2014 Proves Record Year for Plug-in Cars in U.S. With More Than 100,000 Sales

You’d be forgive for thinking December 2014 was a bit of a tense time for some plug-in fans, with gas prices dipping to the kind of prices we haven’t seen for years and many news outlets reeling out the ‘why bother with electric?’ trope one more time.

Plug-in car sales continued to rise in 2014, punching past 100,000 cars for the first time.

Plug-in car sales continued to rise in 2014, punching past 100,000 cars for the first time.

Yet as sales figures for last month detail, December’s plug-in car sales were far from dour, pushing the total number of plug-in cars sold in twenty fourteen to record levels.

In fact, as our friends at GreenCarReports detail, even without all of the sales figures reported for the month of December, more than 100,000 plug-in cars were sold between January 1 and December 31 last year.

That’s the third straight year of plug-in sales growth, up from 96,000 cars last year, 53,000 the year before, and just 17,500 in 2011.

For any market, that’s an impressive growth curve, and one which despite gasoline prices, seems to be continuing its upward trend.

Of more than 100,000 plug-in cars sold in the U.S. last year, more than 30,000 were Nissan LEAFs.

Of more than 100,000 plug-in cars sold in the U.S. last year, more than 30,000 were Nissan LEAFs.

Of all the cars sold with a plug this past year in the U.S., the Nissan LEAF can claim the crown, accounting for 30,200 of the total new plug-in car sales recorded last year. That’s a large improvement on the 22,610 LEAF sold during 2013.

Its closest rival — the Chevrolet Volt — did less well than in previous years, recording just 18,805 sales during 2014. But with the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt due to be officially unveiled later this month at thje 2015 North American International Auto Show, we can forgive the outgoing Chevrolet Volt a little for  its falling sales.

Despite peaking at over 100,000 cars however, the majority of plug-in vehicles on sale in the U.S. — more than 20 different models — were essentially rather low-volume vehicles, selling less than 250 cars per month.

Only the Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, Tesla Model S and (for a few months) BMW i3 managed to sell more than 1,000 units a month, with the Toyota Plug-in Prius hybrid occasionally making that 1,000-per-month target being the highest-selling plug-in hybrid for the year. That said, increased competition from other plug-in manufacturers did stunt Prius plug-in hybrid sales towards the end of the year, with only 492 Plug-in Prii rolling off dealer lots last month.

Chevrolet Volt sales dipped somewhat last year, caused in part we think by the upcoming 2016 model.

Chevrolet Volt sales dipped somewhat last year, caused in part we think by the upcoming 2016 model.

In total, an estimated 17 million light-duty vehicles were sold in the U.S. last year– that’s a predicted figure from Kelley Blue Book and other industry trackers — which includes both passenger cars and ‘light-duty’ pickup trucks.

Plug-in vehicles still account for a tiny proportion of that figure: less than one percent. But in a year which final sales figures for the automotive industry are likely to be the best in a decade, it’s important to note that plug-in sales don’t yet appear hampered by falling gas prices or an aggressive mainstream push from gasoline and diesel vehicles.

In fact, as advocacy group Plug In America notes, there doesn’t appear to be any connection between plug-in sales and gasoline prices. More importantly, while gas prices have been falling for several months, plug-in sales continue to grow. And while there’s some natural seasonal variance — December is never a good month for vehicle sales of any type — plug-in vehicle sales seem to be going just one way: up.

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