Tesla Model S: Canada's 2nd-Best-Selling Plug-In Electric Car

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

Enlarge Photo

Readers of our monthly analysis of the Canadian plug-in electric car market know two things well:

  • a) the Chevy Volt dominates, with sixteen consecutive months of sales leadership; and
  • b) Canadian plug-in figures are hard to come by.

Our posts on June plug-in sales in the United States and Canada illustrate this latter point.

Both offer sales figures for the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. And that's where it ends for Canadians.

Meanwhile, their American neighbors--or "neighbours", as we prefer up north--enjoy figures for the Chevy Spark EV, Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Accord PHEV, Honda Fit EV, Smart Electric Drive and Toyota RAV4 -- plus Green Car Reports' guesstimate of monthly Tesla Model S sales.

To adapt the slogan of a popular filmed-(mostly)-in-Canada TV series, for Canadians, "the truth is out there, but the data isn't".

Registration data to the rescue!

Earlier this week, your contributor received a report on Canadian hybrid and electric vehicle registration data compiled by automotive consultants R.L. Polk & Co. (recently purchased by IHS Inc).

Many thanks to Big Green Island, a Canadian clean-transportation consultancy and electric-car charging-station service provider, who sent it over.

To vet this data set, we checked the vehicle registration data of plug-ins with known sales data, and were pleased that the totals essentially matched.

Where there were differences of a few units, these could be explained by timing issues: Cars purchased at the end of a month would show up in company sales figures, but appear in government registration records a few days later, meaning they were logged the next month.

So we can now supplement our monthly Canadian market reports with January-to-May 2013 vehicle registration data for the electric Ford Focus, Smart ForTwo, Toyota RAV4 EV… and even the elusive Tesla Model S!

Plug-in vehicles through May 2013

Here's how the Canadian vehicle registrations break down for plug-in vehicles during the first five months of 2013:

  • 1. Chevy Volt - 317
  • 2. Tesla Model S - 281
  • 3. Nissan Leaf - 240
  • 4. Toyota Prius Plug-in - 130 (calculated from Toyota monthly sales reports; vehicle registration data does not distinguish between Prius Liftback and Plug-In models)
  • 5. Mitsubishi i-MiEV - 73
  • 6. Ford Focus Electric - 47
  • 7. Smart ForTwo Electric - 46
  • 8. Fisker Karma - 5
  • 9. Toyota RAV4 EV - 2
  • 10. Ford C-Max Energi & Fusion Energi - unknown (neither Ford nor vehicle registration figures distinguish between Hybrid and Energi models)

2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012

Enlarge Photo

Model S behind Volt, ahead of Leaf

In the first five months of 2013, the Tesla Model S was the second-best selling plug-in vehicle in Canada -- and the best-selling battery electric vehicle.

One wonders if this will give Nissan's Canadian operations an incentive to catch up to the now officially-threatening upstart.

Delving into the regional breakdowns, the Tesla was the #1 plug-in electric car in two provinces:

  • Ontario, Canada's most populous province, where it outsold the Volt 147-108.
  • Manitoba, where it outsold the Volt by, um, 5 cars to 4.

Toronto being Canada's financial center, Ontario is home to most major Canadian firms' head offices -- and the luxury car-driving executives who lead them.

As such, it's understandable that half of Tesla's Canadian sales would occur there, despite Ontario having a bit more than one-third of the Canadian population.

In contrast, the province's share of Volt and Leaf sales has been almost exactly in line with its population, at 108 of 317 Volts and 86 of 240 Leafs sold.

As for Manitoba, geographically inclined readers will find the land of 100,000 lakes (and all the mosquitoes they entail) sitting due north of Minnesota and its mere 10,000 lakes.

Competitive one-upmanship knows no bounds.


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Comments (15)
  1. Volts RULE! Tesla's are nice, but run our of electrons at the most inopportune moments. Try driving one across Canada without major delays and pre-planning, if it's even possible. Same goes for any electric car: range anxiety strikes again!

  2. @Johnny: As I suspect you know perfectly well, no Tesla owner is going to get into her car and try to drive it "across Canada"--at least until Tesla gets around to installing Superchargers on the Trans-Canada Highway.

    Yes, they're range-limited. But no owner is going to try to do what suggested. As you are undoubtedly aware.

  3. Happily, there is cross-Canada charging infrastructure, installed by Sun Country Highway. The company's CEO drove across Canada in a Tesla Roadster last winter to prove the infrastructure out. While the stations may not be as fast as Tesla's Superchargers, they're there.


    GreenCarReports made passing mention of this in our 2012 year-in-review of the Canadian EV market:


  4. If Tesla S comes with a "fuel based" blast furnace onboard, it will probably do better.

  5. @Xiaolong: What on earth does this mean?

  6. I was talking about one of those concept that Volvo came out back in the 70s for electric cars. Instead of using precious electric power for heating, they used a fuel based furnance (kerosene) for the heating in the car. It was very effiicent.

    I think it is far more efficient in extreme cold climate to have an EV with a fuel based heating system that is compact and efficient.

  7. using the furnace is more inefficient

  8. ????

  9. The present day Volvo C30 EV has an ethanol heater. And multiple impressive electric heaters if I recall. Windshield heater, heated seat, and electric cabin heater. The electric heat comes on until the ethanol heater gets up to temperature.

  10. I guess you are all to young to remember what VW did back in the day for heat with their cars.

  11. I'm not too young, Joey, I'm too old to remember anything, so can you help me/us out...? LOL! And thanks...

  12. Bug, Squareback, Fastback, and Karmann Ghia: Sheet-metal fairings over the exhaust manifolds captured heat. A small amount of air was bled off the engine cooling fan, blown over the manifolds, and directed to small vents in the floor and at the bottom outside corners of the windshield. Leaky manifolds sent CO to the interior, generally not a good experience.

    Later, the early Passat, and/or its predecessor(?), had a gasoline-burning heater.

    Your point?

  13. Thanks for posting the YTD (through May) data. Do you publish it with more granularity? Curious about Canadian Model S registration by month relative to the other electrics, if there is a seasonal trend, if follows Tesla's reported Model S production rate, etc.

    Not too many solid data points out there. Good job reporting this data!

  14. Hi Patrick, we cover Canadian EV sales stats monthly, e.g.

    I hope to get monthly Tesla registration data soon, so stay tuned. :)

  15. Good work Matthew!! Do you have in hand Tesla sales number for Quebec,BC and Alberta? You seem to have the info for each province (you give out the info for Ontario and Manitoba).

    Also do you have Tesla Sales number in Canada in 2012 (that is the Signatures delivered at the end of December?). I know that in Quebec, 21 have been delivered in december (see link below)

    We could share some info about Canada and Quebec. Here is an article that may interest you:


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