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Plug-in electric car sales rose in July, but in small numbers

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Lenny Ignelzi/AP/File

(Read caption) Angie Vorhies plugs in the charging cord to her Nissan Leaf electric vehicle at a mall Nov. 13, 2013, in San Diego. US plug-in electric car sales rose in July, but electric cars still make up for a tiny part of the auto market.

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Sales of plug-in electric cars in the US continued their rise in July, as Nissan delivered more than 3,000 Leaf battery electric cars and Chevy more than 2,000 Volt range-extended electrics.

It's was only the second time that the two cars together have sold more than 5,000 units in a single month; the first was last August, when 5,771 were delivered.

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The first report this morning came in for the highest-selling electric car in the world, the Nissan Leaf. It logged 3,019 deliveries last month, bringing its year-to-date total to 15,755.

While this wasn't the Leaf's highest-ever single sales month--that would be this past May, at 3,117--it's fully 62 percent higher than the 1,864 sold in July a year ago.

Nissan attributed the sales growth to its No Charge To Charge promotion, which is now in 10 markets across the country.

“Leaf sales in the northeastern US are also picking up," said Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of LEAF Sales and Infrastructure, "with new tax incentives for Massachusetts and Maryland residents.”

The Chevrolet Volt too had its best sales month since last December, with 2,020 sold. That brings its seven-month total to 10,635.

The Volt is now in danger of being overtaken by the Leaf for total sales since both cars went on sale the same month, way back in December 2010.

As always, we don't know how many Tesla Model S luxury electric cars were sold in the U.S. because Tesla refuses to report monthly sales--or even break out its global three-month sales by month or by country.

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So, as always, we'll assume that about 1,200 Model S cars were delivered for July.

Plug-in hybrids

The next best-selling plug-in vehicles are the suite of plug-in hybrids from Toyota and Ford.

Figures for the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which takes third place in total cars on the road, will be reported later today.

Ford will report sales of its Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids tomorrow.

Low-volume and compliance cars

Following the cars above are a whole host of lower-volume vehicles. Some are purely compliance cars built to meet California zero-emission vehicle sales rules, others simply sell at lower rates for a variety of reasons.

The BMW i3, in both its battery-electric and range-extended models, delivered 363 cars--right in line with the previous two months it's been on sale--bringing its yearly total to 1,057.

Sales of the Cadillac ELR range-extended luxury coupe were 188 last month, almost twice its best previous month. Five-figure incentives help move more of the pricey Cadillac, widely viewed as up to $25,000 too expensive for its size and performance.

The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid logged sales of 41 units, bringing its seven-month total to 221.

The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is another that sells in very low numbers--though at a price of roughly $100,000, it was never going to sell thousands a month.

Among battery-electric vehicles, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV sold just 17 last month--for a yearly total of 114--and we won't get data on the the Ford Focus Electric until tomorrow.

Finally, there are the obvious compliance cars. The Honda Fit EV delivered 42 units, for a yearly total of 263, and we're still awaiting data for the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Toyota RAV4 EV.

The Fiat 500e also fits into that group, but Fiat refuses to break out sales numbers for the model.