California Plug-in Sales Led The US Last Year With Nearly Five-Times Greater Market Share

Did you ever wonder why carmakers make several plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) targeted just for California?

A big reason is its Air Resources Board swings a heavy stick, influencing other states’ regulations in the process, and federal rules are driving things as well, but any way you slice it, California is America’s capital of plug-in cars.

Want us to quantify that? OK, if California were its own country, its 62,166 plug-in electrified vehicle sales last year – at 54.5 percent of the entire U.S. total of 114,064 – would make it the third-biggest market on a percentage basis.

Specifically, its market share of 3.1 percent PEVs ranks behind only the high-flying, subsidized-to-the-hilt Netherlands (9.7 percent) and Norway (22.7 percent(!). The administrative territory of Hong Kong’s 4.8 percent PEV share also beats it, but remember, California is a huge market.

Last year, the California New Dealers Association documented 2,052,750 passenger vehicle registrations out of the U.S.’ 17.47 million total.

Fiat 500e. Cute car? Want one? You can buy it anywhere you want, as long as it is in California or Oregon.

Fiat 500e. Cute car? Want one? You can buy it anywhere you want, as long as it is in California or Oregon.

The state no longer beats China like it did in 2014, as China has surged with 176,627 passenger “new energy vehicles,” including “ghost” sales allegedly made up on the books by unscrupulous sellers gaming the system.

SEE ALSO: Why Europe Has Passed the US As Number One In Plug-in Electrified Vehicles

But California with its zero-emissions vehicle mandates calling for one-in-seven ZEVs by 2025 and a higher percentage of residents who are on board with green transportation priorities dwarfs the U.S. as a whole.

Its 3.1 percent PEV market share is 4.7-times higher than the 0.66 percent the U.S. achieved for 2015.

Broken down, the number of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) sold in California was 34,444 for a 1.7 percent market share – up 1.6 percent from 2014. Its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) market share from 27,722 sales was 1.4 percent – down from 1.6 percent in 2014.

Since 2010, California has spoken for 191,650 PEVs, or 47.3 percent of the entire purchase history for the U.S.

The Golden State is on track for a 200,000 milestone during the first quarter of this year, and its 191,650 PEVs is nearly an even split between BEVs and PHEVs. Specifically, its cumulative 97,484 BEV sales since 2010, and 94,166 PHEVs work out to 50.9 percent BEVs, 49.1 percent PHEVs.

Chevy Spark EV. Sold In California, Oregon, and now Maryland. Only,

Chevy Spark EV. Sold In California, Oregon, and now Maryland. Only,

What’s more, California last year grew its PEV market while its shrunk in the U.S. as a whole, and while it was at it, its general car market also surpassed the U.S. growth rate.

“While U.S. sales fell 7.5 percent in 2015,” observed sales tracker Mario R. Duran, “California’s PEV sales climbed from 59,485 in 2014 to 62,166 in 2015, up 4.5 percent!”

Yep, California is on a roll, and the state’s new car dealer association reported new car vehicle registrations surged for the sixth straight year.

“The [total passenger vehicle] market was up a sizable 11.1 percent from 2014, easily eclipsing the 5.2 percent increase in the nation,” observed the CNDA.

What was the best selling PEV? Homegrown Tesla Model S, are you surprised? California spoke for 10,273 or 42.5 percent of 25,202 U.S. sales. The Model S was also the third-best selling car in the luxury and sports segment, behind the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, but EVs still have a way to go before they supplant regular hybrids.

California’s hybrid sales were at 5.8 percent last year, down from 6.3 percent in 2014, and 6.8 percent in 2013, but the Toyota Prius still reigned high.

Even on a down year in anticipation of the 2016 revision of the Prius Liftback, the Prius family documented 72,040 registrations in 2015 and was counted as the state’s third-best selling passenger vehicle.


2016 Chevy Volt – distributed to 11 states following California rules. The rest of the country gets a 2017 early this year.

The Prius has fallen from second place last year and first place the year before, and the number one car this year is the Honda Civic with Ford’s F-150 counted as the top-selling light truck.

SEE ALSO: 200-Plus Mile Range Electric Cars We’re Looking Forward To

Whether the state will keep up the momentum is in question, however.

“There are some indications that new vehicle sales are approaching a cyclical peak and the economic outlook is becoming cloudier,” said the CNDA. “But the combination of very low fuel prices, high demand for light trucks, and strong consumer affordability should help the market increase this year, with registrations remaining above the 2 million unit mark.”

You read that right – high demand for trucks, and on another day that would be a bigger story.

Plug-in cars at this point are a slim margin even in the number one state, but automakers globally are responding to a market now firmly underway, and new models are coming as the selling proposition improves as well.