Other than the all-time record set in December, 2015 was a forgettable year for electric car sales in America. The Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Toyota Prius plug-in were all phasing out or getting upgrades, which made the marketplace unappealing for many buyers leaning green. Once the next-gen models rolled out and were joined by new entries to the plug-in segment, the tide finally turned.
That record December as followed by a record January, and a record February has followed that. According to InsideEVs, the plug-in segment posted 7,881 sales last month, which represented a 13% jump over last year and was an all-time high for the month. Had the BMW i3 not fallen off the map — 248 sales, a 77% plunge year over year — there might have been reason to celebrate for real.
Anyhow, there are many things to be excited about as we await the arrival of the Tesla Model 3 prototype this month and production Bolt EV late in the year. Many of the plug-ins currently available are making sense for consumers. Here are the five electric vehicles that were behind the record February. Sales data comes from the InsideEVs monthly report card.
1. Chevy Volt
GM hustled out its 2017 Chevy Volt on the heels of the 2016 model that was doing just fine in the 10 states where it was on sale. Now the entire country will see the EV with range extender in Chevy dealerships, so we’ll see if that adds much to the monthly sales hauls. The 1,126 sales in February were 62% better than the car did last year, so the word is already out.
2. BMW X5 xDrive40e
While many believed luxury plug-in hybrid utility vehicles would be big hits in America, the BMW X5 xDrive40e might be selling faster than most people expected. It cracked the top 10 in its second month on the market (December) and now sits in ninth place on the charts in 2016 after selling 345 units in February. That was more than the i3 (248) and i8 supercar (54) combined.
3. Ford Fusion Energi
Every month, there is one surprise star, and the Ford Fusion Energi was that car with 932 sales in February, up 54% from last year’s numbers and a huge jump over January, too. In fact, the Fusion plug-in hybrid beat the slumping Nissan Leaf (930 sales) and trailed only the Volt and Tesla Model S for top spot on the electric car charts. A more efficient version (sans the Aston Martin grille) is coming for the 2017 model year.
4. Tesla Model S
Have you noticed the protectionist actions GM has taken against Tesla Motors? It would have been tough to predict the leading automaker in the country — one fresh off a government bailout — would be lobbying to hurt an American automaker trying to sell cars in this country, but that’s what the General is up to in Indiana and other states.
Nonetheless, Tesla scored another win in February with an estimated 1,550 sales, best of the EV segment last month by hundreds of cars. It wasn’t particularly a great month for the Fremont-based automaker, which likely shipped most of its cars overseas, but it was enough to lead the pack. Model X notched 400 sales as well.
5. Chevy Spark EV
We don’t like the total (216 sales) or the place on the monthly scorecard (14th), but the Chevy Spark EV actually had a good month all things considered. That jump represented an 82% gain over last year’s total as well as 55% gains over January totals. In a month when many of the minor players held the status quo or fell off the sales map, the Spark EV helped keep the segment afloat.
Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY