12 Mar 24

Electrification is very much a state decision in America

Looking in from the outside, it’s common to think of the USA as one big country. But the electrification of transport and mobility paints a different picture in which the 50 states are more like different countries. 

Transport and mobility decisions are made at a state level rather than by the federal government. In rural areas like Montana and Wyoming, characterised by vast, open stretches of agriculture and miles of freeways dotted with small towns and cities, transport needs differ greatly from urbanisations like New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut, characterised by high numbers of vehicle owners and users. 

Aligning with Europe in the Golden State

California is leading the race to electrify in the USA. It has the highest population of all the states, with over 38 million citizens; it ranks 3rd in land mass. Texas is the second most populated state (almost 27m) but ranks 32nd in population density. Still, it is home to some of the busiest cities, including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth. 

In California, in 2022, around 24% of new vehicle sales were electric, which puts it on par with Europe. As of December 2023, the total number of electric vehicles on California’s roads was 854,230. 

California also leads in overall charging stations and public accessibility, heavily influenced by ambitious climate goals. Key initiatives include the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate, requiring automakers to sell a growing number of ZEVs, and the Clean Transportation Program, investing billions in building public charging infrastructure.

Higher concentrations of charging stations

Other Frontrunners include Florida, New York, Texas, and Washington. It stands to reason that urban areas have a higher concentration of charging stations due to greater demand and denser infrastructure networks. 

Although EV adoption and charging infrastructure growth can be a chicken-and-egg situation, EV adoption tends to drive charging infrastructure development in higher-income areas. Interestingly, public vs private charging infrastructure differs widely state-by-state. California, New York and Florida have solid public networks, whereas states like Texas rely on private investment. Surprisingly, with its history grounded in oil production, Texas ranks 3rd in market share (5.7%, 75.5K electric vehicles as of Dec 2023) of new electric vehicle sales in America. 

Of the 267 million registered passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (as of Dec 2023, according to HIS Markit), fewer than 2.5m are pure EVs, around 6.6%. However, it’s a far better picture if you factor in PHEVs, IHS Markit estimates over 30 million hybrid vehicles on US roads in 2023. The USA still has much catching up to do. 

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Image: shutterstock_225943573

Authored by: Alison Pittaway