It is no secret that California is one of the leading markets in the world for electric vehicles and in 2017 consumers in the state purchased more BEVs, PHEVs and FCEVs than hybrid vehicles for the first time since 2011, when tracking began.
Analyzing data from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – Advanced Technology Vehicle Sales Dashboard, California unsurprisingly is blazing a different path from US trends overall where in 2017 EVs and FCEVs across the US combined for only 34% of advanced technology vehicle sales compared to 52% in California.
If you remove the California sales numbers from the overall US sales figures the difference is even more pronounced, with hybrid vehicles accounting for 75% of advanced technology vehicle sales, versus 66% when including California sales.
California auto buyers also purchased more advanced technology vehicles overall in 2017 with 185,429 sold, nearly 7,000 higher than the previous high of 178,464 in 2015. This overall increase was despite a decline of nearly 6,000 in hybrid vehicle sales in 2017 versus 2016 and about 28,000 fewer hybrids than 2015.
For the US, however, total advanced technology vehicle sales were basically flat since 2015 and roughly 170,000 units below the highest year in 2013.
What’s Going On?
In California and across the entire US there is a clear gradual shift away from hybrids to both gas/diesel vehicles, due to continued low gas prices, and to EVs. But in California, a much higher percentage of buyers are switching to EVs than those from the other 49 states.
While I could not find any solid data to back it up, my theory is simply that for many green conscious Californians replacing their Prius or other hybrid with a PHEV or BEV is a logical next auto purchase. Whereas much of the rest of American consumers have seen years of low gas prices as an opportunity to move into an SUV or crossover that has much improved gas mileage over past models.
With the Nissan LEAF hitting the US now, Tesla Model 3 production starting to scale (albeit still slowly) and new BEV models expected from Jaguar, Hyundai, Kia and Audi – 2018 could be the first year in history in California where BEV sales alone outpace those of regular hybrid vehicles.