Electric Car Market Mostly Based on West Coast

By · January 04, 2013


Hybrid and electric vehicle registrations in US by "Top 15" and "Bottom 15" designated markets areas (DMAs).

Electric cars are a relatively common sight in a few cities in the United States, and a rarity in most regions. That’s the takeaway of new data published by Polk, an auto industry market data firm.

The top 15 metropolitan areas accounted for 41 percent of all US electric vehicle registrations through the first 10 months of 2012. Los Angeles and San Francisco alone accounted for more than 25% of all electric vehicle sales nationally during the same time period. That adds up to nearly 2,600 EVs on roads in L.A. and San Francisco—and more than 10,000 electric vehicles throughout the top 15 markets. Nearly all of the remaining top markets are on the west coast of the U.S.


Sales break down of top EV markets. Most are located in California.

Meanwhile, in the 15 lowest ranked market areas, there were only 98 EVs sold during the first 10 months of 2012. The markets where electric vehicles are least popular are generally located in the central region of the U.S.

These findings match what Edmunds.com, working with Polk, releases in November. At the time, Edmunds.com reported that California, the country’s largest market, also ranks first for EVs, with 32 percent of all registrations. But on the other end of the scale, Michigan is ranked 20 for EV sales, although it’s 9th in overall auto registrations. Among the states for which data was released, only Louisiana ranked lower—with 0.4 percent of auto registrations represented by electric cars.

Based on the latest Polk data, and numerous surveys and studies, the rate of electric car adoption in the United States is likely to continue to be largely based on geography. EVs will make gains in dense urban environments with short commutes, adequate public charging, mild weather and a population that includes relatively wealthy, educated, conservation-minded consumers. And in cities and states characterized by sprawl, as well as apathy about green alternatives, electric cars will remain a small sliver of new car sales.


· · 5 years ago

Worth noting the Ford C-Max for the most part was not on sale for the time period which these figures represent (it did debut in October so there may be a few of them counted here).

Based on the discussions going on in the C-Max forums, it looks like the C-Max (both hybrid model and plug-in model) may have a stronger appeal in those "other" areas because it is a Ford.

If we want to go with illogical stereotypes we could say that a Ford (who did not take a "bailout") and is not a Toyota or Nissan, and especially not a "government motors" vehicle forced on the un-wanting public by a Democrat President, and it helps that it doesn't look like a granola munching smug-emitting eco-nazi vehicle.

I am not suggesting we debate bailouts, who did or did not take government money, who started the Volt program, smugness, or whether or not Nissans or Toyotas are made in the USA.

I am simply pointing out that in a *lot* of those areas where hybrids and electric vehicles are less popular there is also a lot of completely illogical opposition to the Volt, Prius, or Leaf (possible exceptions being some areas of Tennessee because of Nissan's presence there).

There is a *lot* of misinformation and political bias around these things. But the Fords seem popular with people who would otherwise not even consider a hybrid or electric vehicle.

It will be interesting to re-do this analysis when we get the year end numbers...

(Also, the Volt picked up sales in December too).

· PMcKee (not verified) · 5 years ago

The main reason we are seeing more EVs on the West Coast can be answered by looking at a map of available charging stations. Many people would love to drive an EV, but without a charging infrastructure in place in their area that is very difficult. I think cars like the Ford C-Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Energi may begin to change that a bit. Most dealers in my area are not even selling these cars (Fusion not avaialable yet) so even the people who want them here have to special order them and wait a month or more for delivery. Your average person is not going to purchase EVs until there are more charging stations available and until they can go to their local dealer and test and buy an EV and I'm afraid that is going to take a while here.

· · 5 years ago

That may be true about EVs, but these numbers include regular old Hybrids, which do not plug in to charge. In some parts of the country there is just a ton of irrational opposition to hybrid cars.

For what it is worth, we saw the same things with diesels. On the west coast diesel VWs, Audis, Mercedes, and BMWs sell before they hit the dealer lot. In the midwest and mid and deep south you can't give away a diesel car...

There was a period of time where I contemplated buying diesel VWs in Oklahoma and reselling them in the pacific northwest. The prices I can get in the northwest would be more than the cost of going back and forth to Oklahoma. :)

· · 5 years ago

Why is this a surprise? EV's have always have been introduced or trialed on the coasts first.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

This has little to do with regional irrational dislike for foreign vehicles or lack of certain environmental concerns or political orientation. In states I'm picturing with folks who might fit that description- WY, ID, ND, SD maybe- EVs would not make sense anyway. MI, IL, MN, WI, OH etc have plenty of reasonably environmentally conscious open-minded urban commuters but very few EVs on the road.
The way I see it, a much larger reason for the regional difference in EV sales is the difference in EV availability. If an auto manufacturer doesn't SELL an EV between the coasts, people won't BUY an EV between the coasts. The car companies make a prediction that people here (great lakes region in my case) aren't interested in these vehicles, so they don't offer them here, then they say that the fact that we here in the middle don't buy them is proof that they were right!
But as I see it, BEVs make a lot more sense here, where none of my friends commute more than 30 miles, than in the Bay Area or LA where none of my friends commute less than 30 miles.
As far as the hybrid side of things, the numbers presented here don't say anything about hybrid sales in the midwest and I'm too lazy to look up the original Polk data, but looking at highways and parking lots tells me we're not far off from what I see in CA. But I'm in a metro area. Hybrids make less sense for someone in smalltown america who never sees crappy city mileage, needs a pickup, or rarely drives long distances.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

Gas price and mild climate are the main reasons.

BTW, Ford received $5.9Billion of the so called DOE "green loan" for its hybrid/green car/EV program...

GM received a lot of flogging for its "bailout", yet you rarely hear a peep about Chrysler's bailout and subsequent sell to a foreign corporation...

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

EV <> Hybrid

Why are hybrids not selling well in other places?

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

"Why are hybrids not selling well in other places?"

b/c price premium of the hybrid and hybrid doesn't do well in extreme climate. Also, gas is relatively cheaper in those locations.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

So everywhere in the USA not on the west coast is an extreme climate? I never knew.

· Objective (not verified) · 5 years ago

California essentially mandated minimum sales figures for EV's, offered up special road use priviledges, and nearly matched the federal EV rebate... plus gas is higher, climate is mild, population density is high enough that when the wealthy buy their toys, it mimics general demand.

EV's are going to fade away even with subsidy, because they just aren't fiscally viable yet.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

EVs are completely viable. Electricity is a lot cheaper than gas. Plus you have the option of installing solar panels and running your car on sunshine. I figure I'm saving $15K over 10 years. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iba5a6zZGC0

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