Need Juice? Best American Cities for Charging Your Electric Vehicle

2015 Nissan LEAF
Source: Nissan

If you can’t charge’em, you can’t drive ‘em. That’s one of the realities and, because of the limited range of many options, a stumbling block for widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S. Nonetheless, there are places where someone without a private garage or a long-range Tesla can enjoy the pleasures of EV driving, and the number is growing by the week.

ChargePoint, the top provider of charging stations in the world, recently listed the cities where plug-in vehicle drivers have it best in America. To determine where drivers would have the easiest time charging up before, during, or after a trip requiring substantial range, the company factored in available charging stations versus population and number of registered EVs in metropolitan areas.

Here are the 10 cities that are most accommodating for EV drivers in 2015. In hopes of raising the question of actual green benefits of plug-in use in each city, we add information about the electric grid power mix wherever available. Special thanks to ChargePoint for supplying registration details for each city.

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10. Portland, Ore.

It only take a few sketches from Portlandia to understand how much people care about the environment (well, care about most things) in this great Pacific Northwest city. Portland residents not only have great access to charging stations, they also benefit from one of the country’s greenest electric grids to power their EVs.

About 70% of Oregon’s net electricity generation came from hydroelectric and renewable power sources in 2013. Oh, and take your EV to the ballgame. Portland’s Rose Quarter, home to the Trailblazers, had 10 charging stations installed in 2012. Through June 2014, Oregon residents were adopting EVs at a rate of 0.67%, fifth best in the nation. Some 4,500 EVs were registered in the city through 2014, according to ChargePoint.


9. Denver

As a place where marijuana is legal for recreational use, it’s safe to call Colorado progressive. Companies and drivers apply those same principles to driving, which is evidenced by the large number of charging stations per registered electric vehicle and the 0.27% market share of EVs in the state, seventh best through June 2014. ChargePoint says around 2,900 registered EVs patrol Denver’s environs.

Unfortunately, coal is the biggest power source for electricity in Colorado (64% in 2013), so it’s doubtful there is a green benefit from the zero-emissions vehicles on state roads. Statewide electricity generation delivers more than its share of emissions.

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8. Atlanta

IHS Automotive Data showed Georgia residents were adopting electric vehicles faster than any other state in the country in 2014, and it is easy to see why. On top of the $7,500 federal incentive, EV buyers take on another $5,000 in state credits in what has become a politicized issue for lawmakers. ChargePoint counts 14,400 EVs on Atlanta metro area roads, third highest among U.S. cities.

Because of Georgia’s extensive use of nuclear and natural gas power, coal generates only about one third of electricity in the state. In Atlanta, the most populous city, EV drivers have a solid number of charging stations where they can power up their Leafs and Volts.

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7. Detroit

Though his company is not allowed to sell its electric vehicles in Michigan, Elon Musk must be encouraged there are charging stations available in Detroit once Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature rethink their policy on banning Tesla. In fact, the Motor City was the seventh-friendliest city for EV drivers in the ChargePoint analysis. About 6,500 electric cars patrol the metro area streets.

Over half the electricity used in Michigan comes from coal-fired plants (transported by rail from out of state), so EV-friendly Detroit is not exactly eco-friendly Detroit. Nonetheless, you’ll have an easy time getting a charge for your EV if you drive one in Ford, GM, and Chrysler country.

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6. Austin, Texas

Austin, a city that determines trash fees by the size of your container, makes most progressive cities look like fossil-fuel havens. It comes as little surprise that the Texas capital is one of the best places to drive an EV in America, and about 2,000 EVs are registered to do just that.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) breakdown of electricity generation in the state, Austin residents are delivering a real green return when operating EVs in town. Natural gas, far less polluting than coal or gasoline from a tailpipe, mostly powers the plants charging up electric vehicles.

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5. Honolulu

Protecting the air and waters probably seems like a good idea for any resident of gorgeous Honolulu. In terms of EV driving, the city offers a high number of charging stations to power their cars when drivers need a boost.

With 1.04% market share for electric cars (2,000 registered vehicles), Hawaii was fourth in EV adoption in the country through June 2014. Most of Hawaii’s electrical energy comes from oil that is imported to the islands.


4. San Diego

Getting into the best places for EV drivers who need battery juice, no one will be surprised to see California coming up big. The Golden State, home to about half the electric vehicles ever sold in the United States, also delivers one of the most attractive mixes of electrical power. Coal powered just 7.82% of the electric grid in 2013.

California also adopts the highest amount of electric vehicles per year, though it fell to second place in total EV market share (1.41%) in 2014. San Diego, a great place to kick back and relax while you wait for your car to charge, is the fourth-best place to drive a plug-in according to the ChargePoint analysis. About 9,500 registered EVs patrol San Diego streets, fourth most in the nation.


3. Seattle

Washington joins neighbor Oregon and California as one of the nation’s top EV adopters by market share (third) and total volume of plug-ins bought (second). Seattle checks in as the nation’s third-best metro area for drivers who need a charge.

The state of Washington provided 29% of America’s hydroelectricity output in 2013, which was by far the largest source of power to residents and businesses. It’s hard to get greener than Washington in terms of power sourcing or residents’ commitment to the environment, and 9,000 registered EVs are doing their part.

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2. Los Angeles

You can’t turn your head without seeing a Prius on the streets of Los Angeles, but plug-in drivers also find themselves in one of the nation’s friendliest cities when they need a charge. In fact, ChargePoint says the 57,000 EVs registered in the L.A. metro area are the most of American city.

The only reason L.A. didn’t top this list was because the number of charging stations per registered EV were slightly lower than its green neighbor to the north.

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1. San Francisco

Out in San Francisco, they recycle everything, have city-wide composting, and operate 48,000 registered EVs when the entire Bay Area is counted. Anything green your city can do, the City by the Bay does it better.

Considering the number of EVs on the road and the number of charging stations where you can juice your battery, there is no better place to be than San Francisco and neighboring Oakland and San Jose. For now, it’s the capital of Electric Vehicle Country, U.S.A.

News source: ChargePoint