US Electric Vehicle Sales Up 27% in 2017

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U.S. sales of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles rose year over year in 2017 by 27% to nearly 200,000 vehicles. The PHEV share of sales was 47% and the BEV portion totaled 53%. The total U.S. market for electric vehicles amounted to 1.2% of all light vehicles sold last year, up from 0.9% of light vehicle sales in 2016.

Much of the growth can be attributed to the Chevrolet Bolt BEV from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and the new Prius Prime PHEV from Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM). The new Prius Prime accounted for 20% to 25% of all Prius sales.

Yearly volumes remained significant for the Energi from Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), GM’s Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. In the fourth quarter, however, these three models posted significant drops primarily due to new models and increased competition.

The best-selling vehicle in the fourth quarter was the Chevy Bolt with quarterly sales of 8,995 units, compared with 7,430 for the Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model S and 6,025 for the Model X. For the full year, the Model S sold 27,060 units, the Chevy Bolt sold 23,297 units and the Model X 21,315 units. Toyota’s Prius Prime sold nearly 21,000 units last year, and the Chevy Volt sold just over 20,000. No other vehicle sold more 10,000 units for the year.

The data were reported last week by research firm EV-Volumes, which noted that Tesla held on to its top position both for individual nameplate (Model S) and for manufacturer total.

The United States is the world’s second-largest market for PHEVs and BEVs, even though growth has been lower than in many other of the world’s developed economies. EV-Volumes is upbeat nonetheless:

Most US policy proposals indicate that support for [greenhouse gas] reduction will be scaled back. Despite these headwinds, the plug-in vehicle sales grew 27% to almost 200,000 units, and market penetration finally crossed the 1% mark. We are confident that 2018 will see some 400 000 units being registered, helped by the nationwide availability of the Tesla Model 3, but also by the restyled Nissan Leaf, of which the Japanese carmaker expect to triple sales, the progressive sales ramp up of the Chevy Bolt, and increased deliveries from the growing number of other models on the market.

The total number of PHEVs and BEVs on U.S. highways rose to 740,000 at the end of 2017. according to EV-Volumes. By the end of this year, the group expects more than 1.1 million plug-ins on U.S. roads and highways.