Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Chart: Gas-powered cars are losing market share to EVs and hybrids

Electric vehicle sales hit record heights last year. Sales of hybrids also soared. The trend is eating away at the market share of conventional cars.
By Dan McCarthy

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Two women peer inside the windows of a Toyota Prius on a dealership lot. A graphic overlay says CHART OF THE WEEK.
(Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images/Canary Media)

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

It’s been a messy few months for the U.S. electric vehicle market, but take a step back and the trend is crystal clear: Conventional gas-burning vehicles are on their way out.

Last year, traditional internal-combustion vehicles accounted for 84 percent of total passenger vehicle sales in the U.S. — their lowest-ever share of sales. Meanwhile, sales of fully electric vehicles and hybrids are climbing to new heights.

A chart breaking down U.S. sales of light-duty vehicles by powertrain from 2014–2023
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Conventional gas-powered cars still dominate the U.S. market for now, but the downward trend is a seismic shift nonetheless.

The change is driven in part by a surge in sales for hybrid vehicles with a gas-powered engine and an onboard battery but no plug, which together with plug-in hybrids made up nearly 10 percent of new car sales last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But although hybrids burn less gas than a conventional car, they don’t offer a pathway to eliminating carbon pollution from vehicles.

Battery-electric vehicles, on the other hand, do. And the good news is that sales of 100 percent electric vehicles are also on a tear. Last year, despite some market difficulties, they accounted for 7 percent of new vehicle sales.

All told, electric and hybrid vehicles made up 16 percent of new car sales in the U.S. last year.

The figures represent meaningful progress in the bid to clean up the transportation sector, which accounts for over a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. There may be more effective ways to deal with this problem — such as boosting funding for public transit or making car-free lifestyles more accessible — but in lieu of meaningful progress toward those solutions, higher EV adoption is critical to meeting U.S. emissions goals.

In recent months, EV sales have started to show signs of weakness in the U.S., especially among the country’s Big Three automakers, Ford, GM and Stellantis. The turbulence has led some analysts to forecast that the market will grow at a slower pace this year, following a record-breaking 2023. At least one analyst predicts sales will decline this year.

But a February report from Clean Investment Monitor, a joint project between Rhodium Group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, found that electric vehicle sales are on track for the U.S. to meet its climate goals — in spite of the industry’s current growing pains.

Dan McCarthy is news editor at Canary Media.