For the first time ever, sales of plug-based vehicles came within a hairsbreadth of hitting the 100, 000 mark last year, jumping by 84% year-over-year as a flood of new products came to market.
Conventional hybrid vehicles scored a more modest but still strong 15% increase in demand last year, reaching an all-time record of nearly 500,000 sales. Together, all battery-based vehicles still captured less than 4% of the total U.S. new vehicle market.
Nonetheless, advocates contend that the numbers show a growing interest in battery-based vehicles, something that’s backed up by several recent surveys showing more American motorists are considering the technology as a viable alternative.
They have a growing list to choose from, a total of 16 different plug-based offerings reaching U.S. showrooms last year. With yet more new battery-based vehicles coming this year, the consensus is that sales of plug-based vehicles – both plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles, or PHEVs and BEVs – will smash through the 100,000 mark in the coming year, though the segment is likely to remain a small niche for the foreseeable future.
Among the new models coming in 2014 are the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid and the Tesla Model X battery-electric crossover. PHEVs generated 49,000 sales last year, a 27% increase from 2012. Designed to deliver anywhere from 13 up to 35 miles per charge and then switch over to onboard backup gasoline engines, models like the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in accounted for the bulk of plug-based sales in 2013.
Pure battery-electric models jumped a substantial 241% year-over-year, to a collective 47,600. The big gainers were the Tesla Model S, with sales of 18,800, and the Nissan Leaf, which sold 22,610. Significantly, Leaf sales rose 130% for the year, the battery-car gaining momentum after production was shifted from Japan to a new assembly line in Tennessee – and after Nissan cut the price.