2017 looks like a record year for EV adoption, but there’s a long hill to climb.
Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.
General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we’re talking about range or sales volume. The company just announced it’s adding two new BEVs in the next 18 months, and the more we think about the concepts we saw (very briefly), the more we can see them appearing as a Buick crossover and something a bit sleeker wearing a Cadillac badge.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction—2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt’s plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months.
Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt. Overall, BEVs were more popular than PHEVs—the figures show a 60:40 split—despite the fact that there are many more to choose from.
The growth in the EV market is encouraging, particularly as 2017 has not been the best year for the auto industry. Although total light-vehicle sales are down for the first time in several years, BEVs and PHEVs have managed to buck that trend. Sadly, a look at those overall sales numbers puts that EV growth in context: 142,000 EVs in nine months might be a record, but when you consider that almost 13 million new cars and light trucks found buyers over the same timeframe, it’s clear we’ve got a very long hill to climb.