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California online dashboard provides information about PEV buyers; importance of incentive funds, $130M from California paid out to date

Survey results show the importance of incentives in PEV purchases. Click to enlarge.

A new online tool published by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and California Center for Sustainable Energy offers the general public, researchers, policymakers and stakeholders the opportunity to learn about who is buying plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in California, and why. The online “EV Driver Survey Dashboard” offers multiple approaches to analyzing the data provided by a survey of those who received rebates for purchasing PEVs.

The dashboard gathers data from California plug-in electric vehicle drivers, providing monthly updates of market data on a variety of demographic and behavioral topics. The survey data sample represents CVRP applicants who purchased their vehicle between September 2012 and April 2014. Surveys were collected between October 2013 and May 2014.

Results show that California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which provides incentive funds that help consumers buy zero-emission battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, as well as the federal rebates, are are major factors in driving market demand. More than two-thirds of respondents indicated that California’s rebate and the federal incentive was very or extremely important in enabling their clean-vehicle purchase. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles in California tripled in 2013 compared to the previous year.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), which administers the CVRP and the survey for the ARB, has issued more than $130 million for more than 60,000 rebates since the rebate program began. Currently CCSE is processing more than 3,000 rebates per month.

Currently, more than 40% of the cleanest vehicles in the world are on the roads in California, even though the state constitutes about 10% of the national market for cars.

Between March 2010 when the rebate program began and March 2014, the most recent month for which data was available, roughly 191,000 PEVs were sold in the US, with more than 83,000 of those (43.5%) in California. A clear majority—roughly 70% of California PEV drivers—have taken advantage of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP).

Almost half (47%) of the respondents report incomes ranging from $100,000 to $199,999 per year; 24% report incomes of less than $99,999; 16% report incomes of $200,000 to $299,999; 6% report incomes of $300,000 to $399,999; 2% incomes of $400,000 to $499,999; and 6% incomes of more than $500,000.

37% say the most important factor in buying a PEV was saving money on fuel costs; 21% said reducing environmental impacts; 15% said HOV lane access.

Current survey results were collected beginning in October 2013 and cover California PEV drivers who purchased or leased their vehicles after August 2012. The survey pool consists of CVRP rebate recipients for PEVs, which include both battery-electric vehicles that run exclusively on battery power and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that combine a gas-powered engine with an electric motor. As fuel cell vehicles become commercially available, they also will be included in the surveys and dashboard. Results will be updated on a bi-weekly basis as new survey responses are received.

The online dashboard provides easy interactive access to the survey results including the ability to tailor queries by filtering the data in multiple ways, such as by manufacturer, geography or vehicle technology. Responses to the survey include:

  • Primary motivations for vehicle purchase or lease, filtered by vehicle type, manufacturer and location;

  • Driver demographic characteristics including age, gender, income, housing type and education;

  • Awareness and adoption of special PEV time-of-use electricity utility rates;

  • Experience at the dealership, including the availability and importance of services provided by dealers; and

  • Relative importance of various information avenues while shopping for a vehicle.

Map showing number of rebates by region. Click to enlarge.

The tool now offers real-time insight and analysis into what drives consumers to purchase or lease plug-in electric vehicles, and thus will provide policy guidance as California continues to expand the zero-emission vehicle market to meet the state’s air quality and climate goals.

CCSE also offers an online map depicting region-specific PEV adoption rates based on the number of rebates issued by ZIP code and type of PEV purchased.

California is part of an eight-state alliance to put 3.3 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. To date, manufacturers have rolled out more than two dozen ZEV models.



Some quick arithmetic:

Assume that for 83,000 PEVs registered over 4 years (Mar '10 through Mar '14) the average number on the road was 40,000.
Assume these EVs are driven the same as California average of 14,000 mi/yr (rounding up 2013 CA Board of Equalization report).
Total electric miles driven during the period of record 2.24B (This is FAR higher than the likely real number since the total number of cars included here include Volts, and presently EV's rarely log in more than 10,000 mi/yr in any location.)

Using the old FTA value of 0.96lb CO2 per mile driven metric (Jan '09 DoT report), the total CO2 reduction was about 1 million tons (US). Again, likely an overstated number since many PEV buyers in this period were already driving hybrids or other higher-mileage autos.

Total cost per ton to purchase CO2 reduction from drivers with an average annual income of $100,000:
$130/ton (generously calculated). Yeah, this amount is amortized over the years of operation, but even using the wild-eyed EPA "calculation" of $38/ton, it pretty much never makes sense on an Opportunity Cost when you consider other things that can be done with $130M.

Hey, CA: it's your money, and I appreciate the market distortion you created that made my Leaf so affordable, but yikes, that's some expensive good intent.

As for soot, unburned HC, ozone, NOx... you can do your own math, but again these are likely not to be drivers operating smoky '88 F-150s. Further, in most cases these cars are not being traded down so that, at the end of the chain, the old Ford is retired. Most EV buyers keep the ICE car: the rate of auto ownership in CA is 1.25 cars registered per licensed driver. Thus the actual cleanup is arguably small.

IMO these funds are poorly leveraged, but it's not mine so, whatever...

Herman, I always enjoy your thoughtful posts but in this case I think you're overlooking the main benefit of the incentives.

The purpose is not to pay for carbon or other pollutant displacement directly, but to stimulate a new market. Getting people to change behavior is difficult, even if they're slowly choking to death. A direct financial incentive is effective.

The rebates pay early adopters for the pain of driving a higher priced car which has lower utility (shorter range, longer refuel time).

When batteries get better in a few years, and the public charge infrastructure is in place, states won't have to incentivize anyone - who will drive an ICE whose fuel costs 4x if the utility of the vehicle is the same, or in the case of EVs, even better (no noise, vibration, transmission shift)

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