Plug-In Electric Car Sales Soar Globally Even As U.S. Is Flat This Year

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The First customers (and fans) of the 2011 Nissan Leaf in the U.K.

The First customers (and fans) of the 2011 Nissan Leaf in the U.K.

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Gasoline prices remain low and sales of plug-in electric cars this year are only about equal to last year's levels.

That's led to a number of articles from general media outlets (some of them rather lacking in context) questioning whether electric-car sales have stalled or whether plug-in cars have failed in the marketplace.

As we note in our monthly plug-in electric car sales reports, we're presently at the end of the product life for two very high-volume electric cars: the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

DON'T MISS: Plug-In Electric Car Sales In June: Leaf, Volt Wane After May Surge

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, an all-new second-generation vehicle, first goes on sale sometime in August. Its predecessor has had a long runout, and its sales have been flat for a couple of years.

The Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, will be replaced with an all-new model for 2017 or 2018, about which Nissan has said almost nothing so far to preserve sales of the aging current model.

And the Tesla Model X, which is expected to double Tesla's annual sales, still hasn't hit the market and likely won't do so in appreciable numbers until the end of this year. (Not that Tesla breaks out its monthly sales, so its impact will be murky at best.)

Tesla Model X prototype photographed near Tesla Motors headquarters, Palo Alto, CA, in July 2015

Tesla Model X prototype photographed near Tesla Motors headquarters, Palo Alto, CA, in July 2015

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So U.S. sales seem likely to stay flat this year, even if they'll likely surge next year and in 2017 with higher production and new entries from several high-volume makers.

In the rest of the world, however, it's quite a different story.

ALSO SEE: Will 2015 Plug-In Electric Car Sales Exceed Last Year's Total?

As InsideEVs points out in a detailed and multi-sourced roundup of global plug-in car sales, the rest of the world is seeing sales rising steadily--reducing the U.S. share of total electric-car purchases globally.

The site estimates that global plug-in sales through May at more than 160,000 units, of which the U.S. contributed only 39,000 deliveries.

Electric cars parked on the streets of Oslo, Norway [photo: Wikimedia Comons]

Electric cars parked on the streets of Oslo, Norway [photo: Wikimedia Comons]

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Generous government incentives in Norway and The Netherlands have led to outsized electric-car sales in those two small European countries, but Germany, the U.K., and France all did their share as well.

Each of those countries averaged 3,000 to 10,000 sales in the first quarter alone, and Japan added 7,750 during the quarter as well.

The Nissan Leaf, now assembled in Japan, the U.S., and the U.K., is the world's most popular electric car, with total volume since December 2010 closing in on 200,000 units.

MORE: Why Electric Cars Remain Rare Outside CA: Arcane 'Travel Provision' Rule

All in all, it appears that while the U.S. is in an electric-car lull this year, the rest of the world is starting to adopt vehicles with plugs at a faster pace.

With a second generation of plug-in products due to hit showrooms all over the world starting late this year and continuing through 2020, expect steady growth in sales throughout the end of the decade.

(Even if that sales growth isn't up to the optimistic projections made by some industry executives before the first generation arrived ....)

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