America’s drivers have become increasingly aware of their effect on the environment in recent years. While many of them are changing their driving habits in order to reduce their impact on the world, it's inevitable that some states will be changing the way they drive more than others. But which states have the most environmentally-friendly driving habits?
We decided to delve into the data and find the answer to this question. To do this, we collated a variety of data points by which we could rank the fifty states, such as:
• Average annual mileage
• Electric vehicle and charging station density
• High-speed driving tendency
• Carpool tendency
Below you can find state rankings for all these factors and more, as well as a final table in which every state is ranked by the overall eco-friendliness of its drivers. Read on to discover how your state fared…
Average Annual Mileage
We began by looking into the average number of miles driven by each state’s drivers. The expectation was that we would have to account for state size but, as it turned out, each state’s average didn’t correlate with its total land mass.
The state with the lowest average annual mileage turned out to be Alaska with 9,915 miles – a surprising result considering the fact that it’s the largest state in the US. Of course, the state’s harsh climate and conditions likely mean that residents keep their driving to a minimum compared to other states. Alaska was followed by Hawaii in second and Connecticut in third (conversely, two of the USA’s smaller states).
Wyoming was the state with the highest average annual mileage, with an average of 21,821 miles per driver. This result was a little more predictable because it has the second lowest population density in the US. Georgia followed in second, while Oklahoma ended up in third, less than 30 miles behind the Peach State.
Electric Vehicle Density
Next, we moved on to each state’s adoption of electric vehicles in relation to population size.
California has the highest density of EVs versus population. The state’s love of electric vehicles is well known – for instance, we found that Californians are the second biggest lovers of EVs in our 2018 study, ‘Which States Love Electric Vehicles the Most?’
The state with the lowest EV density proved to be Mississippi. With around 277 people for every EV, the difference is massive compared to California in first, where there are only 28 people per EV.
EV Charging Station Density
After looking into EV density, it made sense to investigate EV charging station density as well.
Interestingly, California wound up in second for EV charging station density. First place was taken by Vermont instead, who had finished in fifth for EV density. The state has been encouraging electric vehicle use this year, in a bid to reduce emissions.
It’s understandable that many of the top ten states from the previous data point (EV density) finished in a similar position for this one as well. Aside from Vermont and California, other states that appeared in both top ten lists include Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Massachusetts.
At the other end of the ranking, we can see more similarities with the previous data point. Repeatedly low-ranking states include Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky.
Driving Time Spent Above 70mph
Driving speed is a relevant factor in fuel consumption. The US Department of Energy found that gas mileage decreases more rapidly at higher speeds; this means that states spending less time at high speeds will likely consume fuel at a slower rate.
Hawaiians spend the lowest amount of time driving over 70mph, followed by Alaska and Oregon. It has to be said that we certainly weren’t expecting Hawaii to have the slowest drivers, having already found that both Alaska and Oregon have more strict speed limits in our previous study, ‘Which States Have the Strictest Driving Laws?’
At the other end of the table, Wyoming drivers spend over a fifth of their driving time above 70mph! This is even more problematic considering the fact that AAA data shows Wyoming to be one of the more expensive states for gas prices.
We followed up on high-speed driving tendency by looking into each state’s willingness to carpool to work, as opposed to driving alone.
Hawaii finished in first once again – nearly 18% of its drivers carpool to work. It’s worth noting that this is the fifth time the state has reached the top ten in this study. Alaska, in second place this time around, has also stood out throughout the study (excluding its low EV and charging station density).
Alabama came last for this data point, with only 8.35% of its drivers carpooling to work. However, it was closely followed by Wisconsin in second and New Hampshire in third – there’s a very small difference of less than 0.1% between the three of them.
Online Interest in Electric & Hybrid Vehicles
Finally, we thought it worth including each state’s level of online interest in electric and hybrid cars according to Google Trends data.
Considering its reputation, it’s unsurprising that California came first for both topics – it has by far the most online interest in both electric vehicles and hybrid cars.
The Golden State was followed by Washington and Hawaii. Both of these states have consistently reached the top ten throughout this study; therefore, it’s no great shock that they would have a lot of interest in more eco-friendly forms of transport like electric vehicles.
Mississippi had the lowest amount of total interest out of every state – its score equalled only 25% of California’s total! Although its interest in hybrid vehicles was actually matched by Louisiana in second last place, it had by far the lowest interest in electric vehicles.
After gathering the above data points, we gave every state scores out of ten for each one, using minmax normalization. Combining these results gave an overarching score, enabling us to discover the state with the eco-friendliest drivers.
Below is the formula that allowed us to generate these scores:
Result = (x-min(x))/(max(x)-min(x))
Defying expectations, California didn’t manage to take first place, instead finishing in fifth. It did well for most data points but had middling scores for average annual mileage and percentage of driving time above 70mph.
The state that did come first was in fact Hawaii. Of course, this isn’t that surprising after looking through all the individual data points in this study. The state was incredibly consistent throughout – it reached the top three for every single ranking. Washington and Oregon, in second and third respectively, were almost as reliably high-ranking, but both suffered a little due to their average annual mileage scores.
At the other end of the table, Mississippi finished at the bottom. It came last for two of the data points and made the bottom ten for the other four; as well as this, it has a total score less than ten percent the size of Hawaii’s! Alabama didn’t do much better, ending up in the bottom ten for nearly every ranking. North Dakota lies in 48th place, and though it didn’t finish in fiftieth for any individual ranking, it consistently scored poorly, which left it as one of the worst states for eco-friendly drivers.
In this study, we investigated the factors that we felt were relevant to eco-friendly driving in the USA. If you would like to see the full rankings of each data point as well as the sources of the information found in this piece, click here.