There is no question the popularity of electric vehicles is spiking in 2014. Through the first six months of the year, sales of plug-in EVs are up 48 percent in the United States, according to automaker sales stats compiled by AutoBlogGreen. As incentives continue to be available and different states grapple with future emissions caps, there will likely be more charging stations available as better cars running without gasoline hit the market.
As for the EVs that are performing well in 2014, cars known for their excellent performance and/or exceptional electric range have made the appropriate gains. Hybrids of popular models with plug-in variants are also hitting their stride. Plug-in electrics that are poorly reviewed (e.g. the Mitsubushi i-MiEV) or weak on electric range (e.g. the Chevy Volt) are falling on the sales charts on the year. Here are the seven electric vehicles (plug-in hybrids or all-electrics) making the most dramatic sales gains in 2014.
N.B. Sales figures of EVs in the U.S. are courtesy of AutoBlogGreen, while fuel economy and electric range statistics come from Fueleconomy.gov, a site administrated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
7. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf consistently sells better than just about every other car in the EV industry. Its June sales (2,347 cars) again topped the list for all-electric cars, which excludes Tesla because of the automaker’s system of reporting Model S sales (and its practice of not separating U.S. sales from foreign markets). While the Leaf’s June sales total marked a 5 percent increase over June 2013, its 2014 increase is dramatic at 29 percent over 2013 stats. It is still the Leaf’s world with 84 mles of EPA-estimated range and 114 MPGe combined (126 mpg city).
6. Toyota RAV4 EV
Production of the Toyota RAV4 EV (the only sport utility vehicle on this list) will not go on forever, but that isn’t a result of weak demand. The RAV4 more than doubled its sales tally in June (up 107 percent) compared to last year’s stats with 91 units sold. Its total of 546 vehicles sold through June 2014 also represents a 34 percent jump over 2013.
Toyota’s RAV4 EV is special because it is one of only a few cars with an electric range over 100 miles on a full charge. Currently, only the different Tesla Model S variants can beat the 103 miles the RAV4 EV can get. It is not a coincidence: Tesla supplied the battery for Toyota’s utility EV. The end of the two companies’ partnership is the reason behind the end of the vehicle’s production run.
5. Chevy Spark EV
In terms of total sales, the Chevy Spark EV isn’t lighting up the charts, but its overall gains are noteworthy. The highest-rated GM car yet (82 miles of range, according to the EPA) sold 85 units in June, which was 215 percent better than it did in June 2013. Granted, there were very few Spark EVs available in the early part of 2013, but the 637 units sold in 2014 (up 865 percent over 2013) has to be recognized for what it is — the biggest increase in sales among all plug-in vehicles in 2014.
4. Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid EV
While Ford’s all-electric Focus was solid for the Blue Oval in June (sales up 11 percent), the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) proved to be the automaker’s ticket for success. The Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hyrbid sold 988 units in June, which marked an increase of 117 percent over June 2013. Its sales increase for the year is just as impressive at 58 percent (3,928 units). Fueleconomy.gov rates the C-Max Energi plug-in at 19 all-electric miles and 88 MPGe, classifying the vehicle as a midsize wagon.
3. Tesla Model S
There has to be an asterisk for every EV sales list to account for how Tesla reports its stats. Instead of serving up a monthly sales total for U.S. consumers, Tesla reports quarterly numbers of global sales. Based on the information available and trends, AutoBlogGreen estimates Tesla sold about 2,150 units of the Model S, which would mark a 25 percent increase over 2013. Tesla has probably sold 12,913 units of its cars in 2014 (per AutoBlogGreen), which is 30 percent better than its pace in 2013.
Numerous factors have an influence on the outcome, but it cannot be denied that Tesla is producing more cars and selling more of them every month. The Model S gets an EPA-estimated 208 miles on a full charge and 95 MPGe in its 60 kWh battery trim.
2. Toyota Prius Plug-in
Toyota could have been much more ambitious in its search for the right plug-in formula, but the automaker was content with the success of its hybrids while increasing its pace in development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Ironically, Toyota’s plug-in elecric vehicles are showing the most marked sales gains among the company’s green cars in 2014.
The plug-in Prius sold 1,571 units in June (up 169 percent over June 2013) and has tallied 121 percent gains through June 2014 compared to the prior year’s statistics. With 9,300 Prius plug-ins sold, Toyota’s EV is beating the Chevy Volt for third place on the year (trailing only the Model S and Nissan Leaf). EPA estimates for all-electric range (11 miles) are not impressive by any stretch, yet the Prius plug-in still manages to match the Tesla Model S 60 kWh with 95 MPGe.
1. Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid EV
Ford’s other plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is a model of the Fusion, the automaker’s popular midsize sedan. In the case of the Ford Fusion PHEV, electric range also tops out at 19 miles according to EPA estimates. Its fuel economy is rated at 88 MPGe. The Fusion Energi has a total range of 550 miles when maxing out gas and electric powertrains, so it has become a safe bet for auto consumers who want the option for long-range traveling while keeping short trips gasoline-free.
The 2014 sales stats suggest the formula is working nicely for Ford. Fusion Energi PHEV sales have skyrocketed 294 percent in 2014, with even better gains in June (up 397 percent over June 2013). At 1,939 units sold in June, the Fusion Energi was the best-selling plug-in from a U.S. brand. (Tesla likely sold over 2,000 units of the Model S, but monthly sales could not be confirmed at the time of publication.)
Those huge gains for the Fusion Energi plug-in say U.S. auto consumers are hungry for increased efficiency and will spend the extra money up front (MSRP: $34,700) to get it despite the lower federal tax rebates ($4,000) for plug-in hybrids. Give them even more all-electric miles and the sales will continue to rise.