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Sales of Plug-in Vehicles Surged in 2013

For the first time ever, sales of plug-in vehicles came within a hair of hitting the 100,000 mark in 2013, jumping by 84 percent from the previous year as a flood of new products came to market.

Conventional hybrid vehicles scored a more modest but still strong 15 percent increase in demand last year, reaching an all-time record of nearly 500,000 sales. Together, all battery-based vehicles still captured less than 4 percent of the total U.S. new vehicle market, less than the total number of F-Series pickups Ford Motor Co. sold for just the first 11 months of 2013.

Nonetheless, advocates contend that the numbers show a growing interest in battery-based vehicles, something that’s backed up by several recent surveys showing more American motorists are considering the technology as a viable alternative.

They have a growing list to choose from, with 16 different plug-based offerings reaching U.S. showrooms last year. With yet more new battery-based vehicles coming this year, the consensus is that sales of plug-based vehicles – both plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles, or PHEVs and BEVs – will smash through the 100,000 mark in the coming year, though the segment is likely to remain a small niche for the foreseeable future.

Among the new models coming in 2014 are the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid and the Tesla Model X battery-electric crossover.

PHEVs generated 49,000 sales last year, a 27 percent increase from 2012, while sales of pure battery-electric models jumped a substantial 241 percent year-over-year to a collective 47,600.

The big gainers were the Tesla Model S, with sales of 18,800, and the Nissan Leaf, which sold 22,610. Leaf sales rose 130 percent for the year, with the battery-car gaining momentum after production was shifted from Japan to a new assembly line in Tennessee – and after Nissan cut the price.

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