Since electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids continue to represent a tiny fraction of U.S. auto sales, it can be difficult to separate the rumors and chatter from the facts. For that reason, a close reading of EV sales reveals many surprises. For starters, there are cars doing yeoman’s work beyond the headlines. Everyone knows the Toyota Prius is a winning hybrid, but the fact that its plug-in sells like the Tesla Model S raises eyebrows.
For the purposes of this list, any car that can be plugged into an electrical outlet and run on pure battery power will be counted as an electric vehicle. Range isn’t all that important for city drivers and people who aren’t commuters, so an EV with a range below 30 miles allows many Americans to make 80 percent of their daily trips without a drop of gasoline.
Of these plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, here are the seven EVs with surprising sales figures in 2014, with thanks to Green Car Reports for the numbers. Pricing is listed before any green car rebates are applied.
1. Chevy Volt ($34,185)
The sometimes maligned, oft-forgotten plug-in EV from GM’s Chevy brand is making some noise in 2014. After sales of 1,548 Volts in April, Chevy can brag its EV has posted over 5,000 on the board through the first four months of the year. That performance makes the Volt the second best-selling EV of 2014. It edged the Prius plug-in hybrid to claim that distinction. Volts run on the same platform the Cadillac ELR borrowed, which provides 35 miles of pure electric range or 98 MPGe.
2. Nissan Leaf ($28,980)
The fact of the matter is there aren’t many pure electric cars on the market these days. Nissan’s Leaf is one, and the little EV that could sold over 2,500 units in March 2014, which nearly amounted to an electric car record with respect to U.S. consumers. Leafs can drive 80 miles on a full charge (126 MPGe city). With 7,272 sales on the books in 2014, Nissan has seen an increase of over 30 percent compared to 2013 numbers. The Leaf has been the best selling electric car in the United States and is making its way without a ton of publicity.
3. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid ($99,999)
It may be hard to believe that an electric vehicle by Porsche has been out-selling plug-in competitors in 2014, but that’s the way it is going. Porsche’s Panamera S E-Hybrid delivers 416 hp and can fly up to speeds of 167 mph when you’ve got the leeway; it also gets 50 MPGe with 15 miles of pure electric range. While its six-figure price tag may peg it as a long-shot, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is beating up on cars as diverse as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Cadillac ELR. Porsche has sold 317 models through April 2014.
4. Tesla Model S ($71,070)
For a car that dominates electric vehicle headlines, it would be easy to assume the Tesla Model S is the best selling green car in the U.S., if not the world. Tesla may in fact claim that title when its next sales report arrives, but as of March 2014 the company had officially sold fewer than 5,000 Model S all-electric cars in the U.S. A second surprising EV stat: Tesla outsold the entire Ford brand in Norway during the month of March, when it sold 1,493 units to Norwegians, whose total population is 5 million.
5. Cadillac ELR ($75,000)
Critics came after Cadillac in force for the pricing of the ELR, which is the brand’s first plug-in electric vehicle. Whether it is the price point or the fact that its range is the same as the Chevy Volt (35 to 40 miles), Cadillac is struggling to move many models of the ELR. Through April, just 241 units were sold to U.S. consumers, which puts the ELR nearly eighty cars behind the extravagant Porsche plug-in.
6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV ($22,995)
Dark days have been the norm for the little Mitsubishi all-electric car. The i-MiEV, which can get 112 MPGe, prices below every other green car on this list and is one of the most affordable on the market. Mitsubishi expects dealers to get the 2014 i-MiEV to dealers soon, but the 2012 model is not holding down the fort by any stretch. In April, Mitsubishi sold just twelve units of this gas avoider, which makes the total near forty for all of 2014. When consumers prefer a $100K Porsche EV to a model below $20K after rebate, it’s a problem.
7. Ford Fusion Energi ($34,700)
In terms of plug-in and hybrids, Ford sells a Focus Electric, Fusion Hybrid, and C-Max Energi plug-in, but it was the Fusion Energi that has been making the most noise in 2014. Ford sold 743 models in April, a gain of 104 percent over 2013, while sales on the year are up 280 percent over 2013 with 2,954 cars sold through April.
The obvious advantage the Fusion has over cars in its the popular styling and spacious interior. Unlike the Focus, C-Max, or bland competition from Toyota, the Fusion has an attractive exterior to go with its 112 MPGe and 21 miles of all-electric range. Ford may have the electric vehicle it needs to compete in the Fusion Energi.