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California Continues to Lead in Electric Vehicle Adoption

Electric vehicle car sales in California grew 13 percent in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period last year.

California motorists continue to drive the electric car market in the United States, as sales in the first quarter of 2019 outpaced last year and surpassed sales in other states.

EV sales in the first three months of 2019 beat last year’s first quarter by 13 percent, according to Veloz, a Sacramento-based nonprofit dedicated to growing the adoption and understanding of electric cars by consumers. To date, more than 570,000 electric cars have been sold in the state since 2011, according to statistics.

EV sales nationwide were up 14.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the first quarter of 2018.

The reason for the growth is likely many-fold, said Josh Boone, executive director of Veloz.

“Certainly, I think that there’s new makes and models available. And we believe consumer choice is really important,” said Boone.

There are some 40 EV model cars available to California car-buyers.

Other factors possibly affecting EV sales include the effects of a public awareness campaign by Veloz called Electric For All, which hopes to demystify electric cars. According to Boone, more than 50 percent of Californians “don’t really understand or consider how electric cars could benefit their lifestyle."

Also, the cars themselves may be contributing to the changes in attitudes as drivers see more of them on the roads, or even ride in an electric car that belongs to a friend, family member or car service.

“I also think that one of the best ways to get awareness out is word-of-mouth,” said Boone. “So I think people are having friends that buy electric cars, or taking a ride in an electric car, and I think that has continued to kind of beat the drum in terms of broad awareness.”

Gas prices are also generally a barometer for buyer interest in electric cars. For the most part, prices at the pump have been relatively low, but are trending up with some of the highest average gas prices in the U.S. on the West Coast, according to AAA.

“Relatively speaking though, gas prices are always a part of the conversation, and they’ve been fairly low lately,” said Boone. “But we are starting to see some talk in the media about $4 a gallon by Memorial Day. That has always been, historically, a motivator for people, in terms of looking for a more efficient, cleaner, kind of cheaper way to fuel their transportation.”

EV adoption seems to be strongest in the state’s urban areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento. The capital city has also taken steps to introduce more forms of electric mobility with programs like the Gig car-share network, which puts some 150 EVs on Sacramento streets. The cars are unlocked and accessed via the Gig app and can be used for $2.50 a mile. 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.