Find Out If Your State Is Buying Electric Cars or Lagging Behind

The West Coast is leading the way, but a Southern surprise is in the mix.

(Photo: Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images)

Dec 10, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Electric cars have been gaining a small foothold in the United States car market, but where exactly are these vehicles going?

A new map released by the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration shows which states are selling the most plug-in electric vehicles and hybrid plug-ins, and which states lag behind.

(Map: Courtesy

California, Hawaii, and Washington are the kings of the electric highway, with more than three out of every 1,000 registered vehicles now battery powered. Other early adopters include Oregon, Maryland, and Georgia, all with between two and three electric cars registered per 1,000.

A smattering of other states reported around two plug-ins per 1,000 cars, but still, the majority of electric car purchases come from the West Coast.

“We’ve started to look into this to find out where people are buying electric cars and why,” said Nicholas Chase, an EIA renewables analyst. “It’s really a host of factors, between wealth, state incentives, infrastructure, and individual values.”

Looking at the data, California really stands out. The Golden State accounts for 11 percent of the nation’s cars but boasts nearly half the country’s total number of electric vehicles.

“It has more cars than any other state, but it still punches above its weight compared to the rest of the country when looking at the total number of electric vehicles,” Chase said.

Georgia, which gives tax credits up to $5,000 for zero-emission vehicle purchases, is on track to become the fourth state where electric cars make up 1 percent of total new car sales.

In fact, the states with some of the biggest tax breaks and rebates have ended up at the top of Edmunds’ list of states in 2013 with the largest electric vehicle market share.

The top five—Washington, Hawaii, California, Georgia, and Oregon—all have lucrative rebate programs and offer other incentives to ditch carbon-spewing cars. In Hawaii, buyers get up to 20 percent of the vehicle purchase price back. Washington electric car buyers are exempt from paying 6.5 percent sales tax, and Georgia gives carpool lane access for all zero-emission vehicles.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, four out of the five states with the smallest percentage of the electric vehicle market—Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arkansas, and West Virginia—have zero state plug-in incentives.

“Georgia’s become a real example for other states on how these types of incentives can get people interested in electric cars,” Chase said.

But it’s too soon to say which states aren’t doing enough to incentivize electric car buyers, notes Allen McFarland, an EIA energy profiles expert.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to characterize any states as ‘lagging behind’ at this point,” McFarland wrote in an email. “The average state is not doing a lot in this area right now, and the market is so small that no particular state has EV rates that are noticeably low.”

Nationwide, there were around 70,000 electric vehicles and 104,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road in 2013—a mere blip on the radar compared with the country’s 226 million registered vehicles.

Still, electric sales are growing—slowly. Battery-powered cars made up 0.7 percent of the total new-vehicle sales in 2014—up from 0.6 percent in 2013 and 0.4 percent in 2012.