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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

EV sales pick up in NC and Southeast and the industry grows here, too

An electric vehicle at a charging station.
David Boraks
An electric vehicle charging in Charlotte.

This story first appeared in WFAE climate reporter David Boraks' weekly newsletter. Sign up here to get the news straight to your inbox first.

If you think you're seeing more electric cars on roads around North Carolina and the Southeast, you're right. A new report says EV sales grew 50% from last July through this June in the region's six states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

North Carolina led the region with 56% growth from a year ago. That's according to the fourth annual "Transportation Electrification in the Southeast" report by consulting firm Atlas Public Policy for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

EVs are inching up as a percentage of all car sales, too. Altogether, 5.9% of all new light-duty vehicles sold in the past year across the Southeast were EVs. And sales are accelerating: EVs had a market share of 7% or more in Georgia (7.2%), North Carolina (7.1%), and Florida (7%) during the second quarter of 2023.

Other states remain far behind. Second-quarter EV market share was just 2.5% in Alabama, 3.8% in South Carolina and 3.9% in Tennessee.

Stan Cross, electric transportation program director at SACE, said it looks like the region is poised to see a sharp upturn in sales in the coming years.

"When you look at disruptive technologies, historically, that have come to market, that 5% market share is a critical threshold. At that point, you begin to have enough of that technology in the market where consumers begin to pay attention and begin to adopt, beyond just those early adopter-type consumers," Cross said.

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Cross said he expects sales to grow with help from federal rebates and tax breaks, and as the EV charging network expands. Over the past year, the number of charging stations grew 66% in the Southeast, according to the report.

A total of 70,201 electric vehicles have been sold in North Carolina through June. That includes both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

But the picture is not all rosy. Those sales are still well below Gov. Roy Cooper's goal of 1.25 million EVs on North Carolina roads by 2030.

When compared to national trends, the Southeast still trails. Nationally, about 10% of all new car sales are now EVs and the figure is even higher in some areas. Cross blames less favorable state policies and a lack of incentives across the Southeast.

"Adoption is happening quicker in regions like the West Coast, the Northeast, and some of the intermountain west, where you have policy conditions that have been conducive to EV adoption from the beginning," Cross said. "Here in the Southeast, we didn't have any policy mechanisms in place early on. So it took us a while to start to pick up."

But Cross sees that starting to change, and both consumers and corporate and government fleet operators are in a buying mood. And he thinks that the growing presence of manufacturers in the region will spur both policy changes and interest in EVs.

Atlas Energy Hub
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

The other big EV story is the Southeast's growing role in EV manufacturing. EVs or EV parts are increasingly likely to be made in the region.

"This year's report shows that investment in EV and battery manufacturing and employment continue to grow significantly," Cross said. "The Southeast has captured about 40% of all the nation's investment in EV and battery manufacturing, and about 35% of all the jobs, which is staggering when you think that the Southeast comprises only about 18% of the nation's population."

As of mid-2023, companies have announced investments totaling $60 billion in the Southeast to make electric vehicles, EV parts, batteries and other components. That's nearly double where we were a year ago. All those new plants come with 65,392 jobs, up 60% in the past year.

That includes major investments by Hyundai for EV and battery plants in Georgia and by Toyota for a major battery factory near Greensboro.

One last tidbit from the report: Tesla remains the most popular EV brand in North Carolina, matching the national trend. (See chart below.)

Atlas Energy Hub
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.