Update on electric vehicle adoption across U.S. cities

With about 320,000 new sales in 2019, the United States is the third-largest electric vehicle market, following China and Europe. Overall, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounted for about 73% of the 2019 market, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) accounted for 27%.

At 7%, the electric vehicle uptake on the west coast of the United States was three-and-a-half times the national average. California alone was home to just under half of all new 2019 electric vehicle sales. San Jose had the highest share at about 20%, followed by the other California areas, Seattle, and Portland, which ranged from 4.5% to 12%. Other major metropolitan areas, including Austin, Boston, Denver, Hartford, New York, Phoenix, and Washington D.C., had above average electric vehicle uptake. In terms of total new vehicles entering the fleet, Los Angeles had the highest, followed by San Francisco, San Jose, and New York.

Electric vehicle market growth critically depends on the greater availability of electric vehicle options. Overall, there were 29 electric vehicle models with over 1,000 U.S. sales in 2019, up from 27 in 2018. The top five markets each had at least 25 electric models available and represent a substantial fraction of new U.S. electric vehicles, but half of the U.S. population had access to fewer than 12 electric models. Greater availability of electric models is key to continuing U.S. market growth, and state-level zero-emission vehicle regulations are the most direct way to overcome the limited availability.

With the average compounded annual growth rate at 30% across the 50 metropolitan areas, charging infrastructure deployment is in line to meet the expected charging gap through 2025. Areas with the highest electric vehicle shares typically had at least 450 public chargers per million population. While the top market San Jose had charging per capita 3-times this benchmark, half of the U.S. population lives where charging is less than half the same benchmark.

Although the electric share of new vehicle sales in the United States overall remained at 2%, the share increased in many local markets and there is growing support from various local, state, and utility promotion actions. Electric shares by metropolitan area are depicted below, as in Figure 3 from the paper. These activities, including regulations, consumer financial and non-financial incentives, charging infrastructure development, and consumer awareness programs, reduce electric vehicle adoption barriers. Consumer incentives remain important while upfront purchase cost remains a barrier. Incentives help to reduce electric vehicles’ upfront cost as battery costs continue to decline. The 10 areas with the highest uptake had state incentives typically worth $2,000 to $5,000.