While electric vehicle sales have hit record levels for most of 2016, overall volumes remain insignificant compared to the rest of the auto market. The reasons are various, but at least one is clear: consumers remain in a holding pattern as they wait for longer-range EVs at reasonable prices. Once the Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 make their way to market by 2017, we could see a major jump in sales.
Until then, we’ll have to deal with incremental range upgrades and the arrival of new plug-in vehicles expected to hit the U.S. market in 2016. America’s early adopters have not had some of the options available in Europe and Japan, but that’s going to change soon. According to Navigant Research, this influx of new products and expanded inventory of existing EVs could be enough to jolt the segment 62%, year over year.
Here are the three new plug-in models Navigant expects to do the most damage in 2016.
1. Prius Prime
In its bullish forecast, Navigant cited the potential the Toyota Prius Prime has on the U.S. market when it lands in late 2016, something echoed by the automaker recently. Toyota saw the range bump (to 22 miles, double that of the first-gen plug-in hybrid), easy charging system, and differentiation from the standard Prius as reasons its new plug-in will be a hit on the U.S. market.
We find it tough to argue with this reasoning. Prime is set to have the best economy for any plug-in hybrid on the market at 120 miles per gallon combined. Even without access to HOV lanes in California (the stickers are all used up), it’s not a stretch to expect Toyota’s prediction of 2,500 sales a month coming true.
2. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the best-selling plug-in model in Europe, has never seen an American road. That’s supposed to change in 2016 when the long-awaited plug-in SUV finally hits U.S. dealerships in the fall. Considering the many delays we’ve witnessed in this roll-out, we have to take the Missouri approach here and have Mitsubishi “show me” the actual vehicle along with some detailed specs before believing it.
While the electric Outlander made its debut at the New York Auto Show, we still don’t have essential specs like EV range, economy, and pricing. That keeps us in the skeptical corner. Still, it has all the ingredients to sell quite well when it arrives, so we buy the idea it will put a jolt in segment sales at some point. Hopefully, that happens in 2016.
3. Tesla Model X
While Tesla Model X is not technically one of the brand new plug-in vehicles, the automaker’s production constraints make it a limited-edition vehicle on the U.S. market. As plant volumes ramp up this year, there ought to be several thousand deliveries a month. Added to a segment where there was no equivalent in 2015, Model X will boost the overall numbers a great deal.
According to InsideEVs, Model X peaked at 2,180 sales in what may turn out to be a record June by the time all vehicles are counted. In fact, that surge in Model X and S deliveries could make June 2016 the best month ever for electric vehicles in America. Navigant expects more of the same in the second half of the year. It will take several things going right, but the forecast seems well-grounded in reality.