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Plug-In Electric Car Sales Triple In 2012 As Buyers, Models Increase

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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U.S. car buyers took home about 17,500 plug-in electric cars in 2011.

Last year, the numbers got better.

A lot better.

In 2012, about 53,000 electric cars were likely sold--essentially triple the prior year's number.

Not bad, huh?

We know that at least 50,000 sales of plug-in cars will have been reported by Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota.

We don't have final sales figures from Tesla, and won't until Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] releases its fourth-quarter financial results, most likely in early February.

We also don't have data on electric-car sales from Fisker, Coda, or Wheego.

But here's what we do have data on.

Chevrolet Volt

Hands down, the Volt has become the most popular plug-in electric car in the U.S.

Despite hostility to the car among certain sectors of the media, the Volt's shaky start in 2011 has solidified into a sales lead for the range-extended electric car.

In December, Chevy sold 2,633 Volts, bringing its year's total to 23,461. That's three times the 7,671 sold in 2011, and it locks the Volt into the leading position among all plug-in cars on sale in the U.S.

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

It didn't go on sale until February last year, but it logged steady sales and surged past the Nissan Leaf to become the second most-popular plug-in car on the market.

Last month, Toyota sold 1,361 plug-in Priuses, making the 2012 total a remarkable 12,750 units altogether.

Despite an EPA-rated electric range of 6 miles continuous and only 11 miles in total--the lowest of any plug-in car on the market--the plug-in Prius benefits from the reputation for reliability and excellent fuel economy of the entire Prius hybrid range.

It's also eligible for a "green sticker" permit that allows it to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on California freeways with just one occupant. That's a huge sales incentive.

And the Prius Plug-In Hybrid also has the highest fuel economy (50 mpg) of any plug-in hybrid when operating in its pure hybrid mode after the battery pack is discharged.

Nissan Leaf

It was the very first modern plug-in car aside from the Tesla Roadster to go on sale in the U.S. But after racking up 9,674 sales in 2011, the Leaf battery-electric car stumbled last year.

Following a trend that started in October, December sales stayed strong, at 1,489 units, for a 2012 total of 9,819 Leafs sold--just squeaking past the 2011 total.

That lost the Leaf its 2011 sales lead last year, as it plummeted to third place in plug-in purchases.

With less controversy around the Volt, the new availability of a Prius with a plug, cautious buyers may have preferred those two cars' lack of susceptibility to range anxiety versus the Leaf's rated 73-mile electric range.

Issues around loss of battery capacity among some Phoenix owners didn't help either.

Fords with plugs

While the Ford Focus Electric has technically been on sale since December 2011, its numbers are nothing for Ford to brag about.

Ford won't release sales data til tomorrow, but through November, only 518 of the battery electric conversion were delivered in 2012.


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Comments (86)
  1. Nice write-up and context. Congratulations to the Chevy Volt and to all the plug-in purchasers in 2012. I hope to join the ranks of plug-in owners in the near future.
     
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  2. Always disappointing that things are moving slow, especially considering the impact on the world of driving on oil, but very grateful that we are finally moving down a better path. EV's are mainstream and here to stay. Thanks for helping to spread the word and keep people educated on EV's.
     
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  3. Continuing the slow, steady progres overall as shown by total sales. All we need are gradual technological improvements, an eventual rise in fuel prices and better, more numerous choices for EVs/PHEVs and the numbers will continue to grow. Fast forward to about 2015/2016 and by then there will be more options as well as longer ranges. BMW, VW/Audi, Mercedes and others have finally hit the market and Tesla will, let's hope, finally be at the point where it can release a truly mass-market car for a lower price.

    I'm relatively pleased and expect to see similar increases in the next 3-4 years for a start. No, sales won't triple as quantities increase, of course, but 17k to 52k to 120k to 200k to 350k or so should be possible.
     
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  4. Sales might triple next year. Already sales were ~8000 plugins for December, that represent 96 000 total sales for the year(8k*12). But first, it is reasonable to expect that number to grow. Second, new models will hit the market. Third: Tesla expected to produce 20k+ Model S next year...

    Overall 150k plugins US sales in 2013 should be reachable.

    Hopefully even more.
     
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  5. John, I also feel that sales could still triple for 2013, although I think double might be closer. I just meant that we won't always see sales tripling every year.
     
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  6. I expect doubling for 2013 with Ford doing well against Toyota by selling the hybrids and Eneri models. Gasoline will average out higher in 2013 than 2012.
     
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  7. I think we will see a point where sales really take off in a big way. A burst where people finally blow past the BS and FUD and see the Plug-in their neighbor got and get a chance to drive one. I'm already seeing an attitude change in people around me as they see me living with my Volt and my partner's ActiveE day after day. Used to be a big deal to see another Volt on the road. Now I don't even keep track because I see at least one other (unique one) every day I'm out driving. We still have the only EVs on the block but now my very conservative brother-in-law recently got his own Volt, so the world IS changing and when it hits a certain level, things will tilt suddenly.
     
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  8. Very well stated, Joe, and I could not agree more. Many of my more conservative friends that loved to complain about what a POS the Volt is changed their tunes once they actually had driven it themselves. Three have now gotten them and understand, albeit at an admittedly subsidized price, that the Volt is cheaper than most vehicles already, not more expensive.
     
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  9. Don't forget the Mitsubishi i (MiEV) - it is not selling very many, but it should get counted.

    Neil
     
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  10. It was mentioned.
     
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  11. It appears that people are tentatively starting to accept the concept of cars with plugs but are still largely unwilling to live with relatively low range, preferring PHEVs over BEVs. Some education may be in order here: for most people not every car in their household needs to have serious long range capability but it's also up to builders of the current crop of sub 80 miles EVs to improve their product so it offers the sort of range people can live with. Still, as long as both concepts cost largely the same I expect PHEVs to continue to have the edge, a dominance that will be reinforced by better value PHEVs entering a market that has no exciting new sub $40K BEVs to look forward to.
     
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  12. I agree to a point. But the so called "range anxiety" is real with BEVs especially those with sub 100 miles range and especially for those that require any kind of "heating" for the winter.

    A Leaf that uses significant Heat in the winter and hwy cruising speed of 70mph will only realistically produce a range of 50 miles or less. That is a real issue.

    I hope Tesla will prove the world wrong with their version of the 200 miles $35k BEV...
     
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  13. People who drive more than 100 miles don't usually buy a car that has less than that range.
     
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  14. Do you buy a car that meet your range in the spring/summer but NOT making in the winter/fall? Or do you buy a car that meet your range in the first 3 years but NOT afterward? Do you buy a car that don't meet your range requirement if you ever drive 75mph+?

    If changing your lifestyle to meet a car spec is a requirement, then it will NEVER take off as a popular product.
     
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  15. I have not yet driven one, intentionally so. I've got a 15 year old Camry that I'm going to keep pushing until I'm financially prepared to car shop. I figure that I had better be prepared to buy when I start driving because I'm going to be seriously tempted.
     
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  16. This is great news. The sales will also increase as more of those plugins are out there on the market place. People's word of mouth will help to sell the cars. As those cars become more popular in the "real world", it will bring out more interest and more buyers.

    With new offering from Honda, Ford, Chevy and VW, I expect the total numbers of plugins in 2013 to double again.

    Of course, that predication is subject to variation caused by gas price sensitivity. The biggest impact would be if gas price dips below $3/gallon...
     
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  17. Which VW will make it onto the US market in 2013? I know the e-Up will hit European roads in 2013, but it's not coming to the US. I thought the Golf EV wasn't until 2014, but I could be wrong. As for $3/gallon gasoline, it may go closer to $2 once the minimum 25 bbl sitting under North Dakota alone has been extracted and refined. Then of course, if the fed keeps printing $$$, gasoline could hit $7 -- but then electricity prices would also double.
     
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  18. Oh, we won't see cheap oil again. It is in the hands of traders and world demand.
     
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  19. Electricity won't double. Too much depends on electricity for that to happen. In fact, electricity has raised its overall price slowly over the past decades. You forget the Jetta Hybrid which I felt was a good car to drive.
     
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  20. @Nicolas: The Jetta Hybrid should be starting to arrive at U.S. VW dealers right about now, but it's not a plug-in.
     
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  21. Anton, according to an article right here in December, this is what VW/Audi/Porsche has coming for plug-in vehicles (not just for 2013):

    Porsche 918 Spyder-Plug in, release in 2013
    Porsche Panamera-Plug in, release in 2013
    Porsche Cayenne-Plug in, 2014
    VW Golf, Plug in, 2014
    VW Passat, Plug in, 2014
    Audi A3, Q7, A6 & A8, Plug ins coming, but 2015 or later.

    So you are correct for 2013, the new PHEVs from the VW Group will start selling in N. America in 2014.
     
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  22. 50,000 cars at at least $30K each represents $1.5B in sales! That's a phenomenal takeoff rate. 23K Volts at about $40K each is almost a billion dollar product all by itself. It's almost as if you could make real money with new technolgy...
     
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  23. Why is the plug in hybrid Volt called an "electric car" and "range extended electric car" in the article but the hybrid Cmax Energi is properly called a plug in hybrid? All hybrids, and ICE's, "extend range" the same way, with an ICE and a gas tank. EV's have neither.
     
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  24. Because the cmax can't reach highway speeds without using its gas engine? 62mph max speed on electric and then you only get about 10 miles till the battery is depleted right? Seems to me it's more hybrid than anything.
     
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  25. The Volt also stays electric until the battery runs out even under hard acceleration (and any speed as stated above). It is like a ~40 mile BEV and then a ~360 mile PHEV after that. It is still the only one like that.
     
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  26. With rare exceptions, the Volt is *always* electric. It is primarily an electric vehicle with the ICE serving to operate a generator when needed. Essentially the electric motor drives the car, even when the ICE is operating, which is different from PHEVs that connect the ICE to the drivetrain directly all of the time or even most of the time.

    GM is vague about it, but under some circumstances the ICE can be connected to the drivetrain. But if I can believe what I've read, this only happens when you are driving at some speed over 70 MPH when the battery is operationally depleted, which never happens in my case as I keep my speed at around 65 (much to the annoyance of many Type-A BMW drivers).
     
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  27. That's not completely true, the Fisker does that always because the electric motor is the only thing driving the wheels. The Volt's engine does spin the wheels in certain cases. But who cares, it's a great PHEV.
     
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  28. Joe has listed that condition correctly.

    In extended range mode and speed above 70mph.

    Fisker also turn on the engine in "sports" mode even with a full battery.
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  29. Yes, there are conditions AFTER THE INITIAL CHARGE IS DEPLETED where the Volt transmission permits what is essentially "waste torque" from the ICE (which is running anyways in CS to generate electical energy) to contribute to the gearset. This is always done in unison with torque being provided from the main traction motor (MGB) Unlike most of the PHEV vehicles mentoned in the article the ICE is NEVER the sole contributor of motive power.In fact due to the gearset arrangment, it simply cannot ever do so, electrical power is ALWAYS needed to propel the Volt.(unlike a typical PHEV)
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  30. @Wop Ontour - ICE is NEVER a sole contributor of motive power for Prius or Ford hybrids. Electric power is ALWAYS needed to propel the Prius. That's how eCVT works.
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  31. There are more comments in this thread
  32. It depends on your driving conditions. Majority of my PiP trips are done in pure EV. I do a lot of short trips and I can recharge multiple times a day. Occasionally (weekends), I use gas on longer trips.

    To me, PiP is more EV than a hybrid.
     
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  33. @JRP3: Because, unlike the Prius and the two Ford Energi models, the Volt runs solely on its electric motor until its pack is depleted. Then the gasoline engine kicks in to generate electricity (and under some limited circumstances, contribute torque as well) to run that motor--whereas the others will switch on their gasoline engines regardless of pack charge if the power demand is high enough.
     
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  34. But we both know that under certain conditions the Volt will also turn on it's ICE even if the pack is full, like when it's cold out, or if it thinks the gas is getting stale. In any case it's irrelevant, if it has two power sources and two systems it is by definition a hybrid. It has the same range and fueling opportunities as any ICE or hybrid, as well as the same potential service and maintenance issues, an EV does not. The Volt has more in common mechanically with a Prius than a LEAF. The insistence by some to continue to mislabel the vehicle is mind boggling and does the vehicle no favors. GM marketing blew it by pretending it was an EV, perpetuating the mistake is pointless.
     
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  35. I'm with Voelcker on this one. The Volt deserves the E-REV label where as the PiP and Energi are hybrids. That said, it is a sliding scale. In EPA testing, the Energi didn't use any gasoline during the charge depletion testing, so arguably it is an E-REV. However, the EPA did put a special note on the Energi saying that it might use gasoline during the charge depletion mode, something it did not have to say for the Volt.

    The PiP is, of course, a truly "blended mode" hybrid.
     
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  36. "That said, it is a sliding scale." Exactly, and none of them are EV's, they are all hybrids, with ICE's. EV's don't have ICE's. If you talk about EV sales and include hybrids you are skewing the data. They are different animals with different characteristics. No hybrid, plug in or otherwise, has any sort of range limits. EV's still do.
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  37. @JRP3: We consider any car that plugs into the wall to recharge a battery pack that propels it to be an electric car.

    I take it you're proposing that many cars with plugs are NOT "electric cars"?
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  38. I am with JPR3. If a vehicle has a plug and a gas tank, it is a plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). If it doesn't have a gas tank, it is an electric car. It is as simple as that.

    EREV will be a subset of PHEV, once SAE J1715 standard is final. See page 10.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/merit_review_2011/veh_sys_sim/vss052_duoba_2011_o.pdf
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  39. The primary difference is that even with the ICE running, the car's wheels are driven by the electric motor, not the ICE. As John points out, there are limited circumstances where the ice contributes some torque as well, but John's statement that the Volt runs solely on its electric motor until its pack is depleted can be misconstrued... in fact Volt continues to run on it's electric motor even after its pack is depleted and the ICE is turning the generator to provide power.
     
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  40. The biggest disagreement comes from the operating condition.

    Volt's ICE come up for "maintainence" reason such as battery temperature, opening hood, gas maintainence, troubleshooting, engine repair.

    They are NOT your typical "driving" mode.

    Of course, the 2013 model allows a "hold" mode. But still, in its EV mode, it is a full electric. NO other PHEV can operate as such in their respective EV mode.

    Volt is the ONLY one that can operate to its top speed, keep up its heat, same performance in EV mode as in extended mode. Also, Volt's electric motor is the main drive since it is FAR MORE powerful than its ICE. Just about every PHEV is the other way around where ICE is far more powerful than its electric motor.
     
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  41. Per MotorTrend testing, Volt is 6.8 seconds slower to reach 100 mph in EV vs when it is in hybrid mode. It does not have full power in EV mode, just like any other plugin hybrids.

    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/alternative/1010_2011_chevrolet_volt_test/

    Just because it has different set of conditions does not make it an electric car. As long as it has two fuels on-board, it is a hybrid.
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  42. @Dennis Chin,

    Learn to read dude, in that test it happened b/c it already went through a high speed test which limited battery output. If the battery was at "FULL POWER", then its electric power output is at max. In ICE mode, the ICE can NOT provide more than what electric motor requires at full power.

    The same can happen on a Leaf. When Leaf's battery is in "peservation mode" or "limp mode", it limits output as wel.

    Learn some real engineering before you argue about it again.

    What is your engineering background again?
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  43. In hybrid mode, gas engine power is blended with the power from electric motor (MGb). That is the reason it has full power in hybrid mode. The battery power sags in either mode. The only difference is the power that gas engine fills in the hybrid mode.

    I suggest you be more humble and stop trying to sound big and act macho.
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  44. There are more comments in this thread
  45. John, I agree that the conditions (and threshold) for running the gas engines are different. Nonetheless, gas engine can come on for Volt, PiP or Energi models, whether it is triggered by the temperature, power, speed, range, mode override and most importantly, how the owner use it(driving condition).

    Note that Volt's gas engine can come on to warm up the battery. Driver can press the HOLD button and gas engine will come on. Engine Maintenance mode and lifting up the hood will turn on the gas engine as well. When the engine is on, it can mechanically drive the wheels at constant cruising speed.
     
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  46. That is b/c C-Max's EV spec doesn't match its "hybrid" spec. Max speed, acceleration aren't the same.

    In Volt, its EV mode performance is same or even better than its "extended" range. Volt is a "fully" functional EV in its EV mode.
     
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  47. There are more comments in this thread
  48. For me, buying my volt led me to go and also get a home solar PV system. Do you know if any studies have been done to see if people why buy EVs are also adding solar? They seem to go together well.
     
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  49. I bought a Volt in Nov 2011. I bought solar panels in Nov 2012. I live in sunny Florida and I shout to the world all the time how I drive my car 44 miles roundtrip to work every day (sometimes twice a day after fully recharging)with no carbon footprint and not a drop of gas. Yes I can go 44 miles wo the gas engine kicking in. Also drove to Ohio and averaged 38 mpg on gas engine. I figured I saved $4,800 in 2012 on gas alone over my small SUV I used to drive at 20mpg! At this rate the car will be free in ten years. Why doesn't everyone have an electric car with solar? Just makes common sense to me! And financial sense in the long run. Love my solar (7kw system, producing 35 kw/day) and love my Volt being charged on solar energy.
     
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  50. 7KW? Wow. My roof is only good for a 3.4KW system...
     
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  51. Yep, sadly I only have a 3KW system. The 7KW system sounds great.
     
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  52. Same for me. Partially b/c PG&E doesn't like EVs...
     
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  53. John, I've seen estimates only, of 10%, for whatever that is worth. As someone who is just starting to do the research but hopes to have solar at home in 2014, this is a subject that I hope that GCR reports on soon...
     
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  54. I am NOT selling "solar city" here. But they do have a pretty competitive PPA (power purchasing plan). Where you lease the panels but with an option to buy later. It is worthy a look.

    Good luck with your home solar research.
     
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  55. Thanks, Xiaolong, I'll research them before making any decisions. Always appreciative of help, thanks again to you and others for comments both this time and in the past.
     
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  56. John V, I would add that PiP has the largest cargo space (and a flat floor) out of all plugin hybrids.

    C-Max Energi has smaller cargo space (different from the hybrid version) than PiP.
     
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  57. I would like to add that PIP has the worse handling, braking, acceleration and lowest EV range among all PHEV.

    It also has the LOWEST rated safety rating as well..
     
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  58. PiP has better safety rating than Volt in my opinion. For some reason, the government gave the Volt overall 5 stars and gave PiP 4 stars. See below:

    2012 Volt: http://www.cars.com/chevrolet/volt/2012/safety-ratings/

    2012 PiP: http://www.cars.com/toyota/prius-plug-in/2012/safety-ratings/

    For Rollover Test, both got 4 stars. For Passenger Frontal crash test, Volt got 4 stars but Prius got 5 stars. Yet, overall frontal is 4 stars for both plugins.

    In overall of overall, Volt got 5 stars and PiP got 4 stars. Puzzling!
     
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  59. You need to check your sources again.

    Here are the links directly from NHTSA's webpage.

    Volt and PIP are both 5 star for drivers and 4 star for passenger (female size).

    Volt and PIP are both 5 star for the side.

    However, Volt is 5 star for roll over where PIP is 4 star for roll over.

    That is why PIP is a 4 star rated overall.

    http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=6508

    http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=6758

    PIP is more likely to roll over. I am NOT surprised with that finding since PIP has skinny low rolling tires, higher center of gravity and poor handling...
     
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  60. PiP did not tip over in the test, nor the Volt. PiP has 0.3% higher chance of rolling over than 5 stars regular Prius. That's all it took to divide between 5 and 4 stars.
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  61. Both of them are more likely to roll over than the Volt.

    Considering the skinny tires, pathetic handling and terrible brakes, I would understand why Prius drivers are such "slow" drivers. It is just NOT safe to drive Prius in any kind of "sporty" fashion.

    Dude, give it a rest, just enjoy your boring high mpg, 5 passenger transportation box...
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  62. Don't be so proud of your thick tires because a compact 4 seater weights more than a SUV - it needs to be. Volt is neither a sporty car by any mean, especially with the top speed of 100 mph.

    I couldn't be any happier (and having fun) with 128 MPGe on electricity and 55 MPG on gas.
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