Sales of plug-in electric cars fell last month, with especially low sales of the Nissan Leaf, following their strong showing in March.

Last month, just 370 Nissan Leaf battery-electric cars were sold, down from 579 in March, and bringing this year's Leaf sales to only 2,103 in the first four months. Last month's Leaf sales were the lowest monthly number in more than a year.

Nissan has sold 11,796 Leafs in total since the car went on sale in December 2010. Nissan has said it will sell 20,000 Leafs in the U.S. this year, but that will require it to sell 2,500 each month from now through December.

GM had a decent but not spectacular month, with Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car sales falling back from last month's 2,289 but staying in four figures. The company sold 1,462 Volts in April, bringing total 2012 sales to 5,377.

Chevy has sold a total of 13,374 Volts since its sales, too, began in December 2010. The total so far in 2012, however, would indicate that it will sell between 15,000 and 20,000 Volts in the U.S. this year unless sales improve over the summer.

But the big winner in April was the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which logged 1,654 sales in just its third month on the market. Its April sales beat the Volt by 192 units, and were more than four times the month's sales of Leafs.

Toyota has now sold 2,552 plug-in Priuses since late February.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

Among those top three models, the sales total for April was 3,486 plug-ins--versus 3,759. If all three models stay on pace, that means that U.S. plug-in sales might go as high as 40,000 for the year, versus about 17,000 last year.

In the second tier of electric-car makers, April sales of the Mitsubishi i minicar were 79--the best monthly number yet, bringing the year's total to 215 (plus another 80 late last year).

At the time this article was published, Ford had not responded to our query on April sales of its Focus Electric hatchback. The company sold 12 of the cars in December and January combined, but none in February or March.

As always, both Fisker Automotive and Coda Automotive declined to comment on sales of their plug-in vehicles.

We'll be curious to see whether larger media press those companies on this issue, or whether the world simply stops paying attention.

As always, and we wrote several weeks ago, electric car sales will rise--but it will be slow.

Still, with more than 27,000 plug-ins now running on U.S. roads, the progress is steady and the demand--if low--is definitely there.


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