2013 Chevrolet Volt 5dr HB Grille

2013 Chevrolet Volt 5dr HB Grille

The Canadian plug-in electric vehicle market in May was a good news/bad news sandwich: Sales held roughly steady from April, but dropped 40 percenton a year-over-year basis.

Rounding out the month with some good news, May almost certainly marked the sale of the country's 3,000th electric car from a major automaker.

(The author has tracked 2,986 units through May -- not including sales by Tesla and similarly secretive manufacturers.)

Chevy Volt: 15-month champion and counting

The Chevy Volt completed its fifth quarter atop the Canadian plug-in sales rankings, moving 77 units--essentially flat from prior months. In March and April, Chevy sold 82 and 64 units respectively.

May sales were down on a year-over-year basis, however -- Chevy had sold an astonishing (by Canadian market standards) 211 Volts in May 2012. 

While we haven't been able to pin down a reason, fleet purchase(s) seem the most plausible explanation, as sales had tripled from April 2012 to May 2012 -- then dropped by half, in June. 

Given that May sales couldn't approach their year-ago pinnacle, year-to-date Volt sales in Canada are now running at about 75 percent of last year's rate (318 vs. 421).

Nissan Leaf: solidly silver

For the fifth time in the past six months, the Nissan Leaf settled into second-place in Canadian electric vehicle sales. The one exception was in March, when it tied the Volt for first.

The Leaf's 31 sales were the lowest this calendar year.  (April: 48 units. May 2012: 23 units)

On the bright side, the Leaf's 235 year-to-date sales have essentially matched its calendar-2012 total (240).

Toyota Prius Plug-in and Mitsubishi i-MiEV: a crowded bronze

The Prius Plug-in and i-MiEV shared third place in May among reporting automakers, with 22 sales each. 

The results are essentially flat month-over-month, and in the i-MiEV's case, flat on a year-over-year basis as well.  (The Prius Plug-in has only been available in Canada since September.) 

Year-to-date i-MiEV sales in Canada are trailing year-ago levels (81 vs. 94) -- largely on account of two extremely slow months in January and February, complemented by record-breakingly good sales for the vehicle in the United States.

Plug-in market: small, growing slowly

In May, plug-ins continued to represent about 0.4 to 0.5 percent of the U.S. new car market, depending on whether you include an educated guess for Tesla sales.

In Canada, meanwhile, plug-ins fell to about 0.08 percent of the new car market, holding roughly steady with the April figures.  May sales of 152 units were down from year-ago levels (260 units, on account of the Volt's strength) but about even with April's 158 units.

While year-to-date electric vehicle sales in the United States have more than doubled last year's pace, Canadians have had to settle for more modest market growth of about 20 percent among reporting automakers--perhaps for reasons noted earlier.

As such, Canadian electric vehicle enthusiasts are left to hope that sales will begin to ramp more steeply for Canada's next 3,000 electric vehicles than they have done for the first three thousand.

Matthew Klippenstein is a professional engineer and plug-in electric vehicle enthusiast.  A member of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, he lives with his family in the nearby suburb of Burnaby, and blogs at www.eclecticlip.com.


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