries, but not Australia no doubt because of protection for our domestic car industry, which is an industry we will soon no longer have. And Japan’s notorious safety inspection system which results in the huge turn over in cars is obviously made to benefit Japan’s car industry.

            Clearly Japan could save itself a considerable amoung of money, energy, and a significant amount of environmental damage, by being less stringent on vehicle safety checks.

          • neroden

            My God, that’s wasteful. Thanks for the information.

  • Freddy D

    It’s interesting to think about which of models and numbers are known quantities and which are totally uncertain. Most are fairly predictable, for example LEAF track record is well known, the car is decent but quickly getting long in the tooth, Volt is improved, but not a revolution yet. Big wild cards would seem to be: Bolt – will the new form factor and value proposition have OK sales (the numbers you suggested) or will sales really go crazy? (Bolt is mostly a 2017 car anyway) Will the i3 hockey stick up? Agreed that Tesla will sell everything they can make.

    On compliance cars, particularly the whole Ford lineup, they may not be exciting, but I think Ford is using these as learning platforms for supply chain experience, thermal management, consumer attitude, manufacturing experience, software refinement, R&D attributes, and the entire EV stack. VW as well has learned a lot from the eGolf and has already announced big roadmap changes. I’ll bet Hyundai is busy as well (remember, one of the finest battery manufacturers on the planet is LGChem, good buddies of the Hyundai folks). I have no idea if Honda and Toyota are just taking naps, or if they have some really interesting things up their sleeves. Honda and Toyota occupy so many top-selling model slots, that they might benefit from secrecy to not disrupt their current cash cows. Or are they complacent? I wonder if 2016 is the last year for a while with somewhat predictable EV sales, and then in 2017 forward, the new product launches really cause market disruptions.

    • Good stuff. Thanks for the musings.

    • Brent Jatko

      IMO VW seems to be shifting to electric and away from diesels in the wake of the emissions scandals in the USA and Europe.

    • ROBwithaB

      Toyonda, Japan’s glamour couple.
      Currently AWOL to the EV party.
      (Or maybe they just got the wrong invitation and landed up on Fuel Cell Ave, sitting there wondering where everybody else could be, and what’s taking them so long to show up.)

  • Jeff

    Hasn’t Tesla only shipped something like 250 Model Xs since September? If so 1700/month seems ambitious

    • eveee

      Production and shipment are different. They produced over 700, but only shipped about 250.

    • It’s an exponential ramp.

  • JamesWimberley

    Do you think BYD will have significant ev car sales in the fleet market? And will the Nissan e-NV200 reach the American market at all?

    • Alan

      With regard to the Nissan e-NV200, I asked a few days ago regarding the possibility of a larger battery for this vehicle here in the UK, there answer was not at this point in time, therefore, I can’t see them selling this in the US until they at least put a 60 kWh battery in it ?

      • It might start USA Sales of the e-NV200 with the 24 and/or 30 kWh Packs, just to get some units moved and in users hands, rather than wait until larger capacity packs are available, but – if they don’t allow for direct pack upgrades, they might have some sales volume issues with this approach.

        If they could offer assurances that the vehicle is dealer up-gradable to high capacity Packs, then early sales should do OK, with buyers knowing they can up the range in due time!

        • ROBwithaB

          This would be the smart way to go.
          It’s almost like Nissan has taken their “leadership” for granted, and have been resting on their laurels for a few years.
          The e-NV200 has the potential to be a really compelling vehicle, IMHO. Lots and lots of companies out there needing a small delivery vehicle.

    • Good questions. I have no answers. Kyle might have some insight on BYD.

      • Kyle Field

        I’ll reach out to the new BYD NA contact to see if I can get any updates on 2016 plans. I’ve not been in touch with them in recent months.

  • Frank

    Does anybody know where Tesla is getting the extra cells from? The gigafactory isn’t making cells yet, right?

    • Anthony C

      I think Panasonic, probably ramping up shipments a little. They’re keeping gigafactory close to the vest but I’ve heard they are producing a little bit, but not sure if they’re just starting to do test runs or as I heard making some of the powerwalls there.

    • Dragon

      I seem to remember someone announced they already moved battery production from Fremont to Gigafactory. They also still have plenty of room to spare at Fremont (which is one of the largest factory spaces in the USA) so space was never a limiting factor in their production of anything. I think money and staff have been the bottlenecks to faster growth. The huge space at gigafactory is only necessary for huge future growth in both cars and powerwalls – it isn’t necessary for the current scale of operations.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I think it’s battery pack assembly that has been moved. Or partially moved. Cells are likely coming in from another Panasonic factory for now.

        • neroden

          It’s pack assembly which was moved to the Gigafactory. And Powerpack assembly is now also operating in the Gigafactory too.

          The actual cells are still coming in by ship and truck, it seems.

          I’ve seen some careful analysis of Tesla’s battery pack design; although the cells are cylindrical like AA batteries, the cells come without most of the packaging; the battery pack includes the fuses and so on. The cells are a stack of chemical plates, period.

    • doctoxics

      Based on numerous statements from Tesla, cell production for energy storage will ramp later in 2016. Cells for cars will ramp later. Power walls and power packs are currently being manufactured in the Gigafactory from cells made in Japan.

  • Alan

    You might want to re-think the e-golf ? They have just announced an improved battery cell tech which will now give it 108 miles EPA.

    • sault

      Is it cheaper than the LEAF and available in all 50 states? Maybe people who value a little more refined interior will gravitate to the e-Golf over the LEAF, but being saddled with SAE Combo quick charging instead of Chademo means the LEAF has the edge in this department. For now. Chevy had better roll out a lot of combo quick charging stations ahead of the Bolt launch.

      • ah, i forgot about the charging advantage as well.

        plus, LEAF owners are 3rd happiest with the cars in the US (only behind Model S and Chevy Volt). that enthusiasm spreads, bringing in new buyers.

    • The issue with the e-Golf is its very limited markets. VW didn’t have one in the Southwest region for me to test drive when I was in Florida. Sales are lower than LEAF sales primarily because of limited availability, imho, and I just haven’t seen VW indicate that would change.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Same thing with the Spark. It would have been the clear winner for me, had it been available for sale locally.

  • phineasjw

    The ~3,000 Model S cars that currently ship each month are world-wide numbers?

  • Shiggity

    The Leaf just became obsolete. Step it up Nissan.

    • But the Bolt will not available in Europe/Japan, so they can still sell the LEAF while they’re preparing the 2nd generation.

      But indeed, they do not have any slack. Competition is wonderful.

    • Paul

      Today, you can buy a Leaf with 107 miles range. It’s the longest range of any EV not made by Tesla. You cannot buy a Bolt.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Doesn’t the next gen Leaf drop this year??

      • Yes and it will have 200+ Miles of Range to compete with the Chevy Bolt and Tesla.

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