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2018 Toyota Prius Prime Crushing Bolt, Volt, and Leaf In Affordable EV Sales Race

The Toyota Prius Prime has emerged as the runaway leader in affordable EVs. Bolt, Leaf, and Volt’s U.S. sales lag, as Prius Prime continues to impress.

The Toyota Prius Prime is the affordable EV sales leader by a country mile in America. April’s sales of the Prius Prime topped 2,600 units again, for the second consecutive month. And for the second consecutive month, the Bolt, Volt, and Leaf were unable to find even 2,000 customers each. With sales at 9,094 units for the year to date, the Prius Prime has outsold the Chevy Volt (4,803) and Chevy Bolt (5,650) by nearly two to one this year. The Leaf is floundering with sales of just 2,545, due in part to a launch in which Nissan had almost no Leafs built for customers for multiple months.

The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. EV purists hate it when it gets lumped in with other vehicles that can operate using electricity. That’s a shame, because many Prius Prime owners report using their Prius Primes almost entirely as EVs. Isn’t reducing carbon and emissions the primary goal? If it is, the Prius Prime is the most successful vehicle in America under $40K that achieves that objective.

You’ll notice we are not including the Tesla Model 3 as an affordable EV. That’s because is isn’t one. The Model 3's entry-level price point is $46,000, not the $35,000 that uninformed publications continue to bandy about. Tesla hasn’t sold any $35,000 Model 3 cars, and may never do so. The Model 3 Consumer Reports bought cost $59,000. Let’s stop pretending the Model 3 is anything but a luxury vehicle for folks with deep pockets, but not deep enough to drive home a six-figure Model S. If you’re wondering how well the Model 3 sold, check out our focus story, but be prepared for bad news if you’re a Tesla fan.

The rest of the affordable EV sales data is a rundown of the long list of models that are barely in production. Models like VW’s eGolf, which sold a whopping 128 units in April. Even the BMW i3, affordable in the eyes of many of its customers moving down from a 5 Series or X5, has dropped off a cliff. BMW reports selling just 503 in April. Down by almost half since March.

* Sales figure note: General Motors has bailed out of monthly EV sales reporting. So we rely on Inside EVs for estimates on that brand's sales numbers. Nissan's, VW's, Toyota's and BMW's are based on actual manufacturer reporting.


John Goreham    May 2, 2018 - 9:51AM

In reply to by Parks McCants

I'm glad you brought that up. It can be. However, the Prius Prime starts at $27,995 including destination. At that price, a Prime owner gets included active safety like emergency auto braking and also navigation and heated seats. The federal tax deduction for the Prime is $4,500. The state of California's EV rebate for Prime is $1,500. So, a base Prime can cost a new owner $22K. If I may expand on that: The Prime and the Tesla Model 3 are not comparable cars. The Model 3 is superior in almost every way. However, in their current top trims ($59K for the Model 3, $37K for the Prime) and after tax incentives and rebates, the Prius Prime costs $31K and the Model 3 $49K. The least expensive Model 3 delivered to a consumer to date cost $46K. After incentives, that car costs $36K. Toyota dealers can discount, unlike Tesla stores. The least expensive Prius Prime can cost a buyer around $20K after discounting. This means the Prime is accessible to a much larger buying audience. Lease deals, plus Toyota's 2-years of included maintenance can mean a Prime costs a buyer about half what a Model 3 does to own.

John Goreham    July 5, 2018 - 9:46PM

In reply to by Hill (not verified)

Thanks for checking in Hill. The Tesla Model 3 is many things, an inexpensive EV is not one of those things. Musk and Tesla promised green car buyers an "affordable" EV and 11 months and one week after the Model 3 deliveries began have chosen not to keep that promise. When incentives and discounts are factored in the Model 3 is twice the price of the cars we note the sales of here. If you want to include the Model 3 in the sales comparison of this separate group of green cars, let's start with "the Prius Prime has outsold the Model 3 in five of the past 11 months." This despite the many shortcomings you point out that those who only have a modest budget to work with must accept.

John Goreham    May 2, 2018 - 9:54AM

In reply to by Steve Rider (not verified)

Yes, it has an EV-only range of about half that of the Volt. It takes half as long to fully charge as well. After the EV-only range is depleted, the Prime operates in Hybrid mode and earns a 54 MPG rating. When used in combination, the Prime has an EPA rating of 133 MPGe.

Jack Rickard (not verified)    May 3, 2018 - 7:41PM

In reply to by John Goreham

You are just NOT going to tell us what the EV only range is are you? This is reeking of euphemisms for "not very far" but you never actually say what the published range is for the vehicle in EV mode. Nauseatingly stumping for Toyota. Absolutely eggregious.

This isn't "news". It's a sales job.

Patrick McSwain (not verified)    May 2, 2018 - 2:40PM

It is a common misconception that a Prius is an EV. It's a hybrid with a larger than normal battery.

If you tried to us it as an EV, the gas motor will come on anyways if you need to accelerate quicker than 0-60 mph in 12.x seconds. If rated as an EV, it would make it the slowest EV sold in the US.

Even running both the electric motor and ICE engine together, it would still rate as one of the slowest EVs for sale at 10.x seconds to 60 mph.

The Prius has far less than 1/2 the EV range of the Volt. While Chevrolet understated the range, the Prius exaggerated the real range. They assume you will run the gas engine at points in it's 25 mile EPA range when you need to accelerate, so you will think it has a 25 mile range. It cannot complete the EPA test cycles under electric power only, so it cherry picks the results and gives you the 25 mile number.

John Goreham    May 3, 2018 - 9:40AM

In reply to by Patrick McSwain (not verified)

Look at the facts you point out in a different way. The Prius is smart enough to know that it should engage the 54 MPG gasoline hybrid mode in certain circumstances - to SAVE battery life for where it can be used most effectively. The Prius, like a Volt, Ioniq, Clarity, i3, Fusion Energi, 330e, or whatever, does have a gasoline engine it carries around so it can make outstanding range. Toyota was smart enough to know when the EV operation can be used to save the most energy overall. So, like most plug-in models, the Prius Prime can use its gasoline engine when circumstances are right for its operation. Many Prius Prime owners use their Prime as primarily an EV and use almost no gasoline. I'll see if I can pull together a story on the subject. Thanks for the comment and the idea.

john1701a (not verified)    May 4, 2018 - 7:58AM

In reply to by Patrick McSwain (not verified)

>> It cannot complete the EPA test cycles under electric power only...

You are clearly mixed up information about generations. That was the case for the previous (2012-2015) but most definitely is not for the current (2017-)

It was the hard-acceleration segment of the EPA measure that had triggered the engine to start in the original model. Toyota has since enhanced the design to allow you to accelerate all the way to 84 mph with the pedal to the floor entirely using only electricity.

Patrick McSwain (not verified)    May 2, 2018 - 2:44PM

BTW - The starting price in the USA for the Tesla Model 3 is $50,000.00 including destination. If you like black cars. If you want a different color, it costs more.
$35,000 for base car (not available)
$9,000 for Long Range option (mandatory)
$5,000 for Premium Upgrade Package (mandatory)
$1,000 for Destination