Electric Vehicle Adoption Divide Mapped

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

electric vehicle adoption divide mapped

Like everything else in the modern era, vehicles have become another polarizing issue. The populace is split between gasoline-loving Luddites, endlessly bemoaning the current regulatory landscape and smug EV adopters who proselytize battery-powered vehicles with all the zealotry of a religious fanatic.

There’s plenty of overlap between the two groups. However, they tend to diverge in terms of disposable income, political preferences, and even geography. J.D. Power looked into the latter issue, hoping to identify purchasing trends around the United States. It found that, while EV adoption rates were increasing nationwide, there are plenty of places in America that now appear to be shunning electrified automobiles. 

Nationally, EVs seem to be getting more popular. The study suggested battery-electric sales comprised 8.6 percent of the retail share in June of 2023, compared to the 5.7 percent witnessed in June of 2022.

The J.D. Power E-Vision Intelligence Report suggested the most headway was being made in states that were pushing the hardest to advance EV adoption. Meanwhile, the parts of the country that weren’t prioritizing expanding charging infrastructure or interested in backing California’s vehicle mandates saw the needle moving in the opposite direction.

Some of this is down to how regional climates impact battery ranges or the fact that you really need a garage fitted for vehicle charging if you want to get the most out of owning an EV. However, Elizabeth Krear, J.D. Power’s vice president for electric vehicle practice, told Automotive News that cost incentives and local policies can likewise play a massive role.

From Automotive News:

Six of the top states J.D. Power ranked for EV adoption overlap with states that had the most policies for scaling deployment of EVs and building charging infrastructure, according to a July scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Those states are California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon and Maryland. The council's State Transportation Electrification Scorecard found that southern states that have been recipients of some of the biggest EV and battery investments lag in policies that encourage EV adoption.
Ten states have incentives on top of federal spiffs, according to J.D. Power. Four of those 10 — California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Maryland — are among the states with the highest EV adoption rates.
Ten states have incentives on top of federal spiffs, according to J.D. Power. Four of those 10 — California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Maryland — are among the states with the highest EV adoption rates.
J.D. Power expects the state-by-state divide to continue over the next decade. By 2035, the firm expects the U.S. to reach 70 percent EV retail share. EV share in California, today's EV leader, will hit 94 percent, while North Dakota, which has the lowest EV adoption rate today, will reach 19 percent, J.D. Power said.
Charging infrastructure in California drastically eclipses infrastructure in North Dakota. California has 14,976 charging stations with 40,370 ports as of Sept. 1, according to the Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center. North Dakota has just a sliver of that at 88 charging stations with 187 ports.

Though claiming that this is wholly the result of North Dakota's failure to invest is intellectually lacking. California boasts the highest population density of any state in the union while North Dakota has one of the lowest. That means North Dakotans tend to drive a few thousand miles more per year than your typical Californian and in a place where the winter climate becomes cold enough to negatively impact battery range.

Ignoring the above seems terribly short-sighted. But J.D. Power did make other good points, especially about how consumer choice still plays a role. EVs tend to be more expensive and if the local population doesn’t already gravitate toward pricier automobiles, they’re less likely to be drawn toward electrified models of their preferred body styles. Your author has seen this repeatedly. Most of my low-income friends preface automotive conversations by issuing a reminder that they’re not interested in shopping for an electric. But those who lease their vehicles every few years, own larger homes, and already have a car or two in the garage will happily engage with me on the pros and cons of EVs.

Krear noted that full-sized pickups have remained incredibly popular in the United States and can still be had at lower price points if the buyer manages to stay away from adding options. But there’s really no EV equivalent, despite American brands now having electrified pickups on sale. Ford’s F-150 Lightning starts above $50,000, whereas its gasoline equivalent starts at $35,830 with shipping included.

Despite the industry assuring customers that electrification would result in cost savings and eventually reach parity with traditional automobiles, the brunt of EV sales still come from premium segments and are priced to match. Tesla remains the undisputed leader here, with Krear suggesting that its recent price cuts would gradually help move adoption downmarket.

"That's why Tesla reducing pricing to gain market share is so critical and is pulling that affordability score up," she said. "They've got pricing power right now."

"To advance mass market adoption, the industry needs more mass-market availability at lower prices.”

Unfortunately, even economy-minded electrics tend to be priced thousands of dollars higher than their liquid-fueled equivalents. While J.D. Power expects this to even out in the coming years, it’s still supposed to require increased infrastructure spending and government purchasing incentives. Originally, the EV tax credit scheme was supposed to be a temporary measure to spur adoption rates and encourage manufacturers to pursue the technology as a way to adhere to swelling emission regulations.

But we’re currently in this situation where the United States is presumably supposed to pour tax dollars onto some of the world’s largest corporations and their consumers indefinitely to adhere to a regulatory structure that has effectively ensured vehicles remain prohibitively expensive. Then, more money needs to be set aside to help encourage businesses to construct a comprehensive charging infrastructure that will someday supplant gas stations.

The whole situation would be more palatable if there wasn’t mounting evidence that battery mining creates some serious ecological issues, energy prices were more stable, or global economies were in better shape. Heck, EV holdouts would probably feel better if the advancement of electric vehicles felt more organic or was treated in a more open and honest manner. We've been predicting the proliferation of EVs incorrectly for over a decade now.

Even J.D. Power’s final assessment includes a recommendation to continue supporting electrification via government spending, rather than suggesting that things should change gradually as battery technology improves and manufacturing costs drop. Endlessly propping up and then micromanaging businesses hardly seems like the hallmarks of an industry in good health. But it’s the prescribed solution if you ask alleged industry experts or corporate lobbyists (people who are sometimes one and the same).

"As states in earnest start taking those federal dollars and building up infrastructure, people will start to feel more secure in their options for charging vehicles and having less range anxiety," said Rachel Goldstein, a research and modeling manager at Energy Innovation. "That's going to be pretty important, especially in these low adoption states."

Though Goldstein also expects states to continue providing consumer incentives designed to keep EV ownership costs down, serving as a beacon other parts of the country could follow. Ultimately, she said declining in certain states today wasn’t a good indicator for EV adoption in the long term and recommended that customers lease electric cars to minimize cost.

The truth of the matter is that drivers aren't actually divided into the pro and anti-EV camps. They're just the people having the argument. Most people probably fall somewhere in the middle and they'll hopefully be the ones deciding which vehicles succeed after careful consideration of their automotive needs.

[Images: Tesla]

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3 of 104 comments
  • JK JK on Sep 09, 2023

    I was at Superbowl (?Big Game?) party in Wyoming and after an EV commercial, a person yelled, "Electric vehicles suck!" The person in question knows little to nothing about EV or ICE powertrains, but she's from Wyoming and she knows that her team doesn't like EVs.

    Magically, in 5ish years, once the economics are aligned for her, she will forget all of her angry opposition and happily own an EV.

    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Sep 09, 2023

      "Magically, in 5ish years, once the economics are aligned for her, she will forget all of her angry opposition and happily own an EV.". Grandfather closed the book after reading this final passage. Young Herbert gazed up into his grandfather's eyes and asked, "Grandpa? Were people really ever as silly as the people in that book?". "Some were, Herb. Some were lured into fanciful dreams by others around them because they wanted to "fit in", be part of what was believed to be the smart crowd.". "What happened to them, Grandpa?", Herbert asked. "They all moved on to what was called "The Next Big Thing". ", said the grandfather. "They created and lived in "15-MInute Cities" which were another fanciful dream.".

  • Tassos Tassos on Sep 13, 2023

    Question of the day:

    Who was the genius investor who lost, just by himself, $1,500,000,000.00 US,

    shorting TESLA stock, and then apologized to Elon Musk?

    The answer is given in the new, monumental, Musk Bio by the Great Ericsson:

    "...There was one contentious issue that they had to address.

    Gates had shorted Tesla stock, placing a big bet that it would go down in value.

    he turned out to be wrong.

    By the time he arrived in Austin, he had lost $1.5 billion.

    Musk had heard about it and was seething.

    Short-sellers occupied his innermost circle of hell.

    Gates said he was sorry, but that did not placate Musk.

    “I apologized to him,” Gates says. “Once he heard I’d shorted the stock, he was super mean to me, but he’s super mean to so many people, so you can’t take it too personally....”

  • Bullnuke It may be awhile before these show up on US shores. The MV Fremantle Highway has just started demo/reconstruction in Rotterdam after the large fire when transporting its last shipment of electric Porsche products.
  • Fie on Fiasler Big, fast and thirsty does not equal good. True luxury is not cobbled together by the UAW.
  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.