US sales of plug-in electric cars dropped heavily in January

Article by Christian A., on February 4, 2013

U.S. Sales of the plug-in electric cars dropped heavily in January from December. Sales of the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius Plug-In and Nissan Leaf had all declined. Volt sales decreased by 57% in January (compared to December). On the other hand, Leaf sales fell 56% and Prius Plug-In sales decreased by 36%.

Throughout the industry, U.S. auto sales decreased by 23% from December and it increased by 14.2% compared to last January. Michelle Krebs, an analyst with, said that the plunge in the sales of plug-in electric cars was significant, even when taking into account that January is typically a slow month for auto sales.

Krebs said that U.S. consumers who prefer an alternative to fully gasoline-powered cars are choosing more affordable standard hybrids instead of plug-in electric cars.

Automakers mentioned other factors like limited inventories and production that hasn’t geared up fully yet. Both the Volt and the Prius Plug-In are gasoline-electric plug-in hybrids. Meanwhile, the Leaf is powered fully on electric power. Last Friday, automakers posted higher U.S. and Canadian sales in January.

Officials from Toyota and Nissan said that sales for their plug-in electric vehicles fell due to model year changeovers that reduce the number of available cars on dealer lots. Nissan brand North American sales chief Al Castignetti said that output of the Leaf cars for the U.S. market decreased since production at a plant in Tennessee that recently started is not yet at full capacity. Leaf production had recently been transferred from a facility located in Japan.

With the official release of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota is affirming that this is indeed its core technology platform when it comes to its future. In addition, it also reveals an additional use of the brand’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. Given that the Hybrid Synergy Drive has a modular design, it means it is able to adapt to a wider range of sources.

This can be used whether for Electric Vehicles (EV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), and even for Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV). For an EV powertrain, the system utilizes a more streamlined HSD architecture that has no petrol engine. But to compensate for this, a more powerful electric motor is used and combined with a sufficient battery power, ensuring that the vehicle can be driven for several hours without the need to have external charging. Under PHEV, the configuration remains basically the same. That is, it has the full hybrid system architecture with the long range capability.

Having the more powerful battery, which can be externally charged, helps extend the vehicle’s all-electric driving range. With an FCV, the HSD system also has that powerful electric motor, and rather than a petrol engine, it utilizes hydrogen fuel cell technology. For those wondering, the fuel cells that are used to create the electricity needed to charge the FCV’s battery pack will no longer require any external charging. Instead, the liquid nitrogen can be refueled much like the HSD system that uses petrol.

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