How Many Electric Cars Are There in the USA?

One thing that’s unique about good ole ‘Merica is that everyone seems to have a car. If you don’t own a car, people usually think you’re a hippy or an alcoholic. Estimates put the number of cars and trucks in the United States at between 250-260 million vehicles for a country with 318 million people. In 2016 alone, around 17.5 million brand new trucks and cars were sold. With all this talk about autonomous cars dominating the roadways, it’s going to take quite a while for us to be rid of all these vehicles we’ve built. Of course we can retrofit them, but we’d like to think that the ubiquitous autonomous car of the future will be an electric one. This made us think. Just how many electric cars are on the road today?

There’s this new term going around these days which is “content marketing”. What this means is that instead of vomiting PR drivel all over your corporate website and expecting people to break down your door trying to buy your product, you create content that is useful instead. People then share your content which draws attention to your company. An electric car charging company we’ve talked about before called ChargePoint has put out a report titled “The State of EV Charging in 2016” and it’s simply nails the whole concept of content marketing. Here’s a chart from the report that shows the growth of electric cars:

In November of 2016, there were 540,000 electric cars on the road in the USA. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only .22% of all cars on the road in the USA. If we look at yearly production numbers, it still paints a miniscule picture. In 2016, there were around 17.5 million cars produced of which only 134,000 were electric (about .77%). So who is selling all these electric cars?

Mention an electric car and most people will think about the quick rise of Tesla which is now a powerhouse in the industry. With Tesla’s success, a large number of auto manufacturers followed suit, and released their own electric cars. Here’s a look at all the electric car models that were sold from November 2015 to November 2016, courtesy of the content marketing geniuses over at ChargePoint:

Now if we distill these numbers down to distinct auto manufacturers this is what we get:

 Auto Company Market Cap Cars % Total
Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA)  39 billion 38,254 28.9%
General Motors (NYSE:GM)  55 billion 24,066 18.2%
Ford (NYSE:F)  50 billion 22,278 16.8%
BMW (ETR:BMW)  58 billion 14,351 10.8%
Nissan (OTCMKTS:NSANY)  42 billion 12,107 9.1%
Fiat (NYSE:FCAU)  17 billion 3,735 2.8%
Audi (OTCMKTS:AUDVF)  29 billion 3,692 2.8%
Volkswagen (ETR:VOW)  76 billion 3,494 2.6%
Hyundai (KRX:005380)  26 billion 2,750 2.1%
Porsche (ETR:PAH3)  8 billion 2,349 1.8%
Volvo (STO:VOLV-A)  19 billion 1,811 1.4%
Kia (KRX:000270)  13 billion 1,531 1.2%
Daimler AG (ETR:DAI)  80 billion 1,244 0.9%
Toyota (NYSE:TM)  184 billion 833 0.6%
Mitsubishi Motors (TYO:7211)  9 billion 91 0.1%

Pretty much every single major auto manufacturer is selling an electric car now. This rapid adoption has been influenced by a number of factors including improvements in battery storage, the ever increasing availability of charging stations (thank you ChargePoint), and culture shifts that make owning an electric vehicle more trendy. So where are all these electric cars being driven? Again, ChargePoint comes through with a useful map that shows us where the dominant states are for penetration and growth:

In order to understand what’s working for electric car makers so far, let’s take a closer look at those electric cars which sold more than 10,000 units in 2016 and try to understand what’s behind the growth of these most popular models.

Tesla Model S – 29,158 Sold

It should not come as a surprise that Tesla continues to dominate the electric vehicle market. This is the 2nd year in a row that the Tesla Model S was the top selling electric vehicle, and the first year that the Model X has joined it near the top of the list. Their upcoming $35,000 model, the Tesla Model 3, has interested buyers on a nearly 2-year long waiting list before they receive their car. Production is slated to begin in mid-2017. The Model S is available in a variety of variants, offering between 208 and 270 EPA 5-cycle range.

The Tesla Model S sales has been bolstered by the overall coolness of Tesla, and it’s founder Elon Musk’s popularity. When most people think about electric cars, they think of Tesla first. The company’s wall-mounted battery storage system, the Powerwall, received a lot of attention this year with the release of the Powerwall 2, which featured substantial improvements in energy storage. In August 2016, Tesla also acquired its founders’ other project, SolarCity, for $2.6 billion. Soon your home solar and home charging station will be at one with your Tesla.

Chevy Volt – 24,739 Sold

The hybrid-electric Chevy Volt came in 2nd place in 2016’s electric car sales with a total of 24,739 vehicles sold. Although the Volt isn’t all-electric, Chevrolet estimated an approximate total range of 420 miles, and over 1,000 miles between fill-ups with regular charging. The Chevy Volt is a precursor to the Chevy Bolt, the company’s all-electric offering that is likely to make this list at the end of 2017. The Chevy Bolt features a range of 238 miles, and has received multiple awards. General Motors sold nearly 10 million vehicles in 2015, so it’s no surprise they can make their electric car the most popular model next to Tesla.

Ford Fusion Energi PHEV – 15,938 Sold

Originally unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto show, the first retail sales of the Ford Fusion Energi began in early 2013. In 2016, the Ford Fusion Energi accounted for 11% of the electric vehicle market. Ford released a revamped version of the vehicle in their 2017 model in mid-2016, featuring more efficient electric motors, increasing its all-electric range and improving its EPA fuel economy ratings.

Tesla Model X – 17,500 Sold

The Model X, Tesla’s answer to the sports utility vehicle, sold 17,500 units in 2016. The car comfortably seats 7 with extra room for storage. It features a range between 237 and 290 miles on battery, and received a perfect 5-star review from Car and Driver magazine. Like the Model S, the Model X has several variants available with different battery kWh options, providing between 200 and 280 per charge.

Despite the fact that Tesla will begin production of the much-anticipated $35,000 Tesla Model 3 in 2017, the Model X is expected to continue to sell well. Early numbers show that both Tesla models have a good chance of maintaining top-5 sales positions in 2017.

Nissan Leaf – 14,006 Sold

The compact five-door hatchback Nissan Leaf was the fifth highest selling U.S. electric vehicle in 2016, falling from 2nd place in 2015. The car did retain 10% market share in 2016. The 2016 Nissan Leaf features at 30 kWh lithium-ion battery with 107 mile range on a full charge. The car also featured DC fast charging, which allowed the battery to go from fully discharged to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes. The Nissan Leaf was developed to be a cheaper, family-friendly vehicle for shorter driving distances and has sold well since its release. The car has also received excellent reviews from consumers.

Electric Cars to Watch in 2017

2017 should be another big year for the electric vehicle industry, with several eagerly awaited cars heading into production or being released in 2017, meaning this list could look very different come next year. A few of the electric cars that could shake things up in 2017 include:

  • Chevy Bolt. All-electric car from Chevy that comes after 7 years of selling the highly successful Chevy Volt we mentioned earlier. The early 2017 numbers for both the Volt and Bolt look promising. The Bolt offers a range of 200+ miles per charge and an affordable MSRP of $37,495.
  • BMW i3. BMW’s first major foray into electric vehicles was a decent success, but the company hopes to build upon that success with the 2017 model i3. The car was the 7th best-selling electric car in 2016 and the company updated the vehicle to include a more potent lithium-ion battery for the 2017 model, upping the vehicle’s range from 81 miles to 114 miles.
  • Ford Focus Electric. Originally released in 2011, the all-electric Ford Focus Electric lagged behind Ford’s Fusion Energi PHEV and C-Max Energi PHEV in sales in 2016. However, the company has revamped the 2017 model to offer a 50% range increase by increasing the battery capacity from 23 kWh to 33.5 kWh. Additionally, the vehicle was outfitted with DC Fast Charging, making the car capable of traveling up to 75 miles with only 30 minutes of charging.


The electric car market is changing rapidly. With each passing year, new vehicles with increased ranges and improved charging times hit the market, while old models are revamped to keep pace. After the 30%+ jump in the electric car market in 2016, experts are predicting a similar leap for 2017. With some eagerly anticipated models available in 2017 and expected shipping of the anticipated Tesla Model 3 in 2018, we’re quite certain that the 34,000 charging outlets that ChargePoint has are going to be charging a lot of electric cars.

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8 thoughts on “How Many Electric Cars Are There in the USA?
  1. The Chevy Bolt is no the successor to the Chevy Volt. They are sister cars and serve a different audience. The Volt is alive an well.

    1. Thank you for the comment Dale.

      Indeed the two cars are complimentary and not mutually exclusive. We changed the word successor because that implies that the Bolt is mean to replace the Volt when as you said, they serve two entirely separate markets.

  2. The Chevy Bolt is no the successor to the Chevy Volt. They are sister cars and serve a different audience. The Volt is alive an well.

  3. The quoted ranges for the EVs are manufacturers’ ideal driving ranges. In reality you should expect a lot less, depending on model. For example, the Nissan Leaf has inferior battery temperature management compared to a Chevy Volt, so the Leafs are not the best models for locales with big variations in seasonal temperatures.

    1. Thank you for the very insightful comment.

      You know in Hong Kong it seems like every other person owns one. The Chinese love it and it fits their climate there too, at least in the south.

  4. The quoted ranges for the EVs are manufacturers’ ideal driving ranges. In reality you should expect a lot less, depending on model. For example, the Nissan Leaf has inferior battery temperature management compared to a Chevy Volt, so the Leafs are not the best models for locales with big variations in seasonal temperatures.

  5. The article says “In November of 2016, there were 540,000 cars on the road in the USA. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only .22% of all cars on the road in the USA.”
    ??? Do you mean there are 540,000 ELECTRIC cars on the road in the USA?

    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to point that out Jason! We really appreciate that. It is now fixed.

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