Chevy Volt

ChevroletThe Chevy Volt had a pretty good year in 2012.

Green cars account for just a teeny, tiny fraction of U.S. auto sales — 3.3 percent in 2012. But that teeny, tiny fraction is growing fast!

BusinessGreen reports:

Analyst firm Mintel estimated last month that sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the US will exceed 535,000 units in 2013, a sizable increase on the 440,000 sold last year. Sales of hybrids and electric cars rose 73 per cent in 2012, making it the fastest growing segment in the US auto market.

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A separate market analysis by Pike Research “estimates annual global sales of 3.8 million electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2020,” the International Herald Tribune reports. It also “estimates that sales of plug-in cars will grow by 40 percent annually. During that same period, general car sales will grow by 2 percent.”

The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt gets some of the credit for those rising numbers. “General Motors sold three times as many Chevrolet Volts in 2012 as it did in 2011, which was the car’s first full year on the market,” reports CNN — “23,461 Volts in 2012 compared with just 7,671 in 2011.” That’s still below GM’s sales targets, but, as Climate Progress points out, it makes GM “the first American auto manufacturer to sell more than one million vehicles with a 30-mpg fuel rating.” No thanks to all the Volt-hating right-wingers out there.

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Nissan’s all-electric Leaf didn’t fare as well: Just 9,800 sold in 2012, 1.5 percent more than in 2011.

But prospects for other green cars are looking up, and there are a lot more of them to choose from. “There are currently 11 plug-in hybrid and electric models available to US consumers, compared to just three in 2011, and further new models such as BMW’s i3 and the Ford Focus Electric are set to hit forecourts in the coming months,” according to BusinessGreen.

Tesla Model S

Tesla MotorsThe Tesla Model S. The S is for sexy.

Perhaps the hottest green car out there is the all-electric Tesla Model S. From The New York Times:

In January [2012], Franz von Holzhausen, design chief at Tesla Motors, promised that … the Model S, would not only be a good E.V. but “the best sedan on the planet.”

At the time, auto reviewers mostly dismissed the words as more Silicon Valley braggadocio. But once they drove the car, many who had been Tesla doubters became E.V. believers. Automobile magazine and Motor Trend each named the Model S its car of the year.

Tesla sold about 2,500 Model S sedans in 2012, and it’s set an ambitious goal of 20,000 in 2013.

“Ford Motor’s new C-Max hybrid is also a hot-seller,” reports Forbes, “spending an average of just 17 days on dealer lots. Ford says fuel economy is now the top purchase consideration for car buyers and that customers are excited about having an alternative to the top-selling Toyota Prius hybrid.”

Speaking of Prii, “Toyota added a plug-in version to its growing family of Prius hybrids in 2012. It also added the extra-capacity Prius V wagon and the subcompact Prius C, rated at 53 m.p.g. in city driving,” says The New York Times. “Prius is now the No. 1 selling line of cars in California.”

The average price of gasoline hit an all-time annual high last year, so it’s no wonder more people want to spend less on gas.

And yeah, yeah, yeah — we should all be doing less driving and more walking, transit-taking, and cycling around with our houses on trailers. But in the meantime, green cars beat gas-guzzlers.