California accounted for about 2 million new-vehicle registrations last year, while the nine other US states that have adopted the Golden State's rules, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland, accounted for almost another 3 million. In addition to serving the largest US auto-buying market, many automakers have started selling plug-in vehicles in California because of perks such as a better charging infrastructure and solo-driving privileges in high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Still, some automakers say California's zero-emissions mandate has also created regulatory hurdles. Mercedes-Benz speaks of the "administrative and logistical burdens" caused by the compliance issues, while a number of Porsche Macan vehicles slated for California delivery were held up earlier this year because of certification delays from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
CARB's rules are getting progressively harder to meet, too. By 2018, automakers won't be able to get the kind of credit they received for selling hybrids and low-emission gas vehicle credits that they do now. Already, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said his company loses as much as $14,000 on each Fiat 500e electric vehicle sold.
The exact number of plug-in vehicle sales in the US are difficult to gauge because Tesla Motors still refuses to disclose either monthly or regional sales, but were likely up about seven percent through May from a year earlier, as (likely) higher Tesla and Chevrolet Volt sales more than offset lagging demand for models like the Nissan Leaf. That 200-mile Leaf can't come soon enough.