Plug-in electric vehicles make up a sliver of total vehicle sales worldwide, but EV advocates believe you have to start somewhere and that battery-storage technology is finally advanced enough to lure early adopters in the mass market.
Certainly the modest success of the Nissan Leaf (which doubled worldwide sales to 100,000 units last year compared to the year before), the popular appeal of the pricey Tesla Model S, and the fact that plug-in vehicles seem to be popping up with greater frequency, have shown the potential for a mass-market embrace of electric or partially electric plug-in cars.
One of the biggest challenges to greater embrace of EVs, which like conventional cars still depend largely on fossil fuels but do not themselves release air contaminants, has been the lack of public charging outlets. Where charging outlets are growing so too is EV demand, which is why the strongest sales in the U.S. have been in California, Oregon and Washington, where charging infrastructure is most ubiquitous.
But check out this list by ChargePoint, Inc., a subscription-based provider of electricity, via the 4-year-old company’s nearly 16,000 charging locations, in a nascent sub-industry that provides EV owners access to public vehicle charging outlets. Out of the top 10 cities that has seen the fastest growth in recent months, half of them are outside the West Coast and the current No. 1 fastest-growing EV market is Atlanta, where sales grew 52 percent from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of last year.
Los Angeles still tops the list in terms of sales volume and EV population, but considering that Atlanta is 11 percent the size of L.A. it’s interesting to see that Atlantans bought more than 3,000 plug-in cars in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to L.A.’s more than 5,000. That means on a per capita basis, EVs are more popular in this southern American city than they are in the home of progressive Hollywood elites. Does this mean West Coasters should feel a little less smug about their smog-fighting cars? Who knows, but one thing is certain: Electric vehicles are not just for out-of-touch tree huggers anymore.