Transportation accounted for 38.2 percent of the state’s GHG emissions in 2021—California’s largest energy-consuming and greenhouse-gas-emitting sector. At the same time, the state has witnessed some positive developments in the transportation sector, such as a slight decrease in car ownership rates and an increase in public transit usage from 2021, though still well below the pre-pandemic level in 2019. There has also been a trend in the electric vehicle (EV) market, where consumer preferences have shifted more towards pickup trucks and SUVs as more models become available. Additionally, BART and Muni, the state’s two largest systems, are projected to reach their fiscal cliffs in 2025, meaning they could face budget deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars.68 Fortunately, the state’s final 2023-24 budget deal includes $5.1 billion in emergency aid for California’s public transit agencies, of which $1.1 billion will come from the state’s cap-and-trade revenue.69

In an impressive achievement, California reached its ambitious goal of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the road in April 2023—two years ahead of schedule. By the end of 2022, there were 1,085,119 ZEVs on the road, accounting for a 3.55 percent of the total vehicles registered in the state. There were half a million ZEVS sold in the state between the end of 2022 and April 2023. Additionally, California has hit another major milestone as the CEC announced that 25 percent of all new cars sold in the state were zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in Q2 2023 – totaling 125,939 ZEV sales in the three-month period.70 California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state also surpassed its zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) truck sales goal two years ahead of schedule. The EV truck sales goal, set at 6 percent of new trucks sold in California by 2024, was reached in 2022, with 7,639 ZEV trucks sold. In total, 7.5 percent of all new trucks sold in the state in 2022 were zero-emission vehicles.71

However, as economic activities continued to resume in California, there was a 4.7 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2020 to 2021. To achieve the GHG emissions reduction targets in 2030 and attain net carbon neutrality by 2045, it is crucial for the upward trend in ZEV adoption to continue (Zero Emission Vehicle growth approximately 17.7% or 26,200 vehicles each year based on 2018 to 2022 newly registered ZEVs), while simultaneously reducing VMT. With the proposed regulations, continued investment in ZEVs, and a focus on reducing VMT, California can position itself more favorably to achieve its future climate goals.

Transportation Emissions and Vehicle Ownership
  • Following a decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) from 2019 to 2020, vehicle miles traveled increased by 3.7 percent in 2021. The total vehicle miles traveled in 2021 was 8.8 percent lower than in 2019. Furthermore, as a result of pent-up demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of total vehicle registrations also increased by 3.9 percent from 2020 to 2021.

  • In 2022, the vehicle ownership rate was 78.3 per 100 persons, down from 78.4 in 2021.

  • In 2022, zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) accounted for 2.8 and 3.6 vehicles per 100 persons, respectively, up slightly compared to 2021.

  • Total new light vehicle registrations declined by 10.2 percent from 2021 to 2022. This is despite an increase in new registrations of light-duty pickup trucks, mini-vans, and SUVs, which made up 68.5 percent of new light vehicle registrations—up from 66.4 percent in 2021.

  • Consumer preferences continue to favor pickup trucks, mini-vans, and SUVs, as car registrations dropped more (-16.1%) than light trucks (-9.1%). Furthermore, total light truck registrations have increased to 1.2 times the number of car registrations, representing 97.2 percent more new light trucks registrations than new car registrations observed in 2021.

  • Between 2019 and 2022, the market share of light trucks witnessed a notable increase of 10.1 percentage points. This growth occurred despite a simultaneous decrease of 80,606 units in light truck registrations, attributed to the overall decline in total vehicle registrations in 2022.The share of newly registered light trucks reached its highest level since 2013, with 68.5 percent in 2022. This upward trajectory has been consistent, reflecting a steady climb.

  • New light-duty electric vehicle registrations in all classes rose by 61.7 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year.

  • While the growth in new light-duty EV registrations (+41.1%) from 2021 to 2022 was less than the increase observed from 2020 to 2021 (+79.0%), the market share of EVs increased in 2022—from 12.8 percent of total registrations in 2021 to 20.1 percent in 2022.

  • In a remarkable achievement, California reached its ambitious goal of 1.5 million ZEVs by 2025, two years earlier than expected—in April 2023. California now accounts for 40 percent of all EV sales in the United States.

  • From 2020 to 2021, VMT per registered vehicle increased by 6.9 percent (or 699 miles) to 10,172 miles, after consistently decreasing for 10 years. This shift may be attributed to lower gas prices compared to 2020 and the easing pandemic travel restrictions, which could have provided an incentive for people to drive more often. However, total vehicle miles traveled in 2021 is 8.8 percent lower than 2019 total vehicle miles traveled. VMT per capita is 7.6 percent lower than 2019 levels and VMT per registered vehicle is 6.1 percent lower than 2019 level. This may be attributed to lower vehicle registrations (compared to 2019 levels) and reduced travel as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic.

Zero-Emission Vehicles
  • The number of ZEVs on-road in California reached 1,085,119 as of the end of 2022, an increase of 31.8 percent compared to 2021. This includes about 744,809 battery EVs, nearly 328,281 plug-in hybrids, and about 8,000 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. While vehicle pricing was a major concern in 2022, sales of ZEVs increased by more than 50 percent from 2021. Innovation in the latest car makes and models from major automakers has been driving the high consumer demand for Electric Vehicles (EVs).

  • To reach the next goal of 5 million ZEVs by 2030, new registrations in California need to increase by an annual average of 18.8 percent from 2024 to 2030. At the current trajectory (five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25.6% from 2018 to 2023), California is on track to meet that target one year ahead of schedule.

  • There were 171,716 electric light-duty pickups, SUVs and vans registered in 2022, up 49.3 percent compared to 2021. Furthermore, ZEVs accounted for 16.3 percent of new registrations in pickups, SUVs, and vans in 2022.

  • In 2022, there was a significant 22.7 percent decrease in the number of clean vehicle rebates claimed. This decline can be attributed to a decrease in applications resulting from exclusion of certain electric vehicle (EV) models from the rebate program.

  • However, the share of equity groups—people living in disadvantaged communities (as defined by CalEnviroScreen 3.0)73 and low-income communities (as defined by Assembly Bill 1550)74 –who have taken advantage of the rebate has been steadily increasing over the last few years. In 2022, approximately 32.1 percent of the rebates went to either of these groups—the highest share on record. This is up from 29.2 percent in 2021 and almost double the figure in 2015 (17.8%).

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounted for over 88 percent of clean-vehicle rebates in 2022, a 7.7 percent increase from the share of 82.4 percent in 2021.

  • In California, the share of ZEVs among all registered vehicles grew faster year-over-year in 2022 (+31.5%) than in 2021 (+23.3%). Specifically, a few medium-sized Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) experienced significant growth: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura (from 2.4% to 3.3%), Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade (from 2.1% to 2.9%), Napa (from 2.6% to 3.5). The rate of increase in non-MSA areas has slowed, only increasing from 1 percent in 2020 to 1.1 percent in 2021 to 1.4 percent in 2022.

Clean Transportation’s Future
  • As of July 3, 2023, there were 39,377 public Level 1, Level 2, and DC fast-charging stations in California—or 7.8 percent of the 508,000 public and DC fast charging (DCFC) stations needed to achieve the goal in Executive Order N-79-20. Atlas Public Policy reports 41,609 L2 and DCFC at 15,251 locations.75

  • Among the three types of charging stations, DC fast charging stations had the most significant increase—growing by 18.5 percent from 2021. Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations also grew by 1.1 and 0.6 percent, respectively.

  • Similar to 2021, the non-MSA parts of the state (the rural parts of the state that don’t belong to an MSA) had the second-highest number of non-DC public charging stations per EV (6.4)—behind only Napa (8.0). However, due to higher growth in total EV registrations (+31.8%) than charging stations (+4.2%) in 2022, the number of non-DC public charging station per EV decreased by 4.8 percent (in absolute terms) from the previous year.

  • More importantly, public charging stations (including Level 1, Level 2 and DC Fast Charging) per EV in 2022 decreased by 18.8 percent across California. Specifically, Stockton-Lodi MSA has the smallest decrease with a 5.2 percent change from 2021 to 2022. The Yuba City MSA has the fastest decrease, showing a substantial 33.3 percent one year decrease. Chico, Redding, and Vallejo-Fairfield also experienced notable decreases, with 31.4 percent, 34.1 percent, and 15.5 percent respectively.

  • Wholesale distribution of gasoline and gasohol (-18.9%) and diesel and alternative fuels (-11.2%) continued to decline in 2022 relative to 2019. 2022 was the first year Wholesale distribution of gasoline and gasohol and diesel and alternative fuels was below the pre-pandemic 2019 level. Gasoline consumption fell by 13.7 percent from 2021 to 2022, after increasing by 10 percent from 2020 to 2021. Consumption of diesel and alternative fuels fell by 9.5 percent in 2022, after increasing by 7 percent the previous year.

  • On the other hand, trips on public transit, commonly measured as unlinked passenger trips (UPTs, which represent the number of times passengers board public transportation vehicles), increased by 28.1 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. This was the first year it increased since the onset of the pandemic, though that is still roughly 40 percent lower than the 2019 level.


68 AXIOS San Francisco. California budget proposal allocates $1.1B to state transit agencies. June 13, 2023. Assessed July 06, 2023. Available at:

69 “Governor Newsom Signs Budget Deal Providing $5.1 Billion for Local Transportation.” The Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. June 30, 2023. Accessed July 06, 2023.  Available at:

70 “MILESTONE: 1 in 4 New Cars Sold in California Were Zero-Emission.” The Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. August 02, 2023. Accessed August 09, 2023. Available at:

71 Governor of California. California Hits ZEV Truck Sales Goal Two Years Ahead of Schedule. October 23, 2023. Accessed Dec 27, 2023. Retrieved from:

72 The Inflation Reduction Act: EV Provisions. September 6th, 2022. Assessed July 06, 2023. Available at:

73 The CalEnviroScreen3.0 can be view here:

74 The Assembly Bill 1550 can be view here:

75 Atlas Public Policy. INVESTMENT IN PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE EV CHARGING IN THE UNITED STATES (2023). May 2023. Assessed Jan 17, 2024. Available at: