2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

Plug-in electric vehicle sales in Canada rose by half in 2013, with sales poised to top 3,000 units once end-of-year vehicle registration data arrives.

This is a year-over-year improvement of more than 50 percent on 2012's total Canadian sales of plug-in cars, helping their share of new-car sales rise from 0.12 to 0.18 percent. That compares--poorly--to a market share of about 0.6 percent in the United States last year. 

MORE: FINAL UPDATE: U.S. Plug-In Electric Car Sales For 2013 Near Double Previous Year's

The U.S. market itself is split between California, where electric vehicles have achieved a 2-percent market share, and the rest of the country, where plug-ins have about a 0.4-percent share. (The calculations are outlined at the bottom of this article.)

Plug-in electric car sales in Canada for 2013

Plug-in electric car sales in Canada for 2013

Sadly, the Canuck electric car market continues to develop more slowly than its American counterpart.

Incentives for plug-in purchase remain safe in Ontario and Quebec (which together comprise almost two-thirds of Canada's population), and advocates will work to sustain rebates in British Columbia during 2014--to keep that gap from growing.

There's also hope that scaled-up Leaf production at Nissan's assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, will finally solve inventory constraints for Canadian dealerships. While the Leaf and the Chevy Volt have dueled in the U.S. for the monthly sales lead, up north, the Leaf occasionally found itself relegated to third place due to low supply.

First place: Chevrolet Volt

For the third year running, the Chevy Volt was Canada's best-selling plug-in--though its total was down substantially from 2012's sales.

Barring a surge in Tesla deliveries in December--probably unlikely, given Elon Musk's comments that Tesla needs to "starve" existing markets to expand into new ones--the Volt will have led the monthly sales standings for nine of last year's months.

The Volt's 80 sales in December took it to a yearly total of 931 units, down about one-quarter from last year's 1,225.

Tesla Model S purchased with Bitcoins from Lamborghini Newport Beach

Tesla Model S purchased with Bitcoins from Lamborghini Newport Beach

Second place: Tesla Model S

The California startup company soared into second place among electric-car makers in the Canadian market last year, and actually led monthly plug-in sales three times.

Its 111 units in March made it the first (and so far, only) non-Volt plug-in to sell in triple figures for a single month in Canada.

The Model S rebounded from a slow October (26 sales) to garner 48 registrations in November. Based on an eight-month average of about 50 sales a month, we'd expect Tesla to have sold about 630 Model S cars in Canada this past year.

Third place: Nissan Leaf

Last year, 470 Leafs were sold in Canada, virtually doubling the 2012 total of 240. December's sales of 28 were the year's second-lowest monthly total, probably hindered by supply constraints.

2011 Nissan Leaf plugged into an EVgo quick-charging station, Texas

2011 Nissan Leaf plugged into an EVgo quick-charging station, Texas

Industry watchers anticipate better numbers in 2014, as the company boosts Leaf production with plans to make up to double the number it built last year.

Nissan is said to have prioritized the California market in allocating its limited 2013 production of Leafs. Sales in that state are likely more profitable because Nissan can sell its excess zero-emission vehicle credits to other makers.

If the company's long-awaited increase in Leaf production boosts sales north of the 49th Parallel commensurately, Nissan may jostle with Tesla for second-place in Canada this year. Perhaps in time it may even challenge the Chevy Volt for the laurels.

Fourth place: Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

In 2013, Canadian sales of the Prius Plug-in totaled 212 (a number older Canadian hockey fans will remember as Wayne Gretzky's point total from his record-breaking 1981-1982 season).

Just as The Great One's point totals dropped off late in his career, so sales of the Prius Plug-in hit a cliff late in the year. December's worst-ever monthly tally of 5 sales meant that Toyota's flagship plug-in hybrid sold fewer cars in the September-to-December period (29) than it had sold in January alone (33).

Sales in the four-month period dropped more than half on a year-over-year basis. With a new Prius not expected until 2015, a sales push from Toyota seems unlikely. So we expect the plug-in will find itself surpassed in 2014 by several other vehicles.

The rest...starting with Ford

Following some above-and-beyond efforts to obtain data Ford wouldn't or couldn't provide (thanks, J.E.!), we know that Ford sold 121 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids in the second half of the year. This made it the sales leader in the second tier of vehicles for that period.

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

With the C-Max Energi selling 199 units in the full year, and the Prius Plug-in's sagging sales, we expect the C-Max Energi to climb fourth place in sales next year.

The Fusion Energi midsize sedan plug-in hybrid sold 81 units in the second half (also beating the Prius Plug-In's 64) and totaled 116 over the calendar year.

Add in 101 sales for the Ford Focus Electric through November, and Ford will have probably sold about 430 plug-in electric vehicles in Canada in 2013--putting the maker overall into a close fourth place behind Nissan.

Smart Electric Drive (projected)

Through November, 170 Smart Electric Drives were registered in Canada.

Almost half of these came from October's 30 and November's 45 sales. The one-time Swatchmobile was the second-best-selling plug-in electric in Canada in this time period, besting even the Model S (74) and the Leaf (60).

The Smart's December sales are likely to have carried it past the Mitsubishi i-MiEV; if its momentum carries over, it could even leapfrog the C-Max Energi and the Prius Plug-in for  yearly sales. We'll have to wait for final registration numbers to find out.

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi i-MiEV (projected)

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV had a woeful December, garnering a mere 2 sales. Its count for the year was 177, beating only the Ford Fusion Energi (116) and Ford Focus Electric (101 through November).

If the $6130 U.S. price cut on the upcoming 2014 i-MiEV is replicated in Canada, sales should improve. But the tiny electric minicar's struggles may well continue: It's simply too small for many North American buyers to consider.

The rest (aka "rounding error")

Based on vehicle registrations, from January through November, 23 Fisker Karmas were cleared off the lots of any remaining dealerships.

Canada's auto fleet added 5 Chevy Spark EV electric minicars in the first 11 months of the year, and 3 drivers actually managed to obtain Toyota RAV4 EV compliance cars north of the border. Now, that's commitment!!

Splitting California from the U.S.

Using California Auto Outlook's Q3 commentary, we estimate that through September, the Golden State logged about 40 percent of plug-ins bought in the United States: 28,000 of 68,000 total sales.

American new car sales amounted to about 15.5 million vehicles in 2013, with 1.7 million of them expected to come from California.

Assuming these trends held in Q4, American plug-in sales outside the Golden State might amount to roughly 60,000 of the remaining 13.8 million vehicles, or 0.43 percent.


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