The electric car has been subject to a great deal of coverage in recent years, not least due to its growing popularity. Americans all over the United States have been making the jump to electric vehicles (EVs). There are various reasons for this, but the main ones are wanting to cut down on their fuel emissions and benefitting from the financial incentives offered by state and federal governments.
It’s become a well-known fact that California is the state in which the EV is most popular, with over 400,000 units sold between 2008 and 2018. But where are the true best places to live in the USA if you’re an EV owner? Which states have the lowest refueling costs, or the highest number of charging stations?
We pulled together a great deal of data in order to rank every US state according to various statistics and look into each data point in more detail below.
Electric Vehicle Sales
The most obvious place to start would be with the sales numbers. States with more EV owners will be more driven to accommodate them by improving their EV-related facilities, thereby making those states better places to live for EV owners. However, the states that rank highest for sales numbers are, somewhat unsurprisingly, the states with the largest populations. We therefore decided to study the year-on-year sales increases of each state between 2016 and 2017 to find out where EV popularity growth is the largest.
Oklahoma was the state with the greatest sales growth from 2016 to 2017. This is a particularly impressive result since the state offers no incentives or tax credits to its residents for buying an EV, as is the case with many states.
The state that saw the least sales growth between 2016 and 2017 was Wisconsin, with a decrease of 11.4%, in spite of offering EV owners tax rebates and exemptions on fuel and equipment. Generally speaking, the only other states that had drops in sales were either states to the far south, like Georgia and Tennessee, or states to the far north, like Alaska and North Dakota.
Interestingly, California falls into the lower half in this category, although this is somewhat understandable considering how EV sales are already well-established there.
EV Popularity by State
The subject of sales prompted us to question which were the most popular EVs of each state. After some research we put together the map below, illustrating the EV most often searched for on Google in each state.
Although some of the cars shown here are reasonably priced electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt and the Kia Soul EV, the majority are more expensive than many people can likely afford. One might expect the most popular brand to be Tesla due to it being synonymous with the electric car but, surprisingly, the most popular EV in the highest number of states is the BMW i8 - a hybrid sports car. Coincidentally it is also the most expensive car on the map.
The most searched for car in the 2nd and 3rd highest number of states are both Tesla models – namely, the Model X and Model S. Although both of these cars are not as expensive as the i8, they’re still rather costly.
Of course, these results can likely be attributed to the fact that many of the people searching for these cars aren’t looking to actually buy them; they may just be looking for information on them out of curiosity.
Fuel Costs – Electric vs Gasoline
A significant factor in car ownership is the cost of fuel. We thought it would be interesting to compare the eGallon (the cost of driving the same distance as could be travelled on a gallon of gasoline) against traditional gasoline. The state that comes first in this regard is Louisiana, charging only 87¢ per eGallon. Interestingly Louisiana tends to suffer in other statistics – for instance, it comes 44th for year-on-year sales growth and as we’ll find out below, has one of the lowest amounts of charging stations compared with other states. So, it may be a great state for eGallon prices, but you’ll have to hope you live in driving distance to one of the public stations or you may find yourself in trouble.
Louisiana and the rest of the Top 25 are all very closely bunched together – there’s only a 25¢ difference between 1st and 25th places. Meanwhile, in the Bottom 25, the results are rather more spread out…
The state in which the EV fuel prices are highest is Hawaii, with $2.91 per eGallon. At nearly a dollar more than Alaska (2nd from the bottom on this list), Hawaii doesn’t seem to be in a great position. That said, the state does offer discounts and exceptions for electric car owners: the Hawaiian Electric Company offers time-of-use rates for both residential and commercial customers, and the state provides exemption from certain parking fees as well as the free use of HOV lanes.
You may also be interested in the cost difference between gasoline and electric vehicles if you’re considering changing your car. In that regard, the highest ranking state is Washington with a sizable difference of $2.40 which, you can imagine, would save money significantly over time. As well as this large discrepancy (mainly due to the low cost of electric fuel in that state), Washington also offers some tax exemptions and a $500 rebate to customers with qualified Level 2 chargers, making it a great state for EV owners.
Number of Charging Stations
Fuel accessibility is also important, so we ranked every state by its total number of public charging stations. However, this doesn’t take population size into account – a smaller state may have less stations than a larger state because there is less need for a high number of them. We therefore took these results and divided them by the state population estimate, revealing a ratio of population versus public charging stations.
Vermont ranked highest in this category, with 3,780 people for every charging station. Studying the state further, it only ranked 42nd for fuel costs so it isn’t one of the cheaper states to live in if you own an EV. On the other hand, Vermont has also seen a large increase in EV sales between 2016 and 2017, which will likely precipitate further positive developments in the state’s EV-related facilities. Therefore, it may still be a good state to keep an eye on as it develops.
The state with the highest number of people per charging station is Alaska, which is hardly surprising consider there are only nine public charging stations in the entire state! Alaska’s position becomes even weaker because - as previously mentioned - it comes 2nd highest for fuel costs. It also saw the 4th lowest number of EV sales in 2017 and saw the 2nd lowest amount of sales growth between 2016 and 2017. Evidently, Alaska isn’t a great state for EV owners.
Electric Vehicle Market Share
This next statistic displays the EV market share of each state (in other words, the percentage of all light vehicles sold in 2017 that were electric vehicles). Much like the EV sales statistic, this provides an indication of the states in which EVs are the most popular and are therefore more likely to prioritize EV-related development.
As might be expected, California has the highest market share with 5.02%. This is twice the market share of Washington (the 2nd highest ranked state), illustrating just how much more widespread they are in relation to every other state. California also offers a huge number of incentives, discounts and rebates to EV owners, so it almost goes without saying that it would be a good state to live in for EV owners. Other states with high market shares in EVs include Oregon (2.36%), Hawaii (2.33%) and Vermont (2.13%).
The state with the lowest EV market share is Mississippi with a total of 0.1% - hardly surprising considering that there were only 128 EVs sold there in 2017. As we’ve already seen, the state also has a poor charging station vs population ratio and an average year-on-year sales increase. Although refueling costs are fairly low, it doesn’t seem like too great a state for EV owners.
So, without further ado here is our order for the best states for electric car owners. If you’d like to see our methodology for creating the scores, you can do so at the bottom of the article.
Surprisingly, California wasn’t the highest ranking - the state that came in 1st place was in fact Oklahoma! Although it had the smallest EV market share of the 50 states, it built up a high score due to low fuel costs and a high proportion of charging stations against population. Oklahoma also saw the highest increase in sales from 2016 to 2017, securing its victory. This suggests that Oklahoma has great potential as a state for EV owners to live in. Something to bear in mind might be that the state currently offers no exemptions or incentives to its residents for buying an EV, although this may change with time.
California follows up in a close 2nd place. While it has the highest EV market share and one of the highest charging station vs population ratios, the state suffered due to average refueling costs and a poor year-on-year sales increase 2016-17.
3rd place goes to Washington. While its EV market share was average and its year-on-year sales increase didn’t rank highly, it made up for it with a great proportion of charging stations to population, as well as a particularly low fuel cost. In fact, if you switched to an electric car in Washington you’d be making $2.40 saving per gallon, which could equate to a saving between $28 to $36 per tank, depending on the size of the car. Now let’s take a look at the less successful states…
The results at the other end of the rankings are not particularly surprising. Alaska comes dead last, only securing a score of 5.01. While the state’s fuel costs were merely average, in every other factor it performed very poorly: it came very close to the bottom for EV market share and YOY sales increase, while its position at the bottom of the charging station rankings sealed its fate.
The rest of the Bottom 25 are rather more closely grouped together. Many them are actually among the cheapest states for fuel costs, ranking highly in that respect. Where they tend to fall down is in the market share (the only real exception for this rule is Hawaii).
We chose to focus in on just a few factors that might give you an idea of which US states most love the electric car, but there are countless others that could have an effect. What are the circumstances that would matter the most to you?
If you’d like to see more details on our data, as well as their sources, click here.
After analyzing all the above data, we wanted a way to score each of our data points against each other so that we could try to create a definitive final score and find out which state was the best for electric car owners. So, we standardized each research element using minmax normalization to get a score out of 10 for each factor. Below is the exact formula:
Result = (x-min(x))/(max(x)-min(x))
We then added together the results to get a final score out of 40 for each state.