2017 Toyota Prius Prime and 2017 Chevrolet Volt with Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker
Compared to the U.S. sales of, say, full-size pickup trucks, the monthly reports on deliveries of plug-in hybrid and battery-electric cars contain some fairly low numbers.
The Ford F-Series routinely sells 80,000 a month or more, while the most any plug-in car has ever sold in the U.S. is about 3,000 a month.
(That statistic excludes Tesla, since it has never reported monthly deliveries or broken down its quarter numbers by country.)
Still, an intriguing horse race is shaping up this year between the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrids.
Both are compact five-door hatchbacks with four acceptable seats. But the Volt is rated at 53 miles of electric range, while the Prius Prime comes in at 25 miles.
On the other hand, the Prime wins on overall fuel economy. It's EPA-rated at 54 mpg combined, compared to the Volt's 42 mpg combined.
2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car and 2018 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid
During the first 10 months of this year, Chevrolet delivered 1,362 Volt plug-in hybrids, bringing its 10-month total to 16,710.
Because that total now lags the numbers for its newer all-electric sibling, the 238-mile Bolt EV (which is at 17,083 for the same period), the Volt doesn't seem to get as much attention as it used to.
Which may have allowed the Prius Prime to creep up quietly on its total.
Last month, the Prime paced the Volt remarkably closely: 1,626 Primes found buyers in October, for a year-to-date total of 16,682.
Chevrolet still logged vastly more plug-in cars delivered than Toyota, of course, since the Japanese brand has only the Prime to sell.
Toyota, of course, sold vastly more conventional hybrids than Chevy, whose Malibu Hybrid has hardly been seen or heard from since its launch two years ago.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime, Dallas, Texas
The question of which of the two plug-in hybrids may win the sales race for the year may come down to bragging rights for the maker in question.
As Jeff Cobb suggested in a HybridCars.com piece in early November, the Prius Prime may well take the laurels.
Indeed, he gives the edge to the Prius Prime over the Volt—pointing to the two cars' respective prices, not their electric ranges, as a deciding factor.
"The Prime comes in three trims, Prime Plus ($27,985), Prime Premium ($29,685), and Prime Advanced ($33,985) – all including an $885 destination fee," he writes. "The Volt comes in two trims, the LT ($33,995), and Premier ($38,345) – including an $825 destination fee."
We'd also add that Chevy may well want to focus sales attention on the Bolt EV that remains the only under-$40,000 electric car with more than 200 miles of range that you can buy today.
If Toyota wants to win laurels in plug-in cars of any kind (and it may not, necessarily), it's the Prius Prime or nothing.
Watch this space.