California hit a major milestone in 2022: More than 1 million zero-emission vehicles were “on the road” in the Golden State for the first time ever. This figure, revealed in a new data release by the California Energy Commission, illustrates the remarkable decade-long ascendancy of zero-emission vehicles.
But despite the skyrocketing growth of zero-emission vehicles—a category that includes electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen cars—the data shows that the vast majority of California cars still guzzle gas, leaving a great distance for the state to travel before it reaches its ultimate goal of electrifying the fleet.
There were about 27 million “light-duty” vehicles—passenger cars that weigh less than 8,500 pounds—that ran on gas or diesel in California in 2022, a decrease of nearly 900,000 vehicles from 2021. That still left zero-emission vehicles accounting for less than 4% of California’s passenger cars.
Last summer, the California Air Resources Board implemented a remarkable new regulation that requires 35% of all 2026 vehicle models sold by car manufacturers in the state to be electric. In fact, the sale of new gasoline-powered cars will be banned in California beginning in 2035.
Significant progress will need to happen to achieve that goal: About 16% of all new vehicles sold in California were electric during the first few months of 2022.
The Bay Area is the clear leader of zero-emission cars in California, with nearly every county in the region ranking close to the top for its per-capita rate of zero-emission vehicle ownership.
Marin County had the highest rate of zero-emission vehicle ownership in the state, with about 60 for every 1,000 residents. San Mateo was close on its heels with 58 per 1,000 residents. If current trends continue, San Mateo may surpass its neighbor to the north in 2023. People in the county were the most likely in the state to buy zero-emission vehicles in 2022.
Teslas continued to be by far the most popular zero-emission passenger cars in California in 2022. There were more than 266,000 Tesla Model 3s on the road last year, making it the clear frontrunner. Two other Teslas—Model Y and Model S—rounded out the top three. There were about 57,000 Toyota Prius Primes in California last year, making it the most common non-Tesla zero-emission vehicle.
There were a few counties where Tesla rivals took the lead. In Del Norte County, up against the Oregon border, 25 Chevrolet Volts were enough to make it the most popular zero-emission vehicle in the rural region.
But the Tesla Model 3 reigned supreme where it counted: It was the most popular model in all the top counties with the most zero-emission cars.
Use the search bar in the table below to see the most popular zero-emission vehicle in your county.
Noah Baustin can be reached at [email protected]