Despite lagging inventories impacting auto manufacturing, battery-powered electric vehicle sales reached an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2021. Nearly 150,000 battery electric cars were purchased in the fourth quarter, amid gas hikes and car prices hitting record highs.
According to a 2021 year-end report from Kelley Blue Book (KBB), nearly 1.5 million electrified vehicles — a category that includes electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids — were sold in the U.S. in 2021, a year-over-year increase of nearly 86%.
How electric vehicles sales grew in 2021
Overall, electrified vehicles — remember, electrified is the more all-encompassing category — accounted for 9.7% of all sales last year, helped by an 11.8% share in the fourth quarter. While these figures could seem low, they represent a major shift from 2020. Here's what changed year over year between 2020 and 2021:
- Electric vehicle sales grew by 89%
- Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales grew by 84.4%
- Electrified vehicle sales grew by 85.9%
KBB presumes sales might have been even higher were it not for supply chain issues and low inventory.
In August, nearly 20% of Americans cited Tesla as their dream electric vehicle maker, so it's no surprise that the manufacturer took the majority market share in 2021. Teslas accounted for 72% of all sales that year — though that figure is down from 80% in 2020. Notably, four Tesla models were among the 25 different electric vehicles reported as sold in the fourth quarter.
Projections for electric vehicles in 2022
Electric vehicle sales will likely continue to grow throughout 2022. As gas prices remain high, fuel economy may be a key driver of sales. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's 2022 Fuel Economy Guide, electric vehicles rank among the most fuel-efficient cars in nearly every popular class.
According to Cox Automotive — the parent company of KBB — the two most significant roadblocks to purchasing an electric vehicle are price and vehicle range concerns. Despite this, nearly 40% of consumers in the market for a new car told Cox, in a study published in November, that they’d consider an electric vehicle. Separate research from Cars.com earlier in 2021 found that 86% of electric vehicle owners said the next car they purchase would also be electric.
Buyers considering an electric vehicle this year have the added incentive of a tax credit of up to $7,500 for new, all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
Whatever reservations buyers may have, a slight majority of U.S. consumers favor transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles. According to an October poll, 55% said they would support a full phase-out of all new gas vehicle sales by 2030.
In the meantime, buyers will have a growing variety of options. More than a dozen new electric vehicle models are expected to launch in 2022, including several SUVs and pickups. Meanwhile, according to Consumer Reports, almost 100 pure electric models are expected to hit the market by the end of 2024.