Electric Car Sales (Monthly Reports)

At the suggestion of one of our writers, I’ve decided to create this page dedicated to monthly electric car sales reports (US electric car sales, China electric car sales, and Europe electric car sales for now). For 2016 electric car sales, head over to this page. For 2017 electric car sales, head over to this page. Enjoy, and share with friends!

US Electric Car Sales — February 2017

Here’s our February electric car sales report for the United States, which complements our just-published Europe and China electric car sales reports (for January — they’re always a month behind).

As usual, the report only includes electric cars from Tesla and companies that report their monthly plug-in car sales. Furthermore, the Tesla sales are not official and are based on several Tesla statements, Tesla reports, Tesla forecasts, and broader sources of consumer investigation. This month, I also started crowdsourcing estimates for Model 3 deliveries. My own estimate was leaning toward 3,000, but I decided to go with Knetter‘s choice of 3,030 for this report. 😉

This month, there’s a bit more confusion than normal about how much Tesla is shipping the Model S and Model X to US customers. There’s a theory going around that Tesla is going to delay remaining Q1 and Q2 deliveries considerably to try to push the 200,000th US delivery to Q3 and secure the full federal tax credit for a lot more EV buyers, but that would mean significantly delaying a lot of US deliveries. (I have to say I think this theory is a bit far fetched due to how much of a shift that would entail and the dramatic financial impact that would result.) There’s also word that estimated delivery times for new orders are much further off than has been normal for the past year or two … which could be related to the theory above, but not necessarily. Alternative explanations for the longer delivery waits could be production bottlenecks or much higher demand for these vehicles.

It’s hard to say which hypothesis is correct (production bottleneck vs increased demand), especially since we are in the middle of the quarter and won’t get a sales update from Tesla for one more month. I stuck with a more or less normal estimate for the Model S and Model X, but dropped the figures a bit due to all of the uncertainty and the Model 3 production problems (which might have some carryover effects).

As usual, Tesla’s three models accounted for a huge chunk of overall US electric car sales, with the brand leading the pack by a hefty margin.

Aside from the Tesla number fun, the sales for other electric cars didn’t look too good in February. Chevy Bolt sales were weak, to put it mildly, and Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF sales were considerably worse (not even reaching 1,000 deliveries). Ford Fusion Energi and BMW i3 sales chugged along a bit below those models.

That skips one model, though. Above every plug-in car except the Tesla Model 3, there was the Toyota Prius Prime. Toyota has certainly utilized its strong Prius brand and reputation for green, efficient, electrified cars to move Primes. However, I think there’s a lot of potential there that’s not being tapped. I imagine Toyota salespeople are happy to upsell customers to the Prime, but I wonder how many sales are missed from dealership staff not informing customers about the federal tax credit for EVs, which can make the Prime cheaper than lower-trim Prius options. I also wonder what percentage of potential customers aren’t told that home charging might significantly lower operational costs. Furthemore, I wonder what percentage of the sales staff neglect to explain to customers how home charging can make the Prime considerably more convenient and save them a lot of time, which we all know is also money.

Nonetheless, it’s nice that Toyota offers the Prime somewhat broadly and upsells customers coming in for a Prius (something I assume is similar to how Ford steadily moves Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids out the door and previously did so at a similar scale with the C-Max Energi, before discontinuing it).

Getting back to the brand ranking, Tesla dominated with an estimated ~7,000 deliveries, GM was #2 with 2,407 deliveries, Toyota was #3 with 2,050 straight from the Prime, BMW was #4 with 1,936 (coming from the i3 + then a long list of PHEVs — i8, 330e, 530e, 740e, X5 xDrive40e, and MINI Countryman PHEV), Ford came in at #5 with 1,006, and the rest aren’t even worth mentioning.

Click either table to embiggen

If you look at year-over-year changes, you can see that most electric cars on the US market saw a drop in sales, but the BMW i3 actually had a nice bump. Also, the Chevy Bolt and Toyota Prius Prime, which were pretty young back in February 2017, saw increases of about 50%.

Are any of these electric cars going to have a breakout period of growth? The Nissan LEAF is likely to fly toward the top of the list once production of the next-gen 2018 LEAF gets rolling. One would hope that the Bolt and Prime would see notable increases in sales, but it’s just hard to imagine that happening at this point. Of course, almost everyone is expecting Tesla Model 3 sales to skyrocket once some production bottlenecks are worked out. We’re basically tracking that story daily, so stay tuned to CleanTechnica for more.

Also, the general point that only the Tesla Model 3 seems primed for a major boom in sales seems strongly related to a key line from Tesla’s recent shareholder letter: “We incorporated all the learnings from the development and production of Roadster, Model S, and Model X to create the world’s first mass market electric vehicle that is priced on par with its gasoline-powered equivalents – even without incentives.” I just published a story about that line a few hours ago, so check out that piece as well if you want to keep travelling down this boulevard.

Europe Electric Car Sales — January 2017

The European passenger plug-in car market started the 2018 season with almost 26,000 registrations, growing 36% compared to the same period last year, a promising start that unfortunately is being made for the most part thanks to growth in plug-in hybrids (+44% year over year). In fact, plug-in hybrids now represent more than half (53%) of deliveries.

And yet, out of the five best selling PEVs, four are fully electric vehicles (BEVs), and the majority of the top 10 belongs to fully electric models.

Well, if BEVs are among the best sellers, then why are PHEVs outselling them?

First, there aren’t that many fully electric cars to choose from. In this top 20 list, there are 7 BEVs compared to 13 PHEVs, and with the exception of the Kia Soul EV, all of them are regular small/compact car models — no fully electric station wagon is available, no MPV, and especially, no crossovers and SUVs. These classes are sorely lacking in the BEV menu, which is not the case on the PHEV side, where there are 7 crossovers/SUVs to choose from! They come at a wide array of prices. There’s also one MPV and two station wagons. If you look at all the plug-in vehicles on the market today, you can see there are a high number of plug-in hybrids being offered, especially by European automakers. The large automakers seem to prefer adding relatively small batteries and electric motors to gasoline/diesel models rather than building new electric cars from the ground up.

Second, all seven all-electric nameplates have waiting lists. Some of them are over 6 months long. So, if there weren’t production constraints, BEVs would easily overcome plug-in hybrids. Long gone are the times when high-end executives complained no one wanted EVs…

Looking at PEV share, 2018 started with 2%, and once the much awaited new models arrive (LEAF 2, Kona EV, …), expect sales to pick up even further. I think the plug-in vehicle share could end the year at around 4% market share, and even 6% or so in December.

If the VW e-Golf dethroning the Renault Zoe was the headline in January, the surprise of the month was the Smart Fortwo ED reaching 5th place. It seems the tiny two-seater is experiencing an overwhelming boost in demand, with the Smart EV already having a 9 month waiting list and suffering from a recurring problem: “Not enough batteries.”

Top 5 Best Selling PEVs

#1 Volkswagen e-Golf — Remember the time when saying “e-Golf” was synonymous with “Norway”? Not anymore, despite Norway still being the nameplate largest market (514 deliveries), the German BEV had 506 deliveries in the Netherlands and 450 at home. So, the 1,985 units registered in January are spread out more than a year ago. The model is benefiting from a larger battery and more favorable context, which actually led to demand that Volkswagen wasn’t expecting and thus long lead times, something the automaker promised to cut significantly during this year with increased production.

#2 Renault Zoe — The 1,871 deliveries of January marked a 27% drop year over year (YoY), making it the nameplate’s worst performance since April. With no known production hiccups and the demand as strong as ever, this slowdown could be attributed to the fact that LG Chem does not have enough batteries to provide the French automaker. As for individual country performances, despite the dismal result at home (633 deliveries, its worst result in 14 months), there were decent numbers in Germany (299 deliveries), Norway (334 deliveries), and Spain (104 deliveries).

#3 BMW i3 — The German Stormtrooper hatchback saw flat sales in January, with 1,867 deliveries. With the all-electric version now representing 75% of deliveries, one can consider the i3 as part of the BEV team. Looking at individual countries, the i3 had strong results in Norway (614 BEV deliveries), Germany (359 deliveries), and France (172 deliveries). Looking into 2018, expect deliveries to pick up in the coming months — BMW will be going into full production in its Leipzig plant and presumably delivering as many i3 and i8 as the factory can deliver.

#4 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — Solid as a rock, the Japanese SUV saw its sales slip slightly (-1% YoY) to 1,165 registrations. Despite this minor setback, the Mitsubishi model continues to profit from its unique mix of space, AWD, range, and affordability (€40,000) to make it popular in markets like the UK, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland (126 registrations in that last one). In the long run, with no direct competitors in sight and a promised update during the year, the Japanese SUV will probably stay among Europe’s top sellers, even making a run for the “Best-Selling PHEV” trophy.

#5 Smart Fortwo ED — The tiny two-seater seems destined for success this year, registering 1,143 units in January. If Germany (729 registrations) is the main driving force, other market performances are also impressive, with Italy (131 registrations) and France (98 registrations) being the most important. Despite the limited range coming from the small 17.6 kWh battery and the lack of fast charging, the new Smart Electric has met with enthusiastic demand, catching Daimler off-guard (surprise, surprise). That has led to 9 month lead times for the model, making the OEM quest to be an all-electric brand even more pressing. I mean, if there is a car that should have been electric from the beginning, it’s the Fortwo, right?

Looking elsewhere, the first month of the year has brought a couple of surprises, with the most important being the 7th place finish of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, with a record 1,017 registrations. The Korean model is still production constrained after more than a year on the market — one wonders when Hyundai will deliver enough units to satisfy demand.

The Porsche Panamera PHEV joined the top 20, finishing in #16, thanks to 678 registrations, and it could be even higher … if it wasn’t suffering from a common disease (not enough batteries). No wonder, then, that the head honchos of the sports car maker are now deeply in love with the Mission E, as they smell the scent of fresh money coming in…

Other models also shined in January — the Kia Soul EV (779 registrations) had its best result in over two years, and apparently PSA got some extra units from GM and delivered 335 Opel Ampera-e electric cars (the European version of the Chevy Bolt), a new personal best for the badge-engineered EV.

One interesting note compared to the China electric car sales report is that only 10% of electric car sales were from models outside of the top 20, whereas that figure is 25% in Europe.

Europe January Market Share
1 VW e-Golf 1,985 7.69%
2 Renault Zoe 1,871 7.25%
3 BMW i3 1,867 7.23%
4 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 1,165 4.51%
5 Smart Fortwo ED 1,143 4.43%
6 VW Passat GTE 1,085 4.20%
7 Hyundai Ioniq Electric 1,017 3.94%
8 Volvo XC60 T8 962 3.73%
9 Mercedes GLC350e 885 3.43%
10 Kia Soul EV 779 3.02%
11 BMW 530e 773 3.00%
12 Mini Countryman PHEV 748 2.90%
13 BMW 330e 745 2.89%
14 BMW 225xe 735 2.85%
15 VW Golf GTE 705 2.73%
16 Porsche Panamera PHEV 678 2.63%
17 Volvo XC90 T8 585 2.27%
18 Kia Niro PHEV 561 2.17%
19 Nissan LEAF 548 2.12%
20 Mercedes C350e 487 1.89%
Others 6,484 25.12%
TOTAL 25,808 100%

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, last year’s winner, BMW, started the year in the lead with 17% market share. It was followed by Volkswagen (15%) in second place, with Renault ending in the last place of the podium at 9%. Interestingly, last year’s podium was exactly the same.

Outside the medal places, Volvo (8%) is coming strong, with Kia and Mercedes (both with 6% share) following close behind.

China Electric Car Sales — January 2017

After the December sales peak, January signaled the expected hangover, but still, sales stood at some 35,000 passenger plug-in vehicles (PEVs), up four-fold year over year (YoY), making this by far the best January ever for electric car sales in China.

The PEV share started the year at 1.4%, a step below the 2.1% of 2017, but as sales pick up during the year, the expected 2018 PEV share should be around 3% by year end.

Last month, the Chinese OEMs represented roughly 40% of all PEVs registered globally, an impressive number, especially considering that January is usually one of the slowest months in the Chinese PEV market. (However, that’s also the case in many other markets.)

Despite exports still being symbolic, the domestic market is more than enough to absorb the current production, helped by the fact that it is a highly protected market. In fact, foreign brands have only 5% of PEV sales. Of this small cake, nearly half (2% of overall PEV sales in the country) belong to Tesla, with the remaining 3% of overall PEV sales being distributed by BMW (1%), Cadillac (1%), and other manufacturers (1%).

In January, plug-in hybrids had an exceptional month, collecting 4 out of the top 6 positions, which can be explained by the fact that they are less dependent on subsidies. Nevertheless, the BAIC EC-Series is still the poster child of the Chinese PEV market, scoring close to 8,000 deliveries. (Hmm, 8,000 is approximately 2,000/week — sound familiar?) Meanwhile, BYD placed two plug-in hybrid models — the Song SUV and the Qin compact sedan — in the top 5.

Top 5 Best Selling PEVs

#1 – BAIC EC-Series: Winning the best-seller status for 6 months in a row in a competitive market like China is no small feat. Even harder is to be the global best-seller during those same 6 months. But that’s exactly what the EC-Series has done, having registered 7,870 units in January. The little city EV is becoming disruptive in its home market, owing its success to a trendy design, reminiscent of a crossover; improved specs (now with 200 km or 125 miles of range); and competitive pricing ($22,000). With the Chinese and the global editions of the 2017 Best Selling PEV award in its hands, the EC-Series has started 2018 in the same tone, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this small EV could outsell the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model 3 in 2018, becoming the 2018 Best Selling PEV in the World.

#2 – JAC iEV7S/E: One of the EV pioneers in China, selling plug-ins since 2010, JAC is trying to regain relevance with its iEV7S/E compact crossover. The vehicle registered a record 3,356 units in January, allowing it to reach the runner-up position. A vehicle targeted to urbanites, for a competitive $26,000 before incentives, you get a trendy compact vehicle (Kia Soul sized), with the 33kWh battery providing just enough range (251 km or 157 miles NEDC) to cover the needs of the urban jungle.

#3 – BYD Qin PHEV: This is the most common plug-in car in China, with almost 100,000 units registered to date. Thanks to recent changes, BYD’s “Model 3” (0–100 km/h in 5.9s) got its mojo back and is once again a major player, registering 3,339 units last month. With a competitive price ($31,000 before incentives), sales are expected to remain high, as long as BYD manages to make enough of them.

#4 – BYD Song PHEV: The current rising star product from Build Your Dreams (BYD) is the plug-in hybrid version of its Song compact SUV. It had 2,681 registrations in January, a good start of the year, staying above its nemesis, the #5 Roewe eRX5 PHEV. BYD’s “Model Y” won both the Best Selling PHEV and Best Selling Electric SUV trophies last year, but this year, it will have a harder time securing these best seller titles, namely because of…

#5 – SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV: … this model. Shanghai Auto has high hopes for its eRX5 twins (BEV and PHEV), and especially for the plug-in hybrid version, having registered 2,217 units last month, earning it its second top 5 position. Will it be able to beat the BYD SUV this year? Despite being beaten on pure specs (60 km of electric range NEDC) compared with the Song (70 km), the Roewe seems to be a more accomplished vehicle, and with time it can win street cred, thus improving sales in the long run.

Outside the top 5, and even in a slow selling month, there are a couple of models beating records, like is the case of the #6 Roewe i6 PHEV — with 2,088 deliveries, it had its best result since it landed 9 months ago.

Another one was the surprising Cadillac CT6 PHEV, a model that so far hadn’t really made an impact in its class. In January, it registered 451 units, shattering its previous record (195 units), managing even to collect its first top 20 presence. That means it outsold even the almighty Tesla Model S in the country (330 estimated deliveries).  It’s not often that you write that Cadillac outsells Tesla…

Two new additions to the top 20 joined the ranking in January, with the promising GAC Trumpchi GE3 jumping to #13, thanks to 536 deliveries ( a new personal best), while the #10 BAIC EX-Series small crossover reminds us that Beijing Auto is not only the EC-Series — there are other nameplates in the stable able to pull top 20 presences.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BAIC started the year in the lead, with 25% market share. Last year’s winner, BYD, is not far behind (21%). This was only a first stage of a race that promises to be tough between these two titans, both running hard and fast for the 2018 title.

In third place, we have Shanghai-based Roewe consolidating its bronze medalist status, with 13% share.

China January Market Share
1 BAIC EC-Series 7,870 23%
2 JAC iEV7 S/E 3,356 10%
3 BYD Qin PHEV 3,339 10%
4 BYD Song PHEV 2,681 8%
5 SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV 2,217 6%
6 SAIC Roewe i6 PHEV 2,088 6%
7 JMC E200 1,500 4%
8 Chery eQ 1,396 4%
9 BYD Tang 1,089 3%
10 BAIC EX-Series 767 2%
11 Changan Benni EV 680 2%
12 Hawtai EV160 607 2%
13 GAC Trumpchi GE3 536 2%
14 GAC Trumpchi GS4 EREV 507 1%
15 Zotye E200 501 1%
16 Tesla Model X 500 1%
17 SAIC Roewe eRX5 BEV 482 1%
18 Geely Emgrand EV 466 1%
19 Cadillac CT6 PHEV 451 1%
20 Yudo Pi1 356 1%
Others 3,503 10%
TOTAL 34,892 100%

Cool New Kids

This month, we had a number of new additions, from yet another minivan/MPV out of Dongfeng to the cheap & chic Yudo Pi1 small crossover. My favorite landing this month was the…

He Xiaopeng Motors

Xiaopeng XPeng X3 — This Tesla-inspired vehicle is the first fruit of an internet-based startup, which has subcontracted the local manufacturer Haima to make the first units of its XPeng SUV. The vehicle combines striking design with some quite impressive stats on the performance side: 0–100 km/h in 5.9 secs and 190 hp max power, most notably. But for a vehicle with premium aspirations, 300 km (188 miles) of range (NEDC) is not really 2018. … Anyway, as with all EV startups, developing the car is important, but it’s not the most crucial thing. It’s no use to have a disruptive model if you can’t really make it in volume, and that’s the major question here: With volume production only scheduled for 2019, will the company survive a sloooow production ramp-up?