By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Electric cars continue to be an inscrutable market segment. Counter-intuitively in the face of low fuel prices, overall electric vehicles sales have increased. But the higher stats reflect the compelling new BMW i3 which was not available last year, and an increase in premium Tesla S sales, which are more fashion than value driven.

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The market-leading Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have both seen sales slides. And GM recently announced price rollbacks on its Cadillac ELR plug-in and Chevy Spark EV to spur interest. So, effectively, EV sales in the first quarter of 2015 are retreating from record 2014 levels.

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GM, Ford, Nissan and VW are toe-to-toe with Tesla trying to produce a 200 mile range all electric vehicle in the affordable $30K – $35K price range.

Meanwhile Tesla is going in the other direction with a new model that offers a 40-mile range increase for a $5,000 surcharge.

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Now non-carmaker players like Google and Virgin are also promising electric vehicles, despite the fact that electrics have yet to break 0.4 percent total US vehicle sales, and, so far, no unsubsidized company is making money on them.