What a difference a year or two makes. Not so long ago, we EV pundits were trying to figure out why EV sales were so slow in Europe compared to the US, despite the continent’s green reputation and high gas prices.
Now they must be wondering the same about us. Annual US plug-in sales actually shrank slightly in 2015, to 116,597 units, while in Europe they almost doubled, to 193,000, and cracked the 1% barrier: plug-ins accounted for 1.25% of the total auto market (and much more than that in supercharged spots such as Norway and the Netherlands).
The mix of models that are selling over there is completely different. The three top-selling models in Europe, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (31,340 sales in 2015), Renault Zoe (18,670) and Volkswagen Golf GTE (17,282) aren’t even available in the US.
The next three in the sales ranking are hits on both sides of the Atlantic: the Tesla Model S (16,455), Nissan LEAF (15,515) and BMW i3 (11,820). In the #7 spot is the Audi A3 e-Tron, which just arrived in the US, having already sold 11,711 on its home turf.
It’s no secret that bigger is better for the US market. Some small-n-cute models that are popular in Europe would be laughed off the stage in the land of the big-ass truck. Renault never even bothered to bring its whimsical one-seater Twizy (which sold 1,917 in 2015) to the States. Mitsubishi’s American i-MiEV has been in a persistent coma since it arrived in 2010, but its European cousins are alive and stable: its three different badges (i-MiEV, Peugeot iOn, Citröen C-Zero) sold 3,392 together.
It’s interesting to note the popularity of two electric light commercial vans, the Renault Kangoo Z.E. (4,328) and Nissan e-NV200/Evalia (3,049), neither of which is available stateside.