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California Dominates US Electric Car Sales — 30 California Cities Show Why

An interesting analysis of the California electric vehicle market was recently published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), providing a nice overview of the effects of various policies and promotional activities in effect there through 2015, as well as lessons for other locations/jurisdictions.

The analysis is based around city-level data on electric vehicles for 30 different cities, including adoption rates, public charging infrastructure availability, model availability, promotional efforts, incentives, etc.

The graph and chart below show exactly why such an analysis could be illuminating — electric vehicle (EV) adoption rates in many Californian cities are much higher than elsewhere in the country, and California as a whole is home to about half of all US EV sales.

ev-sales-models-california-usa ev-sales-california-usa


The executive summary for the analysis provides more: “As shown, there are 30 California cities with from 6% to 18% electric vehicle share of new vehicle sales. This amounts to 8 to 25 times that of the US average in 2015. These vehicle markets range greatly in size, from hundreds of electric vehicle sales up to approximately 4,000 in the case of San Jose. These cities tended to have about 20 electric vehicle models locally available over 2015, far more than generally is the case across other US cities, as well as other California cities.”

ev-charging-california-usa ev-share-ev-actions-california-cities

In addition to the aforementioned factors (infrastructure, incentives, availability, promotional efforts, etc.), it’s clear that median income levels play a part as well — not surprising considering the relatively high cost of current electric vehicle models.

Interestingly, though, “some factors we examined (California Clean Vehicle Rebate claim rate and the prevalence of single-family homes) were not linked with electric vehicle uptake. Furthermore, other factors for which data was not available (such as the income of electric vehicle purchasers specifically, rather than city-level median income) or that cannot be quantified (such as cultural differences between cities) could be influencing electric vehicle uptake in these cities.”


There were 3 primary conclusions that resulted from the analysis, according to those involved:

  • “Comprehensive policy support is helping support the electric vehicle market. Consumers in California benefit from federal and state electric vehicle incentives, as well as from persistent local action and extensive charging infrastructure. The Zero-Emission Vehicle program has increased model availability and provided relative certainty about vehicle deployment that local stakeholders can bank on. The major metropolitan areas in California had 3 to 13 times the average US electric vehicle uptake in 2015.”
  • “Local promotion activities are encouraging the electric vehicle market. The 30 cities in California with the highest electric vehicle uptake — with 8 to 25 times the US electric vehicle uptake — have seen the implementation of abundant, wide-ranging electric vehicle promotion programs involving parking, permitting, fleets, utilities, education, and workplace charging. These cities tend to be smaller, but Oakland and San Jose are also within the high electric vehicle uptake cities. There were twelve cities with electric vehicle market shares of new vehicles from 10% to 18% in 2015 including Berkeley, Manhattan Beach, and many throughout Silicon Valley.”
  • “The electric vehicle market grows with its charging infrastructure. The 30 California cities with the highest electric vehicle uptake have, on average, 5 times the public charging infrastructure per capita than the US average. In addition, workplace charging availability in the San Jose metropolitan area is far higher than elsewhere. Increasingly, major public electric power utilities and workplaces are expanding the public charging network to further address consumer confidence and convenience.”

Interesting, though not surprising, findings.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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