In their third full year of sales, more plug-in electric cars were sold in the U.S. than ever before.

The 2013 total of roughly 96,000 90,000 electric vehicles didn't quite double the 2012 total of about 53,000, but with 16 different plug-in cars offered for sale as of this month, the numbers seem likely to grow again this year.

And last year's total was more than five times the total first-year sales of 17,500 in 2011.

As it has been since going on sale in December 2010, the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car was the plug-in leader, with a total of 23,094 sales last year--just slightly down on the 23,461 deliveries in 2012, though far ahead of the first-year total of 7,671 in 2011.

It's worth noting that General Motors also sold 6 Cadillac ELR range-extended luxury sport coupes, even at a $76,000 starting price.

2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

But for the first time, the Nissan Leaf was hot on the Volt's heels, with total 2013 deliveries of 22,610.

The 2013 total was boosted by a last-minute 2,529 sold in December, the highest single-month Leaf sales in three years, and better than the Volt's 2,392 for December.

That Leaf total is, of course, far better than its 2012 number of 9,819 or the 2011 total of 9,674, supplied by cars from a single Leaf plant in Oppama, Japan.

Now that the Leaf and its lithium-ion battery are assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, you can expect higher sales volumes throughout 2014.

As always, we have no solid numbers for U.S. sales of the Tesla Model S--the company isn't likely to report them until it files its year-end financial reports sometime in February.

But most analysts feel 18,000 U.S. deliveries for the year would be a fair U.S. number, now that exports to Europe of the battery-electric luxury sport sedan are well under way and soaking up a portion of Tesla's projected 2013 production of 21,000 or more cars.

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

Plug-in hybrids next

Following those three market leaders come three plug-in hybrid models from Ford and Toyota, which together will have sold more than 25,000 units for the year.

Sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which started strong when it was launched early in 2012, came in at 919 for December--for a 2013 total of 12,088 units.

In December, Ford delivered 827 of its C-Max Energi and 791 of its Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids, bringing their 2013 totals to 7,154 and 6,089 respectively--and beating Toyota's total for the year by a healthy margin.

The low-volume Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid added 38 December sales to total 526 deliveries during 2013.

And another plug-in hybrid logged its first sales last month, with no fewer than 45 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrids delivered in December as well.

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

Low-volume and compliance cars

Following the market leaders are a number of cars that sell in low volumes, including the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric minicar and the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive two-seater.

In December, the i-MiEV sold just 11 units, its lowest total since going on sale in 2011--bringing its year's total to 1,029.

The Smart Electric Drive, on the other hand, seems to be on an upward trend, with 167 sales in December--its second-best month ever--for a 2013 total of 923 over eight months.

Some of the low-volume battery-electric cars are compliance cars, sold to meet California requirements for zero-emission vehicle deliveries.

The latter group includes the Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV.

The 2013 total for the Chevy Spark EV was 539 cars, after seven months on sale, ending with deliveries of 76 in December.

The Honda Fit EV totaled 569 lease deliveries for all of 2013, after 93 were delivered in 2012.

Toyota sold 28 RAV4 EVs, bringing its yearly total to 1,096, and Ford sold 158 Focus Electrics, bringing that car's total for last year to 1,738.

Numbers for the fifth compliance car, the Fiat 500e, are not available because Chrysler refuses to break them out from sales of the gasoline Fiat 500 minicar, though estimates seem to be that about 400 500 were delivered last year.

We'll update this story throughout the day as we get in more December sales numbers.


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