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California just banned gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035: The challenges for electric vehicles in charts

A Thursday vote yielded an ambitious plan to move beyond traditional cars and trucks.

But it won’t be easy. A closer look at the vehicles used by Californians highlights the challenge of such an ambitious transition, even in a state that’s led the nation in environmental regulations involving vehicles.

California has more than 17 million registered vehicles with model years after 2010, according to a Grid analysis of data from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Eighty-two percent of California’s registered vehicles rely solely on gasoline power, the data show. The remaining 18 percent — 3.2 million vehicles — include battery electric vehicles, such as Teslas, along with hybrid-gasoline models, such as the Toyota Prius. Others in this group include hydrogen fuel-cell and plugin-hybrid vehicles.

Only 3.3 percent of vehicles registered in California are battery electric, the data show. About two thirds of those are Teslas. The data, which has counts for vehicle brand, weight and fuel types by ZIP codes, was last updated in January 2021. That limits analysis of newer vehicles, but the data offers the most comprehensive public record of vehicles on California’s roadways.

So far though, a closer look at the data shows that electric vehicles are concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as in the Bay Area. The ZIP code with the highest concentrations of Teslas, for example, is centered around Atherton, a wealthy Bay Area enclave adjacent to Stanford University and not far from the headquarters of Apple, Google and Meta.

The average household income there is about $300,000, more than three times that of the typical California ZIP code.


“The world will need to have a 100-percent phase out of [internal combustion engine] light-duty vehicle sales by 2035,” he told Grid. “So, this is where the world needs to be.” He agreed, though, that new vehicle sales requirements don’t necessarily take all those existing gas-powered vehicles off the road. “Getting it done is another question.”

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