Plug-In Electric Car Sales Triple In 2012 As Buyers, Models Increase Page 2

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2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

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But higher in the chart are surging sales of the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, which hit the market in October.

It logged November sales of 1,259, meaning its 2012 total could be 2,500 or more--after just three months on the market.

Ford will also have the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid sedan coming onto the market next year, so its 2013 plug-in hybrid sales should be substantial.

As for Mitsubishi, whose 'i' or i-MiEV was actually the fourth modern plug-in car to go on sale in the U.S. (in November 2011), it sold 77 of the tiny battery electric cars in December.

That brings its total for 2012 to 588 sold, making it a distant also-ran in the sales volume sweepstakes.

Compliance cars

The Volt, Leaf, and Prius Plug-In make up by far the bulk of the electric-car market for 2012.

Other vehicles added during 2012 include a handful of so-called compliance cars, among them the Toyota RAV4 EV and Honda Fit EV.

Toyota sold 52 RAV4 EVs in December, bringing the year's total since September to 192.

In December, 19 deliveries of the Honda Fit EV were made, for a yearly total of 93 units of the battery-electric conversion that can only be leased.

Unknowns: Tesla Model S, Fisker Karma

We won't find out how many Tesla Model S electric luxury sport sedans were delivered until Tesla Motors submits its fourth-quarter results to the Securities & Exchange Commission, most likely in early February.

While it insists that it's a fully competitive automaker, Tesla won't discuss its monthly sales figures, saying that its owners and potential buyers don't care about them, and its investors are content with quarterly reports.

Until then, we're estimating that about 3,000 of the all-electric luxury sport sedan found buyers.

That's lower than Tesla's original goal of 5,000, but enough to put the Model S into fourth place in the plug-in sales chart.

Production of the Fisker Karma has been halted for several months, since its lithium-ion cell supplier A123 Systems declared bankruptcy.

The company has never commented on production or sales figures--always a bad sign--but we estimate that more than 2,000 Karmas had been built by last summer.

If so, and netting out the 300-plus destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, we figure perhaps 1,500 have been sold in the U.S. market.

Coda and Wheego each have likely sold only a few hundred cars apiece, if that, and aren't a major factor in the market.

Positive signs for the future

While U.S. Department of Energy loans to Tesla, Fisker, and other green-energy companies came up during the presidential and vice-presidential debates last fall, modern plug-in electric cars are here to stay.

Last year, we summarized our takeaway on the 2011 plug-in sales figures as follows--and it applies just as much this year:

It's started. It's going to be slow, and the cars cost more than gasoline cars of similar performance. Plug-ins may not reach even 1 percent of global production (or 1 million vehicles of 100 million built worldwide) until the end of the decade.

But they're here to stay.

Mark our words: This time ... it's real.

Have you driven one yet?

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