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  • Kendall Plein

The Top U.S. Metros Leading the Transition to Electric Vehicles

The new age of electric vehicles ruling the roads is still dawning, but some cities are powering the charge. EVs have slowly gained in popularity in the U.S. as more manufacturers adopt the technology. Tesla has successfully convinced luxury car buyers that EVs can be high-end commodities, while other manufacturers churn out more mainstream varieties of popular car and truck models.

Electric vehicles are starting to gain a foothold in the American automobile market, yet EVs still comprise a relatively small share of the overall cars on the road. The U.S ranks third in EV stock with 1.8 million vehicles, behind China’s 5.4 million and Europe’s 3.3 million. The main deterrents of electric vehicle ownership are price and the range, meaning how far they can drive on a single charge. Even as ranges increase, people still struggle to trust the numbers. There’s a common fear of getting stranded, especially in places that lack charging stations, of which there are many. While EVs are often more cost-effective over time than their gas-powered counterparts, the initial cost deters lower and middle-class buyers from making the switch.

California is currently the nation’s electric vehicle hub, as the state has the most infrastructure to support an electric automobile community. StorageCafe found that five of the top ten EV cities are in California. The Golden State’s affinity for electric autos can be attributed to three main factors: high wealth concentration, majority-Democrat, and a high level of car ownership. This fostered the electric car movement, pushing legislators to incentivize EV adoption. In addition, the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project has enabled Californian cities to incentivize electric vehicles.

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San Jose ranked as the nation's leading city by StorageCafe for EV-friendliness. While Los Angeles has more electric vehicles with about 230,900, San Jose has better EV infrastructure. The ranking considers the number of EVs, number of charging stations, the cost of an “eGallon," and the dedicated highway space for electric vehicles. San Jose has 74,000 electric cars, with on average 2.4 charging stations per 1,000 households. Silicon Valley has cultured a trend for EVs, especially Teslas, favored among the high-earning, environmentally-conscious population.

Portland is ranked ninth on StorageCafe’s electric vehicle list and ranks first for its public transportation infrastructure. Many cities invest in electrifying public transit infrastructure, allowing lower-income individuals to reap the benefits of riding electric — namely, a reduced carbon footprint and better local air quality. For example, 86% of Portland’s public transit vehicles are powered by renewable energy.

Expansion of electric vehicle ownership requires reliable electrical grids. From a climate-conscious perspective, those grids should be backed by a robust share of renewable energy sources and the vehicles should be produced sustainably. Ample charging stations are also a necessary for getting more EVs on the road. Homeowners can easily plug their cars in at home, but renters and travelers cannot. San Jose has 12.3% of its charging stations located in rental properties, making it the friendliest U.S. city for EV-driving renters. Sarasota comes second, leading the electric vehicle market for Florida.

For a country so attached to the idea of a personal automobile, the transition to electric vehicles will mark a turning point in society. Just as towns must have a gas station, there will be a need to invest in electric vehicle charging stations moving forward. States and local governments can look to these top EV cities to learn how to foster an electric vehicle transition. While going electric is still largely an individual decision, support from cities can increase the likelihood of people making the switch.


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