Plug-in electric car sales for Sep: Bolt EV hits new monthly high (final update)

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The world has changed since last month's report on U.S. sales of plug-in electric cars.

China has officially said it is considering dates for ending sales of new vehicles with gasoline or diesel engines.

Even if that date proves to be 15 or 20 years in the future, the country's government has spoken—and the world's carmakers will have to play along or lose access to the world's largest vehicle market by far.

DON'T MISS: GM to launch two new electric vehicles within 18 months, 20 by 2023

On Monday, General Motors said it would release two new electric cars within 18 months—and that it "believes the future is all electric," in the words of product chief Mark Reuss.

Perhaps Reuss had already seen September's sales figure for the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the first battery-electric car to go on sale with more than 200 miles of range at a price of less than $40,000.

Last month, Chevy delivered a whopping 2,632 Bolt EVs in what is only the car's ninth full month on sale.

2017 Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

That brings the year-to-date total to 14,302 Bolt EVs, and the car only went on sale in all 50 states during July.

The plug-in hybrid Volt, also from Chevrolet, logged 1,453 sales, roughly the level it's maintained this year.

Its year-to-date total of 15,348 could well be surpassed by the Bolt EV in October or November if each car maintains its current sales rate.

READ THIS: Plug-in electric car sales for Aug: Bolt EV leads Prime, Volt lower

The Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, logged 1,055 sales last month, bringing its nine-month total to 10,740.

That seven-year-old model is now in the waning days of its life, with the new 2018 Nissan Leaf due to arrive at dealerships early next year from the company's assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The thoroughly updated and longer-range 2018 Leaf went on sale in Japan yesterday, supplied from the Oppama plant in Japan where production started back in 2010.

2017 Tesla Model S

2017 Tesla Model S

While Tesla refuses to release monthly sales, or to break down its quarterly sales results by country, the company released global third-quarter delivery figures on Monday.

The company delivered 26,150 electric cars, its best quarter in history and 4.5 percent higher than its previous best quarter, from July through September 2016.

Of those, 14,065 were the Model S hatchback sedan, 11,865 were the Model X crossover utility, but only 220 were the new and lower-priced Model 3 sedan—missing a monthly production target CEO Elon Musk had tweeted after the Model 3 launch in late July.

CHECK OUT: Tesla Q3-2017 deliveries: Model S, Model X strong; Model 3 misses goal

Note, however, that those are global numbers and it's unclear how many of each figure were sold in the U.S. during the third quarter.

Following the Bolt EV in monthly sales numbers was the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, which sold 1,899 units last month, only 9 cars shy of its all-time monthly high this past May.

Toyota has now sold 15,056 Primes over nine months, putting the car slightly behind the Chevy Volt but slightly ahead of the Bolt EV sales this year.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

The competition among the three cars, the only plug-in vehicles with year-to-date sales over 10,000 units, should intensify for the remaining three months of 2017.

Ford's sales of its two Energi plug-in hybrid models continued at almost exactly the average pace they've maintained for this year to date.

It delivered 763 plug-in versions of the Fusion mid-size sedan, and 683 C-Max tall compact hatchbacks, for nine-month totals of 7,285 and 6,612 respectively.

Three other notable plug-in vehicles, both from Germany, logged steady or unexpectedly low September sales totals.

2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - first drive, Miami, Nov 2016 [photo: Jeff Jablansky]

2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - first drive, Miami, Nov 2016 [photo: Jeff Jablansky]

The BMW i3 saw 538 deliveries, roughly on par with its average so far in 2017, for a year-to-date total of 4,635.

The battery-electric Volkswagen e-Golf racked up only 187 deliveries, its lowest monthly total since March 2016, while the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid sold only 85 units, its lowest since December 2015, the first month it went on sale in the U.S.

The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, on the other hand, soared to 123 units in the second month of availability for the entirely redesigned electric version of the two-seat city car.

Plug-in hybrids with sales of more than 100 units last month included the Mercedes-Benz C350e at 126 sales and the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid at 124 units; the Volvo XC90 will likely join that list as well.

Two new plug-in vehicles have entered the market recently: the Volvo XC60 T8 SUV went on sale in July, joining its larger XC90 T8 sibling, which has been available since August 2015.

For September, Volvo delivered 236 XC90 T8s and 97 XC60 T8s, bringing their respective year-to-date totals to 1,450 and 175.

Honda Clarity Electric at Honda R&D Center, Tochigi, Japan, June 2017

Honda Clarity Electric at Honda R&D Center, Tochigi, Japan, June 2017

Also, the Honda Clarity Electric—the 89-mile battery-electric variant of Honda's electrically driven mid-size sedan better known for its Fuel Cell version—followed in August.

That month, 33 were sold, followed by 52 last month, for a total so far of 85 units. That compares to 447 Clarity Fuel Cells sold since January.

The plug-in hybrid Clarity will follow late this year, and Honda expects that to be by far the volume leader in the Clarity lineup, with sales perhaps as high as 20,000 units a year.

Finally, Ford sold 131 units of its Ford Focus Electric compliance car, bringing its year-to-date total to 1,468.

We'll continue to update this article as final September sales data comes in.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As of May 2017, this monthly report covers only plug-in electric cars with sales of 100 units a month or more—with occasional exceptions for new models, exceptionally large changes in sales volume, or other newsworthy events.

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