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Blog: 2023 – The Year in Clean Cars

By Chris Harto, Senior Policy Analyst, Transportation and Energy, Consumer Reports

The year 2023 in many ways marked a return to normal for the automotive market. Supply chain snarls that had hindered vehicle supply for the previous two years had largely abated by the end of the year leading to greater vehicle availability and growing sales. EPA greenhouse gas standards snapped back to their previous pace of year over year improvement after a two year hiatus under the previous administration’s (un)SAFE rule helping to support growing sales of cleaner cars. 


But under the surface, much change was still taking place. High interest rates tested vehicle affordability. New, stricter requirements for federal EV tax credits began to be phased in. EPA and NHTSA proposed strong new emissions and fuel economy standards for 2027-2032. Federal EV infrastructure funds through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program began to roll out to states. Automakers coalesced around Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) for EV charging. 


What did all this mean for sales of clean cars in 2023? We dug into the sales numbers reported by Wards Intelligence to find out. 


Strong Growth for All Types of Electrified Vehicles in 2023


Electrified vehicles accounted for more than 50% of the 1.7 million unit growth in US automotive sales in 2023. Plug-in vehicles reached 10% market share in Q4, and strong hybrids accounted for another 8%, for a total of 18%. Sales growth was strong among all types of electrified vehicles including strong hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). This strong sales growth isn’t surprising. CR research this year found that popular BEVs and Hybrids were both cost effective ways for consumers to save money while reducing their emissions.


Battery Electric Vehicle Sales Growth Was Driven by More Affordable Models


While BEV sales saw strong growth in 2023, that growth was not evenly distributed among BEV models. A total of 9 BEV models starting under $40k (after accounting for the federal EV tax credit) accounted for 2/3rds of all BEV sales! The remaining 51 BEVs on the market made up 1/3rd of the EV market, with most selling fewer than 20,000 units each. Automakers looking to grow their BEV sales in 2024 and beyond would be smart to find a way to deliver more affordable models.

What to expect in 2024?


Here are a few things we’ll be paying attention to in 2024:


  • What do finalized EPA and NHTSA standards look like?
  • How quickly can automakers adapt to new EV tax credit restrictions?
  • More chargers getting built with NEVI funding.
  • Automakers rolling out NACS adapters.
  • More 3 row SUV BEVs.
  • Automaker BEV production delays.


Stay tuned!