Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf Highlight Strong Year for Hybrids and Plug-Ins

Nissan Leaf

2013 was another strong year for the automotive industry, as the ripples born from the most recent financial crisis have continued to dissipate. However, a particular segment has found pronounced success: plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and diesels — the “green” cars, as they have been dubbed.

Although still comfortably below their highest peaks, gas prices across the country remain on the more expensive side, though they show little promise of one day deflating in any meaningful way. In efforts to help relieve pressure on their wallets, consumers have taken to looking into more fuel-efficient modes of transportation, in many cases with cars that consume no gasoline at all.

With the numbers in, Green Car Reports says that plug-in electric vehicles — inclusive of extended range hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt — nearly doubled their sales numbers over 2012, reaching about 96,000 units total in 2013. More impressively, this is nearly five times the number of plug-ins that sold in 2011, when numbers totaled just 17,500.

2013 volt

The Volt proved to be the perennial best seller, moving 23,094 units for 2013 — that’s just shy of 2012′s 23,461 units sold. Thanks to price cuts across the industry, Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) all-electric Leaf was breathing down Chevrolet’s neck with 22,610 annual sales. That was helped greatly helped by a strong December, when Nissan moved 2,529 Leafs, the highest monthly count for the little EV in the past three years.

However, it’s the Leaf’s performance this past year relative to 2012 that is truly impressive. For the year prior, Nissan sold just 9,819 units, less than half the number sold in 2013, indicating that at the right price, buyers are finding little reason to continue resisting the idea of an electric car.

“Now that the Leaf and its lithium-ion battery are assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, you can expect higher sales volumes throughout 2014,” Green Car Reports said.

Tesla Model S Red

It’s expected — but not known for sure — that Tesla will occupy the No. 2 slot for EVs, though the company does not report monthly sales reports. Those figures will likely be released with the company’s next quarterly report, sometime next month. But based on Tesla’s projected production run of 21,500 Model S sedans for the year and after Europe’s share of the cars are delivered, Green Car Reports asserts that about 18,000 Model S sedans were sold in the United States.

Electric cars are doing exceptionally well, it seems. Add a gasoline engine into the mix, and things still are pointing up. Ford’s hybrid portfolio — including the Energi plug-in hybrid lines and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid — saw a 145 percent increase for the year, according to Autoblog Green data. Though it struggled toward the end of the year, Toyota’s range of hybrids, including those under the Lexus brand, eked out a 5.3 percent rate of growth for 2013, too. 

Honda’s hybrids saw a similar story, with the company’s alternative powertrain vehicles coming through with a comfortable 12.8 percent gain for the year. Notably, that includes the hydrogen-powered, California-only FCX Clarity.