10% of New Cars Sold in California Are Plug-Ins

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Tesla Model 3

It will be interesting to watch how and if the trend spreads.

As I've written before, it's rare for me to leave my house and not see at least a few Teslas, a couple of Nissan Leafs and maybe a Chevy Volt or two. But then Durham, North Carolina, is clearly somewhat of a bubble. (A recent drive to Kinston, NC, confirmed this—with an almost complete dearth of electric vehicles on those more rural roads.)

But Durham is nothing compared to California, where a culture that values technological innovation, environmental sustainability, and, some would (perhaps unkindly) argue, conspicuous consumption has led to a much higher than average adoption of electric vehicles.

Specifically, Loren McDonald over at Cleantechnica notes that a whopping 9.8% of California's new car sales were electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles in August. What's more, a record number of Tesla Model 3 deliveries in September should mean that this 9.8% figure will actually have already been exceeded in the months that followed.

This is unequivocally good news.

I used to worry about the "bubbly" nature of electric vehicle adoption. It's all very well for California (or Norway) to drive electric, but unless the rest of the world cottons on, the climate still cooks.

I suspect, however, that I was missing the point. Early adoption is never linear, and it's often driven by a combination of peer influence, consumer education, and access to infrastructure. It stands to reason that certain towns, cities, states and countries will leap first into electrification—and that they'll reach certain tipping points which will drive even more market penetration. When you can no longer be certain of your old gas car retaining value, for example, or whether or not you'll be allowed to drive it in the city, you're going to start considering a plug-in, whether or not you give a hoot about the environment. And when your neighbors, friends and family have charging stations in their driveways, taking that leap is going to be a whole lot less intimidating. The question will be whether the progress in California then spills over into neighboring states, and I suspect strongly that it will.

But it all has to start somewhere...