1 of 40 California Car Sales Were Plug-ins in Q4 2012

By · March 11, 2013

CCSE's Plug-in Prius

The California Center for Sustainable Energy manages the state's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.

While most media reports about the electric car market portray sales as disappointing, here’s a factoid that’s more uplifting for plug-in car fans: one out of every 40 car sales in California in Q4 2012 were plug-in electric models.

This statistic is derived from the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) based on clean vehicle rebates, as well as information from major carmakers, plus sales numbers from the California New Car Dealers Association. There were an estimated 5,800 plug-in electric cars added to California’s roads in the last three months of 2012, compared to 232,512 cars. (Total vehicle sales additionally include 138,891 units of larger vehicles, such as SUVs, pick-up trucks and vans, not included in this comparison.)

Call it semantics or spin, if you like. Regardless, the 1-in-40 number represents a start—a baseline level of plug-in cars that continues to grow. After all, only one or two car owners out of 100 are in the market for a new car at any one time, so it will take time for plug-in car adoption to increase, as consumers interested in a plug-in car replace older gas vehicles.

CCSE's Plug-in Prius

For key counties in Northern and Southern California, adoption of plug-in electric vehicle sales was more intense, likely to be much higher than 1 in 40 new car sales. This map from CCSE shows cumulative rebate numbers.

Approximately ninety percent of the new Q4-2012 plug-in cars in California were the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF or Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Models that combine an electric motor and gas engine, such as the Volt and Prius PHEV, made up 60 percent of the sales—while pure electric cars such as the LEAF represented roughly 40 percent of sales.

CCSE is not able to provide exact numbers on a model or manufacturer basis. However, the non-profit informed PluginCars.com that it’s seen the Tesla Model S “gain a significant share of the market” from December 2012 to February 2013.

New to EVs? Start here

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