With gas prices so low in 2015, should electric vehicle manufacturers (and environmental advocates) fear the worst? We don’t think so, and we offer the sales stats of 2014 as evidence.
According to InsideEVs.com, sales of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles rose 23% in 2014 to a record 119,710 units sold. In fact, EV sales shrugged off the effects of cheap gas: The industry’s best month (12,974 sales) came when gas prices were at their lowest in December. Now that the Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen e-Golf have hit the market, expect even better gains in 2015.
Here, we take a look at (and salute) the 10 best-selling electric vehicles in the United States for 2014. Only vehicles that offer pure electric driving are considered. Contrary to our practice of excluding Tesla Model S sales from our lists (because Tesla doesn’t disclose U.S. sales), we include that bright star of the EV universe, even if it will require an asterisk. Sales figures are quoted from InsideEVs.
10. Fiat 500e
Considering it is a compliance car sold only in California and Oregon, the Fiat 500e put up impressive numbers in 2014. With 1,793 cars sold, the sporty little Italian took 10th place among electric vehicles sold in the United States. That represented a big drop over its 2013 stats, but you can point to availability as one of the issues. Even at a pre-rebate price of $32,300, the Fiat has much to offer with 87 miles of electric range and a combined 116 miles per gallon (electric equivalent). Both the 500e’s efficiency and range rank in the top 10 among available EVs.
9. Ford Focus Electric
The electric version of the world’s best-selling car didn’t have much of a year in 2014, but the Ford Focus Electric did manage to take ninth place on the U.S. plug-in sales list with 1,964 units sold, a slight increase over 2013. After a recent price drop putting the sticker below $30K for the first time, there is a case to be made for the nation’s seventh most-efficient vehicle that is capable of 110 miles per gallon in city driving. Focus Electric also offers 76 miles of electric range. Availability remains an issue, but recent checks in a non-EV market revealed one model on a Philadelphia dealer’s lot following a three-week waiting time.
8. Smart Electric Drive
Be careful out there when you’re driving a Smart Electric Drive. We are fearful of what would happen in a collision with some gas-guzzling Suburban or other monstrosity. However, if you engage in some low-impact city driving, there’s something to be said for Smart’s little EV. Combining affordability ($25,000 before rebates), remarkable efficiency (122 miles per gallon in the city), and a decent range (68 miles), you could do far worse. American buyers snatched up 2,594 units of the Smart ED in 2014, a 181% increase over its 2013 sales (923 units). Maybe the message is getting across.
7. BMW i3
No matter what way you keep score, the BMW i3 was a bona fide rock star in U.S. electric vehicle sales in 2014. In just eight months on the market, BMW moved 6,092 units of its first pure EV. It won the Green Car of the Year award at the Los Angeles Auto Show and even made it onto the Ward’s Auto 10 Best Engines list of 2015 for its electric motor. What else is driving the i3’s appeal? Well, the 2014 model is the most efficient car on sale in the U.S. at a combined 124 miles per gallon, while its 81 miles of range also rank in the top 10.
6. Ford C-Max Energi
After four all-electric vehicles, we get a plug-in hybrid placing sixth on the U.S. sales list. Ford’s C-Max Energi offers 20 miles of pure electric driving before the gas engine kicks in for another 530 miles. With 88 combined miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), the C-Max Energi is a respectable figure in economy. Sales-wise, Ford moved 8,433 units in 2014, which represents a gain of 18% over its 2013 numbers. At $31,770 and only a $4,007 federal rebate available, that was quite an achievement for the Dearborn automaker.
5. Ford Fusion Energi
Working with the same powertrain as the C-Max plug-in hybrid, the Ford Fusion Energi gets 20 miles of electric range and 88 miles per gallon equivalent with a total range of 550 miles. With the looks and cozy ride of the standard Fusion thrown in, this hybrid posted a great year with 11,550 units sold — a 90% increase over 2013. Its peak month (1,939 units in June) showed that this plug-in has the potential to move even higher up the sales list.
4. Toyota Prius Plug-in
We believe rumors of the Prius’s death are greatly exaggerated, but it’s fair to say the plug-in model ended 2014 on a bad note. After peaking at an impressive 2,692 sales in May, the electrified model of the hybrid legend couldn’t hit the 500 mark between September and December. Even with that sharp decline at year’s end, Toyota still posted 13,264 units sold, which was a 10% increase over 2013. If the downward trend continues, the Prius Plug-in might struggle to crack the top 10 in 2015. With hydrogen fuel cells and hot-selling Lexus models on its brain, will Toyota even care?
3. Tesla Model S
Since Tesla Motors likes to keep a shroud of mystery surrounding its global sales breakdown (something that likely has to do with its volatile stock valuation), EV reporters have to do some estimating once quarterly worldwide sales are released.
At year’s end, there were some wild discrepancies between the number of Model S sales journalists believe Tesla posted in the U.S. InsideEVs estimated 17,300, a number that seemed low but turned out to be incredibly accurate. Tesla reported 31,655 global sales with about 55% (17,410) in the U.S. For its part, Autoblog had guessed Tesla U.S. sales were 29,606 (up 33%) in 2014. The Model S 60 kWh model offers 208 miles of electric range and 95 combined miles per gallon.
[Update 2/12/15: This post was changed following the reporting of Tesla’s 2014 deliveries. The sales total makes Tesla third in the U.S. behind the Chevy Volt, not second, as was originally reported.]
2. Chevrolet Volt
Chevy Volt sales remained steady through most of 2014, with an average near 1,500 units sold per month. Its final tally of 18,805 reflects that steadiness, even though it represents an 18.57% decrease compared to 2013. Chevy’s phaseout of the current Volt ahead of the 2016 model debut has a lot to do with the slump, we’d bet. Anyhow, the Volt’s performance made it the second-best selling vehicle that can run on pure electric power — even better than the vaunted Tesla Model S. Volt drivers get 38 miles on electricity before switching to gas power and a peak of 98 combined miles per gallon.
1. Nissan Leaf
Even the highest estimates of Model S sales don’t put that pricey EV ahead of the Leaf. Nissan’s economical, efficient, mainstream electric car posted 30,200 sales in 2014. Not only did that represent a 33.57% increase over 2013 and the first time an EV sold 30K units; it also represented a sales record for every month of the year and a record for EV sales in the United States. Yes, it was a very good year for the Leaf, which gets 114 miles per gallon combined and 84 miles of electric range. It notched its 23rd straight record sales month in December 2014.