FINAL UPDATE: Plug-In Electric Car Sales Continue Rise In 2014, To 118,500

Plug-in electric car sales during 2014 rose above the 100,000 level, to total roughly 118,500. Last year's total represents a 27-percent gain over calendar year 2013.

It's the third annual increase in full-year sales in the U.S. since modern electric cars first went on sale in December 2010; the 2013 total was about 93,000.

The highest-selling electric car in the world, the Nissan Leaf, set a new U.S. record for plug-in sales of a single vehicle in one year, logging 30,200 deliveries during 2014.

DON'T MISS: Nissan Leaf Sets New Annual Record For U.S. Electric Car Sales

That compares to a 2013 total of 22,610, and less than 10,000 units in each of its first two years on sale.

The Electric Drive Transportation Association puts the total at 118,773, though that precise number includes certain assumptions about unreported sales by Fiat Chrysler, Kia, and Tesla.

2015 Nissan Leaf
2015 Nissan Leaf

Beyond the 30,200 Nissan Leafs, the balance of 88,000-plus plug-in vehicles was made up of no fewer than 20 other cars with plugs.

The bulk of them, however, remain quite low-volume, selling 250 or fewer units per month.

Only a small number of plug-in electric cars routinely racks up U.S. sales of 1,000 or more units a month.

(We also note that Hyundai leased 54 of its hydrogen-powered Tucson Fuel Cell crossover utility vehicles. Honda delivered 2 FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicles as well this year, against 10 leased in 2013.)

2015 Chevrolet Volt
2015 Chevrolet Volt

The other high-volume plug-in cars include the Chevrolet Volt and the Tesla Model S. More recently, the BMW i3 sales hit that level for three months last year.

Last month, the Volt added 1,490 December sales to make a total of 18,805 sales in calendar 2014. That's lower than the pace for 2012 and 2013 deliveries of 23,461 and 23,094 respectively.

The 2016 Chevy Volt will be unveiled next at the Detroit Auto Show, and will go on sale in the third quarter of this year. That means the old car is now effectively on "run-out' status.

Sales of the BMW i3 again crossed the 1,000 mark, with 1,013 delivered in December.

2013 Tesla Model S and 2014 BMW i3, Hudson Valley, NY, Nov 2014
2013 Tesla Model S and 2014 BMW i3, Hudson Valley, NY, Nov 2014

That produced a strong debut total of 6,092 sales over eight months for the unusual-looking but undeniably advanced-tech i3 minicar.

If BMW can keep up that pace this year, the i3 could enter--perhaps unexpectedly for some--the ranks of the five best-selling plug-in cars in the country.

ALSO SEE: Plug-In Electric Car Sales For 2013 Near Double Previous Year's (Jan 2014)

As always, Tesla Motors does not report monthly sales of its Model S electric luxury sedan. Those sales have reportedly flattened over recent months, not helped by a summer plant shutdown for retooling that lasted longer than planned and cut production totals for the third quarter.

Tesla has projected that it will deliver 33,000 vehicles globally during calendar 2014. We'll find out how accurate that prediction was when it releases its year-end financial figures sometime in February or March.

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012
2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

Plug-in hybrids

In terms of significant sales volume, a handful of plug-in hybrids has also managed to sell more than 1,000 units in some months.

Those include the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, whose sales have fallen sharply since August.

Its December total of 492 brought last year's sales total to 13,264--slightly up on the 12,088 sold in 2013.

Some analysts also suggest that with all carpool-lane access stickers for plug-in hybrids now given out in the key market of California, the plug-in Prius may suffer due to its low electric range (11 miles total, only 6 miles continuous).

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

The plug-in Prius too may be in the same run-out pattern as the Volt, with an aging model that will be replaced by an all-new 2016 version toward the end of this year.

The other two high-selling plug-in hybrids are the Ford C-Max Energi compact five-door hatchback and the Fusion Energi mid-size sedan.

The C-Max plug-in hybrid sold 659 units in December, for a 2014 total of 8,433, while the Fusion Energi delivered 789, bringing last year's total to 11,550.

Together, Ford's pair of plug-in hybrids handily outsold the plug-in Prius for the second year in a row.

Low-volume plug-in cars

Finally, a number of different battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continued to sell at volumes of 200 per month or less.

For its first two months on sale, the Volkswagen e-Golf fell into that range, delivering 1 in October and 119 in November.

Last month, however, sales spiked to a relatively impressive 237 units--giving a 2014 total of 357 electric seventh-generation Golfs now on U.S. roads.

Does this mean VW could edge toward BMW i3 numbers? We'll be curious to see what kind of levels the e-Golf sales settle in at this year.

The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid continues to sell at a rate of about 50 cars a month, with December sales of 63 bringing last year's total to 449.

Since its sales started in January 2013, just 975 plug-in Accord mid-size sedans have found homes in a handful of states.

Frame from 2014 Cadillac ELR video on YouTube, with actor Neil McDonough
Frame from 2014 Cadillac ELR video on YouTube, with actor Neil McDonough

The Cadillac ELR added 118 sales, closing out calendar 2014 at 1,310 sales, far lower than the 2,000 to 5,000 that GM had hoped to deliver in its first full year.

Virtually every analyst attributed those low sales to a sticker price set at $76,000 including delivery--perhaps $20,000 higher than most expected for the Volt-derived two-door luxury range-extended electric coupe.

The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, however, continues to sell more than most expected, though its December sales of just 31 were its lowest month this year.

Still, a total of 879 plug-in Panameras is respectable--and more than the discontinued Panamera Hybrid ever logged.

The plug-in big luxury sedan has now been joined in the Porsche lineup by a Cayenne S E-Hybrid plug-in SUV as well. It added 55 sales last month, for a total of exactly 100 sold in the two months it was on sale last year.

The strikingly designed BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe is finished 2014 with strong sales, given its six-figure price, of 158 deliveries.

That brings its total volume last year to 555 over the four months it's been on sale in the U.S.

As for all-electric models, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV logged a sad 12 sales, bringing its 2014 total to just 196. The smallest four-seat electric car sold in the States, the i-MiEV just never found its footing.

The folks at Mitsubishi are undoubtedly waiting with baited breath for the arrival of the 2016 Outlander Plug-In Hybrid--now postponed, again, to the second quarter of 2016.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive saw 326 sales in December, bringing its 2014 total over just six months to 774 deliveries.

We'll be very curious to see if numbers above 200 or 300 are sustained, or if they'll fall back down to the two-figure monthly totals of the first four months on sale.

The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive ended December with 351 sales, for a substantial 2014 total of 2,594--putting it ahead of some far larger and more prestigious makes.

Thus far, its maker has refused to release sales data for the Kia Soul EV that went on sale in October.

Compliance cars

Finally, there are the four or five vehicles deemed to be compliance cars, or those built solely to meet California's zero-emission vehicle sales mandate.

They are customarily available only in California and a handful of other markets, and are built in limited quantities.

MORE: Electric Cars: Some Are Real, Most Are Only 'Compliance Cars'--We Name Names (May 2012)

Among the compliance cars, the Honda Fit EV logged 32 deliveries in December, to finish the year at 407 electric Fit subcompacts leased.

Since leasing began in July 2012, a total of 1,069 Fit EVs have been delivered--nearing the 1,100 Honda had said at the start it would offer in the U.S.

The Toyota RAV4 EV too is reaching its limit of 2,600 vehicles; the 37 deliveries in December brought it to 1,184 for the year, but 2,472 cumulative sales.

The Chevrolet Spark EV logged a whopping December with 131 deliveries, its second-best month ever, for a total last year of 1,145 electric minicars sold.

The last of the four compliance cars on which sales are reported is arguably the Ford Focus Electric, whose deliveries fell to their lowest level since January 2013.

Just 53 of the electric Focuses found homes in December, for a total last year of 1,964--not much up on the 1,738 sold in 2013.

While the electric Focus is at least nominally sold in a few locations outside the California-rules states, it sells only in compliance numbers.

The continuing low sales support the thesis that Ford has little investment in the vehicle beyond the very minimum it needs to meet its California compliance requirements.

As such we group it with the rest of the vehicles whose makers only reluctantly offer them to stay legal in a very large and important market.

Certainly Ford's demonstrated lack of interest in the car indicates it's not serious about battery-electric vehicles.

The fifth and final such car is the Fiat 500e, but its maker has refused to break out sales for the electric minicar since it went on sale in 2013.

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