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100,000th Plug-In Electric Car In U.S. Sold Today (More Or Less)

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First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

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Sometime yesterday or today, the 100,000th modern plug-in electric car was delivered to a buyer somewhere in the U.S.

The exact buyer and car will likely never be known.

But any electric-car buyer taking delivery on either day can be forgiven for claiming a small share of the glory.

The first modern plug-in car, a 2010 Nissan Leaf, was delivered to Olivier Chalouhi in a small ceremony in San Francisco on December 11, 2010. The first Volt followed on December 15.

Two years and four months later, plug-in vehicles have reached six figures--and their annual sales rate shows no sign of abating.

Full-year sales for 2011 were about 17,500 cars, spread among the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Roadster.

2012 sales triple

That number tripled for 2012, to more than 53,000 cars--with the addition of the Tesla Model S; two plug-in hybrids, the Ford C-Max Energi and the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid; and also two low-volume compliance cars.

Analysts anticipate that the number will double again, pushing 2013 sales of plug-in electric cars over 100,000 units in the U.S. alone--and perhaps double that number globally.

The 100,000-sales mark was celebrated by advocacy group Plug-In America, which has had an odometer-style counter on its front page for several weeks. Early this morning, the counter officially rolled over.

The group's counter ticked up based on a pace of electric-car deliveries calculated from a count of U.S. sales of 95,466 plug-in vehicles from December 2010 through the end of April 2013.

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

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

Enlarge Photo

Charging station contest

Today, the cars on sale include battery-electric vehicles like the Leaf and Model S, range-extended electric cars like the Volt and Fisker Karma, and plug-in hybrids from Ford, Honda, and Toyota.

Plug-In America said in a statement that it was commemorating "the latest generation of highway-capable plug-in vehicles" that were launched in December 2010.

The group will conduct a drawing for a free electric-car home charging station that's open to anyone who bought a plug-in vehicle between May 15 and Jun 15. More details can be found on the contest entry page.

Major automakers dominate

It's worth noting that the pace of plug-in car sales growth is considerably quicker than that of hybrid-electric vehicles in their first two years, which were 2000 and 2001.

Tesla owners & supporters gather in Statehouse in Austin to support company [photo: John Griswell]

Tesla owners & supporters gather in Statehouse in Austin to support company [photo: John Griswell]

Enlarge Photo

Moreover, with the exception of Tesla Motors and its Model S, those electric cars are sold largely by established automakers: Chrysler-Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota.

By this time next year, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen are expected to have joined that list.

California anomaly

One statistical anomaly: If just 100,000 plug-in electric cars have been sold nationwide, how can California have almost 125,000 electric cars registered in that state alone as of January 1?

We presume that total includes not only some of the 5,000 or so first-generation electric vehicles from 1998-2003, but also both conversions and a large number of low-speed (or neighborhood) electric vehicles that are not capable of highway speeds.

UPDATE: Jay Friedland, Plug-In America's legislative director, confirms that, "The DMV does include NEV registrations, which were at about 60K the last time I checked."

As it has done for two decades, California once again leads the way in adoption of plug-in electric cars.

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Comments (8)
  1. Why is the leaf the first highway capable EV? I thought the Tesla Roadster pre-dated it by a couple of years.
     
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  2. I think the first modern EV that was sold in any numbers to the general public might have been the 1997-2003 Toyota RAV4 EV.
     
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  3. Chris O, I may be mistaken, but I believe the original RAV EV was available only as a lease and was not sold. It was sold to a very few people who pushed to buy them when the leases ended, so I still think you're correct in a sense, but in that case, they were no longer new vehicles, of course.

    But just a guess, really. Are we talking only sales here since so many EVs/PHEV are leases? And I'll agree with Mark above, why isn't the Roadster included as predating the LEAF?

    John V., can you please clarify these things? Thanks!
     
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  4. @Robok, @Chris: Arguably the Tesla Roadster was the first modern (lithium-ion) car in mass production. (The Venturi Fetish predated it by a few years in tiny numbers.)

    I think there's an implied "accessible to the mass market" piece I didn't spell out. The Roadster was $109,000, which automatically takes it out of the range of most buyers. Granted, the Fisker Karma was $106,000 ... but I'm not sure it would really have counted either.

    All that said, I hear your point.

    Perhaps [chuckle] I didn't include the Roadster because I said previously it shouldn't be viewed that way here:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1083047_on-picking-data-car-and-drivers-deceptive-electric-car-sales-
     
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  5. Guess great things often have tiny beginnings so it can be confusing to pinpoint where it really all started. There is endless discussions about who made the first car; define car...

    Including criteria like "sold rather than leased","modern", "mass production"and "accessible to the mass market" I still think RAV4 EV was the first. Not li-ion, but don't underestimate NiMH, still the chemistry of choice for Toyota and it scared the oil industry to the point the patent was snapped up by Chevron never to be allowed in 4 wheeled plug-ins again.

    "mass production": Some 1500 were made of which 328 were sold directly to the general public at a (somewhat) "mass market accessible" price of $42K.
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  6. I remember the Fetish at the LA auto show pre- Roadster I believe it was $600K. Made the Tesla sound like a bargain. Which it was!
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  7. Don't denigrate low speed vehicles, they are replacing big cars for what they do. I live in the country on a 25 mph road and I can take my Stealth Nighthawk down to the feed store to pick up supplies for my sheep and goats, it holds more in its pickup bed than my Leaf does.
     
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  8. I expect sales to DOUBLE for 2013. The LEAF will hit 40-50,000 this year (ya that means some 5-6,000 sale months!)I also think that we will have some new entries into the field.
     
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