Though it took longer to get the December sales data, electric vehicle enthusiasts will be happy to hear the results. The total of 13,650 EV and plug-in hybrid sales (per InsideEVs) represented a record month, shattering the previous mark by over 600 cars. So many models set high-water marks for the year or entire history, it is difficult to find a starting point. In a few words, strong pure EV sales combined with the emergence of plug-in hybrids to power the strong finish in 2015.
Tesla led the pack with a record 3,600 Model S sales, which is estimated by InsideEVs but has always proven accurate. That gave the Fremont-based automaker 25,700 units for the year, thumping the second-place Leaf by over 8,000 units to be the best-selling EV of 2015. Also setting all-time bests were the Volkswagen e-Golf (609 sales), BMW i8 supercar (656 sales), and the BMW X5 xDrive40e (607 sales) in its third month on the market.
The Chevy Volt (2,114 sales), BMW i3 (1,422 sales), and Ford Fusion Energi (1,058 sales) posted their best months of 2015 to push the segment total into record territory. Lower-volume models also showed spectacular gains over previously negligible highs: Volvo XC90 T8 (74 sales after a previous high of 7), Tesla Model X (199 sales after a previous high of 6), and Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid (145 sales after a previous high of 15) all entered a different dimension.
As many green car bloggers had predicted, the new wave of EVs and plug-in hybrids finally appeared in considerable volume at dealerships by the start of December. Record production levels for the Model S, along with more inventory for the new Volt and Leaf, gave dealers something to work with after a depressing summer. With the late push for the biggest plug-ins, the segment nearly caught its 2014 totals.
Though the 2015 total ended 6,500 units below the record 2014 mark, most electric car dealers end the year with more optimistic designs for 2016. Audi and Mercedes-Benz both have plug-in hybrid models of their popular entry-level cars headed to dealerships this year, while other cars should have more inventory for customers to consider, beginning with the 2016 Leaf capable of 107 electric miles in some trims.
Chevy’s well-reviewed Volt should push its sales numbers much higher once the 2017 edition rolls out to all 50 states in the spring. In the last three months of the year, Volt sales averaged over 2,000 per month with consumers from just 11 states. This car seems to have breakthrough potential. It will be interesting to see if the Sonata’s plug-in model can match the Fusion Energi’s performance once more get onto Hyundai lots.
In the meantime, electric car enthusiasts have to be satisfied with the way 2015 ended for the segment. Despite the record low gas prices, the yen for clean-driving cars indeed has a life of its own. Now that the Chevy Bolt EV has landed, we have an idea of what the future of the plug-in world looks like. Next up is the Tesla Model 3 debuting in March. If that turns out to be an attractive package with 200 miles of range for $30,000, anything is possible.