The rate at which new technologies get accepted into the mainstream never fails to confuse people. For the longest time, cell phones appeared to be the exclusive domain of yuppies, bankers and drug dealers. And then, suddenly, my mum had one. (No, she doesn't sell drugs.)
Could we see a similar rapid adoption for electric vehicles?
The LA Times reports that Q1 electric car (EV) sales are up 91% in California. Sales of Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV) are up 54% too. This is, of course, only one quarter, from one state, so let's not get too excited. And the actual number of units sold—13,804 EVs and 10,466 PHEVs—is still tiny compared to the 506,745 cars and light trucks sold in the state during the same period. But anyone who knows anything about math can tell you that it doesn't take long for a 91% growth rate to start making serious inroads into a particular market. (Electric car sales in Norway have already reached as high as 37% of new passenger vehicles.)
It's also worth considering this:
A big reason for the size of the increase was the 2,735 Bolt EVs sold. The Bolt is a new arrival which boasts superior range and lower costs than many other cars on the market. And it's by no means alone. We're likely to see a much broader range of EV and PHEV options in terms of vehicle styles, cost and range in the coming years. (Tesla Model 3, Chrysler Pacifica PHEV and the revamped, longer-range Nissan Leaf to name but a few.) There's a big difference between sales of one product going through the roof, and sales taking off because more manufacturers are adding consumer choices. (Back in 2015, the UK saw 366% growth rates of EV sales in Q1.)
Finally, I'll share a personal anecdote. As a family that just added its second plug-in vehicle to our driveway, we only know a couple of families who currently drive a plug-in car. Yet I am asked all the time by friends and acquaintances alike to share our experience, and I could name at least five or six friends right now who are very, very enthusiastic about buying a plug-in vehicle next.
A 91% growth rate in California is impressive. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if we look back on it as a sign of bigger things to come.