Leading edge of electric vehicle market development in the United States: An analysis of California cities

Published: 2016.09.11

Stephanie Searle, Nikita Pavlenko, Nic Lutsey

This study analyzes electric vehicle markets at the city level in California in 2015. Along with an analysis of city-level electric vehicle uptake, the authors assess public charging infrastructure, model availability, and other factors to identify leading-edge electric vehicle markets in California. The study also includes a detailed analysis of the 30 California cities with the highest rates of electric vehicle penetration, examining how local organizations like regional and city governments, utilities, businesses, and nonprofits are promoting electric vehicles through a wide array of activities.

The analysis finds a link between electric vehicle uptake and many underlying factors in a multivariate regression analysis. Electric vehicle model availability, public electric vehicle charging network, local promotion activities for electric vehicles (e.g., outreach events, informational websites, electric car sharing services, and government and fleet programs) and median income in each city were found to be significantly correlated with new electric vehicle sales share.

Based on their analysis, the authors conclude:

  1. Comprehensive policy support is helping support the electric vehicle market. Consumers in California benefit from federal and state electric vehicle incentives, as well as from persistent local action and extensive charging infrastructure. The Zero-Emission Vehicle program has increased model availability and provided relative certainty about vehicle deployment that local stakeholders can bank on. The major metropolitan areas in California had 3 to 13 times the average U.S. electric vehicle uptake in 2015.
  2. Local promotion activities are encouraging the electric vehicle market. The 30 cities in California with the highest electric vehicle uptake have seen the implementation of abundant, wide-ranging electric vehicle promotion programs involving parking, permitting, fleets, utilities, education, and workplace charging. These cities tend to be smaller, but Oakland and San Jose are also within the high electric vehicle uptake cities. There were twelve cities with electric vehicle market shares of new vehicles from 10% to 18% in 2015 including Berkeley, Manhattan Beach, and many throughout Silicon Valley.
  3. The electric vehicle market grows with its charging infrastructure. The 30 California cities with the highest electric vehicle uptake have, on average, five times the public charging infrastructure per capita as the U.S. average. In addition, workplace charging availability in the San Jose metropolitan area is far higher than elsewhere. Increasingly, major public electric power utilities and workplaces are expanding the public charging network to further address consumer con dence and convenience.