If you like consistency, you are going to love the state of the electric vehicle market. EVs sold at record levels for the sixth straight month in April, a month in which Tesla did some major retooling at its Fremont plant and fell off its 2016 pace. The rest of the segment, buoyed by a strong month from Detroit plug-in models, picked up the slack and made the difference in an otherwise less eventful four weeks on the lots.
Overall, plug-in sales grew by 16% over the previous year’s totals. There is a change of the guard to report. Nissan Leaf, the top-selling EV worldwide since the segment began, fell out of favor among U.S. plug-in buyers and got bounced out of the top five on the sales charts. As rumors swirl about the next Leaf in development, buyers may be choosing to sit out this generation, despite the 107-mile range that continues to be the best in its class.
Meanwhile, plug-in hybrids showed no signs of slowing down, and an old contender got back in the winner’s circle. Here are the five EVs that topped the charts in April. Numbers are courtesy of the InsideEVs monthly scorecard.
5. Tesla Model S
Tesla does not release monthly sales stats because its deliveries may fluctuate wildly between periods. Model S sales from March (3,990) versus April (800) illustrate this point perfectly. While the automaker dealt with a Model X recall and focused on world markets at the start of the second quarter, domestic customers did not see many new cars. Though InsideEVs estimates these figures monthly, there has been no reason to doubt their veracity. Model S still holds first place in 2016 with 7,190 sales, but it had to settle for fifth place in April.
4. BMW i3
After a very sluggish start to 2016, BMW made a comeback with 814 sales of the i3 in April — good enough to top Tesla’s flagship sedan and the Nissan Leaf. Nonetheless, this total was a drop from April 2015 numbers and very far off the i3’s peak of 1,422 sales in December 2015. Looking at the year-to-date stats, BMW trails the Ford C-Max by about 500 units through the first four months. The automaker’s announcement of an impending range upgrade doesn’t bode well for the current model.
3. Tesla Model X
Model X had a banner month in March (1,860) but came back down to earth amid production issues in April. According to the InsideEVs estimate, Tesla’s SUV had 850 deliveries on the month, which is good enough for third place but a far cry from the sales leaders. As the Fremont-based automaker plans to ramp up production on an unprecedented scale in the coming years, Tesla will need to work out the kinks more efficiently with hundreds of thousands of customers waiting.
2. Ford Fusion Energi
The Ford Fusion Energi may be limited in electric range (19 miles), but its exceptional city economy (95 miles per gallon equivalent) and overall package have made it a player in the plug-in market since 2013. In April, a combination of attractive incentives and strong inventories pushed Fusion Energi into second place with 1,331 sales. That represented an 87% gain over its April 2015 numbers and catapulted it into third place for the year, over 350 units ahead of the Nissan Leaf. With a new model appearing this summer, expect incentives to stay high.
1. Chevy Volt
Chevy Volt is now available in all 50 states with both 2016 and 2017 models circulating. In April, the long-range plug-in hybrid hit its stride, selling 1,983 models to take the prize by a wide margin. This model has obvious appeal with 53 miles of range, even if feels a little cramped in the driver’s seat and back seats. Drivers who want to cover most of their trips in EV mode without worrying about total range will find the new Volt a worthy solution. Until GM releases the Bolt EV later this year, Volt serves as the automaker’s flagship green car.
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY