The Golden State now has 1.5 million electric vehicles, nearly half of the 3.6 million EVs sold in the US so far, a report from a non-profit organisation Veloz has said.

The state had come a long way from the late 1980s when it was riddled with a smog problem. Now it is leading the way in adopting electric transportation with a huge 124,000 electric vehicles sold in the Q1 of 2023 alone. Interestingly, the adoption of electric vehicles is across vehicle categories ranging from cars to delivery vans and buses to medium and heavy-duty trucks.

How Californians beat their expectations

In 1990, California Air Rescue Board (CARB) set up its Zero-Emission Vehicle programme to reduce the pollution caused by vehicles and address the smog problem. By the early 2000s, the smog problem had been reined into control, but the CARB took the definitive step to focus its attention on climate emissions. 

That the state of California reserves the right to regulate its air quality helped its cause. The CARB set up goals that are even more ambitious than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does at a federal level.

Many states in the US have tried to follow the Californian model to reduce emissions, but nobody is even close to the adoption rate of EVs, as seen in the Golden State. A strong economy and many affluential state residents likely buoy the numbers. 

Nevertheless, the state has shown a high affinity for purchasing EVs, with sale numbers rising by an astonishing 153%, year on year, as per Veloz's report. 124,053 EVs were sold in Q1 of 2023, of which battery electric vehicles were the most sold at 95,946.

Tesla was the top choice

Among the vehicles, Tesla was the top choice, and its Model Y accounted for nearly a third of the sales with 33,205 units. Among the rest of the EVs sold, BMW performed the best in overall sales with its offerings of plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

Los Angeles County led the state with the highest number of EVs sold, with Orange County a distant second and Santa Clara County a close third in total sales. The state now has 1,523,966 zero-emission vehicles compared to the 773 in 2011.

The state has set itself a target of crossing the 1.5 million mark by 2025 but reached it two years in advance. While most vehicles are battery EVs, plug-in hybrids have been sold in good numbers, with hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles yet to pick up the pace.