2011 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
If you read only certain subsections of the "news," you might be forgiven for thinking that plug-in electric cars have been a sales disaster.
The Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Volt are all built in quite small numbers, and their sales have been commensurately low, totaling slightly more than 15,000 by the end of this month.
That means they register barely a blip against the 11 or 12 million vehicles sold annually in the U.S., or the 1 billion vehicles on the world's roads.
We wanted to get a sense, though, of just how much use those cars are getting. We wondered: How many miles have these new electric cars driven since the Tesla Roadster entered production in late 2008?
So we asked.
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.Enlarge Photo
"We love answering this question!," said the company's Camille Ricketts. "We keep a real-time counter of electric miles driven on our website."
As of today, the total is at 15.5 million miles around the world. Those were logged by about 1,850 Tesla Roadsters, out of a total planned production of just 2,600.
John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010Enlarge Photo
As of Oct 14, the total distance covered worldwide by Nissan Leaf electric cars was 18 million kilometers. By our math, that's 11.1 million miles.
Those miles have been accumulated by more than 10,000 Nissan Leafs built since late last year and shipped to North America, Europe, and of course Asia.
2011 Chevrolet Volt Production LineEnlarge Photo
About 80 percent of Chevy Volt owners sign up for OnStar Vehicle Diagnostic reports, according to GM's Rob Peterson, which lets the company track the distance their cars cover.
Through Sept 30, those drivers have traveled more than 10.5 million miles, with 7 million of them all-electric (the precise split for battery-powered miles is 65.5 percent). Scaling that up to account for the unrecorded 20 percent, Volts en masse have covered roughly 8.6 million miles on grid power.
So there you have it. Collectively, just the three highest-volume electric cars have covered more than 35 million miles.
And that's not including miles covered by a few hundred MINI E drivers, or those racked up by another few hundred drivers of Toyota RAV4 EV models from early in the last decade.