Business & Real Estate

Scientists, environmentalists critical of EV availability … except in California

Besides flat sales in California, other cracks in the electric vehicle industry have surfaced recently.

In August, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report – “Electrifying the Vehicle Market: Evaluating Automaker Leaders and Laggards in the United States” – that took automakers to task for not making enough electric vehicles available to U.S. car buyers, hindering the potential growth of EVs.

Also last month, the Sierra Club released the results of a study where 174 volunteers called or visited more than 300 auto dealerships in 10 states last spring to inquire about electric vehicles. The states included California and nine other states that have endorsed the Golden State’s zero-emission vehicle mandate.

The Sierra Club’s “Rev Up Electric Vehicles” report said automakers and dealers are failing to meet consumer demand and doing little to promote EV sales.

“Ranging from not carrying electric vehicles on the lot, to insufficiently charging them for test drives, to not featuring them prominently, to not informing customers of charging capabilities or tax incentives, it’s clear auto dealerships and automakers need to be doing much better to promote and sell electric vehicles,” said Mary Lunetta, the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicles Initiative Campaign representative and co-author of the report.

However, a closer look at the UCS and Sierra Club reports offers a clue about California’s comparatively advanced EV infrastructure and standing as the U.S. leader in EV sales.

The UCS report said: “Our analysis finds that California consumers have considerably more opportunity to buy electric cars than do consumers in the rest of the United States. … California buyers bought 22 different EV models in 2015. No other state had more than 14 different EV models purchased.”

The UCS praised BMW’s efforts to expand EV sales, leading all major automakers with more than 3 percent of all BMW sales nationwide in 2015, and 7 percent in California. The UCS also touted the all-electric vehicle push of Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors as “the top EV carmaker in 2015, and its upcoming Model 3 has attracted unprecedented interest.”

And while the Sierra Club report said U.S. dealerships need to improve marketing of electric vehicles, it also said this: “Our volunteers were 2 1/2 times more likely to find no EV on a dealership lot in the nine other ZEV states than they were in California.”

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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