Why Los Angeles Is the Perfect Place for Electric Vehicles

Kia Soul EV Eric S.
Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet

We recently explored why electric vehicles won’t be a factor in New York in the near future. On the occasion of testing a Kia Soul EV in Los Angeles for four days, we thought it was time to see why the opposite is the case in the world capital of car culture.

Take a trip around LA on any given day and you will see automotive muscle in force. Growling Mustangs and explosive Challengers are only outdone by titanic Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Drivers in the Golden State excel in gasoline consumption and the emissions that have plagued the air quality for decades. But things are changing.

For every Aventador and Corvette, you are seeing a Tesla or Nissan Leaf in your travels along local freeways. You see crazy signs that read “Electric Vehicle Charging Station Ahead” and other things that you’d never find in Gotham City. In fact, driving an EV in LA for about half a week makes you realize how this city is an ideal setting for the movement toward cleaner transportation.

Here’s why Los Angeles is the perfect place for electric vehicles.

1. Single-family homes and two-car garages

Eric Schaal
Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet

LA has such a car culture because of the spread-out nature of the city and lack of public transportation options. Single-family homes with two-car garages dominate the landscape, and you get snarling traffic because of the system. With electric vehicles, it is something of a blessing.

Charging your EV at home overnight is only possible when you have space in the garage, which is why New York is such a hard sell for this short-range generation of electric cars. In LA, an EV is ideal as a family’s second car, and most will have the space in the garage to add a charger and make the equation work.

2. A robust charging infrastructure

eric schaal
Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet

Since every EV except Tesla’s gets less than 100 miles of range, public charging infrastructure is an essential part of this formula. In the LA area, there are over 1,500 charging stations where you can top off a battery or get a full charge. ChargePoint, the largest operator of EV charging stations, has a vast network in and around the city limits.

While driving the Soul EV, we charged the battery in downtown LA at a new condo and shopping center; in a public green space by the river called Marsh Park; and at the beach in Santa Monica. The maximum parking fee we paid was $5.50, while the maximum charging fee was less than $4. These prices are infinitely better than New York’s when it comes to charging and parking. And, on some occasions, you get a special treat like an African turtle sighting while you charge.

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Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet

You are not penalized for owning an electric car in LA. In fact, in Santa Monica, the best spots in the garage right off the beach are reserved for EVs. Throw in access to the HOV (carpool) lane available for plug-in drivers and there are some real incentives to pollute less while you drive. The $2,500 state purchase incentive doesn’t hurt, either.

3. A willing and able government

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Soul EV joins a Fiat 500e, BMW i3, Tesla, and Volt for a charge. (Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet)

On top of the charging station infrastructure, HOV lane access, and state incentive, the LA government has the power of the California Air Resource Board behind it. Together, they have put an electric car-sharing program into play for residents of low-income neighborhoods. If successful, they will increase mobility without increasing emissions.

Other programs, including better incentives for state residents near the poverty line, offer real encouragement to drivers considering an EV. The premium for an electric car has been one of the key stumbling blocks to widespread adoption, and California’s state government has made moves that make it more affordable for everyone to go electric.

These programs are already working, and Los Angeles has the most registered EVs in the U.S. Without a doubt, the city has the perfect conditions for driving an electric vehicle. In the coming years, expect LA to become even more of leader in the clean transportation revolution.

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