Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure

How Are We Doing?

Electric vehicles and infrastructure received a thumbs down because the number of new zero emission vehicles and new electric vehicle rebates in San Diego County distributed through the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) in 2020, are lower than those in 2019. The new electric vehicle rebates were 10.1 per 10,000 capita in 2020, 45% lower than the rebates distributed in 2019. While similar drops are seen in other counties in 2020, likely due to the pandemic, both the share of zero emission light duty vehicles, and the adoption of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in San Diego County are lower than the California average. Want to know more about what we're measuring?

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Electric vehicle deployment remained below California average

The California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) offers rebates to California residents for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) which include battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. The rate of zero emission vehicle rebates per 10,000 in San Diego County through CVRP was 10.1 in 2020, slightly above the California statewide average, but 45% lower than that in 2019. The number of rebates in all counties were lower than the pre-pandemic 2019 level. The number of CVRP applications has recovered since September 2020 and the number of applications in December 2020 was back to the same level as in December 2019. The rebate rate in San Diego County saw its highest in 2018, at 19.4 rebates per 10,000 capita. Based on a survey by the Center for Sustainable Energy, about 80% of the CVRP participants replaced older and more polluting vehicles with their rebated electric vehicles. More than half of the replaced vehicles were at least 5 years older than the rebated vehicle, with 25% being at least 12 years older than the rebated vehicle. 

Apart from federal tax credits for 2020 of up to $8,000 for certain hydrogen fuel cell vehicles purchased for use in the US, fuel cell electric vehicles may receive up to $7,000 in rebates through the CVRP for low to moderate income households or a $3,500 standard rebate for others. Battery electric vehicles may receive a $2,000 standard rebate or $4,500 increased rebate for low to moderate income households. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles may receive $1000 (standard) increasing to $3,500 for low to moderate income households. Low-to-moderate household incomes are considered to be those with less than or equal to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) tracks the sales and population of light duty ZEVs in California and in each county. At the end of 2020, only 2.1% of light-duty vehicles on the road in San Diego County were ZEVs, close to the California statewide average (2.2%) and the share in Los Angeles County (2.3%). Counties in the Bay Area, such as San Francisco County and Santa Clara County, have a higher share of ZEVs on the road. 

Although California leads the ZEV market in the U.S. with its slightly-more-than 2% ZEVs of registered light duty vehicles at the end of 2020, Norway is the global leader. At the end of 2020, 12% of vehicles registered in Norway were purely electric. This 12% does not include plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, so that the percentage of ZEVs in Norway applying California’s definition of ZEVs would be higher than 12%.

At the end of 2020, San Diego County had more than 50,000 light duty ZEVs. Adding the ZEVs used by transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, by goods movement companies, by transit agencies and school districts, the total number of ZEVs at the end of 2020 was close to 70,000. The average annual rate of growth of ZEV sales from 2015 to 2020 was 34%.

In 2018, Governor Brown signed Executive Order B-48-18, requiring 1.5 million ZEVs on California roads by 2025 and 5 million by 2030. San Diego’s share of the ZEV goal, based on population, is 430,000 in 2030. In 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-79-20, setting a 100% ZEV sales for new passenger vehicles by the 2035 goal. 8 million light-duty ZEVs will be needed statewide in 2030 to meet the new goal. San Diego’s share of the new goal is 771,000 in 2030

Electric vehicle chargers are often referred to as electric vehicle supply equipment. Public chargers are located in parking spaces accessible to the public, while shared private chargers are only accessible to employees, tenants, visitors, and residents as designated by property owners. One charging station, similar to a gas station, may have one or more chargers available for use. At the end of 2020, San Diego County had close to 5,000 shared, private, Level 2 and DC fast chargers as well as over 2,000 Level 2 and DC fast public chargers. The chargers per 10,000 capita in San Diego County is lower than the California average. However, San Diego County has a higher electric vehicle to public charger ratio than the California average, at 23 electric vehicles per public charger. 

Although there have been improvements in electric vehicle range in recent years, in order to support the 771,000 ZEV goal by 2030, a total of 155,200 chargers will need to be installed throughout San Diego County.

Why Are Electric Vehicles Important?

High quality of life means the region boasts a thriving economy and a healthy environment accessible to all in the community.

  • Environment: Road transportation is a source of air pollution in the local environment. Transportation is also San Diego’s and California's largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The more zero-emission vehicles on the roads, the better it is for local clean air and the climate. While the state has a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030, an increase in hybrid vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles also indicate cleaner air and decreased use of fossil fuels. Most recently, California’s Governor Newsom passed Executive Order N-79-20 which sets a goal for 100 percent of in-state sales of new
 passenger cars and trucks to be zero-emission by 2035 and medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2045.
  • Economy: California has numerous electric vehicle manufacturing jobs within the state. Tesla, with its light-duty vehicle mass-production factory is not the only electric vehicle manufacturer in California, electric bus manufacturers such as Proterra and BYD are also present. In 2018, electric vehicle exports were the 8th most valuable export in California worth almost $3 billion in revenue.
  • Equity: California laws help make electric vehicles and their low operating costs more accessible to low-income residents by authorizing rebates for replacement batteries and fuel cells for owners of secondhand EVs (AB193), providing carpool lane stickers for secondhand EVs (SB957), and prioritizing low-income Californians for first-come first-served rebates on EV purchases until 2022 (AB2885). The CVRP program offers additional rebates for low and moderate-income consumers.

Regional Response


Policies that address electric vehicle and charging infrastructure are now found in nearly all recent local Climate Action Plans.

The City of Carlsbad and the City of Encinitas both passed local ordinances requiring more EV parking spaces or charging infrastructure than the State codes.

For an overview of local climate ordinances that surpass State codes, see the Climate Leadership in the San Diego Region storymap. 


San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District partnered with the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP) on the San Diego County Incentive Project.

On October 27, 2020, the application for rebates of up to $80,000 on eligible electric vehicle charger equipment and installation costs opened for businesses, commercial properties, multifamily residences, K-12 school districts, and local government facilities in San Diego County. Within one week, all funds for both DC Fast Chargers and Level 2 Chargers were already provisionally reserved.


The Accelerate to Zero Emissions Coalition, a regional collaborative comprising public, private, and nonprofit organizations in the San Diego region, formed a regional partnership to advance transportation electrification to combat air pollution and climate change.

In July 2021, the Coalition released a gap analysis identifying barriers to widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities.

What Are We Measuring?

We measure electric vehicle adoption by tracking the number of new rebates from the CVRP per 10,000 capita and the percentage of light-duty ZEVs on roads in San Diego County and other urban counties annually. Secondary measurements on the charging infrastructure are the number of shared private and public electric vehicle chargers and the electric vehicle to public ratio.