October was another slow month for EV sales and another huge month of gains for automakers’ gasoline-powered cars and trucks. Vehicles with a plug continue to lose market share. This month, the slowest-selling electric vehicle compared to last year’s October numbers is the Nissan Leaf, down by about 50% to just 1,239 units. The Leaf will most likely finish the year down more than 40%. The BMW i3 also stepped back in sales by about 20% and sold at only about half of last month’s rate. Combined, the range-extended i3 and BEV versions sold less than 1,000 units in October.
Ford has yet to report the sales of its plug-in cars, but October looks to be flat or down slightly over last year for EV sales in total. Only a huge surge in sales from each automaker would enable EVs to come close to matching last year’s sales total of 123,000 units.
The news is not all bad for those rooting for EVs to take hold at some point. Tesla’s Model S had an average month selling at about 1,900 units according to Inside EVs, who use a variety of methods to guestimate the luxury automaker’s sales. However, since its launch about two months ago, estimates are that Tesla has only shipped about ten of its new Model X performance Minivan/SUVs. An odd way to demonstrate a new model’s viability.
The Chevy Volt had a decent month. Chevy only sells the Volt in select states, where EVs are mandated, and Chevy seems to reserve inventory for big pushes. Chevy moved a mix of 2,036 ‘15 and ‘16 model year Volts this October. That is up from 1,433 last October. However look a little deeper and one notices that the Volt sold about 3,000 volts in October of 2012.
The Toyota Prius-Plug-In has dropped way back from its number two or three spot. The gasoline Prius sold very well in October and was up over last year. However, the math is easy for many Prius shoppers. They know that the cost per mile to run a Prius on electricity is now about the same as it is to run it with gasoline in many markets. So why buy the more costly Plug-in? A new generation Prius Plug-In will likely be announced after the hybrid is settled in the marketplace. We would not count it out as a possible strong EV seller in late 2016.
EV enthusiasts see a bright future. Chevy’s 200-mile range Bolt is almost ready. Tesla continues to make progress on its infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities. Nissan recently showed off some exciting new EVs with more range and a more dynamic look. Oddly, this bright future may be one of the factors restricting sales of the EVs available now. Why buy the outgoing technology when something much more interesting is just around the bend?