California Celebrates One-Quarter Million Plug-in Cars Sold

Announced a couple weeks early to coincide with this week’s start of the LA Auto Show, Californians are celebrating the 250,000th plug-in electrified vehicle sold in state.

As a representative at the epicenter of the plug-in car movement, the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative projects more than a quarter million PEVs will have been sold since 2010 by the end of November.

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The PEVC – using data acquired from HybridCars.com – is also celebrating a broadening market with many more units sold, and new longer-range, and more exciting models coming along.

“Just a few years ago, you could count the number of plug-in models on one hand. Times have changed,” said PEV Collaborative Executive Director Christine Kehoe. “Today, anyone thinking about buying a car can check out more than 30 electric models. And with federal and state rebates, they are more affordable than ever.”

2017-Chevrolet-BoltEV1-668x409

The HybridCars.com Dashboard presently counts 26 plug-in cars – 14 plug-in hybrids, including the discontinued Cadillac ELR, and 12 battery electric cars. If one breaks out sub models – like the BMW i3 and i3 REX, etc. – and includes maybe a fringe model or two, then the count can arguably be over 30.

In any event, the market is growing, and as we speak the first over 200-mile range EV priced with subsidies under $30,000 – the Chevy Bolt – is being launched in California and Oregon, and is due to roll out in the rest of the country beginning early next year.

PEV Central

California is a very unique market from a global perspective that since 2010 has all by itself consumed 46 percent of all PEVs sold in the U.S.

The U.S., counting sales back to 2008, has purchased 532,754 PEVs through October 2016. Of these 119,748 were purchased just in the last 10 months from January through October.

During the last half of 2016, California has accounted for 49.7 percent of all PEV sales, has seen as high as 55 percent of U.S. market share, and why is this, you may ask?

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Is it because California consumers are just so much more progressive than all others in the U.S.?

While some may argue yes, more potent stimulus comes down to the policies and realities that stoke both supply and demand.

California is the one state that has legal right to make zero-emission rules alongside the U.S. EPA, and they are actually more aggressive, and weighted to incentivizing and encouraging automakers to sell electrified cars, including fuel cell vehicles.

“Along with growing consumer demand, California’s clean car programs are credited with helping spur electric vehicle innovation and have encouraged automakers to invest in next-generation electric car technology,” said the PEVC today in a statement.

That’s a benign way of saying California swings a heavy stick and is ready to penalize carmakers who do not sell in state. California is known therefore for what are called “compliance cars” that comply with California ZEV rules.

UCS_USmap

As the Union of Concerned Scientists has shown in its Electrifying the Vehicle Market report, California gets all the best PEVs – more variety and quantity – than any other state.

Other states that follow California’s ZEV rules also have policies in place offering rebates to consumers that add to federal consumer tax credits nationally available, but it is California that is the epicenter.

Only the nation of China has more plug-in cars on the road, as that also-policy driven country has been catching up fast since 2014.

Source: UCS.

Source: UCS.

As you’d thus expect, on a market-share basis, California basically crushes the rest of the country. The percentage of PEV sales in the 17.5-million passenger vehicle U.S. market is a slim 0.8 percent more or less.

California last year has exceeded this by nearly five times statewide, and hot spots in California are far above the lower 3 percent state average.

Number one is San Jose, which has bought 9.4 percent plug ins. This is followed by Santa Cruz with 5.8 percent, San Francisco with 5.3 percent, and Eureka at 4.8 percent.

The only place on the world map that beats these uptake percentages is Norway – itself an outlier, and which buys 25 percent PEVs in its tiny market of 5.1 million people.

In the U.S., only Boulder Colo. gets close with 3.2 percent PEV sales.

Source: UCS.

Source: UCS.

Such realities – that include greater proliferation and public spending on charging infrastructure and car manufacturers and dealers on board with the agenda – are the dismay of PEV advocates in other parts of the country.

For example, in the Northeast, where many consumers are in tune with the environmental and oil-reducing advantages of plug-in cars, supply is less, and carmakers – driven by regulations – have been slower to market and supply PEVs.

The flip-side to California getting the lion’s share, and other states being in the have-nots index is that if California had not pushed carmakers as hard as it did, others would be much less likely to have as many PEVs, if any.

The most anticipated product yet to come – 2018 Model 3. Around 400,000 reservation holders have a place in line for the projected $35,000 and up car with 215 or more miles range.

The most anticipated product yet to come – 2018 Model 3. Around 400,000 reservation holders have a place in line for the projected $35,000 and up car with 215 or more miles range.

The U.S. EPA, though being fought now by automakers who say its rules are too tough, has made it possible for them to meet emission and mpg regs through 2025 with just 1-3 percent PEVs.

Mainstream media may misleadingly report that 2025 federal rules dictate nearly 55 mpg, but that is not what will be on window stickers. Window sticker values may be between 37-40 mpg on average under 2025 federal rules – up from mid 20s mpg today.

And meanwhile, the push continues in California, which before 2050 wants 100 percent zero emission vehicles, today leads the way, and momentum has continued despite setbacks.

In November, California did cut back its consumer incentive program to exclude high income families, and earlier this year “green stickers” allowing solo HOV access for plug-in hybrid owners was temporarily halted, but a fire has otherwise been lit.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with additional data.