California Continues to Dominate Electric Car Market

By · September 23, 2013

Top 2013 Nissan LEAF sales markets

Top 2013 Nissan LEAF sales markets.

Last month, Nissan released a geographic ranking of sales of the all-electric LEAF. San Francisco and Los Angeles were the two most popular EV market areas, with San Diego and Sacramento not far behind, respectively the seventh and eight biggest electric car hotspots.

The ability for electric cars to break out of a niche, and become mainstream, partly depends on making EVs appeal across the country. But it will be difficult for other states to reach anywhere near the scale of California’s EV market. (Of course, California is also the largest overall vehicle market in the U.S.)

“LEAF always has sold well on the West Coast for a number of reasons,” said Erik Gottfried, Nissan director of EV sales and marketing. “State tax incentives that stack on top of federal, high-occupancy vehicle and high-occupancy toll access, environmental mindedness, a concentration of early adopters and an EV culture and enthusiasm that dates back to some of the earliest EV experiments before Nissan took them mass-market.”

Navigant Research ranks Northern California as the top region in America for positive consumer attitude toward plug-in electric vehicles. The market research firm recently forecasted that California, by 2022, would have more than 815,000 cumulative EV sales, more than double the total for the next three most popular EV states combined.

Navigant expects the following California market areas to represent four out of the top five EV markets through 2022: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Riverside (California). These areas, plus New York City, will account for nearly one-third of US sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2022, according to Navigant.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking in San Francisco, reiterated the state’s ambitious goals for electric cars. California's Zero Emissions Vehicle regulation (ZEV) requires that 1.4 million electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles be sold by 2025—well above the forecast level set by Navigant. In 2012, the state established standards for rising annual targets and that ZEVs reach 15 percent of its new car sales by 2015. California's standards are followed by more than a dozen states.

California's green and white HOV sticker program, allowing solo drivers of electric cars and some plug-in hybrids to use the carpool lane, was due to expire on Jan. 1, 2015. But with the passage earlier this month of California AB266, the program will be extended until Jan. 1, 2019. "California has always been leading the way when it comes to lowering our carbon footprint," said Assm. Richard Bloom, of Santa Monica. "These standards [incentives] will entice Californians to utilize the most environmentally friendly vehicles."

Nearly a quarter of the nation’s public EV charging stations are located in California.

Like electric cars, sales of conventional gas-electric hybrids also are dominated by California, with Los Angeles and San Francisco leading the way, according to Polk, an auto industry market research firm.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
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  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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