California. The name evokes sunny blue skies and endless summers, redwood trees and surfing, wineries and long green agricultural fields. It is also the home to Silicon Valley and Palo Alto, the core of US high technology and Tesla, Inc.. California has always seemed to be the place where early adopters thrive. For example, as early as 2020, Governor Newsom announced that California would phase out gasoline-powered cars and dramatically reduce demand for fossil fuels in the fight against the climate crisis. So it makes sense that California is the best state in the US to own an EV, right?
Nope. Actually, California ranks 4th in a new analysis that describes which states are best positioned for the growing demand for EVs.
The Biden plan to tackle transportation emissions includes provisions to raise auto fuel efficiency standards for 2026 models manufactured by big US car companies. It also earmarks $7.5 billion for charging stations for electric vehicles in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill currently moving its way through the House.
The US president has called for half of all new vehicles to be electric or hybrid electric cars by 2030. A plethora of major manufacturers — including General Motors, Volvo, and Audi — have pledged to stop selling internal-combustion vehicles in the next 15 years. Automakers like Tesla, Ford, and Volkswagen plan to introduce dozens of new electric models in the years ahead, spurred on by plummeting battery prices and concerns about the climate crisis.
So what does the future look like for the US and EVs? And how do different US states rank for EV ownership right now?
Key Takeaways About Best States To Own An EV
A new report from Bumper, a company which analyzes vehicle history reports and ownership, sets electric vehicles against this backdrop of burgeoning electric car interest. Their study ranks states and EV suitability, looking at 10 metrics — 5 related to infrastructure, such as availability and growth of EV charging stations, and 5 related to financial considerations, including the cost to purchase and power EV cars and the average travel time to work.
Washington is the best state for owning an electric vehicle; Alaska, the worst. The top states include Washington, Utah, Colorado, Massachusetts, and California. On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, and South Dakota are the worst states.
The Bumper data crunching considered a variety of factors to come up with the EV Friendly Scores.
EV Financial Factors by State
- Number of EV rebates and tax incentives
- Recharge cost
- Average price of gas
- Mean travel time to work
- Cost of an EV versus cost of a gas-powered vehicle
EV Infrastructure Factors by State
- Number of new charging stations since 2017
- Number of charging stations per 100,000 population
- Number of EVSE ports per 100 charging stations
- Number of EVSE ports per 100 EV vehicle registrations
- EV registrations as a percentage of all motor vehicles in the state
Breaking Down the Stats about States & EV Ownership
Washington and Illinois are the top states for financial incentives to own an EV. The top states across 5 broad categories charting financial incentives are Washington, Illinois, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon. The worst states for financial incentives are Kansas, Alaska, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Rhode Island.
Vermont and California top the list for best electric vehicle infrastructure. States earning top scores for EV infrastructure are Vermont, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. States at the bottom for infrastructure are Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Alabama.
California and New York are leading the growth for the total number of new EV charge stations. From January, 2017 through August 5, 2021, the leader in new EV stations is by far California (11,833), followed by New York (2,273), Florida (1,901), Texas (1,771), and Massachusetts (1,662).
The states with the fewest EV stations opening since 2017 are South Dakota (30), Alaska (33), Wyoming (37), Montana (42), and North Dakota (49).
However, viewed by the number of charging stations per 100,000 residents, the rank changes to California (30.1), Vermont (30), Massachusetts (23.6), Utah (23.2), and Colorado (20.5). At the bottom of the list is Louisiana (1.9), followed by Mississippi (2.3), Kentucky (2.7), Alabama (2.9), and Indiana (3.1).
California leads the way on registered EVs, but it’s far from supplanting gas-powered cars. California accounts for a whopping 41.7% of all registered electric vehicles nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2020, with 425,300, followed by Florida (58,160 EVs/5.7% of nationwide total), Texas (52,190/5.1%), Washington (50,520/5%) and New York (32,590/3.2%). States with the fewest EVs on the road were North Dakota (220/0.02%), Wyoming (330/0.03%), South Dakota (410/0.04%), West Virginia (600/0.06%) and Mississippi (780/0.08%).
Looking at EVs as a percentage of total vehicle registrations in each state, the leaders as of Dec. 31, 2020, were California (1.36%), Hawaii (0.84%), Washington (0.68%), Oregon (0.58%) and New Jersey (0.5%). At the bottom were North Dakota (0.02%), South Dakota (0.03%), West Virginia, Mississippi and Wyoming (0.04% each).
Demand for electric cars is far outstripping supply. Industry leader Tesla broke $1 billion in quarterly income for the first time in July. Kelly Blue Book reports electric vehicle sales in the second quarter of this year were up 255% year-over-year.
Electric vehicle leaders in 14 states have launched a 3-year effort to develop “Drive Electric” programs at the state level for 14 states. The states do not include clear leaders likes California and Oregon but, rather, focus on places that need a boost or are just getting off the ground.
On average, only 0.24% of cars on the road in each state were electric vehicles in 2020. Our own Zachary Shahan suggests that there are 2 ways to consider what the best electric cars on the market are.
- One way is to consider what the absolute best cars are, regardless of price.
- The other way is to consider what the best cars are when taking price into account.
- (Of course, you can include a little bit of both.)
The shift to EVs will have sweeping implications for the companies that produce and sell electricity and manage the grid. Analysts generally agree that it is entirely feasible to power many millions of new cars with electricity, but it will take careful planning. Those plans must include, minimally:
- many more places to plug in
- utilities to build a lot of new power plants and upgrade their transmission networks
- incentives for consumers to charge at various times of the day to avoid electrical equipment overload
- a cleaner grid
Graphics provided by Bumper