By Jim Motavalli
12:00 PM EDT, April 10, 2013
We're now only weeks from the Connecticut-wide EV Road Rally April 27. I gave the details in a previous column, but you can get all the relevant dope at westportelectriccarclub.com.
Do you have a plug-in vehicle to bring to the party? It's increasingly likely, with all the debuts and plug-in hybrids coming on to the market. I have a $38,700 Ford Fusion Energi in the garage now, and I think it represents a credible choice for a whole range of Americans. You get 47 mpg overall, and 100 MPGe from the electric motor. The 15 or 16 miles of all-electric range isn't huge, but it's enough if you have a short commute to rarely use the gas engine. I love the high-tech interior, the big rear-seat legroom, and dock it only for a tiny trunk compromised by the lithium-ion battery.
March was a fair to middling month for electric sales. The Fusion Energi is brand new on the market, and Ford has so far sold 295 of them. That car complements an increasingly large Ford electric lineup, including the battery Focus, which sold 180 in March. That's not a lot, but it was a record for this relatively stealth car. The Ford C-Max, only available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, is doing better — 3,275 hybrids sold, and 494 C-Max Energis. On the positive side, Ford has more than quadrupled its advanced-powertrain segment from a year ago.
Americans are plainly favoring the familiar hybrid format, but I predict the plug-in version will gain market as people realize what they are and what they can do.
Nissan is now making its Leaf electrics in Tennessee, but I doubt it's the made-in-USA label that gave them a stellar month. The record sales were 2,236, a new record. It helps that the car's entry price has been reduced to $28,800, and it sports a host of improvements, including a much more efficient heat pump heater, an energy-efficient Bose stereo, better controls, and charging advances.
The rising tide didn't lift all boats. Sales of the Toyota Prius and other hybrids continue to be tied to rises and falls of gas prices. The market-leading Prius was off 23 percent from 2012 to 22,140, which earned it a place on the New York Times chart as the biggest loser. Still, 22,140 is a lot of cars.
For the month, electric sales were 5,682 (up 49 percent from a year ago). Helping those numbers were healthy sales of the Tesla Model S. The company's stock soared last week (to over $46) when CEO Elon Musk announced not only that the company had sold not 4,500 cars in the first quarter but 4,750. The company is now churning out as many as 500 Model S cars a month. Everybody wants one, including me.
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