It's no secret that California is considerably more enthusiastic about electric cars than the rest of the nation.

Policies put in place to promote plug-in cars--and a population willing to embrace new technology--make the Golden State the friendliest place for electric cars in the nation.

But how do California electric-car sales actually compare to those of the rest of the country?

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Just over five years after the first modern electric cars went on sales in large numbers, California accounts for one-third to one-half of U.S. plug-in electric car sales, according to data from the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative advocacy group.

California accounted for about 55 percent of plug-in car sales in January 2016, with 3,692 sales in the state out of a national total of 6,713.

Since January 2011, the California PEV Collaborative estimates 407,378 plug-in electric cars were sold in the U.S.--with 184,657 of those sold in California.

California vs national electric car sales, January 2016 (graphic by California PEV Collaborative)

California vs national electric car sales, January 2016 (graphic by California PEV Collaborative)

Given California's aggressive electric-car policies, it's not surprising such a large portion of plug-in vehicles are sold there.

For one, California is by far the largest state in the U.S. with a zero-emission vehicle mandate that requires automakers to sell electric cars within its borders. (Other states have adopted its mandate, but the Golden State pioneered it.)

This has led to a range of "compliance cars" built solely to comply with the law.

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California also has a robust electric-car incentive program.

It previously offered rebates of $2,500 for new battery-electric cars and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids, but beginning in March, the amount will vary depending on the buyer's income.

Buyers of battery-electric cars can also still get "white stickers" that allow solo access to carpool lanes.

2015 Chevrolet Volt

2015 Chevrolet Volt

A 2015 UCLA study found that this perk alone may have led to the purchase of more than 24,000 plug-in electric cars and hybrids in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco from 2010 through 2013.

But California officials are pushing for even greater electric-car adoption.

MORE: California Goal: Cut Petroleum Use For Cars In Half By 2030 (Jan 2015)

Governor Jerry Brown has called for cutting petroleum use in vehicles on California roads in half by 2030--a goal that was later turned into legislation.

While California leads the nation in electric-car sales, however, it will need to boost its current sales significantly to meet that target.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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