After years of leading the world in plug-in vehicle sales, the U.S. lost the top market spot early in 2015. Surges in registrations from Europe to China were behind the shift, and it wasn’t until the new Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf appeared that American consumers could power a comeback.
Of course, there are different ways to measure electric vehicle sales. You can look at the total number of EVs and plug-in hybrids sold since the market launched in the last decade. If you do it that way, the U.S. is still on top of the world. Should you prefer to focus on market share, the rate at which consumers buy EVs compared to other cars, Norway is by far the top electric car market on earth.
Then there is the country producing and selling the highest number of plug-in vehicles per year, which is the topic of this list. In 2015, a new king was crowned in total EV sales by country as well as by vehicle and manufacturer. These five countries are dominating the world in electric vehicle sales at the start of 2016. Thanks to EV Sales and HybridCars.com for the sales stats.
5. United Kingdom
The U.K. electric car market is dominated by plug-in hybrids, which showed 133% gains in 2015 over the previous year according to AM Online. Topping the charts was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the utility model that continued its reign as the best-selling plug-in of Europe for the second straight year. All-electric sales also cranked up to the tune of a 48% gain in 2015, with the Nissan Leaf leading the charge. U.K. plug-in sales hit a record of 28,188 units last year.
EV market share in Norway hit a phenomenal 22% in 2015, when one in every five auto consumers chose electric over conventional powertrains. This adoption rate fueled 34,455 total sales last year. The big winner was the Volkswagen e-Golf, which notched 8,493 sales — more than one quarter of the Norwegian market. Way back in second place was the Tesla Model S (4,039 sales), followed by the Nissan Leaf (3,189 sales) in third. Thanks to abundant government incentives, pure EVs have dominated in Norway, taking four of the top five places on the sales charts last year.
3. The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, plug-in hybrids took all top five spots on the sales list in 2015, with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV leading the charge (8,759 sales). On its tail was the Volkswagen Golf GTE (8,118 sales) followed by the Volvo V60 plug-in (4,400 sales). Along with the Mercedes C350e, that made four electrified models that are unavailable in America, though we expect that to change in 2016. For 2015, the Netherlands posted 43,282 sales.
2. United States
The U.S. still has bragging rights in a few areas of electric car sales, starting with the Tesla Model S, which was the biggest seller around the world in 2015. Likewise, the cumulative total of 411,120 sales remains the highest among any nation. In 2015, the American market took a slight step back with 115,262 plug-in sales. Though we expect to see gains in 2016, there is little chance the U.S. will regain the EV sales lead.
Want to see a booming EV market? Check out China, which clocked a record month that featured nearly 35,000 sales (a 400% gain) in December and ended its year with 188,000 sales (a 230% gain). These remarkable totals included the top-selling BYD Qin (31,898), the second-place Kandi Panda EV (20,390), and the scorching BYD Tang (18,375) in third after only seven months on the market. The Tang is the biggest story looking ahead, as the plug-in SUV should dominate the market and easily break 50,000 sales in 2016.
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