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Electric vehicles take center stage at annual San Diego Auto Show

The start of 2023 also marks the end of San Diego's annual International Auto Show. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says Monday was the final day of the auto event featuring new cars and trucks at the San Diego Convention Center.

San Diego's annual car show looked much like it had before the pandemic — packed with thousands of people, new car releases and a lot of vibrant colors.

The one noticeable difference this year, was the unavoidable presence of hybrid and electric vehicles.

That was a welcome change for auto show attendee and electric car owner Steve Byer.

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“We have solar in our house, so it’s kind of natural. Every night we just plug the thing in and we wake up in the morning and we've got a full tank essentially,” he said.

Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
Hundreds of people crowd around new Ford vehicles at the San Diego International Auto Show, Jan. 2, 2023.

Guillermo Barajon was looking for a new, fully-electric car alongside his wife.

He said the high price of gas over the past few years is factoring into their decision to make the switch.

“Well, we know that EVs are the way to go. With the gas prices as they are, we're looking to just upgrade so that we can have a vehicle that's going to last us for a few years,” Barajon said.

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Others looking for new cars at the event, like Joe Quiroz, plan to stick with a traditional gas vehicle.

After stepping out from an all-electric Ford Lighting truck he told KPBS, “I didn't realize it was an all-electric, that’s probably something I’d stay away from.”

Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
A man poses for a photo in front of a San Diego International Auto Show sign, Jan. 2, 2023.

Quiroz didn't seem too bothered by gas prices or the state’s upcoming policy that all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in California will have to be run on electricity or hydrogen by 2035.

“I mean it sounds good, but then when you start to kind of do some research into it, it almost doesn't sound as cost effective as they make it out to be. It's kind of a new technology and I’m more old-school,” Quiroz said.

Some people were more in the middle, looking for a plug-in hybrid, like John Saad.

Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
A yellow-starred path guides auto show attendees across the event, Jan. 2, 2023.

He said that's the best option for his family at the moment while electric vehicle charging infrastructure continues to be built out across the country.

“The 40-mile range is its maximum range where it can go all-electric, bring it home and charge it up that night,” Saad said. “But when we take a long trip, there's no having to drive and wait at a charging station [feeling anxious], because it's got a regular gasoline engine in it and it'll take you the rest of the distance.”

Byer said he won’t go back to gas powered vehicles, due to the ease of charging at home and lower cost of maintenance with electric cars.

Even with the benefits, the electric car owner cautions that some EVs won't drive 100% of the miles they claim to run on a full charge.