Boom! US Electric vehicle sales up 86% in 2017

  • Published on August 3rd, 2017

Tesla Model 3 is here, and that has pushed me to again incorporate Tesla sales estimates into our monthly US electric vehicle sales reports. Well, that and a repeated request from readers to bring back Tesla’s US sales estimates*.

By  Tesla Model 3 red

Surprisingly — despite the ecstatic headlines about the car — the Model 3 isn’t yet #1! However, big sister Model S is, by a sizable margin.

The Chevy Bolt, with a record sales month, took the #2 spot, inching out my estimate for the Model X. After that, the plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt round out the top 5.

Despite the addition of some extremely quick competitors on its track, the Nissan LEAF landed a healthy monthly sales total — still well above 1,000 cars a month — to take the #6 spot. After Ms. LEAF, the widely available yet less competitive (at least in consumers’ eyes) Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, and BMW i3 took #7, #8, and #9, respectively. That said, the Energi models would theoretically surpass the Chevy Volt for the #5 spot if combined as one car.

In theory the Volkswagen e-Golf is #10 here, but there are actually over a dozen other plug-in cars on the market than reported here. They are basically compliance cars and are mostly plug-in hybrids with small batteries, but the core reason I don’t report them here is that the parent automakers don’t report them. Yes, I could put my blindfold on and try to estimate them (like I’m doing with Tesla sales), but I actually have a lot less info to go on for those models than for the Tesla models and, well, like I wrote, they are compliance cars with low sales — nothing like Model S and Model X sales.

Looking at July 2017 sales versus July 2016 sales, the sales of this fully electric vehicle group were up 46%. Plug-in hybrid sales, meanwhile, were up 10%. Overall, that means the sales of these 14 plug-in cars were up 19%.

January–July 2017 vs January–July 2016, fully electric vehicle sales were up 86%, plug-in hybrid sales were up 34%, and sales of all 14 plug-in cars were up 45%.

The year-to-date leaders are similar, but there are some notable differences. Yes, the Tesla Model 3 is again last. I wonder if that position will last through the end of the year. 😉Similarly, the Tesla Model S is again far ahead at #1. Considered the best sedan ever mass produced, it’s not too surprising the Model S is doing so well — it’s deservedly crushing the broader large luxury car competition.

The Chevy Volt, another hyper-competitive car in its class, is sitting at #2, approximately 1,000 sales above the Tesla Model X. The Model X is slimly ahead of the Toyota Prius Prime, but with Tesla expecting a big boost in production and sales in the second half of 2017, I’m presuming it will pull away from the Prius Prime and maybe even pass up the Volt. We’ll see.

The Chevy Bolt is a significant step below the Prius Prime, but expect it to gain ground and maybe take the #4 spot — or even the #3 spot — before year’s end. Production keeps growing as availability across the United States expands.

As noted above, the LEAF keeps on truckin’ (or LEAFin’?) despite the much longer range but similarly priced Bolt and Model 3 arriving on the scene. Large discounts are presumably a key reason for that, but so is the LEAF’s early mover advantages, high customer satisfaction, word of mouth, and widespread availability.

Similar to the month of July, if you combine the Ford Energi models, they actually outsold the Chevy Volt. Not too shabby for some quite dated models, which are competing (to some degree) with the Volt (much longer electric range) and Prius Prime (a much bigger reputation for efficient, electrified driving).

BMW i8, BMW i3, and Ford Fusion Energi sales were down most notably in July and January–July. i8 sales could well be getting gobbled by the Model S (it’s just so much quicker and has such higher tech). The i3 is arguably the electric car most threatened by the Model 3 (even if it does have its own unique advantages and selling points). And the Fusion Energi is likely being harmed at the cash register by the new-ish Prius Prime and Volt. It’s hard to see any of these models picking up steam (er, electrons) without massive model year updates and/or price reductions.

Those are my key takeaways from July. Have more? Have predictions for what happens in August? Drop the comments down below.

*Tesla doesn’t publish monthly sales numbers and doesn’t break out sales by region/country. Nonetheless, Tesla sales elsewhere — particularly, in China and Europe — and occasional statements from Tesla CEO Elon Musk help us to estimate US monthly sales.

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica. Check out their new 93-page Electric Vehicle report. Also published on EV Obsession’s Electric Car Sales page.)

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.