How to Boost Electric Car Sales Without Cash Incentives

Source: Nissan

In a country where electric vehicles command less than 1% of the auto market, EV advocates look to states enjoying success for clues on how to increase adoption, and purchase incentives are the recurring theme. However, financial incentives alone are not powering the best markets. According to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Oregon’s quality charging infrastructure and outreach have boosted EV sales better than high rebates offered in other U.S. states.

An ICCT blog post offered a look at the states with the top EV market share and compared them against the financial incentives available. In the top three markets of California, Georgia, and Washington (in that order), money was a primary mover in electric car sales through 2014. Hawaii, at No. 4, offered incentives of convenience and money savings in free parking for EVs.

In Oregon, there was no financial lure for electric car drivers other than a credit for home charger installation. Instead, the state’s substantial public charging infrastructure helped pull the EV market to 1.5%, fifth in the nation, according to ICCT data. The trend is easily seen in Portland, which sports the highest number of chargers per capita in the U.S., with enough DC fast chargers — six times the national average — to make California seem understocked.

This convenience means a number of things for EV drivers going about their business. For starters, someone in a Nissan Leaf could leave home on a full day of metro area travel without worrying about recharging. Weekend forays into the city would be worry-free for anyone living in the Portland suburbs. Finally, EV drivers who occasionally rent a car would be able to pass, enjoying savings on total transportation costs.

Actually,the ICCT believes there is a real financial effect of the robust charging system, calculating it at $2,000 over six years of ownership for Oregon electric vehicle drivers.

California Gov. Brown Holds Press Conf. On Expansion Of Electric Vehicle Market
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Colorado offers an example of high purchase incentives ($6,000) that were not able to drive sales above 1% of the market in 2014. In Georgia, where a $5,000 credit was available until 2015, money was indeed the prime mover in sales. California represents the sweet spot for financial incentives and infrastructure, the driver behind its market-leading share (close to 2%).

When we examined the best electric vehicle market in the world, it was impossible to ignore the purchase incentives that powered Norway to its top global position. Along with rebates on the sticker price, the country offers free tolls, parking, and ferry rides for EV owners. Furthermore, it places heavy taxes on cars with the highest emissions as a trump card for buyers. They would end up paying several thousand dollars more for the privilege of driving a conventionally powered car of the same model and make.

The Northeast region continues to lag behind the rest of the country, but places where generous incentives existed (e.g., Pennsylvania) sometimes failed to move EVs at any significant rate. Most advocates point to chargers as the key to boosting adoption in dense urban areas. Oregon has showed that it can transform an entire market, and that’s before the impact it has on local businesses. Add that to a place with incentives and you have the makings of a movement.

Maybe a wider-angle look at the investment in infrastructure is the path forward for state and local governments. Apparently, if you build the chargers, they’ll plug in.

Source: ICCT Blog

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