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Report: Nearly half of EVs sold in California

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Energy Department said Wednesday that nearly half of all electric vehicles sold in the United States are purchased in California.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration noted that in 2013, there were 70,000 battery electric vehicles in the United States and 104,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles registered in the United States — out of 226 million vehicles registered in the United States. “Total U.S. sales of plug-in electric vehicles have increased in recent years, but still represent only about 0.7 percent of new vehicle sales in 2014 so far, up from 0.6 percent in 2013 and 0.4 percent in 2012.”

Some states like California give EV owners generous perks — especially single-driver access to high occupancy vehicle lanes in the traffic clogged state.

But even in California electric vehicles still account for about 5 out of every 1,000 registered vehicles. Only 18 states, including Michigan, have at least 1 out of every 1,000 registered vehicles as EVs.

EVs face sharply lower gasoline prices. The EIA this week revised downward its forecast for gasoline prices in 2015 to $2.60 a gallon, down $0.35 a gallon — its second major reduction in recent months as oil prices have tumbled.

Despite the slow sales, automakers are adding dozens of new electric models to meet state zero emission vehicle requirements. General Motors Co. is unveiling its next generation plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt in January at the North American International Auto Show.

California, joined by nine other states, has a zero emission vehicle mandate that requires automakers to produce a rising percentage of zero emission vehicles — either electric or hydrogen fuel cell. By 2025, 15 percent of all new light-duty vehicles sold in California must be either electric or fuel-cell powered under the rules. The states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont — along with California account for about 25 percent of all U.S. vehicle sales.

Several states offer tax incentives for buying EVs along with federal tax credits of up to $7,500.

EIA noted that DTE Energy in Michigan offers customers discounted electricity rates at off-peak hours if they install a 240-volt Level 2 charger, which recharges an electric vehicle faster than a 120-volt Level 1 charger.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com