Plug-in vehicle sales in California in Q2 were up 8.1% from the same quarter a year ago from 35,446 to 38,332 units, and up 7.5% from the prior quarter as PHEV sales regained some of their lost ground.
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) sales were largely stable from the prior quarter (from 5.6% to 5.5% share of total sales), primarily as Tesla eliminated its $35,000 price point for the Model 3 base model (now $38,990) and continued its shift for sales growth to China and Europe. Tesla sales volume in this quarter for California dipped to 19,594 (17,200 of which were Model 3), or 73% of all BEVs sold in the state, illustrating the extent to which fulfillment of the state’s policies remain heavily dependent on the sales performance of a single company if not a single car model. Chevy Bolt EV, generally in the same price range as Model 3, shows only 2,197 units for the quarter.
Comparing the performance of the Model 3 and Bolt EV continues to suggest that pricing alone is not the dominant factor in consumer decisions for these vehicles to date. Model 3 in the near luxury market segment continues to appeal to higher income households, while Bolt in the subcompact segment has yet to gain traction in the broader moderate income levels. Prior experience showed that sales of these vehicles were highly sensitive to the availability of government subsidies—with dramatic changes in sales when areas such as the state of Georgia, Denmark, and Netherlands pulled back on subsidies or as others such as Norway greatly expanded them—but the current sales drivers are shifting away from this tool. California has already eliminated its credits to the primary BEV consumers through enactment of income limits. Both Tesla and GM have since passed the 200,000 sales threshold after which the federal credits are phased out, and Nissan and Ford are on track albeit more slowly to reach these levels as well. China, currently the primary market for ZEV sales, recently announced a phase-out of its direct subsidies by 2021.
Subsidies for these vehicles instead are shifting to emissions credit systems.
California’s regulations are structured to shift the cost of the ZEV policies from the generally higher income ZEV buyers to the more moderate and lower income consumers of traditional combustion vehicles, through the sale of emission credits from ZEV producers such as Tesla to the mass market vehicle manufacturers. Tesla’s recent pricing moves, however, suggest that these administratively-imposed costs on the average vehicle consumer will have to go much higher in order to result in the consumer changes envisioned in the state’s policies.
After plunging 31% in the prior quarter, Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) regained some of their lost ground, up 20.4% from the prior quarter but still down 28.0% from a year ago. Sales of this combustion component of “zero emission” vehicles helped offset the relative decline of BEVs, producing a marginal increase in PEV market share to 7.9%.
Cumulative PEV Sales at 11.9% of 2030 Goal—True ZEVs at 6.7%
As part of the AB 32 climate change program, Executive Order B-48-18 administratively created a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on California roads by 2030. This action expands on the prior Executive Order B-16-2012, which set a goal of 1.5 million by 2025, with a sub-goal that their market share is expanding at that point. While these goals were set administratively, they are embodied in the state’s climate change strategies, and both public and utility ratepayer funds are being used to create the refueling infrastructure required for these motorists.
Including both true ZEVs (BEVs and FCEVs) and combustion PHEVs, total PEV sales since 2009 account for 11.9% of the 2030 goal. True ZEV sales, however, account for only 6.7%.[source: California Center for Jobs & the Economy]