Sales of electric vehicles are revving up. But are there enough public outlets to charge them all?
Dan AveryFormer Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
ExpertisePersonal finance, government and policy, consumer affairs
America is going electric. With sales increasing by 65% in 2022, electric vehicles are moving from an outlier in the auto industry to the wave of the future.
For that to happen, though, the country needs a robust network of charging stations across all states. To help, President Joe Biden signed a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill in 2021 that allocates $7.5 billion toward building 500,000 more public EV chargers by 2030.
California is leading the charge by far: The Golden State has approximately 14,040 public charging stations and some 37,987 ports.
That's more than four times more than New York, the next highest-ranked state.
The California Energy Commission hopes to add even more -- and reach more disadvantaged communities -- with a new $30 million incentive project that would bring additional stations to eastern California, the Central Valley and the Central Coast.
"These funds will help fill the gap in areas where we know charging is needed the most to bring the benefits of clean transportation to all Californians," CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan said in a statement.
Below is the Department of Energy's ranking of public EV stations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of March 2023.
While Alaska has the fewest EV charging stations -- just 59 -- it's also the least densely populated state in the nation.
In the continental US, the states with the worst coverage are in the upper Midwest -- Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. (Minnesota would join them but, according to the Pew Trusts, its numbers are skewed by Minneapolis-St. Paul.)
Part of that absence can be chalked up to demographics -- North Dakota, for example, has fewer than 800,000 residents and just 400 registered EVs and 82 charging stations.
But there are other factors at play, too
Geography. Populated areas are just rarer in the Great Plains. The maximum range for the average EV is just 211 miles. That won't even get a Nebraskan from Lincoln to North Platte.
Ethanol. Corn-producing states like Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota are wary of anything that could jeopardize demand for corn ethanol, a highly subsidized biofuel added to more than 98% of gasoline in the US to reduce pollution.
Politics. The northern Midwest is staunchly red -- most of the region has voted Republican since Richard Nixon. And Republicans have long opposed investing in electric cars. Had it not failed, the GOP-sponsored Eliminate Lavish Incentives to Electric (ELITE) Vehicles Act of 2021 would have killed federal tax credits for EVs.
Which states have banned the sale of gas-powered cars?
In August 2022, the California Air Resources Board approved regulations requiring all new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks sold in the state to have zero emissions by 2035. That essentially spelled the end for combustion-engine new vehicle sales, though residents will still be able to purchase used gas-powered cars or buy new ones out of state.
Seventeen states have traditionally linked their emission standards to California's regulations. But only a handful -- Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- have clearly signaled they'll follow suit in this case, the Associated Press reported.