California is known for its heavily congested roadways, serious smog problems and its desire to fix both those things. Part of the ‘fix’ involves gradually converting from fossil fuel powered cars to near zero-emission vehicles and this summer, that transformation is in full swing.

There are nearly a dozen new electric vehicle models taking to California roads this summer including the Coda, Tesla, Nissan Leaf and, of course, the Prius. Helping to make this transformation possible is the surge in electric power charging stations. California now boasts more of these charging stations than any other state in the U.S. These stations help make it possible for electric car owners to travel further than their range may permit because they can recharge either along the way or part of the way back.

Along with these electric cars has come a surge in new legislation mean to make it easier for electric car owners to get around, and prevent other hazards from arising. There are new laws regarding who may park in an electric car charging zone and for how long; which lanes can be used by electric vehicles and where they can and cannot drive.

It helps that these new electric cars are just about a match for their fossil fuel driven cousins when it comes to power and amenities.

Aside from the state’s longtime role as a trend incubator, other factors have combined to make this a test bed for what proponents hope will be a new age in personal transportation. The state’s policy makers have set tough emissions rules mandating a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, and they’ve offered tax incentives for buyers. As a hotbed of high technology and entertainment, California has plenty of influential early adopters with ready cash. An expanded charging infrastructure is being developed and, perhaps most important, battery-powered cars grant access to the coveted car-pool lanes on congested freeways.

Among the most anticipated electric models of the summer is the Tesla Model S luxury sedan, with base prices of $58,570 to $78,570, depending on the size of the battery pack and, consequently, the driving range on a charge. While the car was under development, Tesla collected more than 10,000 reservations without so much as a test drive. Once promised for delivery in 2009, the S — Tesla’s second model — at last reached customers on June 22.