California hit 1.5 million electric vehicle sales two years ahead of its planned 2025 sales milestone target, according to the California Energy Commission.
With demand for electric vehicles skyrocketing, California isn’t the first place to hit its electric vehicle sales targets sooner, and it won’t be the last.
The 2025 goal was originally set in 2012 by then-Governor Jerry Brown. At the time, there was only one all-electric vehicle for sale in California, the Nissan Leaf, with the Tesla Model S due for release later that year. The Tesla Roadster was previously on sale from 2008 to 2011 (although the company still had a few vehicles in inventory at the time).
At the time, the number of electric vehicles in California numbered in the thousands, almost all of which had been sold in the previous year, 2011. So a three-order-of-magnitude increase seemed like a tall order.
And yet, like many of California’s environmental goals, the state arrived ahead of schedule.
So far this year, California’s EV market share for new cars is 21%, the highest in the United States. This represents 40% of all zero-emission vehicles sold in the United States. California has historically been responsible for about half of the total share of electric vehicles in the United States. In the United States as a whole, electric vehicles accounted for 5.6% of sales in 2022.
By the end of the first quarter of 2023, California now had 1,523,966 total electric vehicle sales, of which 1,051,456 were battery electric and the rest mostly PHEVs, with a few fuel cell cars mixed in. In the first quarter, a total of 124,053 electric vehicles were sold, so the sales milestone of 1.5 million was reached at the start of this year.
The milestone was aided by a total of $2 billion in zero-emission vehicle incentives handed out by the state over the years. That said, that’s small compared to the estimated $649 billion in explicit and implicit subsidies that fossil fuels receive. every year in the United States as a whole.
California’s early achievement echoes Norway’s, which aimed to end gas-powered car sales in 2025 but was already nearly four years ahead of schedule. It may take a while for them to completely disappear, but in 2022 ICE-only vehicles accounted for less than 7% of total car sales in Norway.
Sales of ICE cars are so rare in Norway that some companies have had to hastily withdraw their petrol cars from the market, with Hyundai giving only days notice before ending sales of ICE cars nationwide.
And in China, despite a slow start, consumers are now rapidly adopting electric vehicles. The country’s share of electric vehicles has grown more sharply than in many other countries, leaving foreign automakers’ ICE-powered vehicles rotting on lots, unsaleable due to customer disinterest and impending emissions rule changes. Toyota’s new CEO today acknowledged that they have fallen behind in China.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a planned 2035 ban on ICE-only vehicles in 2020. The ban was finalized last year, keeping the same 2035 target, while relaxing it slightly to allow some PHEV. And nationally, last week the EPA announced new emissions rules that could see 67% of new car sales in the United States be electric by 2032. However, the EPA did not adopt California’s 2035 ban and instead defined its regulations as an independent technology. emissions target, rather than a specific technology mandate.
This is set to become a pattern elsewhere in the world, where lukewarm projections of EV demand will continue to surprise businesses and governments with their pants down (which is why we said “why not sooner?” at CA 2035 target).
For many years automakers have assured us that the demand for electric vehicles just isn’t there, and they’ve been wrong time and time again. It is clear that the demand for electric vehicles is much higher than expected – well, everyone except the manufacturers of electric vehicles only, we at Electrekand various other EV advocates, all of whom shouted from the rooftops that it was coming and manufacturers needed to be ready.
And since manufacturing takes a long time to start and cars take years to develop, automakers need to be prepared not only for current demand, but also for years to come.
Each EV target that is reached years ahead of schedule represents another warning to the industry that they must be prepared to accelerate their plans, lest they cede more market share to automakers who are already prepared on demand by VE – namely, the VE only brands.
Even the EPA targets, which are strong but which we at Electrek consider eminently accessible and could perhaps be even stronger, are an acceleration from President Biden’s goals two years ago. The EPA decided that due to advances in technology, legislation and the market, 50% was too low a goal for 2030 and that the United States could reach 60% by then.
That 60% target means incumbent automakers will need to increase their 2030 production targets by around a third to keep pace. We estimate that there is a gap of about 2 million cars in 2030 that will need to be filled by electric vehicles that manufacturers are not currently planning to build.
But if market demand exceeds even those EPA targets, which it may well do given the history of regions exceeding EV targets, manufacturers may have to commit to even upper EV percentages.
In short: Manufacturers that have historically ignored electric vehicles will continue to do so at their peril. Every piece of data we see shows that electric vehicles are coming faster than the mainstream industry expected, and despite a decade of confirmations showing it, many manufacturers are still not ready. If they want to survive, they have to do it.
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