This evening, the 2018 Nissan Leaf electric car will make its long-awaited debut at events in Tokyo, Las Vegas, and elsewhere around the world.
The Leaf remains the world’s highest-volume electric car, with more than 280,000 of the first-generation cars delivered since December 2011 (112,000 of those in the U.S.).
That number, however, is considerably lower than the rosy forecasts issued by Nissan’s then-CEO Carlos Ghosn before the car was introduced.
The Leaf, in fact, points to the many deep challenges facing all automakers as they move more aggressively into battery-electric vehicles.
Those range from consumer education to battery durability, and extend even into areas like the need for nationwide DC fast-charging networks.
So a set of statistics from Edmunds on the state of electric cars in the U.S. provides a good reality check on the eve of the Leaf launch.
Battery-electric vehicles, those with only a battery to power them, remain at less than 1 percent of the U.S. new-car market.
They represented 0.1 percent back in 2012; so far this year, they make up 0.6 percent of all new vehicles purchased.
But when you add in both conventional and plug-in hybrids, the share has stayed constant: 3.5 percent in 2012, 3.3 percent so far in 2017.
That said, vehicles from one single manufacturer make up almost half the US market for electric cars from all makers.
That would be Tesla, whose Model S and Model X together represented 47.5 percent of the all-electric vehicles sold so far this year, according to Edmunds’ data.
This year, the Chevrolet Bolt EV has displaced the Nissan Leaf as the third best-selling electric car; the 238-mile electric hatchback had its best-ever month in August, while the 107-mile Leaf dropped to fourth place.
Tesla is located in California, which has led the U.S. for half a century—and sometimes the world—in reducing vehicle emissions and improving energy efficiency.
That state’s buyers may have crossed a tipping point of sorts, as the state’s share of overall U.S. electric-car sales has actually risen.
Five years ago, Californians bought 41 percent of the all-electric cars sold in the U.S. The total number of such sales is far higher now, but now 56 percent of them are sold in California.