Electric vehicle sales in the United States surprised at least one analyst by surging 81% last year, to a total of 361,307, with Tesla’s Model 3 sedan accounting for nearly 40% of the total volume and the upstart automaker selling more than half of the country’s new plug-in vehicles.
“I did not expect the growth rate to be over 30%,” said Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute’s mobility practice. “I did expect we’d have a sharp increase in the rate adoption sometime soon,” but “I didn’t think it would be in 2018.”
Tesla grabbed three of the top 10 spots on a month-by-month sales chart compiled by Greentech Media, with the Model 3 in first place, the Model X placing third, and the Model S coming in fourth. In second place, Toyota’s Prius Prime sold 27,595 units, just under 20% of the total for the Model 3. Honda took fifth spot with 18,602 Clarity plug-in hybrids, while GM sold 18,306 of its now-discontinued Volt and 18,019 Bolt EVs.
Greentech notes that U.S. EV sales to date have been “underwhelming”, particularly compared to surging adoption levels in China and world-leading per capita sales in some European countries. “In 2017, U.S. EV sales totaled 199,818,” 26% above 2016 and a record year, but with plug-ins barely hitting 1% of total U.S. market share.
Even in 2018, “taking the Model 3 out of the mix, U.S. EV sales increased by only 11% last year, a poor showing by most standards.”
But with automakers introducing new models—including several with battery ranges above 200 miles/320 kilometres—and retooling their production lines, Nelder predicted better years ahead. “I think it’s going to be a whole different game,” he told Greentech. “I don’t think 2019 is going to be all about the Model 3. There are a lot more manufacturers making a lot more EVs.”
Nelder added that the greatest initial interest will come from the high-end/luxury market for crossover vehicles and SUVs. “That’s not the consumer model stuff that we all need and want to see, but it’s the sexy stuff. It’s the stuff that generates headlines and gets people to go into showrooms and gets real money to flow.”