Electric vehicles (EVs) are having a moment. EV sales currently make up only about 7% of the U.S. market. But sales in 2023’s second quarter rose 48.4% over the same quarter in 2022, a year that saw sales soar 65% compared to 2021.
As more drivers contemplate making the switch to EVs, it’s helpful to know which U.S. cities make their adoption and ownership easier. We surveyed a number of recent studies of the best cities for electric cars, and though each study had its individual exceptions, five metropolitan areas consistently rose to the top of the list.
It may be no surprise that those five cities are all in the West. Supporting their broader sustainability and smart-growth goals, Western states and cities have worked to expand and improve the infrastructure and market conditions that make EV adoption easier at a larger scale. But other regions are gaining.
Best Cities for EV Factors
The best cities for EV drivers share many common features. These include plenty of EV charging infrastructure, favorable state and local taxes, subsidies, and regulations, as well as reasonable electricity and EV insurance rates. Other features considered by the studies included dedicated high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, general road conditions, parking and garage supply, local EV prices, average miles driven, and the cost of an eGallon (cost of charging a vehicle using electric when compared to a gasoline-powered one).
A thriving center of environmental consciousness (the city generates more than half of its electricity from renewables), Seattle ranks for a mix of factors reflecting both EV ownership and an environment conducive to electrification. Seattle had over 47,000 EVs on its streets in 2021 and registers about three EVs per 100 households. The city has about 0.6 public charging stations per 1k households, and over 7% of its rental buildings feature charging stations.
California tops the list of states with the most EV-friendly cities. In the first half of 2022, 16% of its vehicle sales were electric, high above national figures for EVs, which made up about 6% of total car sales.
Los Angeles easily makes the list thanks to its first place in EV adoption, with the highest number of EVs in the nation—over 293,000. With such an impressive number of electric cars on the streets, charging needs are equally demanding. But LA is well-equipped to respond to the corresponding need for charging, with nearly 4,800 public chargers available, or about 1.1 per 1,000 households. The city has also attached more than 400 public charging stations to its streetlights as part of its broader electrification and smart-city transformation. Known for its driving culture, LA offers an impressive 800 HOV lane miles, or 14.5% of the metro area’s lane mileage, one of the highest on this list. EV drivers also benefit from California’s rebates for EV purchases.
A hotbed for EVs, San Francisco boasts over 105,000 electric cars, one of the highest numbers in the country. The San Francisco Bay Area also features the highest number of EV charging stations based on population, with nearly 4,000 stations or 465 residents per charger. Six percent of the city’s rental buildings offer chargers, and San Francisco dedicates 15% of its lane miles to HOVs. To promote the public use of clean energy, a whopping 93% of San Francisco’s public transit runs on clean fuel. San Franciscans can also take advantage of the rebate offered by the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project or the incentives adding up to $9,500 through the Bay Area Air Management District’s Clean Cars for All program.
San Diego, California
San Diego is another California city where swapping a conventional vehicle for an EV makes good sense. The metro is home to over 73,000 electric cars, or about 6.3 EVs per 100 households. The city offers more than 1,000 public charging stations, which is about one station per 1,000 households. San Diego renters with EVs also have cause to celebrate — 4.8% of its apartment buildings offer charging capability. The city has dedicated 90 lane miles of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes (about 4% of the area’s highway mileage), and 80% of local public transit runs on clean fuel, enhancing the air quality of one of the nation’s most beautiful locations.
Looking farther north, Portland ranks as the final hotspot for EVs. The metro area has 30,000 electric vehicles in total, or about 2.8 EVs per 100 households. EV drivers can use any of the 470 public chargers spread throughout Portland, about 0.5 chargers per 1,000 households. The city’s charging capabilities also extend to renters, who can charge their EVs at close to 6% of the metro area’s rental complexes.
Like Seattle, Portland has also pledged to support a cleaner environment through its Climate Emergency Declaration, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by half by 2030. The city has made an impact here already, with 98% of its public transit system supported by clean fuel, and more than half of the city’s electricity (58%) comes from renewable sources. The state of Oregon offers further discounts and benefits for EV drivers to purchase charging stations for home use.
Other Cities Are Gaining
Though these five cities were named by nearly every study we consulted, others made strong showings, including Boston and Washington, D.C., in the East, Chicago in the Midwest, and Miami in the South.
EV car shoppers should research state and local incentives, as they may change. In fact, two cities named by one study as leaders in the nation, Atlanta and Augusta, may no longer qualify following the Georgia governor’s elimination of the EV subsidy.
As you can see, it can matter where you live when you’re an EV owner. The cities on this list demonstrate their commitment to both EV infrastructure and policies that incentivize EV ownership. Many of these cities are also at the forefront of the country in sustainability, which will have a positive impact on the environment for all.
Eveelife is an eco-oriented lifestyle platform that helps consumers make more purposeful choices about how they live and what they consume. We do it by curating content and products that help them make more conscious, carbon-free choices while amplifying their EV ownership experience.