Why the Northeast is Ready for Electric Vehicles

May 25, 2016 | 4:02 pm
Josh Goldman
Former Contributor

Nearly half of all the electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the US have been sold in California. Is this because only Californians are interested in using EVs to go get tangerines from that guy on the off-ramp over by the 2?

To understand why more EVs are being sold in California, UCS teamed up with Consumers Union to field a representative survey of drivers in California and 9 Northeast states that assessed driving behaviors and vehicle needs, and also attitudes and understanding toward EVs.

Our survey found that Northeast drivers are ready for electric vehicles. Over one-third of Northeast survey respondents said they would consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase or lease, and over half had some interest in EV technology.


Today’s electric vehicles can fit many Northeast lifestyles

Not only are people interested in EVs—and for good reason, driving on electricity is generally cheaper and cleaner than driving on gasoline—but the EVs on the market today are ready to meet millions of driver’s vehicle needs. We found that over 43 percent of drivers in the Northeast could use a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle today.

Interestingly, the survey results also found that nearly the same percentage of Californian drivers could use an electric vehicle. The difference between the two jurisdictions was less than a percentage point.

Several barriers remain to widespread adoption

Despite the strong interest in EVs in the Northeast, several barriers must be addressed for EVs to become more popular. For example, almost 39 percent of survey respondents thought there were too few public charging stations, and 30 percent found it difficult to find credible sources of information about EVs (hint: UCS is a good place to start).

There are already many public charging stations, but more can be installed to make it easier to drive an EV. Image via Plugshare,  accessed May 25, 2016.

Another large barrier to EV adoption is that there are fewer EVs for sale in the Northeast compared to California.

We ran searches on Edmunds.com beginning at the start of 2016 and found some striking differences in the availability of EVs in the Northeast compared to California. For example, searching Edmunds.com for plug-in vehicles within 50 miles of Oakland and Los Angeles yielded over 5,800 and 8,200 plug-in vehicles, respectively. Searching Edmunds for EVs in Northeast, on the other hand, only resulted in 733 options in the Boston region and only 1,744 within 50 miles of New York City.  Moreover, some electric vehicles like the Fiat 500e aren’t even available on the East Coast.

Automakers must bring more EVs to the Northeast

The Northeast is ready for EVs and there is broad support for EV policy. Over half of Northeast respondents thought that government policies should make it easier to own plug-in vehicles, and over 60 percent thought that electricity providers should offer special rates to make it cheaper to charge plug-in vehicles.

Of course, there are already policies in place that can help you go electric—you just might not know about them. Eighty-two percent of Northeast drivers didn’t know about the federal tax credit for EVs, which can cut the purchase price of EVs up to $7,500.

Also, many Northeast states and California have additional tax or other incentives you can find here. Considering that 34 percent of Northeast survey respondents thought that a lower purchase price was a top attribute for making it more more likely to consider owning an EV, yet only 15 percent were aware of any state EV incentives, it is important to begin addressing this knowledge gap by sharing what you know about EVs with your networks. The Department of Energy is trying to better inform consumers too, and recently launched their “EV Everywhere” campaign that includes a bevy of information.

So join me, UCS, and Consumers Union in sharing these results to spur more consumer demand for EVs and help inform people about the benefits of driving on electricity. Click here for the full survey results and find out how you can get involved.