Design News: The Top-Ten-Selling Electric Cars

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Design News: The Top-Ten-Selling Electric Cars

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When it comes to electric cars, there’s a disconnect. In polls,
Americans have repeatedly said they see EVs as the future. But with
their wallets, they’re saying something else.

A recent poll by Harris Insight & Analytics and Volvo Group, for
example, revealed that 74% of Americans see electric vehicles as the
future of driving. Last year, however, US sales of battery-electric
vehicles reached just 258,000 units – about 1.5% of the national total.
The sales numbers highlighted a woeful disparity between what Americans
say in polls, and what they will actually buy.

To be sure, the EV sales numbers are rising. And this year, a contingent
of electric crossovers from Hyundai, Kia, and Jaguar will hit the
streets, with Ford not far behind. So there may be light at the end of
the tunnel.

Here, we’ve collected photos of the top-ten-selling electric vehicles in
the US. The numbers and photos tell a story about the hard realities of
the automotive market. They show that the best of those EVs – all from
Tesla – are making in-roads. But beyond the market’s hearty support for
Tesla, EV sales figures are still lackluster.

We invite you to click through the following slides and tell us what you
think. Are you ready to make your next vehicle purchase an EV?

The top-selling electric car of 2018 was, by far, the Tesla Model 3.
Total US sales reached 139,782 units, placing it more than 100,000 ahead
of any other EV. To be sure, the Model 3 had its challenges -- the
biggest being Tesla’s struggle to cut the entry-level price down to the
promised figure of $35,000. But that didn’t stop it from recording
amazing sales figure in the second half of 2018. Sales rocketed from
5,900 in June to 17,800 in August to a high of 22,250 in September,
according to InsideEVs. The Model 3 offers between 220 and 310 miles of
range at a price tag that finally dropped to $35,000 just days ago.
Telsa’s luxury crossover utility, the Model X, boosted its sales by 22%
to 26,100 units in 2018, landing it in second place in US sales. But
while that increase was impressive, the Model X still came in 113,000
units short of its sister vehicle, the Model 3. The Model X offers room
for seven and an all-electric range varying from 237-295 miles. Starting
price is $82,000. (Image source: Tesla, Inc.)
US sales of the Tesla Model S dropped off by about 5% in 2018, taking it
down from the top spot in 2017 to its new number three position. In a
sense, its performance could be viewed as impressively steady, given the
fact that the Model 3 certainly siphoned off many of its potential
customers. The Model S features a driving range starting at 249 miles
with an entry-level 75-kWh battery, and goes up to 335 miles with a
100-kWh battery. Pricing starts at $76,000 and can easily top off at
over $100,000. (Image source: Tesla, Inc.)
The highly-publicized Chevy Bolt still hasn’t turned big sales numbers,
even though its reviews have been stellar. In 2018, it was the
fourth-best-selling EV in the US, hitting a figure of 18,019, according
to InsideEVs. Using its 60-kWh lithium-ion battery, the Bolt offers an
EPA range of 238 miles. Starting price is $36,000.
The Nissan Leaf has never come close to hitting the lofty sales numbers
that CEO Carlos Ghosn predicted for it nearly a decade ago, but it’s
been steady. Last year its US sales climbed to 14,715, up from 11,230 in
‘17. Currently, the Leaf is one of the most reasonably-priced EVs,
starting at an MSRP of $29,900 for a 150-mile range. Sales are expected
to rise this year, as Nissan rolls out the Leaf Plus, which will feature
a longer range.
The BMW i3 landed sixth on the US sales list of EVs, totaling 6,117
units. Sales notwithstanding, it’s been widely-praised for its
impressive design. In 2015, consultant Sandy Munro of Munro &
Associates, Inc. called it “the most significant vehicle since the Model
T.”  The i3 features a carbon fiber body and an aluminum frame. Its
range has increased from 81 miles in 2013 to 153 miles today. Pricing
starts at $44,450.

The tiny Fiat 500e was the seventh most popular electric car in the US
last year, totaling sales of 2,250 units. Mostly built for “compliance”
reasons, it has never been a big seller or even a favorite within Fiat
Chrysler. Late CEO Sergio Marchionne once notably said, “I hope you
don’t buy it, because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.” The
500e features a 24-kWh battery, an 84-mile range, and an MSRP of

Volkswagen has announced big plans and invested billions of dollars in
electric vehicle technology, but sales of its e-Golf are still
miniscule. Last year, e-Golf peaked at 1,354 units sold in the US, a low
number by any standard. Still, pricing is comparatively reasonable –
starting $31,895 for a five-seater that offers 126 miles of driving
US sales of the Smart Electric Drive (eD) are on the rise, but the
numbers are still puny. It climbed from 544 units sold in 2017 to 1,219
in 2018. Its popularity is limited due to a lack of utility – two seats,
a 17.6-kWh battery, and 58 miles of EPA range. Price is correspondingly
low, however – starting at $23,800 for a coupe and $28,100 for a
convertible version.
The Kia Soul EV was the tenth-best-selling EV in the US last year,
peaking at 1,134 units. In essence, it was a learning car for Kia when
it came out in the US in 2014, offering a range of just 93 miles. Kia
boosted that range to 111 miles last year at a price of $33,950. The
automaker is hoping the Soul EV has adequately laid the foundation for
the new Niro EV, which is set to attract a larger swath of customers
with its crossover styling.


[Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology
for 35 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered
electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.]


Len Moskowitz
Please discuss EV drag racing at NEDRA (

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Re: Design News: The Top-Ten-Selling Electric Cars

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On 5 Mar 2019 at 8:52, Len Moskowitz via EV wrote:

> In polls, Americans have repeatedly said they see EVs as the future.
> But with their wallets, theyTMre saying something else.

I've found pretty much the same story anecdotally for 30+ years.  Everybody
I talk to about EVs thinks they're a great idea -- for someone else.  
There's always some reason that an EV can't possibly work for the person I'm
talking to.  But they're a great idea!

David Roden - Akron, Ohio, USA
EVDL Administrator

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Please discuss EV drag racing at NEDRA (

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