Plug-ins Outsell Early Hybrids

July 26, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles, 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

Pundits began calling the electric vehicle market a failure long before the first Nissan LEAF deliveries began back in 2010. Though sales have boomed recently thanks to falling prices on some models, the numbers for the two biggest plug-in models are still well below what Chevy and Nissan had hoped for. But does this really prove what so many editorialists have written over the course of the last three years—that Americans simply don’t want plug-ins?


It all depends on how you look at it. When the first hybrids went on sale more than ten years ago, they were far more expensive than conventional ICEs and consumers didn’t know about or trust the new technology. Today, nearly every major brand either already sells or will soon sell a hybrid model, with some carmakers like Toyota offering hybrid variants across most of their platforms.

So how does early plug-in adoption compare to the first few years of hybrid sales? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the numbers actually predict a pretty bright future for electric vehicles.

The DOE recently tweeted a graph comparing the first 31 months of hybrid sales to the first 31 months of plug-in sales. From the very beginning, electric vehicles have outsold hybrids during the same period of their existence by more than a two-to-one margin. Where hybrids had sold roughly 50,000 units in the U.S. after 31 months, more than 115,000 plug-ins have been sold since late 2010.

According to, plug-in sales more than tripled last year over 2011 numbers, from about 17,500 to 53,000 in 2012. This year, plug-ins are on pace to sell more than 100,000 units. Hardly a failure as far as technology adoption curves go.

What’s more, plug-in vehicle infrastructure is still in its early days of development, and only a few of the 14 models on the market are available outside of California and the handful of other states that have been targeted by carmakers for early market releases. As plug-ins begin to spread to other markets, sales numbers will continue to grow—the only question is how fast?

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