April through August was the best period of sales for EVs in the U.S ever. The problem is that it was not this past April through August but that period in 2014. For affordable EVs, the peak came in 2013. EVangelists blame the automakers, OPEC, fracking, a vast right–wing conspiracy, and warming deniers for the failure of EVs in America. However, the truth remains that ever since EVs were invented (in the late 1800s), EV designers could only offer two of the three important things car owners want: Good Range, Affordability, and Decent Performance. Internal combustion engine vehicles offer all three. Concurrent with declining EV sales, sales of the other 99.8 percent of the vehicles we Americans buy and drive have gone through the roof and are at historic highs.
The news is really only bad for mainstream and affordable EVs. Tesla is rocking. It sold about 50,000 Model S cars globally this year, about half of them in the U.S. In contrast to the Volt and Leaf, the Teslas are going up in price. The Model S got more expensive adding AWD, driver aids, and a second motor. The shorter-range base model is now discontinued. The 208 Model X SUV/minivans the company produced in 2015 all sold at well over $100K.
Both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are “new” for the 2016 model year. Both cars go much farther on a charge than the “40 miles per day on average” that EV enthusiasts always point out we Americans drive (while ignoring the fact that most also take trips much farther than affordable battery electrics can effectively go.) In the case of the 2016 Leaf, the newness is a slightly extended range to over 100 miles. It didn’t help the brand in December. Nissan sold just 1,348 2016 Leafs in December. That is half the rate the older model did last December. For the year, Leaf sales plummeted 42%. Nissan has an all-new EV design concept in the shadows, like every major player does, to offer hope to the faithful.
The Volt is much more radically redesigned. The 2016 Volt is better than the outgoing model in pretty much every single way, and prices are now lower for the Volt (and Leaf) than in the past. Chevy says that “nearly all” the 2,115 Volts sold by GM in December were the all-new 2016 models. That is up from last year but only matches the Volt's peak sales rate from 2011 and 2013. Those EV advocates that thought the new models would spur sales have no real data to support that – yet.
Green cars, in general, have slumped. The older than dust Toyota Prius hybrid declined about 11% in 2015, but its actual sales numbers are still very impressive at about 15,000 units sold in December. That number was up for 2014 and about matched 2013. The Prius also had its best-ever sales month in the state of California. Not bad for a vehicle being replaced by an all-new 2016 Prius design in the coming month.