By on September 5, 2013

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Analyzing data from Polk, Melissa Burden of the Detroit News reports that more than 35% of all new electric vehicle sales in the United States through June of this year have been in registered in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan regions and that a majority of EVs are being sold in just five cities. Joining LA and San Francisco on the list where EVs are popular are the Seattle, Atlanta and New York City areas.

EV market share in California climbed from 0.4% to 1.1% year to date, with over 9,700 deliveries. “A lot of the manufacturers have targeted California for the launch of their electric vehicle product,” said Brian Maas, president of the California auto dealers’ association, said. “Our consumers are cutting-edge and early adopters in this area.”

Polk attributed EV’s success in the Golden State to its residents’ reputation for being environmentally friendly. Also, EVs are permitted to use carpool lanes in the state and they are eligible for state incentives on top of the federal tax credit for hybrid and electric cars. California also has more of an infrastructure for charging electric cars. About 1,400 of the 6,440 U.S. charging stations are in California, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Nissan reports that San Francisco and Los Angeles are also their top two markets, but that it is seeing growth in other regions, mentioning Honolulu, Nashville (the Leaf is assembled in Tennessee), St. Louis, Chicago, Denver and Dallas as among the top 15 markets for the Leaf.

Another factor for EV’s apparent popularity in California is that some automakers only sell their EVs there, like the Fiat 500e. The 2014 Spark EV from Chevolet is only sold in California and Oregon. GM gives charging infrastructure, a reputation for being early adopters, financial and carpool incentives and the mandate of selling a certain number of zero-emission vehicles as reasons for focusing on those states.

California’s zero-emission vehicle regulations mandate penalties for car makers unless 15.4% of the cars they sell in the state by 2025 are powered by electric, hybrid or fuel cells. Oregon laws in this regard follow California’s lead. Honda’s Fit EV is available for lease only in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island, states with mandates, favorable incentives, or a charging infrastructure. The Ford Focus EV is sold nationwide, but almost half of its sales in 2013 are in California, with Washington also doing well.

Sales of EVs in general are up this year. Tesla reports over 10,000 Model S cars sold through July, and Nissan Leaf sales are up 230% year to year over the same period, with 11,703 Leafs sold.

Hybrids and EVs are expected jointly take about a 4% market share this year, up form 3.4% in 2012. Price cuts and cheap leases on vehicles like the Leaf and Chevy Volt have spurred interest in battery powered and hybrid cars. Like the battery powered vehicles, demand for hybrids is localized with a third of new hybrids being registered in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, according to Polk. The Toyota Prius is California’s best selling vehicle so far in 2013, and hybrids have a 7% market share in the state.

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23 Comments on “Hybrids and EVs Experience Strong Regional Growth, 35% of EVs Are Sold in California...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    how many % of total car sales are in CA? Since CA is rich and large, I’d assume 10-15%? So the 35% of EV isn’that big, considering EV only have a % total market share and some models are only sold in CA (hard to gain market share elsewhere if they don’t sell any).

    1.1% marketshare is a respcetable number, considering some luxury or sparts cars have much less.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      For new car sales, we reported sales figures for 2011(I’m sorry if this isn’t recent enough), and according to figures used by AAA and Polk, the state of California accounted for 17 percent of all sales. NPR’s Automotive industry reporter(was based in Detroit, now reports from Culver City, CA)Sonari Glinton gave a sales report just yesterday, but I’m not sure if he did a state by state account. He was basically reporting on the importance of the California market.

    • 0 avatar
      walker42

      California buys about 20% of the cars/light trucks sold in the US.

  • avatar

    “Polk attributed EV’s success in the Golden State to its residents’ reputation for being environmentally friendly.”

    I was under the impression EV’s weren’t environmentally friendly. Also, aren’t motorcycles huge polluters & very popular in California as well?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX (formerly gslippy)

      It depends on how clean your local electricity generator is. Here in western PA, dirty coal-fired electricity means my Leaf is about 10% cleaner than a 30 mpg car – arguably break-even. Every other source of electricity would be even better.

    • 0 avatar

      They are environmentally friendly, if you don’t consider the impacts from mining the rare metals to make the batteries, disposal of the used batteries, and the fact that most of the electricity in the US comes from coal and natural gas.

      Still, I like the technology and it does have the potential to reduce our need on foreign oil.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        They are still more “envinronmentally friendly” than gasoline even considering those factors. Remember, Oil still has to be produced, refined, shipped, etc. ICEs require extracting metals, refining, etc. Batteries are recycled. And even using coal as a primary electric source, the total pollution for operation still at least matches a 30 mpg (ave) car.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        If you think about it, the environmental impact of a new vehicle is roughly proportionate to its weight.

        If a particular vehicle type is more recyclable – or it has major components that are more aggressively recycled or reused (Toyota has a bounty on the Prius battery, for example) – its impact is reduced.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        Electric power from natural gas is is cleaner than getting the same energy from petroleum. I think coal is the only power source that doesn’t turn out to be better. California isn’t dependent on coal though. Here it’s a lot of natural gas, some hydroelectric, and a bit of nuclear.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Please excuse my cynicism, but I have a feeling that the ability to use carpool lanes is a bigger motivation for the purchase than environmental correctness. Not that you’d get any of the owners to admit that in public.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        We don’t have special access for carpool lanes for EVs or hybrids in WA State, but that doesn’t stop people from buying lots of Teslas and Nissan Leafs around the Seattle area. Tech money likes EVs and hybrids.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        you are gladly excused ;)
        I see Teslas all over the NY/NJ/Cy/MA area and we northeasterners laugh in the general direction of your carpool lanes. Keep in mind that the Model S is literally eating the lunch of the executive class cars. Tesla is outpacing pretty much all the competition in the A6/E Classe/A7/A8/S Classe/7 Series. I don’t know if it’s out rocking the 5 series, but its confusing and scaring the Germans in a completely irrational way not seen since Bastogne.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX (formerly gslippy)

        I’m nowhere near carpool lanes, and I’m not a greenie, either.

        I really liked the driving experience of the Leaf (in my case), the low cost of operation, simple drivetrain, and I got a good deal (which included the socialist Bush/Obama money).

      • 0 avatar
        Christian Gulliksen

        As hybrids and EVs become commonplace, there’s actually much less eco-pretense. My godfather recently traded in his Lexus LS 460 on a Chevy Volt and quite gleefully tells strangers (who often ask questions) about his carpool sticker and how few gallons of gas he has used since buying it. (The latter from a perspective of saving money, not saving resources.)

      • 0 avatar
        Waterview

        +1

        Couldn’t agree more and, heck, I’d do the same thing. Perhaps California legislators aren’t really interested in the motivation behind the purchase as long as voters do what they’re told.

        If it would save me from having to sit in their silly traffic for an extra 30 minutes a day, I’d buy one too and I’m about as far from being a “tree hugger” as they come.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “Nissan reports that San Francisco and Los Angeles are also their top two markets, but that it is seeing growth in other regions, mentioning Honolulu…”

    I never gave it much though before, but Honolulu is somewhere an EV actually makes pretty good sense. Consistently high fuel prices, and just about any point to point trip on the island won’t exceed the range of most EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      Conversely, HI is the state with the highest electricity prices. @$0.2121 per KWh, that works out to about 6.5 cents a mile, so still cheaper than gas. Of course, HI imports most of it’s energy to produce electricity in the form of oil. It’s the only state that uses a majority of oil for power. Just goes to show that it IS more efficient to drive on electricity, even when the electricity comes from oil…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX (formerly gslippy)

    A variety of factors have made Norway the most EV-friendly country in the world. Socialist rebates, good geography, favorable weather (well, sort of), and good infrastructure have all played a role. Who could have guessed?

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I can vouch for Seattle. There are plenty of Tesla Model S’s on the road here – comparing favorably to late-model Audi A6s or Lexus GS.

    There are plenty of Leafs around as well, despite the sub-100 mile range of that car.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Same here – on the Eastside of Seattle, EVs are everywhere – so common that I don’t even notice them anymore. I’ll be in traffic and notice a Tesla behind me and one or two Leafs ahead of me, at the same moment.

      I’d buy one myself if I had the disposable income. My neighbor recently leased a Leaf and hasn’t bought any gasoline for over three months now. His other car is a Magnum hemi wagon.

      I also have another neighbor down the street who bought a Mitsu i-MiEV. I talked to him one day and he really likes it. It also has both of the common charger ports, one on each side, along with the slow-poke on-board 120V charger if he needs it.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I can say that in Toronto, with our somewhat-adverse climate and a tendency for long commuting distances (and a reasonably decent public transit system for those commuting within Toronto proper), and with a big percentage of the population living in condo buildings with no realistic way of recharging, the pure-EV market share is within a rounding error of zero.

    On the road in this area, I’ve seen a couple of Leafs, a couple of iMiEVs, and five or six Teslas total, ever.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Don’t forget too, that California is a pretty ideal place for EVs, particularly in LA and SF. VERY mild weather. Commutes are relatively low-speed, and often fairly short in distance, though not in time. Contrast this with Maine, where it is cold, wet, and dark 1/2 the year, there is no traffic so people drive 80mph, and distances for commutes can be quite long.

    Someone on here said it very well that a Tesla is an ideal vehicle in which to sit in traffic on a sunny day and look cool.

    As for luxury cars, Tesla is kind of like Apple in computers (not tablets), they make a big splash, are the new shiny, and may be the biggest selling individual brand, and in SOME places you see a ton of them, but their slice of the total highly fragmented market is quite small. But good for them, I hope they actually make real money out of the cars someday!


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