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USA Plug-in Sales for 2018 Full Year

by Roland Irle, EV-volumes.com

2018 was an exciting year for EV adoption in USA: 360 800 plug-in vehicle were delivered, 81 % more than in 2017 and the highest growth rate since 2013. Pure EVs (BEVs) gained most and represented 66 % of sales; 34 % were Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs). In 2017 the ratio was 53 % BEV to 47 % PHEV. The plug-in share in the total light vehicle market reached 3 % in November and December and was 2,1 % for the entire year. The preliminary total for the US light vehicle market was 17,3 million, an increase of 0,5 % over 2017.

USA plug-in sales in 2018 were all about the Tesla Model-3: Plagued by ramp-up problems during the first half of the year, it became the worlds best selling EV of all categories in the second half, once output reached around 1000 units per day. Close to 146 000 units Model-3 were delivered to eagerly waiting customers in USA and Canada, 119 000 of them during the second half of 2018.

The new Tesla proved to be the game changer most of us expected it to be, not just shaking up the plug-in vehicle sector. The Model-3 has become a fully competitive alternative to well established ICE vehicles, now ranking among the 5 best selling cars in the US market. Among Mid Luxury cars  in the comparable price bracket, the Model-3 captured 40 % of the segment during Q3 and Q4. A clear break-through and, deeming by the Tesla Q3 financial result, it can be done at a profit.

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81 % growth of Plug-ins in 2018

USA made a huge leap forward in EV adoption in 2018. The growth rate of 81 % is comparable to 2011-2013, when the advent of the Chevy Volt, Prius Plug-in, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S created the first wave of rapid sales increases. It was followed by a 4-year period of moderate increases, even temporary declines. In 2018, the 2nd wave started and it is 4 times higher than the previous. The more remarkable, as it was just created by one new entry, the Model-3.

Plug-in sales are still concentrated on certain states: According to the Auto Alliance's ZEV tracker, 50 % of USA plug-in sales were in California during the 12 month period ending Aug 2018. 12 % are in other states with ZEV mandates and 38 % are outside the states with ZEV mandates. The plug-in share varied as much as from 6,6 % in California to 0,2 % in North Dakota during the period. 2,1% on average for 2018 bring the US a lot closer to other, larger car markets, like Germany, France and the U.K.

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The game changer

Since it started with volume production, Tesla has been the largest single contributor to EV growth in the US. Without the Model-3, the market had continued at the previous, leisurely pace. Its arrival is a game changer, raising the bar for plug-ins and ICE cars alike. The monthly sales volumes during the 2nd half were among the best sellers in the US car market, close to household nameplates like Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla, all of them ICE driven.

Tesla now stands for half of the USA plug-in volume and, counting BEVs only, 3 out of 4 are from Tesla. The real impact on competition will become more visible when sales comprise more recent orders and less reservation back-log.

By contrast, the 2018 developments at Ford, GM and FCA are less impressive. Also, Nissan has not recovered from the Leaf "Rapidgate" yet. It had much higher sales during its 1st generation.

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