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EV sales may be in a holding pattern in the US, but they’re booming worldwide

Model S Leaf Volt

Those of us who follow the month-by-month plug-in sales figures can’t help but be a little disappointed by the tale so far this year. In three of the last six months, US sales failed to equal the monthly figures of a year ago. We’re now halfway through the year, and total sales of 54,388 are slightly less than the first half of 2014’s total sales of 56,291.

Some in the media are convinced that low gas prices are to blame for the sales slump, while other observers tend to think it has more to do with potential buyers waiting for the new and improved Volt and LEAF, both expected to go on sale soon.

Be all that as it may, the good news is that, on a worldwide basis, sales are anything but flat. Details for some markets are hard to find, and sales figures from different sources don’t necessarily agree, but the trend is clear.

According to InsideEVs’ estimates, worldwide monthly sales have shattered last year’s figures every month so far this year. Through May, worldwide plug-in sales are around 160,670, a fabulous 52% increase over the same period in 2014.

In a recent LinkedIn post titled How EVs Are Moving Mainstream, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn noted that the alliance’s global EV sales were up 15 percent through May. While US LEAF sales may be stalled, the Renault Zoe is selling like baguettes in France – 1,482 units of the pure electric hatchback sold in June, making it the 39th best-selling model in the country.

In the world’s EV capital, Norway, plug-in sales keep accelerating, even as some say they are a bit too successful, and the government considers scaling back the country’s generous EV incentives. According to IHS Automotive, 8,112 plug-ins were sold in Norway in the first quarter, up 40% from the same period last year. That represents 33.1% of all new cars sold, by far the highest proportion in the world (the corresponding figure in the US is 0.8%).

Another EV hotspot is the Netherlands, where 2,670 plug-ins were sold in June – 5.94% of the overall auto market. The Dutch favorite is VW’s Golf GTE plug-in hybrid (not available in the US), followed closely by Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV (hopefully soon to be available in the US).

Other European countries are rapidly getting charged, too. In the first quarter of 2015, 8,684 plug-ins were sold in the UK, 4,520 in Germany, and 3,626 in France. All three countries have major public charging infrastructure projects underway.

Japan is not sitting on the sidelines – 7,750 plug-ins hit the streets there in the first quarter – although the proportion of the overall market is still only 0.6%.

In China, the world’s largest auto market, domestic automakers built around 25,000 “new energy vehicles” in June, according to news site Gasgoo. This breaks down to 10,500 battery-electric and 6,663 plug-in hybrid passenger cars, plus 6,218 battery-electric and 1,645 plug-in hybrid commercial vehicles.

According to ChinaAutoWeb.com, 10,856 domestically produced plug-ins (not counting low-speed NEVs) were sold in China in May – including 700 Geely-Kandi Pandas.


Sources: Quartz, Green Car Reports, Gasgoo, InsideEVs, LinkedIn, Best Selling Cars Blog, EV Sales, IHS Automotive

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