5 Kinds Of People California Wants To Put In Electric Vehicles

Jeff McMahon
Written by Jeff McMahon
electric vehicles
An employee assists a customer with pre-ordering the Tesla Motor Inc. Model 3. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg Finance LP© 2016 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

Alarmed that most of California’s electric vehicles belong to one demographic groupCalifornia officials are setting out to make electric vehicles more attractive to all.

A more diverse population of drivers is crucial to former Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal to transition five million vehicles to zero emissions by 2030, said Courtney Prideaux Smith, a chief deputy director of the California Energy Commission.

“For us to make this a reality we have a lot of challenges that we’re going to need to overcome,” Smith said, “and those really are wrapped up in transitioning away from the focus on the early adopters and really figuring out how we can leverage California’s diversity to really expand the market potential.”

In a video released by Stanford University last week, Smith urges outreach to five groups in particular, some with incentives:

1 Young People

“We should be out there and focusing on folks in their 20s who are poised to go out and buy their first vehicle.”

Smith doubts young people will be a tough sell.

“They’re a generation that is showing their value system actually really aligns with driving electric or in many instances—and myself included—not having a car at all, right, so why aren’t we out on college campuses? Why aren’t we focusing

our incentives and our education on this particular demographic?

“It’s ripe for opportunity.”

2 Women

“I saw some really interesting research recently that suggested that women are primary decision-makers in about 85 percent of car buying decisions and yet we are the minority in the car

industry, Smith said, “and this this conference actually is a great example of being a minority, when you look at you know the folks who are presenting here it’s about 80/20 men to women.”

3 Renters

The other area I think that we could really diversify has to do with housing stock,” Smith said. “Almost half of Californians are renters, meaning they have and face really unique barriers to driving electric because they don’t have the control always to be able to charge at home.

“And so we are really focusing on how do we get infrastructure that’s public in multifamily spaces, but there is way more to do in this particular space.”

4 The 99 Percent

“Lastly and I think most importantly we’ve got to figure out how to reach low and moderate income Californians, because let’s be real—that’s the majority of California.”

California’s Vehicle Assistance Program will offer grants and financing to low-income Californians who want to buy a new or a used vehicle, funded by the state’s cap and trade program.

5 Used-Car Buyers

“I emphasize used because that’s another part of the transition that we have to make most people when they go to buy a car aren’t looking for a new car, right, they’re looking for a used car, and so really focusing on the,secondary market and figuring out how we can demystify that is critical.”

Smith said she recently found 12 Nissan Leafs for sale on Craigslist in Sacramento, but she wonders how used-car buyers evaluate them.

With internal combustion engines, she said, potential buyers share a little bit of common knowledge around whether a vehicle is likely to be a lemon or not.

“In this space I have no idea whether a 2011 Nissan Leaf that costs $6,000 and has 50,000 miles is going to be good or not in terms of how the battery performs and what the recharge is.”

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

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About Jeff McMahon

From Chicago, I write about green technology, energy, environment.
I've covered the energy and environment beat since 1985, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in a dumpster. That story ran in the Arizona Republic, and I have chased electrons and pollutants ever since, for dailies in Arizona and California, for alternative weeklies including New Times and Newcity, for online innovators such as The Weather Channel's Forecast Earth project, The New York Times Company's LifeWire syndicate, and True/Slant—the prototype for the new Forbes. I've wandered far afield—to cover the counterrevolutionary war in Nicaragua, the World Series Earthquake in San Francisco, the UN Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen and Paris. For the last several years I have also been teaching journalism and argument at the University of Chicago. Email me here: jeffmcmahon.com/contact-jeff-mcmahon/