California on path to meet goal of 1.5 million electric cars

A Tesla Model 3 is parked behind an office building in Costa Mesa. (Photo by Penny Arevalo, SCNG)

Steve Scauzillo

Buoyed by an exceptional sales year in 2017, the state’s electric vehicle market will continue to grow this year and will reach 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025, an earlier target set by Gov. Jerry Brown.
That rosy forecast is according to a report released Tuesday by the Silicon Valley-based think tank Next 10 and Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. The joint report, “The Road Ahead for Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Market Trends & Policy Analysis,” said 2018 sales will piggyback on a 29.1 percent increase of zero-emission vehicle sales in California in 2017, a turning point year.
Currently, 337,483 zero-emission vehicles have been sold in California, reaching nearly 5 percent of the state’s market share, accelerating from 3.6 percent in 2016, Beacon reported. Global passenger electric vehicle sales reached 1 million by the end of 2017, up from 500,000 in 2015.
By far, California has the most of any state, and Brown wants to speed sales even more. Last week, he set a new goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030, a number the report said will be a challenge to meet unless more charging infrastructure is built.
“The trends in California are all good for the continued increase in sales of electric vehicles,” Noel Perry, founder of Next 10, a group that examines the nexus of the economy, environment and climate change, said during an interview Wednesday.
“We talk about how smartphones became ubiquitous in a short period of time. It is possible ZEVs can go the route of smartphones by 2040,” Perry said.
Prices of ZEVs (battery-electric, hydrogen-powered and plug-in hybrids) are becoming competitive with gasoline-powered cars, in part because battery costs have dropped from $1,000 to $209 per kilowatt-hour from 2010-2016, the report noted. Also, the percentage of electric cars in the world will grow in 2018 as more car-makers jump on the EV bandwagon, with 150 zero-emission models on the global market today and 240 expected in 2021.
Sales of electric cars may be encouraged by higher prices at the pump. Gas prices in California hit their highest level on Wednesday since September 2015, according to
In addition, governments committed to reducing greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are putting pressure on automakers to stop making internal combustion engine cars. China, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and India intend to phase-out gasoline-powered cars, according to the report.
The United States is going in the opposite direction, the report said, while California’s targets for reducing greenhouse gasses are also an incentive to electrify the transportation fleet.
For the first time, China leads the world in sales of zero-emission passenger cars. EV sales increased 70 percent from 2015 to 2016 and cumulative sales reached 650,000, overtaking the United States, according to the report.
Usually, advanced technology adoption follows an S-curve, when adoption hits a tipping point followed by exponential growth, rather than linear. The sales of zero-emission vehicles are following this pattern, said Adam Fowler, economist at Beacon.
“Add to that the advent of autonomous vehicles and new business models, such as ride-hailing and car-sharing, and we could be on the brink of major disruption in the transportation sector,” Folwer said in a prepared statement.
The promised delivery this year of thousands of Tesla Model 3s, a more affordable electric sedan from Elon Musk’s iconic brand, could also break open the market, Perry said. Tesla’s most equipped Model 3 has a range of 315 miles, more than the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt at 238 miles.
While Tesla has built its exclusive charging stations along the 5 Freeway from L.A. to San Francisco and in towns such as Baker and Barstow on the way to Las Vegas, California has reached 16,549 public charging outlets, most in the nation. But that works out to be 0.05 per each zero-emission vehicle on the road in the state, “one of the lowest ratios in the country,” the report said.
Southern California Edison will finish installing 1,000 public charging ports before the end of the year, mostly in disadvantaged communities, said Katie Sloan, SCE principal manager of innovation, development and controls in an interview.
The Rosemead-based power company has received the go-ahead from the California Public Utilities Commission to add charging for electric buses and electrified vehicles in the Port of Long Beach, she said.
SCE is also trying to boost residential charging by offering a $350 rebate on the conduit and labor, not the cost of the charging unit. “It’s to help residents defray the cost of putting in home charging,” she said.
The electric utility wants to see 7 million ZEVs in the state by 2030, a more ambitious goal than the state’s. But increasing charging stations remains a looming challenge.
“We agree that we need a significant amount more public charging infrastructure to meet these aggressive goals,” Sloan said.

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