Californians bought a record number of EVs in 2023, despite industry setbacks



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Golden State drivers purchased a record number of new electric cars in 2023, achieving a 29 percent jump over the previous year, a new report has found.

Californians bought 446,961 new light-duty zero-emissions vehicles in 2023 — a significant increase from the 345,818 they purchased in 2022 and the 250,279 in 2021, according to a new analysis from the nonprofit Veloz and the California Energy Commission.

The data showed that such cars — which include battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell powered vehicles — held a 25 percent share of the light-duty automotive market, which generally includes passenger cars and lightweight trucks.

In comparison, these types of zero-emissions vehicles only made up an 18.84 percent share of that market in 2022 and a 12.41 percent share in 2021, per the data.

Despite industry-wide concerns about a decline in the public’s appetite for light-duty zero-emissions vehicles, 2023 proved to be a record-breaking year for these sales both in California and on a national level, the analysis noted. 

Across the U.S. in 2023, the country saw more than 1.2 million new light-duty zero-emissions vehicle sales — a 43 percent increase from 2022 — with California responsible for 34 percent of last year’s total, according to the Veloz report.

The increase in Golden State light-duty zero-emissions vehicle sales from 2022 to 2023 occurred regardless of a plunge in total light-duty car sales, which dropped by 2.7 percent from year to year, per the data.

Although Californians set a new bar for the sheer number of zero-emissions vehicle purchases, year-over-year sales increases have plunged from a 38.17 percent rise from 2021 to 2022 to a 29.25 percent rise from 2022 to 2023, per the data.

The zero-emissions vehicle market has also shown other signs of trouble, including a decision by Hertz Global Holdings to sell 20,000 electric cars from its U.S. fleet, or about a third of its global stockpile, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although EV adoption is growing, this trend necessitates the installation of reliable charging infrastructure, the report authors noted.

California reached its goal of installing 10,000 fast chargers in September, more than a year ahead of schedule, according to the California Energy Commission.

Nonetheless, 2022 research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley showed that 22.7 percent of Greater Bay Area charging stations were nonfunctioning.

A 2023 poll conducted by J.D. Power showed that 25 percent of people surveyed found their public charging experience to be unreliable.

Going forward, however, the Veloz report credited a “national push toward improved charging infrastructure” while citing federal and state incentives for streamlining charging networks.

“We anticipate U.S. market growth to continue,” the analysis concluded.

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