Year in review: how hybrid, electric and plug-in cars did in 2013

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Toyota's plug-in Prius
Toyota’s plug-in Prius model could see a surge in sales this year

Plenty of exciting automotive milestones were reached in 2013, but one likely to make the Earth particularly happy? Plug-in vehicles saw their sales almost double.

That’s right, the electric and plug-in revolution finally found some traction, with sales soaring 84% from 2012 – 2013. In total, more than 96,000 units of the alternative vehicles were moved, according to Ward’s Automotive. Currently 16 plug-in models exist and with even more on the way on 2014, those numbers could see a significant increase even by mid-year.

Breaking the numbers down further, almost 49,000 of the plug-in models were sold. Those cars, which can run on traditional fuel but also have batteries that can charged by plugging the vehicle in, are up 27% in sales since 2012.

Meanwhile, fully electric cars, which run only on batteries, saw a 241% jump last year, to 47,600 units moved. The Tesla Model S, (18,800 vehicles sold in 2013) and Nissan Leaf (22,610 sold) were the most popular models sold.

Traditional hybrids also saw an increase in sales, jumping 15.3% over the previous year. The amount sold (489,413) was a new record. Maintaining their dominance in the hybrid field, more than 60% of the hybrids sold were Toyota’s Prius model. Traditional hybrids tend to be more appealing to consumers because they have super-efficient engines that help charge a battery, but don’t rely solely on them or charging stations for the vehicle to work properly.

Despite the upward trends, certain alternative to fuel cars saw their prices drastically cut in order for automakers to hit their target numbers. The Leaf, for example, had its base price dropped by 18% in order to make it more appealing to the average buyer. The continued success of hybrid and electric models depends on how well they are marketed to, and how affordable they are, for the majority of consumers. Even Toyota has had to lower the price of its new plug-in Prius after sales fell short of the original projections.

What are the takeaways from 2013’s numbers? The future is bright for hybrids, plug-ins and electric cars, but only if they remain a realistic possibility for everyday drivers. With gas-powered cars federally mandated to be more fuel efficient, the market will be increasingly competitive but consumers are still interested in the alternative choices. With gas prices continuing to drop into 2014, that could change though, so it’s important automakers be mindful of the challenges when pricing and marketing their latest Earth-friendly models.

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