CA hits EV target ahead of schedule. It’s not the first place to do so, and won’t be the last

California surpasses 1.5M EV sales target two years early

The California Energy Commission has recently announced that the state has reached a significant milestone of 1.5 million electric vehicle sales, surpassing its planned 2025 target by two years. This achievement is a testament to the soaring demand for EVs in California, which has historically been responsible for about half of the total US EV share.

The 2025 target was initially set by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 when there was only one fully-electric vehicle for sale in California, the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Model S was yet to be released. At the time, the number of electric vehicles in California was in the thousands, with the most sold in 2011. Therefore, achieving an increase by three orders of magnitude seemed like a tall order.

However, California’s early achievement of its EV sales milestone is not unique, as several other places have also surpassed their EV sales targets ahead of schedule. California’s EV market share for new cars stands at an impressive 21%, the highest in the US, representing 40% of all zero-emission vehicles sold in the country. This significant shift towards EVs is a result of the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. In comparison, EVs made up 5.6% of sales in the US as a whole in 2022.

CA hits EV target ahead of schedule. It’s not the first place to do so, and won’t be the last
Image credits- CBC

Car sales

California has surpassed its electric vehicle sales target of 1.5 million two years ahead of schedule, reaching a total of 1,523,966 EV sales as of the end of Q1 2023. Of those sales, 1,051,456 were battery-electric, while the remaining were mostly plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, with some fuel cell cars also included. In Q1 alone, 124,053 EVs were sold, pushing California over the sales milestone.

The achievement is partly attributed to the $2 billion in zero-emission vehicle incentives distributed by the state over the years, but this amount pales in comparison to the $649 billion in explicit and implicit subsidies given to fossil fuels annually in the US. Despite this, California’s goal to phase out gas-powered vehicles by 2035 remains steadfast. With a market share of 21% for EVs in new car sales, California’s share of zero-emission vehicles sold in the US stands at 40%, with the state historically responsible for nearly half of the total US EV share. EVs in the US made up 5.6% of total sales in 2022, indicating that while California is leading the charge, there is still significant room for growth in the EV market across the country.

Global sales

California’s accomplishment in reaching its EV sales goal ahead of schedule is not unique, as Norway also achieved its goal of ending gas car sales in 2025 four years earlier than planned. ICE-only vehicles constituted less than 7% of total car sales in Norway in 2022, prompting some companies to hastily pull their gas cars from the market. In China, EV adoption has been slow but is now rapidly rising, leaving ICE-powered vehicles from foreign automakers unsellable due to customer disinterest and looming emissions rules changes. Toyota’s new CEO recently acknowledged the company’s lag in China.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a planned 2035 ban on ICE-only vehicles, which was finalized last year with the same 2035 target but slightly loosened to allow some PHEVs. The EPA’s recent announcement of new emissions rules could result in 67% of new car sales being electric in the US by 2032. However, the EPA did not adopt California’s 2035 ban, instead setting its regulation as a technology-agnostic emissions target rather than a mandate of particular technologies. While there is still a long way to go before ICE-only vehicles are phased out completely, the success of states like California and Norway in achieving their EV goals ahead of schedule demonstrates the potential for rapid progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.