Californians have bought more than 1.5 million electric vehicles

Californians have bought more than 1.5 million electric vehicles

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California is far and away the country’s largest adopter of plug-in electric vehicles. Because of the state’s ability to regulate its own air quality and spurred on by a large economy and plenty of affluent residents, the EV has gained plenty of traction in the Golden State. So much so that last month, California met its goal of having more than 1.5 million clean vehicles on the road two years ahead of schedule.

“No other state in the nation is doing as much as we are to accelerate our electric and zero emissions future,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “California is setting the bar for climate action—and we’re achieving our goals years ahead of schedule thanks to unprecedented investments secured in partnership with the legislature. We’re making real progress on the world’s most ambitious plan to end the tailpipe so our kids and grandkids are left with a cleaner, healthier planet.”

California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) began its Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program in 1990 with the intent of ameliorating the state’s severe smog problem. By the early years of this century, air quality had improved to the point where CARB could begin using the ZEV regulations to help drive down climate emissions.

It has accomplished that with goals that are more ambitious than the ones adopted by the US Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level and despite political interference from the previous administration, which wanted pollution to continue almost unabated.

A number of other states—Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington—have adopted CARB’s ZEV program within their own borders. But none are as far down the road to EV adoption; in the first three months of this year, 21.1 percent of all new light-duty vehicles bought in California were zero-emissions vehicles. That’s a 153-percent increase year on year, according to the nonprofit Veloz.

Battery EVs made up the vast majority, with 95,946 sold. Unsurprisingly, Tesla was most well-represented on the sales list, with the Model Y accounting for 33,205 units by itself. (The Model 3 was next, at 19,989 sold in Q1 2023.) BMW was the best of the rest of the OEMs in total sales numbers thanks to healthy plug-in hybrid EV sales.

Los Angeles County was responsible for the highest number of new EVs added to the roads, with 36,670 registered in Q1. Orange County was next, at 15,289 new ZEVs registered, followed by Santa Clara County (11,428 new ZEVs registered).

Cumulatively, that brings California to 1,523,966 ZEVs deployed by the end of Q1 2023; for context, there were just 773 ZEVs in total sold before 2011. The state had hoped to reach that milestone by the end of 2025.

More than two-thirds of those 1.5 million ZEVs are BEVS—1,051,456, according to the California Energy Commission, with most of the remaining cars being plug-in hybrid EVs. The data shows that the hydrogen fuel cell revolution is not really accelerating, though—only 15,432 have been registered in the state.

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