10 Cities Where People Buy the Most Electric Vehicles

Justin Sullivan/Getty Image
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In our continuing look at the growth of electric vehicles in the U.S., we’ve considered which states are adopting EVs the fastest; which cities have the best charging infrastructure for plug-in cars in town; which automakers have EVs priced near or below $25,000 after incentives; and which states have the most generous incentives for buyers.

Factors like cost of ownership, available vehicles, emissions laws, and convenience levels for drivers play an obvious role in how many electric cars turn up in American cities. According to IHS Automotive data from 2014 (per The International Council on Clean Transportation), the formula is working well in a few cities on both coasts. One California city in particular is outpacing the pack by a wide margin in new car purchases that are either plug-in hybrids or “zero emissions” electric vehicles.

Here are the 10 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of plug-in EVs counted in new car purchases.

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10. San Diego

In terms of volume, San Diego has the fourth-most number of electric vehicles on the road (9,500) in the U.S. ChargePoint, the company that operates charging stations around the world, says the city is one of the friendliest to drivers who want to charge their batteries and get more electric miles as well. These factors, combined with attractive state incentives, contributed to consumers buying plug-ins at a rate just under 3% in 2014. More than half of those purchases were pure electric vehicles.


9. Los Angeles

Los Angeles checks in at ninth with plug-in vehicles comprising about 3% of the new car market. Angelenos lean more heavily on plug-in hybrids (about 60%) than all-electric cars, but what the city lacks in proportion it makes up for in volume, as ChargePoint data showed 57,000 registered EVs in town. L.A. was considered the second friendliest place for plug-in driving in the country.

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8. Atlanta

Atlanta was the only city outside California to crack the top 10 in EV market share for 2014, according to IHS Automotive’s numbers. Over 3% of new car sales were of the electric variety, and in this case we see the power of the $5,000 incentive Georgia offered until recently (in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit). Most remarkable about Atlanta’s place is the percentage of pure EVs (over 90%) in its plug-in total. When city residents buy green, they go all the way.

Vineyard workers for a Napa Valley winem

7. Napa

We take you to California wine country for seventh place on the list. In 2014, over 3.5% of Napa drivers opted for plug-in vehicles when making new car purchases, with a little more than half opting for pure EVs as opposed to hybrids. Cooperation from drivers in big cities, farm communities, and small towns in California is what makes state officials confident emissions reduction targets are realistic.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

6. Ukiah

We don’t blame you if you are unfamiliar with Ukiah, Calif., and we present a map of the state to get you acquainted with the lovely burg up north. East of Mendocino and north of Santa Rosa, Ukiah is located right by the body of water set inland above San Francisco Bay, right near the top of the lemon on the far left of the image, Ukiah residents were buying plug-in vehicles at a rate near 5% in 2014. About one third of the total were pure EVs, with the balance in plug-in hybrids.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

5. San Francisco

Between the 48,000 registered EVs on Bay Area streets and a 5% plug-in market share in 2014, San Francisco can go toe-to-toe with any U.S. city when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. More than half the residents’ electric car purchases were no-tailpipe, zero-emissions vehicles. According to ChargePoint, San Francisco and neighboring towns are the best places to own and drive an electric vehicle in America.

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4. Santa Rosa

Like neighbors Ukiah (to the north) and San Francisco (to the south), Santa Rosa posted one of the best rates of EV adoption in 2014, with about 6% of new vehicle purchases running on plug-in powertrains. Just less than half were pure EVs. Santa Rosa has been in the news for commercial electric vehicle adoption as well. The Ratto Group, a waste management company operating in the area, has placed an order for plug-in electric trash trucks to cut down on noise and air pollution. State emissions standards are forcing the hand of California businesses in this area.

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3. Eureka

Eureka sits way up the California coast and joins its neighbors in a high rate of plug-in adoption, good enough for third best in the U.S. last year. Over 6% of new car purchases were equipped for electric travel, though only one quarter were zero-emissions vehicles. Eureka’s position on the map indicates why plug-in hybrids are the vehicle of choice for residents. The current crop of EVs has limited range for people living outside urban centers.

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2. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz off Monterey Bay had the second highest rate of plug-in vehicle adoption in 2014 according to the IHS Automotive data. Over 6% of new vehicles were electrified, with the split between pure EV and plug-in hybrids about even. In one of the most laid-back places in the U.S., cleaner vehicles are catching the eye of new vehicle buyers an eye-popping rate.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. San Jose

San Jose simply blows away the pack when it comes to the market share of plug-ins for new vehicle purchases. About 10% of every new vehicle has an electric powertrain, with more than half zero-emissions vehicles. With Tesla Motors and Google developing high-tech vehicles in this Silicon Valley community, the city’s place on the list is no surprise.

However, the incredible market share offers a lesson for communities trying to embrace green vehicle technology. Education, incentives, and charging infrastructure go a long way toward helping EV adoption. A well-off consumer base doesn’t hurt, either.

Source: IHS Automotive Data reported by The International Council on Clean Transportation.