In August 2020, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, cumulative plug-in vehicle sales in the United States reached 1.6 million units.
Fully electric vehicle (BEV) sales are clearly in the lead among plug-in vehicles, accounting for approximately 1 million of these sales. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sales account for the other 600,000 or so. “Since June of 2015, BEV sales have outpaced PHEV sales, and for the last year, BEVs accounted for 60% or more of all plug-in vehicle sales,” the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy stated.
In the early years, the top two plug-in vehicles in the country (in terms of sales) were the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt (2012–2014). Then the Tesla Model S took the leading position (2015), while the LEAF and Volt continued to do relatively well. A few early plug-in hybrids also saw decent sales: the Ford Fusion Energi, Ford C-Max Energi, and Toyota Prius PHEV (the updated version is the Prius Prime, which is still on the market and has moderate sales). The BMW i3 performed fairly well for years as well.
The Tesla Model S continued to lead in 2016, but the Tesla Model X started to rise up close behind it and the Chevy Bolt arrived at the end of the year. In 2017, the Model S and Model X led the market, but the Bolt was right behind.
The market really took off, though, when Tesla Model 3 production ramped up in 2018, becoming the first truly mass market electric car and even crushing the competition in its segment of the market. The Model 3 has completely dominated US plug-in vehicle sales since then. Well, that is, until now. The Tesla Model Y has now taken a chunk out of the 3’s monthly sales (i.e., deliveries) and may even be outselling it. Unfortunately, we don’t have insight into that level of sales detail, especially since Tesla combines Model 3 and Model Y deliveries in its sales reports.
When Tesla completes Giga Texas, the numbers could spike again, as Tesla will be able to produce the Model 3 and Model Y in Texas for the eastern half of the US while producing those popular models in California for the western half. Giga Berlin will also help increase supply by producing for the European market. Additionally — perhaps a big additionally — Tesla will be able to produce the Cybertruck in Giga Texas, a model that’s radically different and appears to have so much “cult appeal” that it could be a large additive vehicle for Tesla demand. In fact, there are strong arguments for how the Cybertruck could mark a major transformation in the auto industry as a whole. We’ll see.
The past decade of EV sales trends has been interesting and exciting, but the next decade is going to be something else.