Plug-in electric vehicle sales in the United States remained strong in August. Continuing a run that began in May, sales stayed above the 10,000 mark for the fourth straight month and rose 12 percent over August 2013 stats. Through the eight months of the year, 2014 plug-in sales are up 43 percent. While the Prius plug-in took a steep drop (54 percent compared to August 2013) on the month, an outgoing Toyota EV and the upstart BMW electric car picked up the slack.
U.S. automakers also showed strength in their electric vehicle offerings. Here are the five automobiles that shook up the EV sales charts the most in August. For this list, vehicles that can be powered by electricity alone were considered; Tesla could not be considered because the automaker does not release U.S. sales figures by the month. Statistics are courtesy of InsideEVs.com and AutoBlogGreen.
5. Ford Focus Electric
The volume of Ford Focus Electric cars sold in August (264 units) may not seem like much, but it represented a record high for the automaker’s only all-electric vehicle, as well as a 33 percent jump over the numbers in July and a 51 percent increase over its August 2013 numbers. Since the 2015 Focus Electric is only slightly distinguishable from the 2014 model, it’s unlikely the leap is attributable to new model changes.
The upward movement may be explained by the growing acceptance of electric vehicle technology. At 110 MPGe in the city and 76 miles of range, the Ford Focus Electric trails the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 in potential travel distance on a single charge. Ford’s electric version of its star compact car also faces competition from hybrid models on Blue Oval dealership lots. All that considered, it was a powerful showing for what has been a low-volume car.
4. Chevy Volt
The Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle that covers 38 miles on a full charge with a range-extending gas engine, has had a down year compared to the car’s showing in 2013, but August was the Volt’s best month yet. Chevy sold 2,511 units of the Volt, a 24 percent increase over July 2014?s stats and its best month since August 2013, when it had its record performance (3,351 units). The Cadillac ELR, GM’s other car using the Volt powertrain, chimed in with its best month to date at 196 units sold in August.
3. Toyota RAV4 EV
It may be on its way out of the production cycle, but the Toyota RAV4 EV closed the summer with a strong showing, with 228 vehicles sold. That represented a 335 percent leap over the electric SUV’s performance in July and was just 3 units off the pace of its best month ever (August 2013). California consumers, the only market with access to the RAV4 EV, seemed to be snatching up this ride, with few other options in the electric utility segment. With 103 miles of range on a full charge and 76 MPGe, Toyota’s only long-range plug-in has a clear audience, though at $49,800 before incentives, it comes at a premium.
2. Nissan Leaf
With 3,186 units of the Leaf moved in August, Nissan set a new record for battery-powered electric cars sold in a single month. That figure represented a 32 percent jump over its August 2013 stats and contributed further to its 34 percent growth overall in 2014. In fact, the Nissan Leaf can already claim the prize of best-selling EV in the United States in 2014, as no other car has the chance to catch it. (Again, the Tesla Model S is in the Leaf’s league, but it would require a fair amount of guessing.) As other electric cars slowly emerge, the Leaf remains the most affordable and efficient (84 miles of range) high-volume model on the market.
1. BMW i3
On a recent sprint down L.A.’s vast freeway network, the BMW i3 proved a worthy adversary for the many gas-powered cars on the road, while it struck a handsome profile to boot. U.S. auto consumers made the sporty i3 the king of volume growth among all plug-in cars in August with 1,025 units sold on the month, up 662 units (nearly triple) after posting 363 models sold in July. The 182 percent increase was a monumental leap for BMW’s first all-electric car.
Whether it was the increased availability of the i3 or a general consumer warming toward the i3 remains to be seen in subsequent months, but there is certainly cause for BMW to celebrate the return on its considerable investment in EV technology and carbon fiber construction. The fact it thumped the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid by 207 models sold was another major development. Green cars as a segment may have slumped a bit in August, but plug-ins continue to make their move in the industry.