Electric Vehicle Sales in the United States: 2016 Final Update

 In EV Industry

The final numbers are in. After what was widely considered a disappointing year for EV sales in 2015 (down about 6%) – 2016 was the year of the comeback.

Just over 159,000 new EVs hit the road, and sales were up 38% over 2015’s numbers.

While this comes in slightly lower than we had initially anticipated (with half-year sales being up over 49%), it marks an undoubtedly positive year for electric vehicles.
2016 Electric Car Sales in the United States - Final

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The Roller Coaster Ride of 2016

It’s safe to say the year had its ups and downs.

After a slow start out of the gate, March broke records.

After a mediocre April and May, the summer months proved to be particularly hot. In fact, September marked the first time ever that plug-in sales surpassed 1% of new car sales.

October and November were slower than anticipated, likely due to the Tesla Autopilot 2 hardware delays. December then came in to save the day with what was easily the best month for EV sales in the USA to date.  With nearly 25k sales, it saw an 82% increase over last December, and captured 1.43% of the new car market share.

2016 EV Sales in the United States - By Year and Month - FinalCalifornia and ZEV States Continue to Lead the Way

Not surprisingly, California continues to lead the charge (pun intended), representing just over 50% of EV sales. The other 9 states with ZEV mandates  (CT, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT) account for another 25%.

2016 Electric Car Sales in the United States - By State (as of October 2016)

Credit: ZEV Facts by The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The data shows the accumulated sales between January 2016 and October 2016.

The Winners and Losers of 2016

2016 Electric Car Sales in the United States - By ModelLet’s start with the winners. While the Porsche Cayenne S-E ranks 15th on the sales leaderboard, it had a pretty good year – sales increased a whopping 83% in 2016.

The KIA Soul EV was up 70%, and the Ford Fusion Energi 63%. We’ve talked a lot about the impact the 2nd gen model would have for the Chevrolet Volt, so we weren’t shocked to see a 61% increase in sales in 2016.

Chevrolet Volt Sales Growth in the USADespite the overall increase in sales, a few models were not quite able to ride the same wave.

The Smart Fortwo was down 53%, with the Ford Focus Electric not far behind with a 43% decrease.

Two of the more popular EV models, the BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF also found themselves in the negative column.

Per usual, this was due to the pending release of ‘new and improved’ models. The BMW i3 recently announced a 50% larger battery capacity for the 2017 model, bringing its range up to 114 combined miles.

Nissan disappointed some when it announced that there were no significant updates to the 2017 model, other than making the 30-kilowatt-hour battery pack standard for all models. It wouldn’t surprise us to see LEAF sales remain stagnant until the 2nd generation model is officially announced & released.

2016 EV Sales in USA Growth By Model

The X Factor

While the Model S was already a big winner in 2016 with sales increasing 24%, Tesla solidified its leading position in the market with the release of the Model X.  The Tesla Model X was the big new entry last year, and in its first full year of availability, quickly jumped to the #3 spot in the sales leaderboard.

New Models to the Market

In 2016, 6 new models made their first sales. These were the BMW 330e, BMW 740e, Chevrolet Bolt, Mercedes GLE550e, Mercedes C350e, and the Toyota Prius Prime.  There were also over 1000 Toyota Mirai’s sold.

*The Tesla Model X is technically not on this list because it first took sales at the end of 2015. The Volvo XC90, Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, and Audi A3 e-tron fall into the same category.

Looking Ahead to 2017

If 2016 was the year of the comeback, 2017 could be the year of the ramp. The Chevrolet Bolt is now available in some regions, and the Tesla Model 3 could also make its way onto public roads.

We’re saving “the year of the breakthrough” for 2018 when each of the Bolt, Model 3, and 2nd-gen Nissan LEAF will all be widely available*, but none-the-less, the trajectory for 2017 looks positive. We expect it to build upon 2016’s momentum.

In Summary:

  • Sales were up 38% in 2016, after being down 6% in 2015. About 159k new EVs hit American roads.
  • Nearly 50% of US plug-in sales were in California. The other 9 ZEV states (CT, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT) accounted for about 25%.
  • Big winners: Porsche Cayenne sales were up 83%, Kia Soul EV 70%, Ford Fusion Energi 63%, Chevrolet Volt 61%, and Tesla Model S 24%.
  • Not-so-great: Smart Fortwo sales were down 53%, Ford Focus Electric 43%, BMW i3 31%, and Nissan LEAF 19%.
  • The Tesla Model X was the big new entry this year, jumping to the 3rd most popular.
  • 6 models took their first sales this year.
  • The trajectory for 2017 looks positive, especially with the Bolt hitting the market and the Model 3 potentially taking sales.

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EV sales data sourced from EV-Volumes.com, rounded out by the InsideEVs’ monthly scorecard.

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