The ubiquity of Priuses in Berkeley is a commonplace. But environmental writer Todd Woody reckons Berkeley serves as a harbinger of the future of transportation in the country:

With months to go before the first mass production electric cars hit American streets, the $41,000 question (before rebates and tax incentives) is whether drivers will buy them en masse.

Which is why you should keep your eye on Berkeley, Calif. While I would hardly hold out my hometown as an avatar of mainstream American values, on the environmental front it’s often been in the vanguard of things to come, like curbside recycling.

Writing for the influential environmental site Grist, Woody notes that one in five cars sold in Berkeley is a Prius. Now, he reckons, many Berkeleyans will move to all-electric models (which is something that PG&E is tracking closely, to provide adequate power). And that might be crucial in making electric cars an ordinary part of the landscape:

But every Prius owner won’t have to switch to electric in order to have an impact. Seeing a Leaf or Volt in the neighbor’s driveway or in the REI parking lot will make an electric car less a curiosity and more just another automotive option when trading in that ’95 Volvo station wagon.

Green Motors may have failed at the start of this year, but perhaps they were just a little bit too far ahead of the trend.

Photo by Brad DeLong

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...