California Tops the 100,000 Mark for Plug-In Vehicle Sales | Edmunds

California Tops the 100,000 Mark for Plug-In Vehicle Sales

Just the Facts:
  • California consumers have purchased more than 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles since the first models were introduced in late 2010.
  • The Nissan Leaf has been the best-selling EV in California over the past 45 months.
  • The state's Zero Emission Vehicles plan calls for a total of 1.5 million plug-ins to be sold through 2025.

SACRAMENTO, California — California has been pushing electric vehicle sales harder than any other state and the numbers show it: Since the first plug-in vehicles went on sale in late 2010, the Golden State's car dealers — and Tesla Motors, which sells direct to consumers — have sold more than 100,000 all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

That's 40 percent of all plug-in vehicles (PEVs) sold in the U.S. since 2010 and more than any other state's total by a huge margin.

The exact total, from the launch of the Nissan Leaf EV and Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid from December, 2010, through the end of August, is 102,440, according to a tally pulled together by the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative. The nationwide tally for the same period is 234,502.

In addition to the Leaf and Volt — the state's top-selling plug-in electric vehicles — PEVs are offered by BMW, Cadillac, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Porsche, Smart, Tesla and Toyota. Audi, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Volvo are among those planning to launch PEV models in California in the next few years.

California has set a goal under its Zero Emissions Vehicles program of putting 1.5 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2025. Reaching it would require an annual average of 127,300 PEV and fuel-cell electric car sales a year.

There now are 14 battery EVs and plug-in hybrids sold in California, with several more expected in the next few years. Additionally several automakers will begin selling hydrogen fuel cell cars in the state in limited numbers over the next few years. Hyundai was the first to launch with a $499 monthly lease of its 2015 Tucson crossover fuel-cell vehicle earlier this year.

While many industry observers question whether the strength of the electric vehicle market will support as many sales as the state is demanding, the 1.5-million figure is a cumulative tally, not an annual sales goal. And sales data shows that while the pace still is slow, annual sales numbers keep climbing.

"California's plug-in electric vehicle market is ramping up," says Christine Kehoe, executive director of the collaborative. "We expect to see significant growth over the next 10 years as customers realize how economical and convenient they are."

At present gasoline and electricity prices, fuel for an all-electric vehicle in California is the equivalent of $1-per-gallon gasoline.

Although most motorists don't drive far enough on the average trip to deplete an EV's batteries, range anxiety and the inconvenience of lengthy battery recharge times remain major stumbling blocks to widespread adoption of EVs. With the exception of Tesla's $100,000 Model S, most EVs can only travel 75-100 miles between battery charges. And recharging on the most common type of home or public charger — a 240-volt "Level 2" device — can take 4 hours or more.

An additional deterrent is the relatively  high cost of both EVs and plug-in hybrids, which eliminate the range anxiety by providing a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid mode when the battery charge is depleted. The cost of expensive lithium-ion batteries is a major factor of cost premiums of thousands of dollars for most models, even after federal and state incentives of up to $10,000 are factored in.

Edmunds says:  There's still a long way to go to hit the state's goal of 1.5 million plug-in vehicles by 2015, but the numbers continue to grow — helped by incentives, high gasoline prices and increasing variety in the market.

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